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Whenever someone asks me what my favorite island is, I struggle. After five years in the South Pacific, I’ve seen my fair share of sand-ringed islands. Maybe it’s the passion for conservation Moorea’s residents have for their home, the ultra-saturated colors that come along with jade peaks and gin-clear waters, or all the adventures you can have on land and sea… but Moorea certainly has made its way towards the top of my “best islands” list.
If you’re planning a trip to this slice of French Polynesian paradise, these are the best things to do on Moorea.
1. Capture technicolored views from the top of Magic Mountain
Under sunny skies, there’s no better place to admire the vibrant greens and blues of Moorea than the top of Magic Mountain (locally known as La Montagne Magique), a peak found overlooking Opunohu Bay. Technically on private property, access to the top of the mountain can be a little confusing at first.
Keen hikers can walk a 3.5-kilometer loop starting at the Fare Tutava food stall selling fresh fruits, drinks, ice cream, and waffles. Pay 200 CFP at the entrance of the trail, then follow the paved (but rutted) service road to the top.
If you’ve rented a car, you likely won’t be able to access Magic Mountain without voiding your insurance. Most half- or full-day tours of Moorea include a stop at Magic Mountain. Hang on tight as you bumble up in your 4×4, the road is steep!
2. Snorkel with reef sharks and stingrays
For better or for worse, many of Moorea’s black tipped reef sharks and stingrays have been conditioned to humans. Though there was technically a ban on feeding these marine critters, many tours still do.
This has made them exceptionally friendly towards humans. From Les Tipaniers Beach, catch a boat ride to “Stingray World” where most of the rays and sharks gather. There’s also a kayak rental stand at the beach, and fit paddlers could paddle the 500 meters or so to the snorkeling spot.
Moorea snorkelling tours:
- Take a snorkel tour from a clear kayak
- Snorkel with rays and sharks from an outrigger canoe
- Snorkel with rays and sharks from a sailing catamaran
- Go on a night snorkel tour
3. Catch a wave
If you’re a surfer, surfing one of Moorea’s waves is a given. Experienced surfers might want to check out Haapiti, a lefthander breaking a few 100 meters from Moorea’s western coastline. Moorea Surf Inn caters to surfers and rents boards for an eye-watering 5,000 CFP per day ($50 USD). If you’ll be surfing for most of your trip, bring your own board.
If you want to learn how to surf, or prefer to go out with an experienced coach, check out Keep Smile Surf School or Moorea Iriatai Surfschool.
4. Venture to the top of Belvedere Lookout
For the best view of Moorea’s interior and iconic bays, head to Belvedere. Near the top of the Belvedere, you’ll pass marae, ancient ceremonial sites that are considered sacred. At the top, the viewpoint has a small parking lot, a handful of chickens, and a gamut of cycling and hiking trails. Facing north, you’ll admire Opunohu Bay to the west, Cook’s Bay to the east, and the emerald peak of Mount Rotui in the center.
The road to Belveder lookout is paved, making it accessible to rental cars (mind the hairpin turns). Most full day ours make a stop here as part of their itinerary.
5. Hike along Moorea’s many Trails
Moorea’s wild interior is a hiker’s dream. Strap on your sandals (or lace up your shoes) and head to the Belvedere Lookout for your choice in trails. I love the Tres Cocos Trail, which leads up along a ridge to a viewpoint even more scenic than Belvedere–plus a peek at the west coast. If you don’t mind a bit of mud, there are also trails to Afareaitu Waterfall, up Mount Rotui, to the Magic Mountain lookout (although that’s more of a roadwalk), and to the Pierced Mountain.
6. Take a lap around the island with Franckyfranck Tours
If you don’t have NSFW humor, I’d opt for another tour guide. But if you don’t mind an x-rated joke every now and then, you must take a tour with Franckyfranck Tours. Quite the character, Franckyfranck gives you the impression that he was a standup comic in a past life, and now lives out his days as a loveable tour guide sharing stories and tips about his beloved island.
A tour with him includes stops at a tropical garden complete with fruit tasting, Magic Mountain, the rum distillery, Belvedere, and more.
After taking tens of tours throughout French Polynesia, this is one of my favorites. If you don’t speak French very well (mine is atroce), I’ve noticed most operators spend 10 minutes talking in French… and then throw their English patrons a sentence or two. It blows! (I know, their colonizer language blah blah blah… but why advertise the tours in English?). Franck makes sure to split his tours evenly for English tourists.
7. Lounge on a white sand beach
Moorea is the perfect day trip from Tahiti if you’re strapped on time but still want to lounge on a sugary beach.
Visit Temae to stick close to the airport or ferry terminal. This wide stretch of white sand has enough room for everyone, and has calm water for swimming and snorkeling. On the weekends, it can get a little busy with locals coming over from Tahiti but you can still find a spot for yourself. Occasionally, there are food trucks doling out sandwiches, crepes, coffees, and juices. Public restroom available.
Ta’ahiamanu is perhaps the most scenic beach, as it reveals views across Opunohu Bay. A grassy area flanked with palm trees makes for a decent picnic spot, and sailing yachts typically anchor just offshore. The reef here is teeming with life, so pack your snorkel along. Across the road you’ll find parking and a public restroom.
Les Tipaniers Beach is a little hard to find — you’ll have to walk on the road next to the Les Tipaniers Hotel. Parking is on the mountain side of the road. The beach itself is quite small, but hosts an activities center renting out kayaks, SUPs, snorkeling gear, and you can also arrange dives. Visitors can drink and dine at Les Tipaniers Hotel restaurants if they please.
8. Swim with humpback whales
There’s no experience quite like swimming alongside the sea’s most gentle giant, a humpback whale. Every year, humpback whales make their way from Antarctica to the warm waters of French Polynesia to mate and give birth. Moorea is one of the best places in the world to see them firsthand.
However, Moorea is also one of the least-regulated destinations when it comes to conservation around humpback whales. While boats are technically supposed to stay 100 meters or more away from the whales, and limit the number of people in the water with the whales, the truth is that it’s a free for all once you get there. there are tens of people swimming with humpback whales at a time in Moorea–often making you feel like a mosquito.
If you’re going all throughout the South Pacific, skip the swim in Moorea and do it in Tonga, where only five swimmers are allowed in the water with a whale at once (and with strict time limits). If you’re set on Moorea, opt for an operator who has a respect for the whales. Mitch, the guide from Dolphin and Whale Spirit Adventure is respectful towards the whales and enforces a no-chasing policy.
Book a whale swim with humpback whales:
9. Spend the night in an overwater bungalow
Neighboring Bora Bora might steal the spotlight when it comes to luxury stays, but you can still sleep in an overwater bungalow on Moorea (often for a cheaper price than the other islands). Pop a bottle of pineapple brut, then dip your toes in the water directly from your room. Most stays have a private pool, beach access, an activity center, and glass viewing panel in the floor of your room.
A few of the best overwater bungalows in Moorea:
- Manava Beach Resort and Spa: Walking distance from shops and cafes, the most affordable option for overwater stays. Decent snorkeling from the bungalows.
- Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa: Luxury retreat with a large pool and famous for its overwater restaurant.
- Sofitel Kia Ora Moorea Beach Resort: Five-star stay at the edge of Temae Beach, looking out to Tahiti.
10. Sip fruit juice and rum at the distillery
Get the pineapple bubbly at the Manutea Distillery. Moorea is famous for its sweet pineapples, so why not try them in alcoholic form? This distillery also doles out a fair share of rums, liqueurs, juices, and teas. They’re not stingy on their free samples, either.
Many tours visit the distillery as part of a day trip, making a built-in designated driver.
11. Try some of the freshest fruits in French Polynesia
Come hungry to Moorea! Their pineapples are super sweet, grown all throughout the interior. And it’s not just that, either. Try mangoes, papayas, bananas, passionfruit, citrus fruits, and more served in every form. Sorbets, juices, raw, you won’t be disappointed.
Sample fruits at the roadside stalls, or head up to Moorea Tropical Garden for a tour of the fruit farm and a meal in their panoramic dining area.
12. Rumble around the island on an ATV tour
Exploring the dirt roads on an ATV tour is one of the best things to do on Moorea for families. Most trips venture along Pineapple Road, up to the Belvedere Lookout, and run along the northern edge of the island. More comfortable (and exciting) than a Jeep 4×4 tour, you’ll feel like you’re in the scene instead of simply looking at it.
- Take an ATV tour of Moorea geared for nature lovers
- ATV + Jetski combo tour of Moorea
- 3.5 hour overview tour of Moorea
Discover all the top travel tips and things to do on Moorea in Moon Tahiti & French Polynesia.
Ready to take it over to the tropics? Chat with other Moorea travelers over on our Islands of Tahiti Travel Planning group.
READ MORE ISLANDS OF TAHITI TRAVEL TIPS:
- The best overwater bungalows in French Polynesia
- The ultimate 14-day Islands of Tahiti itinerary
- What to pack for your Islands of Tahiti vacation