When we told people we planned to visit French Polynesia, just about everyone said, “Oooh! Bora Bora! How lovely!” But no, we didn’t visit Bora Bora (this time!). Instead, we took the advice of a few of my friends who have visited the region before. The island recommended to us most was Mo’orea. Just a 30 minute ferry ride, or 15 minute flight, from the main island of Tahiti, Mo’orea should be on everyone’s French Polynesian bucket list.
Getting There and Getting Around
Cruises are touch-and-go during COVID, but there were several still sailing to and around French Polynesia as of January 2022! This is the easiest way to island hop (unpack once and see a variety of islands!), but the drawback is that you’ll only get a day or so at each port, and you’ll be on someone else’s schedule. Mo’orea is a popular spot for cruises, and with good reason! Cruises depart from Tahiti, but you could also get to French Polynesia on cruises that visit Easter Island, Fiji, the Marquesas, and more.
Mo’orea has its own airport, but the only international airport is PPT in Pape’ete, Tahiti. So, you’ll definitely be flying though there first, no matter where you’re coming from. If you’re flying United, as we were, you’ll arrive in the evening, so your best bet is to stay at the Tahiti Airport Motel across the street and either fly or take one of the ferries to Mo’orea the following morning.
See what it’s like: Staying at the Tahiti Airport Motel
Taking the Ferry
You’ll have two ferry choices, either Aremiti or Terevau. Terevau is faster, but Aremiti can hold more cars; the prices are similar, but it will vary according to the length of your car. Whichever you choose, if you take a car, you will need a reservation in advance!
I wrote extensively about this here: How to Rent a Car on Tahiti and Take the Ferry to Mo’orea
Renting a Car
I do recommend renting a car when you visit Mo’orea, though that will be easier if you can drive a manual transmission. The prices were the same for both automatic and manual, but there were no automatic vehicles left on the island when we booked at three weeks’ notice! I found out, however, that it was possible to rent a car on Tahiti, where there were many more options, and take it on the ferry to Mo’orea.
This worked well for us, but be aware that you will have to pay for the car separately on the ferry, and our car rental company, Hertz, also charged a $19 insurance fee for taking the car on the ferry. It was still less expensive than any other car rental we’ve had in the last year!
More here: What to Know Before You Visit French Polynesia
Mo’orea is only 34 miles around, so you can easily drive the whole island in a day if you want. Most of the things to do are on the north side of the island, but it’s worth a drive to the south to see the other side of things. You won’t be disappointed.
Read next: The Top 10 Things to Do on Mo’orea
Where to Stay
It’s not all overwater bungalows, but those are pretty fun! There are several Air BnBs and hotels around the island, from waterfront to jungle, but if an iconic overwater bungalow is on your “must do” list, you have three options: Hilton, Sofitel, or Manava. The prices are comparable for each, but Manava seems to have the best location, with the ability to walk to shops and restaurants.
The Hilton appeals to American sensibilities, as it is an American brand. The Sofitel is a French branded hotel that boasts the only protected coral reef system in French Polynesia. Steve and I can attest that the snorkeling was wonderful there!
Read this first: What to Know Before You Book an Overwater Bungalow in French Polynesia
Full confession: I’m definitely not a big shopper! But I love to find something unique or culturally appropriate in my travels. French Polynesia offers beautiful handmade soaps, real vanilla beans, oils such as coconut and manoi, pareo (hand-designed sarongs), wood carvings, and especially on Mo’orea: Pearls! Tahitian, or “black” pearls are unique to Polynesia and come in a variety of colors thanks to the black-lipped oysters in which they grow. Out of all the islands, Mo’orea has the widest variety of pearl shops, so don’t leave without at least taking a look!
Read next: How to Shop for Pearls in French Polynesia
Want more? Take a look at my dedicated French Polynesia Page!
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