A June 2003 trip
to Moorea by jenandfrank
Quote: This is an incredibly lush island with crystal-clear waters.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 28, 2004
Maharepa, Cook's Bay
Moorea, French Polynesia
Restaurant | "Te Honu Iti, aka Chez Roger, aka The Little Turtle"
With (covered) over-the-water outdoor seating (they call it the terrace), you were able to watch the manta rays and eels play while you ate. That is if you were lucky enough to get a table on the water side.
The staff was very accommodating and offered everyone the same opportunity to get the best table (specific tables are not booked in advance). This was another restaurant that offered a small fee for shuttle service to and from your hotel, provided it was arranged in advance. The kitchen was completely open (which I love), and the inside looked like you had stepped into someone’s kitchen in France.
I had mahimahi and Frank had the steak with madeira sauce – both were very good. We shared a citrus crepe flambé for dessert – quite a show, and delicious as well. They had a great wine list. The service was a nice change from Le Mahogany, as it was quick and efficient.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 28, 2004
Moorea, French Polynesia
We arrived and were immediately given local punch and seated in an open-air theater where ukulele players were performing. After about a half an hour, you are taken to the sand pit, where your food is dug up from the ground (surrounded by banana leaves) and you are educated on ancient Polynesian culture and cooking. We were then escorted in groups through the Tiki Village and had the opportunity to see the different "areas" of how they lived, what they created, and how they tattooed each other (tattoos there are taken very seriously, and all of them have specific meanings to their village or family).
Among the areas were basket-weavers and stone- and wood-carvers. That was followed by a delicious and very authentic Polynesian buffet (which was included in the price).
During dinner, Tahitian women were onstage, showing you different ways to tie pareos (wraps). That was all followed by the big show, which was an hour of music, dancing, flame throwing, singing, and a Tahitian wedding.
It was very different then any of the luaus we attended while in Hawaii, with a lot more excitement and more authentic (it didn't feel like a typical cheesy tourist thing). These are considered the best performers in all of Tahiti, and they take their performances very seriously as well.
Moorea, French Polynesia
Being that Moorea is one of the lushest islands in the South Pacific, I think the best way to experience it is by taking this 4X4 tour. It is a half-day trip that cost us about $50/pp, and we were picked up and dropped off at our hotel for no extra charge. The vehicle is a four-wheel drive, but it looks more like a pickup with wooden slabs on the side for "protection", so that you don’t fall off. Not the most comfortable, but that’s not why you are taking this tour; if you want comfort, take the circle island bus. Our stops included Cooks Bay, Opunohu Bay, Belvedere Point, a pineapple field, the pineapple juice distillery, an old Tahitian religious site, a waterfall, and a black pearl shop (one of his friends’, no doubt).
An incredible trip with a crazy tour guide, but very memorable nonetheless. So great, in fact, that I recommend Albert Tours to anyone I know who is planning a trip to Moorea. Cooks and Opunohu Bays are located on the other side of the island from where we were staying. We had a nice ride there (beautiful weather) and were afforded unbelievable views of the water, mountains, etc—absolutely stunning. From there, I felt like we took a short cut (but that was part of the plan) through a very wooded area with a ton of weeds and overgrown bushes. Our guide just drove over it all with not a care in the world. Needless to say, the pickup was shaking back and forth, and I thought we were going to flip. At one point, I questioned why we took this trip (that’s because I am a chicken). That road took us to Belvedere Point, where you have unbelievable views of both Cooks and Opunohu Bay. Postcard-like pictures are taken here, and on the way to the mountain from Toatea Lookout Point, which is just above the Sofitel Hotel. This was definitely a point in the trip where we just stood there and took a deep breath (sort of like when you are at the top of the Eiffel Tower). From there, we went to an abandoned Tahitian temple. I found it very interesting that any garbage the tour guide saw, he stopped the tour to go and pick up. These people take such pride in their land, it’s heartwarming.
The site was an old "temple" of sorts, and we were given the opportunity to learn about the ancestral ways of the Polynesian people—very interesting. The next stop was the 200-foot waterfall. This required us to hike a bit. Of course, if this isn’t something you’d be interested in, you could sit it out, since the truck doesn’t move. I recommend water shoes if you have them, or sneakers at least. The rocks are very slimy and slippery, and the water shoes give you some traction. Of course, no one told us this in advance, but to my surprise, the guide had an extra pair that he lent me. The hike was quick, maybe 30 minutes round-trip for the slow pokes. The waterfall was beautiful and worth the hike. When we returned to the truck, the guide had cut up some fresh and very ripe fruit—all sorts—and had it displayed beautifully with local fresh flowers for all of us to enjoy. That was such a great surprise.
Next we moved onto the pineapple field, which consequently had the "honeymooner’s mountain" behind it (just another very green mountain). Moorea is one of the largest pineapple exporters in the world. Their pineapple also differs from the fruit we eat in the States because the center is tasty/edible and not hard. We didn’t do much here other than take pictures, but it was interesting to see. It is interesting to note, though, that this trip is great for plant lovers as well. I cannot even begin to describe the amount of plant life we saw—palm trees, ferns, purau, pineapple bushes, Tahitian chestnut trees, gardenias, hibiscus, etc, etc, etc.
The pineapple juice distillery was next. They make liquors, mixed drinks, jams, candy, etc, from the local fruits such as coconut, banana, grapefruit, mango, pineapple, and many others. They have free samples available, and everything is for sale. The jams are incredible; we brought some home for family and were disappointed that we didn’t buy any for ourselves. I would say that leaving here without buying a drink would be a mistake. This isn’t your normal fruit smoothie—there are no pina coladas for sale at this hut. The last stop was a black pearl shop—not like there were any incredible deals there or anything. I’ve heard that every 4X4 tour stops at a black pearl shop. I would definitely recommend doing this excursion early in your trip, for no other reason than to have the chance to revisit places you saw along the way. It’s a really fun way to see the whole island and get some great pictures. However, it is bumpy, the truck is not covered (you are in the sun), and there is potential hiking involved, so keep that in mind before you book.
Located at least 30 minutes from the ferry dock, this hotel is considered one of the nicer ones on the island (in terms of aesthetics, I would agree), and is also known to have the best snorkeling around due to its location between Cook’s and Opunohu Bay. The lobby is a normal-size, open, and filled with lots of fresh flowers, and the front desk staff I felt indifferent about. Although the porter staff was nice when we pulled up, no one offered to show us where or how to find our room (there are over 100 bungalows here, and they all look the same from the outside). We booked a garden view and were upgraded to an over water bungalow—what a blessing that was. We did, however, have to wait for it, so we ventured to the (one) pool, where we could not get towels for some reason. Of course, because our stint in Tahiti with the Miss French Polynesian contest wasn’t enough, the day we arrived at the Moorea Sheraton, there was a swimsuit model doing a photo shoot in the pool. My husband was happy to wait for our room and watch her work. The over-water bungalows (at that point our first experience with them) were incredible. We were given the first bungalow on the left, which was over basically shallow water and in an area that people didn’t congregate around. The bungalows closer to the center of the development faced a huge circular bar, and the horizon bungalows at the very end had a deck with benches where people went every morning to see the sunrise and night to see the sunset, so that took away from the privacy, I thought. Needless to say, we were happy with our location. The garden bungalows seemed to be very buggy, due to the fact they were surrounded by so many plants and trees, and they had no view.
Our bungalow had a huge bathroom with separate shower and tub, filled with lots of amenities, including monoi oil. The one downfall here was that the main separation between the bathroom and the bedroom was a large window with a wooden Venetian blind. Meaning, it was open – you could hear, smell, and if you forgot to close the blind, see everything that was going on inside the bathroom. Although I understand why it was done (to have a view of the lagoon from your tub), I didn’t like it. The bedroom was spacious and had a glass-floor viewing area under the coffee table, with a light switch that lit up the under-bungalow area at night so you could watch the fish. There were full-wall, sliding glass doors that led out to the lanai deck with a table and chairs, and three steps down from there to the dock, with a fresh-water shower. Our room offered great views of the lagoon and the very lush mountains behind the resort. It almost seemed as though we walked into a postcard every morning when we went outside. All rooms were equipped with snorkel gear, beach towels, and a PILLOW menu (16 to choose from) as well.
The housekeeping staff was okay. I found myself begging for towels and toilet paper a lot, even having to go to the front desk myself to get supplies in some cases (um, I thought this was a five-star resort?!). Had we not been upgraded, I would have demanded a partial refund for this stay, but considering the bungalow we were in was almost twice the price of what we paid, I was just annoyed in silence (okay, maybe Frank heard a complaint here and there). Another annoyance was that the housekeeping staff came around with large carts that really echoed on the wooden deck. This wasn’t an issue in Bora Bora but definitely was an issue here, since they started cleaning the rooms early. So most mornings, you heard clacking at 7ish.
Meals depended on where you ate. Rotui Bar and Grill, which was poolside, had meals that were very pricey; we paid about $50 a day for two sandwiches, a bottle of water, and a beer. The food there was your average hotel poolside food—simple. The restaurant Arii Vahine offers regional/international cuisine, with views of the lagoon. Although the service here was fine, the meal was downright awful and ridiculously over-priced. I think it was the first time my husband actually lost his appetite—I thought I was going to pass out. Although your fine dining restaurant choices are limited in Moorea, I would like to think they still have an image to uphold, but apparently not. If you are interested in room service and are staying in an over-water bungalow, I would suggest the canoe breakfast feast (although very expensive). Order this on one of your first days, because there is so much fruit, it will last for your whole stay. The way it is delivered (right up to your dock/hut) is beautiful, with gorgeous flowers, danishes, jams, fruits, breads, and an unbelievable presentation. Internet access was by the spa and was about $7 for 15 minutes. It seemed annoying to me that they had the nerve to charge for this, considering the cost of the stay and considering that the Starwood property in Bora Bora did not charge.
The Mandara Spa was nice, very simple. We chose to have a moonlight couple’s massage on our lanai deck. That was incredible. I think it’s safe to say it was the best massage either of us have ever had. A large Tahitian man massaged my husband and at one point jumped on the table to hurdle him for the deep-tissue massage—it was hilarious. The concierge was pretty bad—somewhat rude and only slightly knowledgeable, which struck me as odd since she was a native. It was also slightly disappointing, considering this was our first visit to Moorea and we didn’t have a clue. It was like pulling teeth to get her to give us good information, ideas, suggestions, or to even get things done that we requested, and they charged a 10% fee! At the end of the day, we ended up booking our own 4X4 trip (with the company that picked us up from the ferry—Albert Tours) and our visit to the Tiki Village, and we confirmed our dinners on our own.
The hotel offered free activities such as kayaking, paddle boats, tennis, and volleyball. I found there were a lot of children here, and we went in May. Although they were relatively well-behaved, it wasn’t exactly what I was planning on after traveling halfway around the world. I mean, kids are kids, and they want to play in the pool and run around the beach, etc. It was slightly annoying, not that it was the hotel’s fault. The bottom line with this resort is that it has a premier location, unbelievable surroundings, and well-maintained bungalows—probably the nicest on the island—but the service stinks, so if that is an issue for you, it’s something to think about.
Once we got to Moorea, we were met by Albert Tours (who was booked for us by the Sheraton Tahiti, and subsequently, we booked our 4X4 trip with Albert once we arrived in Moorea). He was excellent, spoke perfect English, told us about the island culture, and even stopped at the local supermarket and allowed us to go shopping for water and such—at no extra charge. Thankfully, the hotel agreed to empty our mini bar at no extra charge, as well. Unlike Bora Bora, there is not one main city. That being said, shopping seems scarce because it is very spread out. If you go to Tahiti at all during your trip, I would get all of your shopping done there, as it is cheaper and a lot more convenient. Water shoes are MUST on this island. I don’t care where you stay or what kind of accommodations you choose—buy water shoes at home and bring them with you. They will make a huge difference in your trip, because it will allow you to enjoy everything. There is coral everywhere here, and near the hotels, most of the water is fairly shallow. If you step on it, you are going to cut yourself—sometimes badly—and why, when it’s so easy to prevent?
The water, the fish, and the coral are all delightful and very inviting, and it’s one of the main reasons you come to this island. Taxis, though available, are costly here. If you want to see the island, take the 4X4 tour or a circle-line bus tour. There is no reason to rent a car in advance for the length of your stay either. If you should decide when you arrive that you want a car for the day, that is a different story, and it’s easy to get through your concierge. If you rent a car for the full stay, I think you will be disappointed simply for the money you are wasting because of the lack of a need for it. If you should choose to rent a car and not book a tour, take a drive up to Belvedere Point. This is also a great island to rent bikes on, though it’s not cheap. For dinner, if you should leave your resort (and I suggest that you do), all of the restaurants offer a shuttle service. Some charge, but the fee is nominal compared to the cost of a cab.
If you are looking for nightlife, go somewhere else. The Polynesian islands are all about being one with the surroundings, the culture, and the person you are with. If you are interested in getting a tattoo and have been waiting to get one done, Tahitians take tattooing very seriously (since most of their tattoos symbolized their village or family). Typically their tattoos are done in black, but color may be requested. Pack film, suntan lotion, and bug spray; it is VERY expensive here if you run out, and you will need them all often. I would also recommend buying a disposable underwater camera—there are some great shots to be had while snorkeling. Keep in mind that just about everything, minus the fruit/veggies and black pearls, are imports, which means you will pay more—a lot more. That said, pack smart and think ahead.
New York, New York