This is definitely a case of high society – Moorea is a soaring island formed by volcanic action in French Polynesia’s Society Islands (so named by Captain Cook). The island is 19 km (12 mi) to the east of Tahiti, and shaped like an inverted triangle with two deep bays nibbled out of the north coast. It isn’t huge at 135 sq km (52 sq mi), but large enough to absorb the many tourists in reasonable comfort. There are three main settlements – Teavaro, Papetoai and Afareaitu, plus numerous resorts including those with the inevitable stilt houses extending into the lagoon.
This is the destination of choice for thousands of honeymooners each year, so be prepared to mingle with lots of love-struck fellow travellers. It’s not hard to understand the romantic appeal. From the first glimpse of Moorea, rising steeply out of the ocean to eight impressive mountain ridges, it is apparent that this is a beautiful place with stunning scenery. Upon closer inspection, that initial impression is confirmed. The island is clad in lush vegetation, surrounded by a barrier reef sheltering a fabulous lagoon and is everything that a perfect tropical island should be. Indeed, there is a hilltop lookout between majestic Mount Tohivea and shark-toothed Mount Rotui, where the view down to the twin inlets of Cooks Bay and Opunohu Bay takes the breath away – it’s so good that local tradition insists it was once reserved for the gods alone.
Of course Moorea offers all the usual holiday distractions for those who want to take advantage of them – watersports, sailing, fishing, tours on land and sea, adventure activities, hiking, biking, shopping and nightlife. But in truth, many visitors would honestly say that simply being here is enough.
Population: 15.000 (2002)
When to go: If you’re looking to set the date, May to October is ideal honeymoon weather (unless you prefer the other months when frequent heavy rain may keep you indoors).
How to get there: By ferry or short air hop from Papeete.
Highlights: A half-day photographic tour in an open-top or air-conditioned Jeep through tropical valleys and up to a panoramic viewpoint in the mountains.
Opunohu Agricultural College’s three round-trip nature trails – to sample Moorea’s abundant flora (walkable alone or with a guide).
A dolphin and whale-watching expedition outside the reef.
Viewing the reef and colourful lagoon life, without getting wet, from a half-submerged glass-bottomed boat.
You should know: Charles Darwin was inspired to formulate his theory of coral atoll formation after studying Moorea from atop a mountain in Tahiti.