The Hidden World of French Polynesian Island – Mo’orea


This tiny island of Mo’orea hidden in the Pacific Ocean is pristine and untouched. It is simply a hidden treasure that is tucked away from the rest of the world. One has to come to this hidden island to uncover its beauty.

Mo’orea in Brief?

Hidden in one of the many islands in the French Polynesia archipelago is Mo’orea. Mo’orea is a South Pacific island, part of French Polynesia’s Society of islands. Like many of the other islands, Mo’orea was first settled by Polynesians from the islands west of Mo’orea. They arrived on canoes coming down from South Asia looking for islands to settle. It is estimated that they arrived on Mo’orea roughly 1000 years ago. There are some ancient landmarks on Mo’orea known as marae, which consists of ancient stone rocks shaped like pyramids. On the rocks are carvings that tell when sacrifices occasionally took place. The oldest marae is the ‘Āfareaitu Marae, located in the island’s main village. It was made by the early Polynesians in the year 900.

Why Go?

This tiny hidden island of Mo’orea is known for its jagged volcanic mountains and sandy beaches. In Frommer’s travel guide, Mo’orea is considered the most beautiful island in the world. In the north, Mount Rotui overlooks picturesque Ōpūnohu Bay and the settlements around Cook’s Bay. Inland, hiking trails wind through rainforest on the slopes of Mount Tohivea. The islands Belvedere Lookout has panoramic views of the island’s peaks and Tahiti beyond. Because of its stunning scenery, untouched, pristine and accessibility to Pape’ete, Mo’orea is visited by many western tourists who travel to French Polynesia. The island is especially very popular as a honeymoon destination, therefore considered to be very expensive island and not a lot of tourist flood the island. It is also, not a tourist populated location because of the accessibiliy to the island. Spending time on Tahiti and Bora Bora, my visit on French Polynesian islands would not be complete without spending time on this secluded island of Mo’orea.

Getting there?

The main entry point to Polynesian islands is from Papeete, capital of Tahiti. Several ferries go to the Vai’are wharf in Mo’orea daily from Pape’ete. The Vai’are wharf is in the Vai’are bay. There are 3 ferries. One of them is the ‘Aremiti 5. The largest one is the ‘Aremiti Ferry and the other one is the Terevau ferry. The ferries have to pass through Mo’orea’s coral pass, then toward Pape’ete across the ocean and into the Tahiti Lagoon. The Vai’are bay is in the east part of Mo’orea. There is also, Mo’orea’s Tema’e Airport that has connections to the international airport in Pape’ete and onward to other Society Islands such as Bora Bora. If the islanders want to make an international flight, they would take Air Tahiti to get to the Fa’a’ā International Airport on Tahiti. The Mo’orea airport is located north of the Vai’are bay.


In the early hours of the morning, I travelled to Mo’orea by ferry (less than one hour). Upon arrival on the Island in the heart of French Polynesia, I was immediately awestruck by its natural beauty. Its jagged peaks cloaked in lush greenery and encircled by the deep blue of the ocean and sky. This island, located a mere 19 km (12 mi) west of the island of Tahiti, Moorea is a triangular shaped island encircled by a lagoon of translucent green, fringed by an azure blue sea. The physical beauty of the island made my island tour a highlight of my visit, and I had plenty of time to have a circle island tour of Moorea. I had planned to explore the natural and human sides of this French and Polynesian island; emerald green pastures with the volcanic mountains of Mouaputa and Rotui as their backdrop.

Island Circle Drive

In Mo’orea, there is only one road that goes around the island. Along the road are kilometre markers from 1 to 35. The first one is near the airport. The 35th one is in Ha’apiti. There are also white signs that tell the driver which commune they entered. Other signs have the communes name with a red slash through it, meaning that the driver is leaving the commune. The distance around this idyllic island is approximately 38 miles, or 62 kilometers, and offers many spectacular sites and photo opportunities.

While on the island I took a tour of the local tour service. I travelled past pineapple fields where I learnt about the famous and most important resource of Moorea. I then, visited an ancient Tahitian stone temple en route to Belvedere viewpoint. The Belvedere Lookout which has the panoramic views of the island’s peaks and Tahiti beyond. The views were just absolutely stunning but the road leading up to the top was arguably the most scariest bus ride I ever done. The road was absolutely so narrow without any road signs or rules alongside this sheer dropping cliffs and at the same time, the condition of the bus according to me was not what I expected to transport tourist up this narrow cliffs. I took in magnificent views of Cook’s Bay, Opunohu Bay and Mt. Rotui. Cook’s Bay is a finger-like body of water virtually surrounded on three sides by the jagged peaks lining the semicircular “wall” of Moorea. The tall ‘thumb’ with a small hole in its top is Mount Tohiea. Coming into view as I drove farther along the bay is Mount Mauaroa, Moorea’s trademark cathedral-like “Shark’s Tooth” mountain buttressed on its right by a serrated ridge. Towering over me was the jagged Mount Rotui, the huge green-and-black rock separating Moorea’s two great bays. Unlike Cook’s Bay, Opunohu is virtually devoid of development, a testament to efforts by local residents to maintain the natural beauty of their island. I stopped at the Toatea view point where I had a magnificent view of the green lagoon flecked with brown coral heads, the white line of the surf breaking on the reef, and all of Tahiti rising.

Lifestyle of Leisure

With just over an hour, you are most like to see the whole island. As the locals say, take your time leisurely and you will enjoy the island more. Spending time on this beautiful and pristine island, hidden from the rest of the world was one of the most enjoyable experience of a lifetime in my travels around the Pacific Islands. The lifestyle of the local people is all about taking things at your own leisure. Nothing is never too rush nor fast. The accommodations on this island can be very expensive and it is wise to do some research before travelling to this idyllic destination, only one could dream of.


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