Merchants set up tables of shell jewelry, key chains, pareos and other wallet-friendly souvenirs at each tender drop-off spot on the island. There are also a few cafes, pizza parlors and shops in Cook's Bay -- but that's about it. Remember, you're in Moorea to get away from it all.
Go shopping at Le Petit Village
where the island's tourist shops and artsy boutiques are clustered. You'll find everything from Tahitian vanilla beans to black pearls to beach clothing, especially pareos.
For an on-land vista of Moorea, Belvedere Lookout
, high up in the mountains, offers stunning views of Cook's Bay, Opunohu Bay and Mt. Rotui. Pair the breathtaking view with a short hike off Belvedere Road to view three ancient marae sites; the trail is well marked. Several different hikes as well as guided tours of vanilla and coffee plantations are offered by students at Opunohu Agricultural College at Belvedere. All the shore tours visit Belvedere Lookout, and it's well worth seeing. Try to go early in the day before the rain and mist set in.
If you've never seen Polynesian dances or attended a Hawaiian luau, Tiki Village Theatre
(689-55-02-50) will satisfy your curiosity. You'll be immersed in island culture as craftspeople live and work here, carving wood, making flower garlands, and dyeing pareos. There's also a model pearl farm. Tiki Village is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Take a motorboat trip to a secluded motu
for a barbeque lunch (fresh fruit juices, salads, barbecued chicken, fish and sausages) and swimming with stingrays. It's one-on-one and a far more pleasant experience than the Caribbean's overcrowded Stingray City excursion. If your ship doesn't offer this excursion, try water-based tour operator Moorea Mahana Tours (689-56-20-44).
With its craggy peaks and two gorgeous bays, Moorea makes for a magical sight from above. Parasailing with Mahana Parasail
(689-55-19-19) is a fantastic way to see the island. You're aloft for anywhere from 12 to 15 minutes.
Rent a bike and ride around the entire circumference of the island
. It takes about six hours on mostly flat, well-paved roads. And there's not much traffic. Moorea Fun Bike (689-70-96-95) will deliver bikes anywhere on the island.
. Tahiti Expeditions (689-28-37-22) offers outings on bird watching, archaeology, botany, history, coral reef ecology, geology and Tahitian culture, upon request. They also conduct culture-oriented tours (such as Ancient Moorea), island tours and hikes. Customized day trips can also be organized.
The beach at the Sofitel la Ora Resort
has a great view across to Tahiti and is a good place to while away the afternoon.
By Car: Avis (689-56-32-68) and Europcar (689-56-28-64) both rent cars from about $85 for the day at Vaiare and other locations across the island; advance reservations are highly recommended. Local car rental agencies gather at the pier, as do renters of bicycles and scooters. There is virtually no public transportation on Moorea, and taxis are expensive. Even hitching a ride is chancy as there is so little traffic.
As in most of French Polynesia, fresh fish is excellent on Moorea. If you are a seafood eater, don't miss out. A Tahitian specialty is poisson cru, fish marinated in lime juice and coconut milk. End any meal on a sweet note; Polynesian desserts generally include fresh fruit.
Casual Joints: Check out Blue Pineapple (689-56-12-06), a beachside joint with great breakfast and burgers. It's opposite Club Bali Hai on Cook's Bay. Open for breakfast and lunch daily.
Sunset at the Hibiscus Hotelin Le Petit Village (689-56-26-00) offers salads, fish sandwiches and pasta served in a casual setting on the lagoon waterfront. Open for lunch seven days a week.
Luxe Lunch: La Plantation (689-56-45-10) in Haapiti pairs Tahitian hospitality with French and Louisiana cuisine. Specialties include blackened Opah, slipper lobster in a vanilla cream sauce, Cajun gazpacho, crab cakes and jambalaya. A decadent prix fixe Cajun menu is available. This Colonial-style restaurant offers free shuttle service from hotels in the area.
Where You're Docked
Ships anchor off the town of Vaiare on the east coast -- or in Cook's Bay or Opunohu Bay on the northern coast -- and tender passengers to makeshift villages that spring to life only when ships are in.
Watch Out For
Chickens crossing the road! Moorea is sleepy and safe, and besides sunburn and mosquito bites there's little to fear. Still, practice common sense.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The local currency is the French Pacific franc. A good rule of thumb is that 100 francs equal $1 -- but you'll want to check XE.com
for the latest exchange rates; a Banque de Polynesie ATM is located in Le Petit Village, the island's main shopping area.
French and Tahitian are the official languages. Some locals speak English, but don't count on it. Carry an English/French dictionary or phrase book.
In the islands, a hand-dyed pareo (the local version of a sarong) serves as a beach cover-up or a tropical dinner dress. Guys can wear them too.
On a hot day, pineapple liqueur and ginger rum go down nice and easy. Try the various fruit liquors made by the Pineapple Factory at Jus De Fruits de Moorea located in Pihaena.