Head northwest from Tahiti in French Polynesia and you’ll reach Mo’orea, the closest of what is referred to as the Society Islands archipelago. It’s incredibly accessible in thirty minutes on the Aremiti Ferry from Tahiti’s port in Pape’ete, the capital.
Mo’orea is known for its jagged volcanic mountains and sandy beaches. In the north, Mount Rotui overlooks the breathtaking Ōpūnohu Bay and the settlements around Cook’s Bay. Inland, you can have picnics in the mountains, take in the beauty of the pineapple plantations or hike along trails that wind through rainforests on Mount Tohivea’s awe-inspiring slopes. Then there’s the ever so stunning Belvedere Lookout, which provides panoramic views of the island’s peaks, Tahiti and beyond.
Mo’orea Safari Tour
The so called Safari Tour in Mo’orea takes in quite a bit over the course several hours, from the water and ground level to the highest peaks on the island, including a trek up to Magic Mountain, which can only be reached via a 4×4 cruiser.
Like many islands in the South Pacific, the weather can be dramatically different in the morning than the afternoon. Cloudy one hour and sunny and clear the next. Over the course of four or so hours, we headed to Opunohu and Cook’s Bay and stopped off at a pineapple plantation that combed a mountain, complete with breathtaking views. Nearby, there’s also a juice factory where you can get some freshly squeezed juice and get a tour.
They refer to the area where the pineapples grow as the “crater of the island.”
Lunch on a Private Beach in Temae
Fresh Fruit and coconut can be found everywhere. Our tour stopped off at a private beach in Temae where we had fresh punch, local beer, water, tropical juices and of course pineapples, pink and yellow grapefruit and passion fruit and of course bananas.
The palm tree view as we were leaving one of many pristine off-the-beaten path beaches here.
Magic Mountain offers one of the best panorama view of the island. The drive to get there of course is equally beautiful as you traverse through plantations, lush forests and rolling green valleys.
In the afternoon, the clouds began to form as we headed towards Magic Mountain, which is a rough climb in a 4×4 jeep. If a jarring journey isn’t your thing, you may want to skip this part, however if you’re the adventurous type, you’ll love it as much as I did.
We stopped at the largest “marae” in the area, which is an important part of traditional Polynesian culture.
“A place of dread and great silence was the marae,” — Teuira Henry from Ancient Tahiti, published in 1928.
If you ask a local Tahitian, they’ll tell you that they heard about the marae from their grandparents, which is essentially a sacred area, often a stone platform, where men of the community met and sourced their inspiration and decisions. It is where Tahitian Gods communicated to locals about things that mattered to them in their work, at home and in the community. Apparently to violate the marae and its ancient wisdom was to “call down the Gods’ wrath.”
In the heart of Opunohu Valley, they discovered over 550 structures and 100 maraes, the most renowned one at the end of a road leading up to Opunohu Bay. Here we stopped for a bit of history to learn about the largest of the valley’s maraes: Titiroa (or Ti‘i-rua) which is roughly 36 metres in length. I won’t lie to you — I could sense and feel the sacredness of the land as we stood there and marveled at the natural beauty of the trees and stone structures.
The trees are ancient and if you stand there long enough, one of them may just talk to you. You can walk around the marae, which I’d recommend. You’ll find the remains of the altar at one end of the marae and on the other, an area where the chiefs, priests and high beings would sit at the time.
The View at Belvedere
Any tour you take will bring you to Belvedere, the highest point of view in Mo’orea where you can enjoy a 360 view of the mountains and lush landscape around you.
The Tiki Village
There’s a fun and upbeat Tahitian culture center in Mo’orea that offers a buffet dinner and live performances by traditional dancers. During the day however, the Tiki Village offers classes, so you can learn how to make classic Tahitian dishes like Poisson Cru or how to weave a traditional basket.
Lunch at the Tiki Village — they offer plenty of fresh fish options, including one of the most popular dishes in Tahiti and Mo’orea – seared or raw tuna.
Ziplining Mo’orea Style
With mountains as beautiful as these, you’d hope that there’s a place to go ziplining, right? There is a place to zipline over and through these magical trees but it’s relatively new. As for the views, they are breathtaking in all directions.
Called Tiki Parc Mo’orea, this attraction is located in the heart of Opunohu Valley and surrounded by all the peaks of the island. Here, you can swing from tree to tree.
Funnily enough, when you Google them, it says they are located on “Unnamed Road in Paopao”, which is kinda how it felt when we arrived. Our car dropped us off on a dirt road and we had to walk around ten minutes on a trail up to the start of the zipline course but that walk is a beautiful one, so no complaints here.
They offer 22 ziplines and the maximum length is 120 meters. There’s also another section that they’re building now for kids to play in and hang out and for family members not doing the zipline course. Luckily for me, the founder gave me a private tour.
He wears a necklace that seemed sacred — it was given to him by his girlfriend’s Tahitian family! No wonder I could feel the energy from several feet away.
The height acrobatic trail is a dedicated entertainment area where you can walk above land – in a more or less acrobatic way – over or between trees and other natural or manufactured landscape. It is spread over a number of courses and each is identified by different colored symbols.
Imagine working with a view like this throughout your day? THIS my friends is their office, set among the trees. Amazing, right?