Moorea, French Polynesia
Encircled by a barrier reef and boasting French influenced villages dotted around the foreshore, visiting Moorea gives passengers a quintessential introduction to a picture perfect Tiki island setting.
The heart shaped - or some say butterfly shaped - island forms part of the Society Island, group, situated in the middle of the South Pacific, thousands of kilometres from the nearest continents of South America and Australia. Despite its isolated locale, travellers visiting French Polynesia will find Moorea an easy place to get to. It’s just 17 kilometres from the Tahitian capital of Papeete where most passengers will arrive and depart from.
Cruise ships arriving in Moorea will anchor in either of the symmetrical bays of Cook’s or Opunohu Bay. Only 12,000 people call Moorea home and while there’s plenty of infrastructure for holidaymakers, including resorts with iconic overwater bungalows, it’s less touristy and not as expensive as neighbouring Tahiti and Bora Bora.
Cruise ships anchor in either Cook’s or Opunohu Bay. Passengers are then tendered to shore in Papetoai or Cook’s Bay village, on Moorea’s northern shores. There are limited services available in Papetoai, so most visitors will take shuttles to other parts of the island, or take part in one of the shore excursions organised through their cruise liner.
Most of the limited facilities for cruise passengers are located around the tender pier in Cooks Bay.
- Car rental kiosks
- Pop up markets appear when cruise ships are in port
- Bike and scooter rental agents.
The majority of shops including banks, restaurants, supermarkets and other facilities for travellers are found around the local ferry terminal in Vaiare where boats from Papeete arrive and depart from. For passengers arriving in Cook or Opunohou Bay, it may be worth making a stop in Vaiare to pick up supplies before heading out on other excursions.
How to Get Around
Getting around Moorea can be difficult and expensive. Although there is a bus (Le Truck) route around the island, services are infrequent, so the best way for visitors to get around independently is to hire bicycles, scooters or cars to avoid paying numerous taxi fares. If you plan to rent a car while in port, advance reservations are recommended to guarantee availability. While most of the roads around Moorea are well maintained, only 4WD vehicles should attempt to explore Moorea’s interior, where roads are often unsealed and steep.
Travel times from port (Opunoho Tender Pier):
- It is a 4 minute journey to Papetoai village centre
- It is a 34 minute journey to Tiahura and the Intercontinental Resort and Spa.
By car/Le Truck:
- It is a 61 minute journey on the coastal road to drive around the island
- It is a 25 minute journey to Vaiare
- It is a 5 minute journey to the village of Hauru
- It is a 23 minute journey to Moorea Airport.
- It is a 45 minute journey from Vaiare to Papeete.
- Currency - French Polynesia uses the French Pacific Franc (XPF) available in 1XPF, 2XPF, 5XPF, 10XPF, 20XPF, 50XPF and 100XPF coin denominations and 500XPF, 1000XPF, 5000XPF and 10,000XPF bank note denominations. US dollars are also widely accepted in Moorea.
- Time Zone - Moorea is in the Tahiti Time Zone (THAT), which is 10 hours behind Universal Coordinated Time (UTC).
- Weather - With a tropical climate, Moorea has characteristic wet and dry seasons. Higher rates of rainfall is experienced between November and April. The annual average high temperature is approximately 29 degrees Celsius.
- Moorea Dolphin Centre - The Intercontinental Hotel close to the cruise port has their own dolphin and turtle sanctuary, with daily shows and up close and personal encounters. Visitors can also purchase a resort pass to take advantage of the resort facilities.
- Shop for Black Pearls - Many vendors around Moorea sell the sought after and rare black Tahitian pearl – the nation’s largest export. One of the best value places to shop for these is at the Moorea Store located across the road from the InterContinental Resort and Spa in Tiahura village.
- 4WD Island Tours - Guided tours traverse the sloped and jagged peaks that make up Moorea’s interior. Admire the pineapple plantations from the Belvedere lookout on Mount Rotui and get a unique perspective of the heart shaped island, including the inlets of Cook’s and Opunohu Bay, from above. Tours run between 3-4 hours and cost approximately USD$50 per person.
- Tiki Village Theatre - For some cultural insight into the islands of French Polynesia, stop by the Tiki Village Theatre, which features live dancing and song performances. This attraction is also the workplace for local craftspeople who create flower garlands and hand carved timber.