Moorea (Photo:GuilhermeMesquita/Shutterstock)
5.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Moorea

They don't call the heart-shaped Moorea "the magical island" for nothing. Dominated by spiky mountain peaks, turquoise lagoons and lush tropical foliage, Moorea is the favorite port of call in French Polynesia for many cruise passengers and crew.

About Moorea


Pro

Find Bali Hai, whether you're snorkeling from shore or driving up to a mountain vista point

Con

Expensive taxis and no public transit mean you need to take a tour or rent a car

Bottom Line

You'll never want to leave this uncrowded "magical island"


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It's said that the idyllic Bali Hai, the fictional island from the musical "South Pacific," was based on Moorea -- and the island looks the way you probably imagine a tropical paradise to look (even unsightly power cables are buried underground to further the paradisiacal effect). Even better is the wide, shallow lagoon that surrounds it. You can swim or snorkel right from shore, or take a short boat ride out to a secluded motu, a tiny islet.

Upscale Bora Bora may get more hype, but Moorea is a sleeper. Residents of Tahiti know all about it. They come for the weekend because it's so easy to get here, a mere 12 miles and 30 minutes on the fast ferry from Papeete. No matter when you visit, you won't find crowds or traffic jams. Only about 16,000 people call this home.

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.

Port Facilities

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.

Good to Know

Chickens crossing the road! Moorea is sleepy and safe, and besides sunburn and mosquito bites there's little to fear. Still, practice common sense.

Getting Around

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.

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.

Language

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.

Food and Drink

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.

Shopping

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.

Best Cocktail

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.


Moorea Awards

Cruisers’ Choice Destination Awards

2018 Top-Rated South Pacific Destinations