Highlights of the South Pacific | Mo’orea & Ra’iātea

The clearest water, whitest sand and greenest forests I have ever seen are that of the South Pacific.  As stunning as these collection of islands are, they are quite the challenge to get to.  Thankfully, working on board a cruise ship has allowed me to visit many of these incredible destinations to explore their tranquility and untouched serenity.

Mo’orea: The island of Mo’orea is characterized by jagged volcanic mountains, sandy beaches and crystal blue water.  The sail-in and sail-aways of Mo’orea are one of the most incredible I have experienced thus far.

Mo’orea is my favorite island in the South Pacific, because there is just as many adventurous activities on land as there are in the sea.

  • Island Circle Tour – If visiting Mo’orea via cruise ship, my top recommendation to get a grasp of the area in a short amount of time is an island circle tour, which generally lasts three to six hours and takes guests to the highlights of the island.  The hot spots include a massive pineapple plantation, a rum factory (with taste testers!), ancient Tahitian temples and the famous Belvadere Lookout.  Most tours operate with a 4 x 4 vehicle, perfect for the rugged terrain and twisted roads of the island.  The island circle tour is the best way to see all of the highlights in a short amount of time.
  • Lagoonarium – The lagoonarium is a protected, yet wild environment home to sharks, rays, eels and hundreds of species of fish.  Snorkeling and diving tours are available daily, which offer the opportunity to not only swim, but feed these creatures as well!
  • Belvadere Lookout –  One of the most stunning landscape lookout points I have ever been to!  The steep zig-zag road up Mount Tohivea ends at a point which overlooks the jagged mountains and two bays of the island.  Lovers may bring a lock to fasten on the gate in symbolism of their union and travels.  Belvadere Lookout is accessible by car, scooter or hike!

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  • Stunning Bays – Cooks Bay and Opunohu Bay are the two main bays of Mo’orea, and although both are spectacular, they are quite different.  Cooks Bay is more populated with shops, people and marine traffic.  This is where the cruise ships generally drop their anchor and tender guests from ship to shore.  Many tour agencies also pick up and drop off from Cook’s Bay, so if you are looking for something to do or somewhere to go, this is the place to be.  If you are trying to find a bit of peace and quiet along the shore, Opunohu Bay might be the place for you!

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Ra’iātea: Enclosed by a single coral reef are the islands of Ra’iātea and Taha’a.  The islands are home to a small population of approximately 12,000 people, but are a popular tourist destination for tens of thousands each year.  I have had the opportunity to visit this charming island twice so far, and have loved every minute of my time here!

  • Uturoa Town – The cruise ship docks in the town of Uturoa, a colorful and peaceful village along the lagoon.  The tiny city offers a food market with fresh fruit and veggies, and a food truck ‘roulette’ at night.  Uturoa is a wonderful place to try the local cuisine and purchase a few souvenirs to take home!

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  • Mount Tapioi – My favorite Ra’iātea activity is the hike up Mount Tapioi.  I visited the island in 2015 and missed the opportunity to venture up the beautiful peak.  When I returned to Ra’iātea in 2017, I made the hike my first priority, and I am sure glad I did!  This hike has to be one of my favorites in the world thus far, because of it’s lush green forests and stunning views – you can even see Bora Bora in the distance!  Thankfully it didn’t take too long – about an hour each way – because it was HOT!  If hiking this on your own, make sure to bring plenty of water and take frequent breaks.  Also, locals warn tourists to beware of stray dogs and cattle along the way.  We didn’t experience any issues on our hike, but it’s best to be aware and vigilant.  Don’t miss this opportunity to hike in one of the most beautiful locations of the world!

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  • Wreck Snorkeling – Although marine life snorkeling is generally more impressive on the nearby islands of Bora Bora and Mo’orea, Ra’iātea is home to the only wreck dive in French Polynesia.  The Nordby is a sunken three-mast wooden ship home to many species of fish, and allows divers to go inside the wreck.
  • Dual Island Tours – Some tour agencies offer the opportunity to visit highlights on both islands encompassed by the coral reef – Ra’iātea and Taha’a.  On such tours, guests visit the vanilla plantation and see how Tahitian vanilla is grown and processed, and a Tahitian pearl farm, famous for it’s black beauties.  The tours also include snorkeling spots and a relaxing meal on a private inlet.

The South Pacific is home to islands which are seemingly untouched by humanity.  Characterized by lush green forests, sandy beaches and crystal clear water, the South Pacific is a romantic, adventurous and beautiful place to vacation to, whether island hopping on a cruise ship or renting a waterfront condo for an extended period of time.

Have fun!  And don’t forget to follow my page and subscribe to my YouTube channel for video updates on my travels around the world! ❤ Jess

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