The Island of Moorea – Does Life Get Any Better Than This?

There is often a debate of “should we go to Moorea or Bora Bora?” Let’s just say you can’t go wrong with either island – both are stunningly beautiful. Moorea has the advantage of being closer and easier to get to from Papeete, Tahiti. We left Papeete in the evening (see our first French Polynesia post for more information about our cruise) and sailed over to Moorea, just a short distance away (10 nautical miles or ~18 km). I could hardly wait for daylight the next morning to check out what is considered one of the most beautiful islands in the world. I wasn’t disappointed. Our ship anchored in Cook’s Bay, one of two main bays on the northern shore of Moorea.

Cook’s Bay from the deck of Wind Spirit.

We signed up for a 1/2 day photography tour with the cruise line, the idea being to make us great photographers – ha. The tour guide was from “mainland” France and living the dream in Moorea. We made 4 stops on this tour.

First Stop: North Shore Lookout

We drove up a very steep, narrow little ‘road’ to get to this lookout, and it was worth it.

Overlooking the entrance to Cook’s Bay.
Another view of Cook’s Bay (our cruise ship was just behind the nearest hill).
Overlooking the village of Pihaena and northern reefs of Moorea, just to the west of Cook’s Bay. The reefs provide the islands with protection from the constant pounding of the ocean waves.

2nd Stop: Belvedere Lookout

This is probably the most photographed spot on Moorea, with the stunning Mount Rotui in the background, and picturesque bays on either side of the mountain. This lookout is in the volcanic crater known as Opunohu Valley (the heart of the volcano that became island of Moorea).

A view from Belvedere Lookout, with our cruise ship in the distance in Cook’s Bay.
Another view from Belvedere Lookout, with Opunohu Bay on the west side of Mount Rotui, in the distance.

3rd Stop: Opunohu Valley

From Belvedere Lookout, we drove down into the Opunohu Valley, which has a very remote feel, with a few dirt roads and overgrown pineapple fields.

The Opunohu Valley, with fields of pineapple. From this spot, it would be easy to imagine that you are the only person on the island.

4th Stop: Vanilla Bean Plantation

One of the main cash crops in French Polynesia (more specifically the Society Islands) is vanilla. French vanilla is the world’s best, and learning how they grow these beans gives one an appreciation for why it is so expensive (and flavorful!). Most plantations are small and family-owned. The effort to grow vanilla beans is intense, and mountainous nature of these islands makes it hard to find suitable areas for growing this crop.

The vanilla beans are grown on stocks, not unlike pole green beans (the vanilla beans can be seen growing just to the right of the path). Each flower must be individually pollinated.

After our photography tour, we were able to spend the afternoon at leisure. One of the advantages of Windstar cruises is their swim platform and free water sports activities. We took out a couple kayaks and then I did some wakeboarding in Cook’s Bay! What a blast. Wakeboarding in Moorea – an experience I’ll always remember. Unfortunately I did not get pictures!

Robyn enjoying Cook’s Bay in a kayak. As is typical in the South Pacific, we had a little rain shower pass by while we were out–just adds to the adventure!

It wasn’t too sad for us leaving Moorea that evening, because we knew we were coming back after our cruise for a stay at the Hilton Moorea Resort, also located on the north shore. I’ll do a separate post on that part of the trip.

Leaving Moorea at sunset – on our way to another island adventure!

Here’s a 30-second video of our departure. Enjoy!

Our departure from Moorea, with a little Beach Boys music in the background!


  1. Looks gorgeous. We went to Tahiti and Bora Bora in 2004 – I know one should never say ‘never’ but I’m not sure that I’ll ever be in those parts again so lovely to see the images…

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