Moorea, French Polynesia

Photo: © Xaviermarchant | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images
Photo: © Xaviermarchant | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Returning from your last beach vacation, you were relaxed and slightly sunburned. The week had been amazing, but one little thing was missing. The island itself. Whether you were whisked away on a speedboat in the Maldives or a van deposited you at a beautiful, gated resort in Montego Bay or Punta Cana, you didn’t get to see much beyond the property’s grounds. Not that you minded at the time. With sparkling turquoise water and a swim-up bar, you happily embraced the “no worries” attitude.

Heading to French Polynesia though, you’re determined not to remain as secluded. At least not the whole time. An international flight brings you to Papeete, the bustling capital. But your trip is not finished. Your destination is a mere 12 miles away–a half-hour catamaran ride–over the Sea of the Moon. Lush green mountains rise from the ocean. White-sand beaches meet crystal-clear water. Outriggers glide into shallow lagoons. Ia Orana, Moorea.

Photo: © Sburel | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images
Photo: © Sburel | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

When the catamaran docks in Vaiare Bay, jump on Le Truck, a brightly colored, open-air bus that circles the island’s ring road. It’s a cheap, safe, and entertaining way to tour the heart-shaped island. Bob Marley and Madonna songs may be blaring from the radio, but you’ll barely notice with the stunning scenery. Coconut trees and hibiscus flowers are everywhere; the water usually only a few steps away. Hairpin turns around Cook’s and Opunohu Bay. In between resorts, there are pastel houses, freely roaming chickens, and small stores to buy picnic supplies or black pearls. Baguettes, cheese, and Tabu beer make a perfect lunch. On the beach. Or on a motu.

You’ve probably found your perfect spot in the sand by now, but a visit to Moorea wouldn’t be complete without venturing in and up. Walk to Belvedere Lookout for views of the bays and valleys around Mount Rotui. Visit the remains of ancient temples. Hike to Atiraa Waterfall. Go on a 4×4 off-road tour. Ride by pineapple plantations on horseback. You may be exhausted by the time you return to your overwater hut, but this time you saw a lot more than the view from your resort.

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