Albert Tours, 689-55-21-10
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.