Moorea Travel Guide

May 27, 2016

Moorea Island Travel Tips

Listed here are specific travel tips for Moorea Island. Be sure to also read the French Polynesia Travel Guide, filled with general travel tips to paradise.

Recommended Reading

  • Lonely Planet French Polynesia_new versionLiving The Dream In Moorea: personal accounts of my first two weeks on the island, focused on hiking, snorkeling, and initial exploration
  • Swimming With Sharks & Stingrays: tales from the final two weeks in Moorea, focused on scuba diving, shark & stingray feeding and cultural tours
  • French Polynesia Travel Guide: everything you need to know before heading to paradise
  • Lonely Planet: ‘the bible’ for any independent traveler. For such a dreamy yet challenging destination, I recommend grabbing one of these for the road to go along with this travel guide. After all, it’s not only super useful but also makes for a great souvenir!
  • Tahiti Tourisme: the official site of the local tourism office. You’ll find relevant information about Tahiti and the outer islands.

How Many Days Do You Need In Moorea?

Moorea is the kind of place you’ll want to retire in (in fact, many people do). You could easily spend your entire French Polynesia vacation in Moorea, with plenty of lazy or sporty activities to undertake. That said, if you are pressed for time – Moorea can be sampled with a three-day stay. Stays of five days or more will allow you to go beyond the beach, with some awesome hikes and inland thrills. If you are super pressed for time, there are daily excursions from Tahiti to Moorea.

Moorea panoramic view from motu french polynesia

When Is the Best Time To Visit Moorea?

Moorea lies just 20 km away from Tahiti, so the weather is very similar. However, there can be days of heavy rain in Tahiti yet clear skies in Moorea. As with Tahiti, the best time to visit is in the dry season (May – October), which is also the cooler season. Sunny days are the norm, the beautiful mountains are less covered in cloud, it’s a lot less humid and there’s even a cool breeze from the east.

I visited Moorea during the wet season (Nov – April). There were days of rain but there were more days of sunshine. In the early morning hours, the mountains were usually cloud free, only getting cloudy in the afternoon. Unless there’s a storm, the lagoon is usually sunny – even if the mountaintops are covered in cloud. The weather in Moorea can greatly vary from coast to coast. It can be raining on one side of the island, but completely sunny on the other. I’ve found that the area around Haapiti gets the most sun (with the bays getting the bulk of the rain).

You’ll be able to dive year round, watch whales from July to October, hike and swim throughout the year when it’s not raining. During holidays (especially local holidays), Moorea gets more crowded. It’s a popular destination not only for foreign guests but also for vacationing families from Tahiti.

Moorea bay panoramic coastline french polynesia

What To Pack?

Moorea is a tropical destination, and as such – I recommend packing clothes that dry quickly and keep moisture (a.k.a sweat) out. Have a look at the X Days In Y Packing List for recommendations on what to pack for Moorea based on my experience.

Moorea Average Costs

Here’s a breakdown of my costs from Moorea. Keep in mind that I was here for a month, renting a place on a monthly basis and mostly (but not always) cooking my own meals.

Language

French is the most common language, followed by Tahitian. Surprisingly, I found English to be very widely spoken in Moorea.

How To Get To Moorea

There is an airport in Moorea, but I’m not exactly sure who uses it… Chances are you’ll reach Moorea by ferry from Tahiti, which takes about 30 minutes. There are two ferry companies operating daily schedules, both arriving at the ferry terminal in Vaiare: Aremiti (1500F each way) and Terevau (1150F). Booking ahead of time is not necessary, but do so during peak season, holidays and if you’ll be transporting a vehicle with you (car, scooter, bicycle). Schedules are not as frequent as you think, especially on weekends. Important note: only the Aremiti Ferry is served by public transportation (see ‘getting around Moorea’).

Ferry from Tahiti to Moorea French PolynesiaTahiti to Moorea ferry panoramic view french polynesiaTerevau Ferry Moorea French Polynesia

Getting Around Moorea

If you plan on seeing more than just the beach, you will need to have your own car (and it will likely be with manual transmission). Moorea is a big island, without a real public transportation system. Here are all the options I can think of for getting around Moorea.  

  • Public bus transportaion Moorea French PolynesiaTo & from the ferry: public buses only serve the Aremiti ferry. Catching the bus from the ferry is easy, as buses will already wait for you. One travels in a clockwise direction and the other counterclockwise. Just ask the driver which bus you need to get on (300F, 150 per child). The tricky part is catching the bus to the ferry. You never really know when the bus will arrive, and there are no designated bus stops. Wait on the main road at least 90 minutes before the ferry departure to ensure you don’t miss the bus. I am pretty sure that on Sundays, the bus only picks up from the ferry (double check this with your accommodation). Also note: on a recent return visit to Moorea which coincided with school holidays, no busses were there to greet the Aremiti ferry. 
  • Bicycle: A newly paved bike lane practically hugs the entire coastline of Moorea. Lots of local businesses will also rent out bicycles so just ask around. Expect to pay 1500F for 8 hours of rental. I would recommend staying away from beach bikes, as Moorea does have a few hills.
  • Scooter: a number of outfits rent out scooters. Expect to pay 4000-6000F per day, depending on the rental duration.
  • Avis pacific car Moorea French PolynesiaCar: Avis Pacific Car was my choice after much research. They have an easy online reservation system, speak excellent English, and prices are competitive – especially for long term rentals. Their main branch is right across from the ferry terminal and they used to have another at the former Intercontinental Resort, which announced permanent closure in May 2020. Cars are brand new, cleaned whenever you want, and if you’re taking the ferry to Tahiti – you can leave your car at their branch for the day. They even have special offers on prepaid wifi hotspots in your car! Open on Sundays and holidays, fantastic service! Prices vary depending on rent duration but email the Avis Pacific Car reservation center in Tahiti (reservations@avispacificar.pf) prior to booking online. They’ll extend an extra 5% discount or more for X Days In Y readers (just mention X Days In Y)!
  • Bus: only serve the Aremiti ferry. There are two lines which start at Le Petit Village, one heading north and the other heading south (so there is no complete island loop). Both terminate at the ferry and will pick up passengers along the way (just wave it to stop). The bus will drop you off wherever you want along the way (300F, 150F per child).
  • Taxi: notoriously expensive in Moorea. A short ride starts at about 4,000F.
  • Hitchhiking: generally safe in Moorea can take a while to find a match.
  • Walking: Moorea is a big island so walking long distances is not really a viable strategy.

Driving In Moorea

PK Marker Moorea French Polynesia pointe kilometreIt’s really hard to get lost in Moorea, with only a single main road running along the 60-kilometer coastline. Moorea uses the pointe kilometre system (PK), with markers along the road beginning at the airport and running in both directions until meeting at PK 35. Don’t expect to be driving over 60 km/h (which is also the speed limit), though most locals do. That said, there are two things to watch out for. (1) Though repaved in recent years, some sections of the road are littered with potholes. The local council is making progress on fixing the road, but with the constant rainfall – this is a lost battle. (2) Drive with extra care at night! Roads are not well lit, locals (and animals) frequently cross the road and of course, there are the potholes. I certainly would not recommend riding a scooter at night.

Driving in moorea French Polynesia

Drinking Water In Moorea

Water should be safe to drink out of the tap. Just to be on the safe side, inquire at your accommodation. Note that Moorea recycles plastic bottles.

Safety In Moorea

For general safety tips in French Polynesia, have a look at the ‘safety’ section of the French Polynesia Travel Guide.  

Like all the islands outside Tahiti, Moorea is a very safe place. That said, drive with extra care at night, and to be on the safe side – lock your doors and tilt your windows before going to bed (or leaving your room). There have been reports of thefts during the night, even when people were sleeping. Lastly, do not leave anything tempting in your car and keep an eye on things when you go swimming. 

What To Buy In Moorea?

Pareo Moorea French PolynesiaAs you would expect from an island that gets a lot of visitors, you can find all the usual Tahitian souvenirs here. Around Maharepa and Le Petit Village (and of course in and around the hotels), you’ll find the usual black pearl and pareo shops (sarongs). Note that black pearls are not produced in Moorea and you’re better off buying them in Tahiti (see the ‘shopping’ section in the French Polynesia Travel Guide for more info).

However, there are three worthwhile mentions:

Tahiti Aromes: fancy some tamanu oil? Or how about some tiare scented monoi oil for some after sun care? How about some noni juice to keep your plumbing in tip-top shape? If you have no clue what I’m talking about, visit this factory & shop to learn and buy some natural Tahitian goodies.

Moorea Juice Factory - Manutea jamManutea – Juice de Fruit de Moorea: the pride and joy of Moorea is the Rotui juice factory, supplying the islands with an endless supply of exotic fruit juices. The factory also runs the Manutea brand, producing vanilla liqueur, delicious jams, sugar cane alcohol and lots of other local delights that’ll fill up your suitcase. Read more in the ‘things to do’ section and join a factory tour.  

La Maison Blanche: an early 20th-century house in the outskirts of Maharepa that sells colorful island fashions, sarongs, and Polynesian crafts.

How To Save Money In Moorea?

  • Staying for more than 3-5 nights? Book accommodations with cooking facilities. You’ll be able to whip up delicious dinners on your own, avoiding the 1,800-2,000F price tag at local snacks (restaurants much more). Same goes for breakfast.
  • Buy fruits & vegetables from families stalls on the side of the road.
  • If you’re not locked on seeing every inch of Moorea, stay in the area in or around Opunohu and Cook’s Bay. That part of the island is where most of the highlights are, and you might be able to see everything on a bicycle – avoiding the need to rent a car for the entire duration of your stay.
  • Get here on the Aremiti Ferry, which is served by local buses (unlike the Terevau Ferry)
  • Drink tap water. It’s usually perfectly safe in Moorea. Just double check before.
  • Don’t discount those tourist maps! They will have a few very useful coupons for businesses throughout the island.
  • Doing some shopping? Some items qualify for a tax refund upon your departure or even on the spot (such as black pearls).
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35 comments

  1. Thank you so much for this! It’s everything you could ask for in a guide. Hope you have many more happy and fulfilling adventures

    1. Thanks for the feedback Sandy. Heading tomorrow back to Tahiti and then Moorea for round #2. What a special place!

  2. Another evening spent reading your fantastic guides, doing last minute preparations for our trip to FP, in 3 weeks we will be at Moorea, cannot wait! Great work Avicai! 🙂

  3. Thank you for your detailed and well-written guide. I have spent couple hours now reading your travel guide to Tahiti, Bora Boara and this one, Moorea. Our trip won’t be until March, 2018 but I’m getting excited reading and looking at your beautiful photos.

  4. Thank you for all the wonderful insight into Mo’orea. We will be spending this Christmas there. After reading your guide, we are even more excited!

    1. Thanks Monica!

      It’ll definitely be a very merry Christmas, but I wouldn’t count on it being a white one 🙂

  5. Thank you SO much for writing this! Headed to Moorea the end of October for a honeymoon and haven’t found much in the way of guides- so this was perfect! Can’t wait for all of the adventures!

  6. This is great, very helpful for a first timer, in California, realizing This area is not as far as I thought, hoping for a trip next year, I guess I need to wait till May for decent weather. Any thoughts on off-season? I’m thinking I will stay on this island, but also maybe visit another smaller more cultural island nearby, any suggestions?

    1. Hi

      I’ve traveled offseason as well. If you’re traveling for an extended period of time, a day of rain here and there isn’t going to make or break your vacation. It is a lot less breezy though… Some of the better lesser known islands are Maupiti and Huahine. If you need specific 1:1 consultation, check this link out: https://xdaysiny.com/tahiti-tailor-made/

  7. Any idea where I can find a guide for the pierced mountain hike? I am travelling to Moorea for a couple weeks at the end of August. I’ve searched everywhere for a guide online but have had no luck.

  8. My husband and I did an “intro” dive with Aude. She was so informative and made us feel safe, so much so that we wanted to do another dive before we left! If you’ve never been scuba diving and are on the fence, this is the best way to go. We are now working on getting our certifications!

  9. This is a wonderful guide. Thank you! My gf and I are looking at Air BnBs… what do you recommend? staying in Temae, or Opunohu?

    1. Thanks Rachel. I would advise to look for places between the InterContinental Resort -Haapiti Village & between Maharepa Village-Temae. Hope this helps and happy travels in the South Seas

  10. Hello, we’re going to be Moorea morning of April 4th (arriving on the first ferry from Papeete) and until 2pm the 5th before sailing on a catamaran with friends for a week through (Bora, Huahine, Tahaa[coral garen], Raiatea [wreck dive]). We just got certified here in California and I’m wondering if we should try to snorkel and dive during such a short visit.
    The lagoon excursion with shark/ray/snorkel already sounds good enough. Is it worth it to dive also? What will we see on the dive that we don’t get to experience through snorkeling?
    Can we get around on a scooter? For example, can a scooter make it to Belvedere lookout with me and my husband? Or is a car really necessary?
    Thank you so much, this is really a fantastic guide.

    1. Hi Jenny. If you have one full day in Moorea, save the diving for the other islands you’ll be visiting. The dives take place on the slope in the outer section of the lagoon so there is more to see vs snorkeling (so definitely do go diving on the trip). You can make it on a scooter up to the belvedere. I advise snorkeling in the Moorea Lagoonarium vs the lagoon tour (coordinate your visit to the Lagoonarium with the stingray feeding). However, seeing as you’ll be on a boat and probably doing a lot of snorkeling, you can totally “chill” in Moorea and do a land based tour / hike plus relaxing on the beach. Hope this helps!

  11. Yes that’s a fantastic suggestion, we’ve never been near stingrays before and that has been on our bucket list. One more question for you. Is there a scooter rental near the ferry drop off? Is there a particular business you recommend? Thank you so much!

    1. I don’t believe there’s a scooter rental near the ferry but try contacting the suppliers and see if they can arrange a pickup from the ferry. I know of Albert Transport but there are a few other smaller outfits.

  12. well i found this article is very helpful and informative and its a lot of about Moorea its a very beautiful location soon i’ll take a tour
    Thanks for sharing

  13. Great guide, can you recommend a place to rent a small boat for a day on Moorea? A fun beach bar on Moorea? Thanks, Marc

    1. Hi Marc
      You should be able to find both at the beach of Les Tipaniers hotel. It can be accessed by the public. They have a beach bar and a place that rents out boats etc.

  14. absolutely love your guides! used them on our first trip to rangiroa/fakarava. this is our first trip to moorea. looking at diving there in feb with 4 parents, 3 teens so looking at an airbnb. would you do a house on the north near the dive shops or do one on the west, sunset side. would love something with beach out front and we could snorkel from the house. maybe walk to restaurants or shops – but not super busy beach out front. what do you recommend? thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Maryann
      My personal preference is for the west coast, between Haapiti and Les Tipaniers Hotel. That’s a great low key spot that also has a beach and some snorkeling.

  15. Thanks for the post which has tons of information.
    We are planning a trip to French Polynesia and we are family of 4 which includes 2 kids. Do you any recommendations to choose the islands which are Kids friendly.

    -Mani

    1. that depends on what you consider kids friendly. but in general: Moorea, Huahine and Bora Bora

  16. Do you have any links for hiking trails? Specifically the hike to the keyhole and any/ all waterfalls? Also looking for best snorkel spots, I am an experienced and avid ocean swimmer. Can you recommend a boat tour that includes feeding / swimming with sharks and mantas where we also might see turtles…but also includes eating at a water side table with the rays around us? I’ve seen pic amd Andy’s looks like a big company, but maybe too big/ touristy? Headed there next week! Mahalo!

    1. Hi Christina. Most of the hikes mentioned in the travel guides are not official hikes. So apart from the Three Coconuts Pass which is a marked trail, for all others I’ve included as much information as I can. You can search online for some Summit Series posts but those maps won’t be helpful. So use the info in the guide and cross reference it with local advice. That said, hikes such as the Piereced Mountain are better done with a guide, for your own safety. This is ESPECIALLY true during the wet season when it can be very dangerous to hike without a guide. For snorkeling, the best spot in the Moorea Lagoonarium. For tours, I went with moorea mahana tours. All these operators have the same itinerary: visit sting rays and then stop for lunch on a motu where you can snorkel. The snorkeling is not that great where they stop for lunch, just OK. The Lagoonarium would be the best. Hope this helps.

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