Nicknamed the “Sister Island” of Tahiti this paradise is only a short ferry ride away from the main populous island of Tahiti. When you think of bungalows over the water, deep turquoise blue water, and a very relaxing get away Mo’orea is that place. On my trip over New Years we did everything from diving with the sharks, hiking, and sightseeing everything in between. On account of its easy accessibility from Tahiti, Mo’orea is very popular option for many tourists after spending a few days on Tahiti.
How to Get There?
If you are already on the main island of Tahiti, then you have numerous options to make your way over to Mo’orea. First there are daily flights on Air Tahiti which would be the expensive, impractical, and the longer option because of your time spent in the airport. The other option is the ferry. I would recommend the ferry to most travelers as the best option. While it may be 30 minutes on the ferry compared to a 15 minute flight, once you’re moored in Mo’orea you only have to walk off the ship and across the street to pick up your rental car.
There are two ferry services with schedules to and from all day long. Check out Aremiti and Terevau to find the time that works best for you. I recommend not booking this in advance because tickets are not hard to come by and so you can figure it out with your plans once you’re already on Tahiti. Keep in mind if you have a rental car from the airport on Tahiti, the smart idea would be to drop it back off and catch a taxi over to the ferry terminal. There’s no point in paying for parking and your rental on Tahiti while you’re on Mo’orea.
Big question “Do I need a rental car?” That is a big YES! There’s no way you want to rely on the one public transportation as your way to get you around the island. To see and do everything at your own pace you need one, and even though the island is small, it is not walkable. Don’t try! You’ll be hot and miserable! I saw some travelers doing this, and they looked extremely beat by the sun and distance as they were arriving at the same place we were staying.
From my recommend way of getting to the island there is a few rental car companies right at ferry terminal, or a few more around Tipaniers Beach by some of the bigger resorts. Although not on the map, if you do fly in there is also the option to rent right at the airport. Use Kayak, Priceline, or something similar to find those options.
Where to Stay?
This would all depend on your budget, type of trip, and group you are with, but Mo’orea has everything to offer from a place to put a tent to private bungalows over the water. If money isn’t an issue on your trip I would say book a private bungalow over the water. I’m sure it is an unforgettable experience that you won’t forget!
On my trip we used AirBnB for Mo’orea just like Tahiti. We stayed at Mark’s Place on the west side of the island. Mark’s Place is a property with all sorts of custom built cabins built by the owner Mark himself. If you have the right group to cut down the cost I would highly recommend staying here. The property is great, the hospitality is like none other, and the wifi is fast which I know is important to all travelers. And YES you can even take a hot shower! If you are also unsure about what to do on the island, Mark himself can recommend things for anyone’s ability and even book tours. Careful though he’s a talker!
Unlike Tahiti where I wrote about a variety of hikes and adventures, if there’s one hike you should do out of any other on Mo’orea it’s Mont Rotui. Yes there are other even taller summits you can go for, but the panoramic views from the top of Rotui I strongly believe are better than any other. From the summit you get to see 'Ōpūnohu Bay, Cook’s Bay, and the entire volcanic rim of the island! For 360º panoramic views there’s not much to compare how amazing and rewarding it is to stand on this summit.
Parking is fairly easy, but describing where the trail head begins is a little tricky. First drive to the Hilton on the north shore. If you look on Google Maps satellite park just past the tennis courts and parking lot more toward 'Ōpūnohu Bay along the main road. The trailhead begins down a dirt road in between a few houses. If you look on Google satellite again the actual trailhead beings behind the square white roof house at the base of the ridge in front of the dirt area. To get there walk down the dirt road to the right of the house on Google Maps that looks like it’s placed right in the center of the property. If this sounds confusing to you just walk down one of the dirt roads in this area, and look for a sign pointing toward the hike. If locals see you and you’re lost they should point you in the right direction as they did with us.
Once you’ve found the trailhead it should be pretty hard to get too lost. This is a very uphill hike that isn’t in the shade very much. The summit is a must, and to make the most of your time there I would recommend getting an early morning start to avoid the heat of the day. Unfortunately for us we started around 9 A.M. which already felt too late. We were on the exposed parts of the ridge with the very hot summer sun on us during the worst of the heat and humidity. The heat and humidity made this a much harder hike than it would have been without. Don’t take it lightly if you are visiting during the summer months or even not. I ended up hiking the majority of it with a towel on my head to protect my face and neck from the sun!
Rotui has many false peaks, but keep in mind that you are getting close when the trail starts to narrow and become a little more overgrown. The whole thing could be comfortably hiked in about 5-6 hours, but for us we were moving slow because of the heat and taking countless photos. For us we didn’t get off of the ridge until after sunset. Since I hike a great deal I would not say this hike is terrible sketchy, but It is definitely not kid friendly. On your relaxing get away if you choose one hike on island, choose Rotui!
Shark & Stingray Diving
Mark our AirBnB host insistently told us that there was a 5 star tour to get your own private tour where you get to dive with sharks and stingrays, and even get to eat a world class meal while sitting in the water as they swim around you. If this sound like something you want to do let your hotel or AirBnB host know the first day you get there so you get a spot reserved. Unfortunately, we made the decision for the tour too late and there wasn’t any availability. If this is the case you have another option to swim with the sharks and stingrays.
First go to Tipaniers Beach right at Hotel Les Tipaniers. When you reach the sand there will be a few companies to the right on the beach just past the pier where you can rent a small boat for your group. They should provide you with a map for diving places around the Motu Islands, but the best place for all of the shark and stingray diving is almost directly across the channel from the beach. The nice part about doing this option is you will spend significantly less money and get to go to the same places as the 5 star tour. If you’re like us and already had a lot of time in the sun, I would say 3 hours is a perfect amount of time to rent a boat. That’s what we did, and even though the time seems to fly by when you’re in the water it ends up being the perfect amount of time to see it all without being in the sun for too long!
The Belvedere Lookout is a short drive up from the main road with a great view of Mont Rotui (the hike mentioned above). Our host Mark kept recommending a short easy hike called the Three Coconut Tree Pass that began at the lookout, but because we hiked Rotui we didn’t actually make it there via this route. From what Mark said it is a panoramic view of the island that I could imagine is a much easier hike than Rotui. However, we did hike the start of the trail for about 10 minutes.
The view at the lookout is nice, but if you want a much better view without the parking lot and cars in your picture then definitely take the trail behind the lookout for about 10 minutes and you will reach this amazing grassy overlook just above the parking lot itself. I thought it was such a hidden gem of a find from the crowded parking lot when I was there.
To get there take the trail right behind the overlook. When you see a split off to the right don’t take it, but stay on the main trail. A short while after that you’ll see another split to the right, and this lead to the overlook I’m talking about. The first split might possibly lead you there too because I saw another trail heading that in that direction when I was up there, but I couldn’t tell you for sure. BRING BUG SPRAY for this spot because they are absolutely terrible! No joke I was destroyed after about 30 minutes of taking photos. This is a perfect sunset spot, and that is definitely the time of day I would recommend going here.
Something to note on Mo’orea is all beaches are public property. However, the land surrounding the beach most likely will not be. There a few beach parks like Tipaniers that I mentioned earlier, another called Pineapple Beach, and Ta'ahiamanu. Ta'ahiamanu is a nice place to layout away from the resorts, and Pineapple Beach is a great place to catch sunset. If you do some exploring without a specific destination in mind I’m sure you’ll find hidden gems that I didn’t.
Just like Tahiti use good judgment with whatever adventures you decide to do. Keep in mind the mountains are steeper, the heat is muggier during their summer, and mosquitos seem worse than Hawaii in every way. Always be prepared with sunscreen, plenty of water at all times, and bug spray. I promise you will need all three. Don’t take sunscreen lightly. The last thing you want is putting aloe on yourself the rest of the trip after the first day like me, and I even was coming from a tropical island. Overall be prepared and know your limits. The heat hiking Rotui was no joke, and could even be dangerous if you’re not constantly taking breaks and drinking lots of water. Overall, the locals were very nice, and we had no negative encounters with anyone. That comes with being respectful, cautious, and aware of your surroundings at all times like any smart traveler should be.
I hope this post gets you started with your planning before you make a trip to the island. There should be something to do for almost any type of vacationer from the most extreme to a relaxing day in the water. If you follow the recommendations in this post you will be sure to have a great trip filled with adventures for most people’s ability!