Paradise Found

Early last year, we came awfully close to booking a trip to Moorea in French Polynesia. If you're not familiar with Moorea, then you've probably heard of Tahiti and Bora Bora, neighboring islands. Well, Moorea is kind of in the middle of nowhere. This map will give you the general idea... off in the middle of the Pacific and about an eight hour flight from Los Angeles.

When we were looking, we found that Air Tahiti Nui had the best fares. In fact, if you stay on top on the site, they tend to run specials all the time. Most include an overnight stay in Tahiti and then go onto multi-day packages to the various islands.

During our research, we had settled on Moorea over Tahiti, Bora Bora and some of the other islands like Huahine, Tahaa or Rangiroa. Why? We factored in components such as ease of travel, things to do, natural beauty and cost.

Bora Bora did look amazing. Tell me this photo doesn't look simply unreal... I mean, look at that water! Apparently, out of the three main islands (Tahiti, Bora Bora and Moorea) Bora Bora is tops for snorkeling. You can see why. The overwater cabins at places like the Pearl offer an unreal experience (for a price, of course). But... we had heard Bora Bora was a bit more built up and there just wasn't as much to do as Moorea.

As for Tahiti, we ruled it out because it sounded like it wasn't as pristine as some of the other islands. It was better as a jumping off point. So, that left us with Moorea.... a smaller island just a short flight away from Papeete, Tahiti.

Moorea offers snorkling... perhaps not as stunning as Bora Bora but still amazing by just about anyone's standards. The volcanic landscape is stunning and offers tourists with all kinds of hiking and exploring opportunities as well as local cultural activities. Moorea also has some interesting history as Cook Bay was the sight of the Mutiny on the Bounty.

Prices, in general, are very high in French Polynesia. No matter where you look, you'll find hotel rates tend to be higher than most locations. Paradise does have a price. Besides, being in the middle of nowhere means that just about everything you see has to be imported from somewhere else. If you're looking for a comprehensive resort, there were are three main ones on the island worth considering:

This was going to be our first choice. It had the best mix of activities (including a "swim with the dolphins" center!), nice bungalows, larger on-site beaches, decent snorkeling and "reasonable" prices. Let's face it, prices everywhere are exorbitant. You just have to pick different levels of exorbitance.

This was going to be our second choice... a very close second as I kept vacillating between the two. The location apparently was closer to a local village with other dining and shopping options. Cost-wise, Garden Bungalows or Deluxe Garden Bungalows (with tiny private pools) are your best bet and the grounds are supposed to be amazing.

My recollection of the Sheraton is a bit sketchy - I just remember it being our third choice.

You can go to TripAdvisor and check out their reviews of hotels in Moorea. None of the hotels truly "shine" as all of them tend to have subpar service. Still, I would overlook just about anything to be able to enjoy a week or two in such a stunning environment. Ultimately, we weren't able to make the trip but, when we do go (and we will go), we already have a plan in place. Check out French Polynesia and if you do make it out, please share your insight.

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