Moorea island rises above the Pacific Ocean with towering peaks and spires of green. Moorea, Tahiti is an adventurer’s paradise where you can enjoy snorkeling, scuba diving, outrigger canoeing, paddle or kiteboarding, surfing, water skiing, hiking, bicycling, ATVing, or whale watching. There’s even a challenging ropes course! Here is the scoop on all the adventurous and fun things to do on Moorea.
Snorkel with Stingrays on Moorea
Our goal was to see stingrays and the coral reefs, so we headed out with Te Moana tours who picked us up at the dock of the Sofitel Ia Ora Beach Resort. As the boat cruised along with a cluster of pineapples on the bow, a pod of bottlenose dolphins playfully surfed the wake. My friend remarked, “Dolphins are such good feelings.” Yes, yes, they are I noted.
We headed to Stingray City, a shallow sandbank area at the edge of the translucent blue Moorea lagoon. From the boat we could see dozens of stingrays and blacktip reef sharks in the water. Pacific stingrays are friendly and frequently brush your legs or approach you. Though I have mixed feelings about interacting with wild creatures, the stingrays seemed intelligent and curious. It’s difficult to not pet them as they swim by. Contrary to what you may think, their stingers sit on top of their tails. Due to this, it’s not a good idea to swim over them or step on them.
This experience has some calculated risk, but there were many tour boats nearby with plenty of people in the water. The current was strong, so if you’re getting in the water I suggest it only for strong swimmers. Keep children close to the guides so that they can help if needed. The crystal clear water afforded us the opportunity for some fabulous photos.
Coral reefs are some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, sometimes referred to as the rainforests of the sea. After the snorkeling with the stingrays, we headed towards Te Moana’s private motu (small island). The motu sits adjacent to another small islet and in between lies a coral reef.
Our guide, Mathieu Kerneur, is a marine biologist and pioneer of coral reef rehabilitation in French Polynesia. We first waded out with snorkel masks to check out the platform which contains bits of healthy coral that have been cut from elsewhere. Mat educated us about the warming conditions of the ocean due to climate change and how it affects the health of the coral reefs.
Mathieu has developed a custom glue made from breadfruit which we used to plant the healthy coral by way of a bamboo stick into its new home. Mat explained that the trick to developing the glue was to find something that the fish don’t eat yet is hardy enough to help the coral stay put amidst the waves.
We carefully pruned off the dead part of the coral, then made a hole at the bottom and placed the bamboo stick with glue on one end. We then found a hole (pre-drilled for us) to glue the coral into. After planting, you can then name your coral and follow it on social media! It was satisfying to have planted a “tree in the sea”. This is a fantastic way to educate and get families involved in helping to re-establish and preserve the coral reef systems.
After the coral gardening, we dined alfresco at a table set up in the shallow water on the beach, surrounded by friendly stingrays who seem excited about the prospect of eating scraps of our coconut roasted seafood.
Fly Through the Trees at Tiki Parc Moorea
Fly and climb through the treetops in Moorea on one of many ziplines and ropes courses at the Tiki Parc Moorea adventure park. The park consists of four courses of varying difficulty, with ziplines, swings, rope ladders, nets, and bridges. After a brief lesson in safety and the use of your gear, you’ll head for a course and complete it on your own. Once you commit to a course, there is no turning back, as the clip in safety system requires you to move forward.
My friend had the brilliant idea of doing the expert level course first and in the spirit of Nike “Just do it”, we forged forward. It was definitely a challenge. I’d recommend starting with the easier courses and working your way up, especially if you haven’t done a ropes course before. If you’re used to courses in the U.S., note that helmets are not required in this park. For the most part, I didn’t think I needed one, but just be aware and request one if you feel you need one.
Ride ATVs Through Moorea
Looking for a way to explore the interior of Moorea? Look no further than Moorea ATV Tours. You’ll pilot your ATV through pineapple plantations, lush forests, and on up to the Belvedere lookout and Magic Mountain. There, you’ll be treated to expansive views of the surrounding mountains and ocean.
Driving the ATVs requires a driver’s license since parts of the tour are on the road. If you have tweens and teens who aren’t yet of driving age, they can ride tandem as all the ATVs are two seaters. Depending on your skill level, the conditions may be muddy and require you to frequently shift into four wheel drive (the guides will tell you when to do so).
Some of the paths can be a bit of a white knuckle affair. If you are unsure of your ability to pilot one, let them know and guides can take you on less challenging alternate paths. After four hours of hard core riding in the morning, I was exhausted and ready for lunch at the local roadside restaurant called “Sea You Soon”.
Surfing in Moorea
Moorea has some incredible surfing, but most of it consists of shallow reef breaks with strong currents. If you are a hardcore surfer, you’ll need to bring your own board. There aren’t any surf shops or schools on Moorea. If you’re looking for a place to learn how to surf, the island of Tahiti would be a better choice.
If you’re in Moorea from July to October, you’ll have the opportunity to take a whale watching tour to see the humpback whales that migrate from Antarctica. Te Moana tours offers four hour tours that leave from the Moorea Sofitel Ia Ora Beach Resort. If you are staying elsewhere, they can arrange transportation for you.
More Things to do in Moorea
Other activities in Moorea, Tahiti include visiting the dolphin refuge, tethered helmet diving (so you don’t need an oxygen tank), skydiving, and jet-skiing. You can check out some of the tour providers over at the Tahiti Tourisme site. Of course, there are also a wide variety of wonderful restaurants and beachside Polynesian cultural shows.
Where to Stay in Moorea
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An evening swim in the warm waters in front of the Moorea Beach Lodge sported a sunset so stunning it will be etched in my mind for the ages (and I live on the California coast). Guesthouses (locally called pensions) offer personal and often family operated lodging on a more intimate scale. They can also be more cost effective for families.
The Moorea Beach Lodge has 12 chic cottages arranged in a tropical garden setting around a giant Banyan tree next to the turquoise lagoon. A home-cooked breakfast of croissants, fruits, and jams is served each day. The large kitchen is available for guests to use to cook their own meals. Kayaks and bikes are included for embarking on nearby adventures.
Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort has those classic Tahitian overwater bungalows and sits on the edge of the clear blue lagoon. You can swim and snorkel through the coral and colorful sea life right from your own private deck. It also features a couple of restaurants, as well as an infinity pool and an over water bar.
How to Get to Moorea, Tahiti
Moorea is a short forty-minute ferry ride from Tahiti island. You can also take an island hopper flight from Tahiti island to Moorea. However, it probably takes longer to board and de-board the plane than just taking the ferry. The ferry also provides the opportunity for expansive views of the island from the roof deck. All international flights to Tahiti land at Faa’a International Airport (IATA) on Tahiti island.
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Disclosure: The author was hosted by Tahiti Toursime and French Bee to facilitate this article. However, as always his opinions are always entirely his own.
Lead photo by: Brennan Pang