French Polynesia is so much more than just Bora Bora and Tahiti. In fact, with more than 115 islands dotting the turquoise seas from California and Australia, this collection of islands and atolls spans more than 1000 miles. A mecca for beach lovers, this far-flung paradise is one of the greatest treasures of Oceania.
One of my favorite places in French Polynesia, Mo’orea is a dream destination for white-sand beaches, lush rainforests, and exotic animal encounters.
Planning your ultimate tropical escape? Here are the top things to do in Mo’orea.
Rent a Beach Buggy
I had a blast cruising around in my beach buggy, and would highly recommend getting behind the wheel for at least a few hours. I didn’t actually rent a car for the rest of the trip, so having a buggy for the day was a perfect way to see the edges of the islands.
We paid 150,000 Francs — which isn’t as much as it sounds! For around $150, you can have a beach buggy to explore the shoreline.
Swim with Humpback Whales
From July and November, Humpback whales leave the freezing water of the Antarctic seas to find their vacation homes in the warm waters of French Polynesia.
During the late summer and early autumn (generally around mid-August through October), you’ll find whales mating and giving birth near French Polynesia.
If you are lucky enough to be in Mo’orea during this prime time, you will find a range of tours that offer you the opportunity to swim with these gentle giants.
See the Rays and Reef Sharks
There is a shallow sand bar where you can stand in the crystal clear water and watch in wonder as these inquisitive little guys will come up to meet you.
This is another thing that is worth signing up for a tour to check out. They’ll take you out during feeding time and show you the best time to observe the rays and reef sharks.
Visit a Farmers Market or Fruit Stand
Sample the ultra-fresh passion fruit, pineapples, bananas, mangos, and star fruits grown right outside the door. Little fruit stands have the very freshest options and are always worth a visit.
Popular farmer’s markets like Fire Tutava are great places to stock up on fresh snacks, delicious jams, and tasty smoothies. For those of us who are used to getting topical fruit after it arrives jetlagged on our side of the planet, the flavors of fruit fresh straight from the plantation are truly incredible.
Visit Belvedere Lookout
Easily one of the most beautiful vantage points in French Polynesia, Belvedere Lookout is an essential selfie spot. Bring your camera and hike up for a sweeping view of Opunohu Valley as well as Cook and Opunohu Bays
You will find a range of ATV tours that will take you to the top or you can hike up solo. Plan around three hours of hiking, with nothing too strenuous (though be sure to wear proper shoes).
Go Hiking at The Pass of the Three Coconuts
Another truly epic hiking destination is The Pass of the Three Coconuts. I’d recommend leaving early (before 8 am) and planning for about four hours of hiking.
After you hike up about 850 feet, you will be rewarded with a panoramic view of the ancient volcano. If you are going over to Belvedere Outlook, which I’d recommend, you can make an easy detour over to this impressive spot.
Still in the process of making a travel plan? Check out my guide to getting to French Polynesia. Trust me, it’s easier than you think to get to this remote spot.
All the Water Sports
I found it impossible to leave the stunning turquoise seas. The warm waters are just oh-so-inviting and there is always a new slice of paradise to discover. Whether you want to dive or snorkel in the crystal clear waters or hop on a jet ski or surfboard, you can do it all here.
Many of the area hotel options offer you beach gear and free rentals so check with the place where you are staying.
Try the Poisson Cru
Poisson Cru, or Tahitian Raw Fish, is a must-try for seafood fans. The national dish of Tahiti is a bit like Peruvian ceviche or Hawaiian poke.
You will find some variations of the dishes, but they will all have the basic foundation of raw fish, lime juice, coconut milk, and cucumbers.
Take in the Views at Cook’s Bay + ‘Opunohu Bay
From Belvedere Lookout, you will get incredible views of Cook’s Bay + ‘Ōpūnohu Bay. Once you’ve taken it in from above, see it from the ground level.
In the quiet village of Paopao on the north coast of the island, you’ll find the start of the two-mile-long Cook’s Bay.
Surrounded by a striking mountain landscape dotted with waterfalls, this shallow long is perfect for swimming or just laying back to admire the view. For a prime snorkeling spot with a prime vantage point for the sunset, check out the ‘Ōpūnohu Bay.
Stay in an Overwater Bungalow
When it comes to accommodation in French Polynesia, it’s hard to beat the overwater bungalow. In fact, these serene tropical spaces are probably exactly when you picture when you think of the perfect accommodation.
Treat yourself for at least part of your stay!