Moorea  is an island in the Society Islands archipelago, only a few kilometers off the northwest coast of Tahiti.
Moorea doesn't really have any "cities" although there are several towns and villages. When entering a village you will see an official road sign stating the name of the village you are entering. When exiting the village, you will see the same sign with village name, but the village name will have an "X" over it.
If you are visiting French Polynesia on a budget, Moorea is the place to be. Moorea is like Tahiti but cheaper and less touristy. It's mostly rural and farming is big. There are chickens everywhere; the roosters crowing at 6 am can get old after a few days.
Mosquitoes can be a problem away from the coast, so bear that in mind when selecting a place to stay.
Everybody speaks Tahitian and French. Anybody working in tourist services will speak enough English to get by, although it's not well spoken by the general public.
Take the high-speed Aremiti ferry from Papeete. It's only 1500 xpf (as of August 2016), a couple of bucks more than the slow one, takes half the time, and it's much more sea-worthy. The channel between the islands can be choppy.
Air Moorea Terminal #2 in Faa'a, Tahiti
Air Tahiti - flights are about fifteen minutes long, and run back and forth several times a day. Be careful if you get airsick. The planes are small and fly at a low altitude so if there is any rough weather you will feel it the whole ride over.
Check the Aremiti ferry schedule or Air Tahiti flights on their websites as they vary daily and on the weekend. Don't rely on locals' knowledge - they may be going off old information.
The roads are surprisingly good (thanks France). There is one main ring road all around the island that takes about one hour to drive in a complete circle (or two hours by bus). There are about three sections that are very bad with tons of potholes and marked "deformee" or your hotel concierge can circle them for you on a map. You can rent a moped for a day for about $50 USD and drive it around the island in a few hours without fear of death. If you don't know how to ride one, take it slow or you WILL get hurt. Or rent a car (expensive), or take a taxi (expensive). Car rentals may be available hourly from your resort or hotel. Hitching works with the usual caveats and risks. Le Truck service around the island has been discontinued.
There is limited bus service around the island - two buses meet the arriving Aremiti ferry and then go to Le Petit Village in the north west corner of the island, one via the south coast and the other one via the north coast, both routes are about 30km and take about 50 minutes. Same buses will depart from Le Petit Village (near Total gas station) roughly two hours before the scheduled ferry departure time.
Keep in mind that ferry times vary almost daily so best way to guesstimate the bus arrival time is to look up ferry arrival time and add appropriate timeframe to it (ie if you are half way between ferry and Le Petit Village, add 25 minutes). For the other way, find out ferry departure time, subtract two hours (when buses will leave Le Petit Village) and add appropriate extra time from Le Petit Village to your location. If taking the bus form Le Petit Village, show up a bit earlier than two hours prior to the ferry - the buses sometimes leave up to 15-20 minutes prior to their quasi-scheduled departure time. As of August 2016, bus fare is set at 300 xpf no matter how far you are going. If catching the bus along the road, just wave it down - there are almost no designated bus stops around the island. Be aware that sometimes even the bus drivers are confused about the ferry timings for the day and may give out wrong advice - always base your decisions off arriving/departing Aremiti ferry schedule.
- Belvedere Lookout. You can see sacred Mt. Rotui, Cook's Bay, and Opunohu Bay. There's also the ruins of an ancient temple located along the road to Belvedere Lookout.
- Waterfalls. There are several scattered around the island. None are very big. All require some hiking. Some you are supposed to pay a few dollars to see although there may or may not be anybody around to accept payment.
- Jus De Fruits De Moorea. The pineapple juice factory and distillery. Free tours of the factory floor have been discontinued, but the gift shop remains open along with the free sample of various liqueurs.
- 4x4 off-road tour. These are guided tours of Moorea's amazing interior. Trips will vary based on the tour company you choose. Most trips are about 4-hours in length and will travel to four distinct locations. Some of the locations visited are listed in the previous section. This is an easy method for visiting multiple locations in a short period of time. $50/person.
- Beach (Swim, Snorkel, Picnic). The best, large public beach seems to be Temae which is just next to the private Sofitel beach. The entrance is located between the airport and the Sofitel. You will drive down a long dirt road and then see cars parked next to the grass. If you keep driving you will see there are outdoor showers and public toilets toward the end of the beach. There are a few trees for shade, but if you might consider bringing an umbrella to plant near your beach towels. A beautiful, quiet place to hang out for hours and seems to be mostly empty during the week.
- Diving. There are a number of dive operators on the island (Top Dive, Moorea Fun Dive, etc). The biggest attraction is lemon sharks. Turtles are often seen as well. Dive and snorkeling operators feed the wildlife so it's not uncommon to have half a dozen (or more) black tip sharks following the group around. Hard coral is fairly healthy but not very colorful and not much variety making underwater scenery rather boring. No wrecks around Moorea.
- Hiking and Mountain Biking. There is an extensive trail network on Moorea and modern signposts and markers have been installed in 2016 making Moorea the first of Tahitian islands where proper hiking can be done without a guide. There is a good map of both cycling and hiking trails on the road to Belvedere Lookout - look for the blue info post on the right side of the road and the sign with the map on the left side. Bring bug spray and lots of water - it's hot, humid and buggy. It also tends to be muddy. An plastic bag will do wonders keeping your electronics dry if it starts raining on you.
- Horseback riding. This is a great way to see the beautiful interior of the island. Your guide will pick fresh fruits from trees and pineapples from the ground for you to eat when you reach the high lookout point. Wear jeans and good shoes. $55.00 per person.
- Jet Ski Tours. There are a couple tour operators that depart from the different hotels. You do not have to be staying at the hotel in order to access the jet ski tour. Just ask reception or head to the dock if you know where it is. This is an easy way to be on the water, stay cool (via wind and water), see the island and have some personal freedom. There do not seem to be any operators who just rent jet skis without the tour guide, probably because knowledge of the coral and other obstacles (coconuts, kelp, debris) is imperative. It is not cheap, but you can get a jet ski for two or three people and pay per jet ski. Tours are 2.5 or 3 hours long. It may be cheaper to book directly with the tour operator rather than with the hotel activities center.
- Moorea Paddle Board, . All levels paddle boards with snorkeling gear available.Tours can be done by kayak. Free pick-up from hotel.
- Moorea Store (Shopping), B.P. I380/98729 Papetoai/Moorea. The Moorea Store offers many things from souvenirs, to lotions to Black Pearls. Xavier and his Partner own the store and are very friendly and helpful. Xavier had the best prices for black pearls than anywhere we visited in Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora. He was very grateful for our business and gave us many items as gifts, even a beautiful black pearl to be made as a ring. This store is located across the road and to the right of the Intercontinental Resort and Spa. Tuatini Activities is also operated by Xavier and his wife Taina, they provide Sunset cruises, Private tours, Motu transfers with Picnic, Motu rental, fare rental, wedding and Glass Bottom Boat. Tel (689) 74 32 50 and email [email protected]
- Resort Day Pass (Facilities Access). Some resorts may offer a day pass to access the facilities such as the pool and beach and may also include lunch. This is a good way to try out different experiences for future reference or just for a change of scenery! You may have to contact reception or the concierge directly in order to get this information. US$57-$80.
- Sharks and Rays (Snorkeling). There are a couple sites where the stingrays congregate for feeding, and at least one site where you can snorkel and swim with the reef sharks and the stingrays near the Hilton. You can swim right with them and some people enjoy touching the backs of the rays as they are very soft! There is a small tour operator who leaves from the Hilton docks and takes you right to that spot which is only about 4.5 feet deep. Or you can try to paddle out there on your own; there are a usually a few people congregated in the area.
- Snorkeling. You can rent or buy snorkeling stuff but do yourself a favor and bring your own. Just about anywhere in the lagoon is pretty decent. The channel between Motu Fareone and Motu Tiahura off the northwest point is particularly nice. You can swim out to it from the beach but it's a long swim and there are strong currents in this area. Otherwise hire a boat. A good tour to take is Hiro's tour out of Club Bali. It is a reasonable price and you get to do a feeding with sharks, stingrays and also a picnic on a motu.
- Surfing. Reef breaks mostly, not a good place for beginners.
- Tiki Village. Instead of paying for your hotel's Tahitian buffet and show, spend the money and go to the Tiki Village for a much better dinner and show. You will be shown around a replica of a traditional Tahitian village, educated about the local Polynesians' way of life, served a buffet dinner, white and red wine included, then entertained by a talented 60-person troop of dancers, singers, and musicians. Transportation and tickets arranged by your hotel activities desk. $120 per person.
There are only a few banks on Moorea, and they are in the more populated villages. All banks are closed on Sundays. You can make currency exchanges at the major hotels, but at a lower rate. Plan accordingly.
- Black Pearls. There are several established pearl shops on the island, and many people find the prices here to be better than on Tahiti or Bora Bora. Venture outside your hotel to shops in larger villages such as Maharepa to find reputable, friendly sellers and a range of price points.
- Champion Toa (Supermarket, Grocery), Vai'are (just south of Ferry Terminal), . There are many small markets around the island, but Champion has the largest selection and is not a bad place to start your grocery shopping. They also have some dry goods such as clothing, bedding, small selection of hardware, small appliances. Alternatively, there is another fairly good-sized (by island standards) market in Maharepa.
- Electronic Accessories (Adapters). If you are in need of an electrical adapter (or anything else for that matter), Polymat in Maharepa seems to have it all. It looks like a building supply company, but don't let that discourage you from entering. There is also a small electronics and mobile phone store called "Tahiti Phone" in Maharepa (next to the small supermarket) that has more up-to-date accessories than the large Champion supermarket.
The humid climate can cause a decrease in appetite. Thus locals tend to have many small meals or snacks though out the day. Keep in mind that many establishments will close in early afternoon until the evening so plan your meals accordingly
- Poisson cru is the way to go. Food trucks (roulottes) are also present though not like in Papeete.
- Dairy products - Milk is not pasteurized and thus cheeses and yogurts are more flavorful.
- Across the road from the ferry station is a pizza place well worth a visit. It's run by a French couple that speaks no English, but the menu has English explanations and the ham and pineapple are highly recommended.
- There are also great pizza places just up the road from Club Bali and the Moorea Pearl Resort. Both are reasonably priced and you will get your money's worth. We hit either up when we have been in Moorea.
- Baguette. The local bread. Make a sandwich with meat, cheese, etc.. Nothing fancy. Very portable. Along with a beer, this makes for good eats on the beach. 100 CFP.
Every hotel has a bar and there are lots of little bars and restaurants around. But drinking in bars in French Polynesia is damn expensive. Your best bet is to buy some Hinano bombers at the store and drink on the beach.
You will be charged an additional 60XPF deposit fee when purchasing Hinano bottles larger than 12oz. You can redeem your deposit at any location that sells Hinano. The larger bottles are sent back to the Hinano brewery for reuse/refill.
Tabu is another local beer, only available in 12oz bottles and slightly more expensive compared to a 12oz bottle of Hinano. Tabu is better tempered to the Tahitian heat. Unlike Hinano, Tabu is very drinkable at all temperatures: cold, slightly chilled, or room temperature.
There are only a few really cheap places on Moorea and they are mostly near the northwest corner of the island. Some others aren't on the beach, but you might get carried away by the mosquitoes there.
- Moorea Camping (Camping Moorea?), Tiahura, Haapiti, ☎ 56.14.47 ([email protected]). Cheap and right on the beach. It's a nice beach too, good sand, in the lagoon, palm trees, the whole megilla. Great reef snorkeling. Nice grounds with trees and flowers. Tent camping is available, as are dorm style, and motel style rooms. Kitchen facilities. Shared bathrooms, cold water (you won't want hot water anyway). Very basic accommodations, bring your own soap, TP, etc. No mosquitoes. Very social. Definitely the backpacker spot. $12 USD for dorm.
- VAI MOOREA Budget accommodation (Bungalow with Private beach?), Tiahura, Haapiti, ☎ 77.48.59 ([email protected]). The best budget accommodation in Moorea with its own private beach, the bungalow is privately owned and it is rented for almost all year as the owner is traveling most of the time. Search and book it online through flipkey.com. $79 USD for the bungalow.
- Camping Chez Nelson / Camping Nelson, Tiahura, Haapiti, ☎ +6126.96.36.199.18 ([email protected]), . The other cheap place. Private bungalows, three-person dorms, and lots of space for your own tents. Communal showers (some with hot water) and bathrooms (clean and with toilet paper). Communal kitchen that also hosts the only communal electric plug (yes, for the entire site - there are no plugs inside dorms or bungalows, so get ready to daisy chain all those power bricks). Great views at sunset but the beach itself is not good for swimming - too much volcanic rock/coral formations - pretty much have to go snorkeling so you can see where you are going. Free wifi (4 Mbps down/0.4 Mbps up) available around the office area during office hours, then the router moves to the owner's house for the rest of the evening. camp sites from 1700 xpf per person, dorms from 2400 xpf (August 2016).
- Club Bali Hai, Cooks Bay, ☎ 888-222-5406 (from USA) ([email protected]), . Motel rooms and overwater bungalows. Very scenic location. There is only a small artificial beach here. The water is fine for swimming, warm and deep. It's not very good snorkeling though, it's not so clear and there isn't much coral. Good snorkeling can be found nearby though. There is a decent restaurant and a pool. Rooms are in good condition and have AC and some have kitchenette. Within walking distance there's only one other restaurant (Italian) and a small bodega. There's no night life. If you get an over-water bungalow, beware of the one closest to the road, it's not over very much water and it's quite close to the road. Friendly staff, decent poisson cru. $130-ish USD for over-water bungalow.
- Linareva Beach Resort, Ha'apiti (near km marker 34.5, on the southwest coast, beachside), ☎ +689 40 55 05 65 ([email protected]), . Small studio bungalows to suites, with AC & kitchenette. Access to private beach with a dock overlooking coral reef. Family of nurse sharks can be found by dock at certain times of day. Breakfast and dinner can be purchased for extra. The owners Roland and Edme are extremely nice and helpful, speak decent english. Free access to kayaks and bicycles, the latter of which can be used to reach the local stores. This part of the island is sparsely populated and it gets very dark and quiet at night, which may be your thing. Nearby roulette and homemade brick-oven pizza joint are the only eat-out options. There is also a diving school on-site $100-$250.
- Pensions, Various locations along the main highway. Meaning "boarding house" in French, these are very small no frills lodging facilities. Typically less than 10 rooms or bungalows. Family operated along with a few extra employees. Accommodations will vary among the different pensions. Highly discouraged by travel agents as travel agents do not receive any percentage of the booking fees. Traveler's must book their room directly with the pension. Contact info is very difficult to find. And what little information is available on the internet is not the most reliable. Traveler opinions about pensions will vary. But most will agree that their stay was very personalized and a memorable experience. $130-$350 USD.
There are some really fancy hotels and resorts here although no super-resorts like on Tahiti. Club-med used to have an outfit here but it's abandoned now.
- The Moorea Pearl Resort & Spa, . This is the cheapest of the high end resorts. Room types range from motel rooms to overwater bungalows. The views, along with the beach, are not spectacularly and thus the most you should splurge on is the garden bungalow. This is an 80+ room resort and crowds will frequent the common areas. Mainly the pool, bar, and restaurant areas. The resort guest list is a mix of families and couples only. Snorkeling at the resort's beach is not very good. The big buffet dinners are Wednesday and Saturday nights. Wednesday (appx $63 + service fees per person) with song and dance by a local dance troupe. The Saturday buffet ($76 + service fees per person) concludes with a fire dance. Better non-entertainment dining options are available within walking distance of the resort for half the price. Within walking distance of the resort is a small village. Exit the resort to the main road, turn right, and proceed for five minutes. You will arrive at a market, bank, snack bar, and a pizza restaurant. Exit the resort to the main road, this time turn left, and proceed for ten minutes, and you will arrive at another market with better prices and greater selection. There's also a neighboring Japanese and seafood restaurants as well. $300 to $600 USD per night.
- The Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort. TP Michigan 8/2008: Is quite pricey (=>$700 USD for 2 people in OW bungalow) but is a pristine, beautiful resort with fantastic staff and facilities. They had the best bungalows we saw on the islands. Reefs and coral were not as spectacular off the bungalows as they were at Le Meridien on Tahiti, but Ia Ora's has the bonus of having individual stairways to the water at each bungalow, a big plus.
Moorea has almost no violent crime. Petty theft can be an issue. Check your valuables at the desk or keep them on you. At least keep them stashed out of sight. Odd things may be taken, like the beat up old sneakers you left outside to dry the night before you are leaving, forcing you to hitch a ride to the bus stop because you have no other footwear to make the mile walk up the road and the pavement is a million degrees and there's broken glass in the margin, and then buy $20 USD flip flops to wear on the plane.
Perhaps due to its lack of reliable public transportation and its outrageously expensive taxi fares, Moorea has a serious drunk-driving problem (with both tourists and locals equally guilty). Take particular care when walking or cycling the island's only paved road after dark; it gets pitch-black and can be quite dangerous away from the main villages (where you'll also be more tempted to walk or cycle in the middle of the road due to the amount of broken glass on the shoulders).
There are a couple of islets around Moorea you can visit.