Mo’orea: The Hidden Gem of French Polynesia

Screenshot 2018-09-05 at 2.01.52 PM.png

When you think about French Polynesia, you most likely think about Bora Bora. Bora Bora is known to be one of the most beautiful, picturesque and once-in-a-lifetime destinations, and for good reason. However, an important thing to know is that a ticket from Tahiti to Bora Bora (about an hour long flight) can often cost the same price (or more) as your international ticket to Tahiti from the US! This quickly doubles the expense of your trip before you’ve even stepped foot into paradise. But did you know that there’s an island that’s inexpensive to get to, almost hiding in plain sight? Often overlooked, Mo’orea, referred to as “Magic Island”, is the smaller sister island to Tahiti and is just 20 minutes, and a 10 dollar ferry, away.  

Gliding over the teal blue sea, you say goodbye to the small city of Papeete and hello to the mountainous island in the distance.  Arriving on the island, you see nothing but towering, lush, green trees surrounded by crystal clear water. Friendly locals with scented flower headdresses greet you with a smile and the customary greeting of “‘Ia Ora Na” (yo-rah-nah) . The salty air wraps around you like a cocoon. You are home, and for a brief moment you wonder if you ever have to leave this island.

This hidden gem is known for its small town feel, undeveloped coastline and endless accommodations at reasonable prices. Guests can find B&B’s ranging from $20 a night to ultra-luxe overwater bungalows from $500+.  While there are only a few compared to Bora Bora, some of my favorite brands offer the same luxurious overwater bungalows that you’ll find on Bora Bora. Brands like Sofitel, Hilton and the Intercontinental all offer overwater bungalows in Mo’orea, as well as a couple other lesser known brands.  

Screenshot 2018-09-05 at 2.04.36 PM

While often overshadowed by Bora Bora, the landscape, sea life and beaches at Mo’orea rival the most incredible sites I have seen in my life.  Out of the center of Mo’orea protrudes a 3,960 foot tall mountain, surrounded by lush valleys just waiting to be explored on foot or by ATV. Endless, white sand beaches, teeming with sea life wrap around the island with clear, blue water as far as your eye can see. Whether you’re interested in lounging on your overwater bungalow deck all day or are ready to swim with the sharks, Mo’orea is the perfect home base for a holiday.  Snorkeling, paddle boarding and swimming with rays are just a few of the coveted activities available on the island. Adventure seekers have endless opportunities to explore the island in ATVs or kiteboard across the crystal waters of the lagoon.

Apart from the incredible landscape and epic adventure, the food in Mo’orea deserves an article on its own. Imagine the best of French food combined with the freshest seafood you will ever taste in your life. From French croissants to the local French Polynesian dish, Poisson Cru, you will not go hungry in Mo’orea.

Since Mo’orea is a small island, restaurants will drive to your hotel to pick you up and drop you off, free of charge. As you sit and watch the sunset at the end of an action-packed day, the smell of freshly baked bread and salty french butter waft through the restaurant. You can indulge in the delicious local flavors without even needing to worry about getting back to your hotel after a few too many cocktails.

Screenshot 2018-09-05 at 2.08.24 PM.png
Source: Colorapt via Videoblocks

One of the main differences between Mo’orea and an island like Bora Bora, is that you can have the vacation of a lifetime on Mo’orea at any budget, starting from touchdown at Papeete International.  Whether you’re a big spender or not, there is something available for you.

The proximity to Tahiti is also a huge benefit of a vacation on Mo’orea.  Traveling on to Bora Bora from Tahiti adds essentially another travel day to your agenda, as many flights get in late, after the last flights to Bora Bora have departed. Waiting at the airport, the extra night in Tahiti, the extra flight: it all adds up.  The easy, inexpensive ferry ride to Mo’orea takes far less time and is far less cumbersome. The short journey to Mo’orea gives you that extra travel day back, and you can be on the island, sipping a piña colada before the day is done.

The price, proximity and ample accommodations on Mo’orea make it a no-brainer for anyone looking for a picturesque holiday in the sun. While Bora Bora is certainly an incredible destination, consider Mo’orea for your next trip to the Pacific — you won’t regret it.

Article by Maren Engh. Find her on Instagram and her website, Also, check out her previous article on Costa Rica