Just 12 miles from the hustle and bustle of Papeete is the island of Moorea. Now THIS is more like it. No traffic sounds screaming through the village or throngs of people pushing to get by on the sidewalk. No, Moorea is a little gem within site of the main island. Here the water is clear and peace is abundant! Read on to find all the information you need about Moorea.
There are two bays on the northern side of the island. One is Cook’s Bay where the famous Bali Hai Resort is located and the other is Ōpūnohu Bay. The are literally side by side with with a mountain separating them. We spent time in both bays and found them to be pretty similar as far as anchoring, holding etc… Cook’s Bay does tend to be a bit more crowded as there are more facilities here but both bays are very nice.
It is important to know that the government here has implemented extremely strict anchoring regulations. They are limiting the number of boats that can anchor in the bays and are actively fining those who violate their regulations. For more information on this we recommend the Soggy Paws Societies Compendium or Noonsite.
There are two ferries that go from Moorea back to Papeete if you are here and want to head back to the big island to do some provisioning. They take approximately 40 minutes. The Teravau ferry runs 2320 XPF for an adult, roundtrip ticket. The Aremiti runs around 3000 XPF for the same. The ferry port is located in Vai’are which is located on the eastern side of the island. (See map above).
We do know that there are taxis and shuttles that will transport you to the ferry port, however, we didn’t use them. We’d suggest checking with one of the resorts to find out more about them.
We know there is a bus here but just talk to the locals and you’ll find that it is not on any sort of schedule. It may or may not come so it’s hit or miss. Good luck with that!!!
The smaller islands do offer some provisioning but it won’t be anything like you will find in Papeete. Ōpūnohu Bay only has a couple of tiny magasins but you will find two larger stores at Cooks Bay. One is the Super U Aré and is located on shore at the south end of the bay. You can tie up your dinghy just to the west of the store. There’s a small snack shack there called Snack Rotui. Make sure you ask for permission and since they don’t charge you to use their dock it would be nice if you’d buy a little something from them. We had lunch there and it was good.
There is a mobile station located on the eastern shore of Cooks Bay. They have a dock but it’s not suitable for cruising boats. We took our dinghy there and since the station is just across the street it wasn’t a big deal. We do recommend that you have someone with you to stay in the dinghy to hold you off of the dock as it wasn’t in the best of shape. There are lots of things that could cut into an inflatable. They do offer duty-free fuel if you are paying cash. (Note: we’ve heard that they now have the fuel pump at the dock fixed but it’s pretty shallow there and there’s lots of rocks.)
Having come from Papeete where we ate out quite a bit we only ate on shore once and that was at the little snack shack by the Super U Aré on Cook’s Bay. There are some restaurants and snacks available around the island if you are looking to escape the galley for a change. For something more fancy than a snack shack you’ll need to check out the resorts.
When we were there the Bali Hai was not really up and running. In fact we were told it would no longer be the Bali Hai. They are called Aimeo. Their signs said they are open for breakfast and lunch but we tried several times and never could catch them open. We have learned since then that they were under renovations at the time which may account for this. If you go there we’d love some feedback so we can update this.
We had cocktails one afternoon at Hotel Kaveka. The atmosphere is quintessential Polynesian and they even have some tables on the dock which provide for amazing views of the area and the fish swimming below. We were informed that you need to make a booking to eat there.
Banking & ATMs
ATMs are hard to come by on the smaller islands and Moorea is no different. Our advice is to always get money when you are in the larger cities. We came with cash from Papeete so we didn’t need and ATM but according to our research there are three banks with ATMs on the northern side of island east of Cook’s Bay. They are located on the shoreline road just about 1.5 km northeast of the Hotel Kaveka. There is also an ATM located near the ferry terminal and one located on the west side of the island just around the northern tip.
Here’s a map of some of the places discussed above. Click to enlarge.
Touristy Things To Do
Hike To Belvedere Lookout
The hike to the lookout can be made from either Cook’s Bay or Ōpūnohu Bay. We made it from Ōpūnohu. We beached our dinghies just east of the concrete bridge at the head of the bay. There are some mangroves and trees at the waterline there so we locked them to the trees where they were out of view and safe.
The route we took was almost 6 km. It is a moderate hike that took us off the main road and along the Ancient Trail where we could visit a couple of ancient maraes … Marae-o-Mahine and Ti’i-rua.
Our hike also took us by the Lycée Agricole d’Ōpūnohu which is the agricultural school. Here students learn about crop and livestock farming, horticulture, cultivation and landscape design. They have hundreds of acres of flowers, fruit trees, coffee, vanilla beans, and vegetables grown by the students and staff. At the school you can buy some of their produce, jams etc. They also have a little snack shop where you can get some very tasty homemade ice cream or a frosty cool beverage. On a hot day this is a truly special treat.
You’ll find many signs leading from the beachfront that will direct you to Belvedere Lookout. There are dozens of trails you can choose from depending upon your fitness level.
If you’d like to take the route we did, we’ve created a guide to get you there. Click below to download the PDF.
Swim With The Stingrays & Sharks
One of the most interesting things we did here was to swim with the stingrays and black tip sharks. We fed the rays out of our hands as the black tips circled us from a distance. The rays, while potentially dangerous creatures, seem more like puppies than fish that have the ability to sting you with their venomous barbs. And the black tips keep their distance as they swim circles around everyone. NOTE: We did notice after about thirty minutes the sharks started to close in their circle and act a bit more aggressive so that’s when we decided it was time to get out of the water.
You can go out to the area they call Stingray City with a tour boat but if you’re on your own boat it’s just as easy to take your tender. The water at the location is 4-5 feet deep and the bottom is sandy so you can anchor easily. Take along some cans of tuna and you’ll find the rays will literally crawl all over you before you can even get the can completely open. We recommend wearing gloves and a rash suit as they will literally hug you and rub all over you. (See map below for location and don’t forget to watch our video!)
Snorkel/Dive The Underwater Tikis.
Just a short dinghy ride from Stingray City you’ll find a very unique snorkel/dive opportunity. The story…. Many years ago Christians came to the islands and in their zest to Christianize the “heathens” they forced the Tahitians to throw all of their cultural artifacts into the ocean. This is much the same as when they chopped the penises off of tikis in the Marquesas. The Christians believed they must banish all of the vulgar, ungodly visuals. Some twenty years ago, in a protest against the Protestant Church, a local man took these stone tikis out and dumped them just inside the reef. There are ten or twelve of them here now. It’s a very interesting site to snorkel/dive.
And, fortunately the missionaries were unable to silence the Tahitians and their beautiful traditions, art and culture live on today.