5 Reasons the Sofitel Moorea Should Be Added to Your Next Trip to French Polynesia
Everyone assumes Bora Bora is the "end all, be all" destination in French Polynesia. Well, think again.
I just checked out of the Sofitel Moorea and I have to say, I am so sad to have to leave! We spent two nights there and it just wasn’t enough.
Admittedly, we almost didn’t come to Moorea at all on this trip. Thinking that we needed to stick to the more popular islands of Bora Bora and Tahiti, we hadn’t originally planned to go to Moorea until a trip to Tikehau fell through. Well, I always believe that the universe works in mysterious ways—if our Tikehau trip worked out, we wouldn’t have made the trip to Moorea and we wouldn’t have seen this absolutely stunning property.
Put simply, if you’re considering a trip to French Polynesia right now, do yourself a favor and be sure to add Moorea to the list. Though Bora Bora and Tahiti get all the attention, Moorea is in a category of its own, feeling much more genuine—a true island getaway. Here are five reasons you should add a stay at the Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort to your next trip to French Polynesia:
1. You deserve a vacay
I think we can agree that after putting up with the craziness of 2020, we all could use a vacation. We have certainly earned that tropical getaway that we have been dreaming of. But therein lies the dilemma: most countries have actually closed their borders for American tourists, leaving few places where you actually can travel to right now. So with limited places that are “open” at the moment, we’re sort of stuck.
But I have a solution for you: French Polynesia is open for tourism—even for Americans—and is welcoming guests with proof of a negative RT-PCR Covid test. You’ve never had a better excuse to get away to that stunning tropical island with lush foliage, swaying palm trees and crystal clear blue water that fills your dreams.
With nonstop flights from San Francisco and Los Angeles, and just a short ferry ride from Tahiti to get you to Moorea, a trip to French Polynesia is about as easy as it gets for international travel. While trips to other “open” island destinations like the Maldives, the Seychelles and the the Caribbean islands often require multiple flights and transfers when traveling from the west coast of the United States, a trip to French Polynesia is just one direct 8.5 hour flight from SF or LA. These flights leave late in the evening and arrive early the following morning, not only allowing you a full day at your destination, but also provide plenty of time to transfer wherever you are intending to go after landing in Tahiti.
We were set to land at 4:45 am on Monday morning after leaving Los Angeles at 11:30 pm, landed early at about 4:20 am, and were able to grab our bags, get through passport control, get a taxi to the ferry building and make the first ferry from Tahiti to Moorea at 5:30 in the morning. We got to our final destination (Moorea) so quickly that we were hours earlier than we had anticipated arriving at the resort. This gave us an entire day on the island—a bonus since we had written off the day as a travel day, not expecting to do much except, well, travel.
Put simply, the travel is so, so easy, and with just one flight you can avoid multiple airports and multiple flights to potentially expose yourself to coronavirus. All airports and airlines are requiring masks to be worn throughout the duration of your time in the airport and on the flight, so you can also feel a little bit safer when you travel.
2. The island of Moorea is so vastly different from Tahiti and Bora Bora
Akin to what I would imagine Hawaii was like in the 1950s, Moorea has a much more real, authentic vibe. The island is very much a reflection of its locals: laid back, sleepy and a little rustic. Plus, if you’re the adventurous type and love free diving, scuba diving or just have an appreciation for marine life, Moorea is known for its biodiversity. If you’re planning to travel to Moorea from July to early November, you’re in luck: you’ll find humpback whales, who sit close to the outer reefs as they search for a mate or nurse their young during this time frame.
We loved the fact that the Sofitel—unlike most resorts in Bora Bora that are on the outer “motus”—was connected to the main island, which allowed us the ability to easily go to restaurants off property, head into town for snacks or drinks and rent a car to cruise the island. We did this on our first day we arrived in Moorea actually—we dropped our bags at the hotel, rented a car in town through Avis, and drove the circumference of the island, stopping at every cool beach, overlook and palm tree grove that we saw along the way. This is not something you can do while at most resorts in Bora Bora, since you are essentially stuck at your resort on the outer motu.
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Moorea also features tons of hiking trails, a stunning overlook (the Belvedere, or “beautiful view” overlook that offers stunning views of the mountains, the bay and the nearby agricultural fields), tons of snorkeling opportunities, and even coral planting.
3. The resort is just stunning
Located just 5 minutes from the ferry terminal and 6 minutes from the airport, making it the closest, and most convenient, resort to all transfers, the Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort is my clear choice for lodging in Moorea. The resort sits on the northeast tip of Moorea, with views of Tahiti off in the distance, and a calm bay protected by the island of Tahiti. The resort is large enough to not feel cramped but still small enough to feel intimate, making it the perfect balance between having all the amenities you need without feeling like you’re just one small fish in a sea of thousands of other fish (guests). The intimate feel allows resort staff to treat every guest like they are special, and you’ll get the attention you deserve.
I truly believe that when it comes to hotels and resorts, it’s the little things that count the most. For example, our room had a set of weights and a yoga mat, so that you could do a workout right from the comfort of your room. The complimentary toiletries are Hermes—and oh do they smell so delightful! The Hermes lotion was so divine that my husband and I each stuffed one in our bags and ended up using it at the other resorts when we moved to Bora Bora. Our villa also featured a large deck with two comfortable, cushioned lounge chairs, along with plenty of beach towels for daily swims. The rooms are literally appointed with just about everything that you could possibly need, and if for some reason you are missing something, a simple call to the concierge or front desk can fix that.
And it’s the little personal touches that make a stay memorable. We were delighted to find a plate of fruit and a bottle of champagne waiting for us when we got into our room, with a little note saying they hoped we would enjoy our stay, and to of course let them know if we need anything. I just love that!
My favorite part about the Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort is their incredibly well-equipped rooms; each bungalow or villa has AC, free bottled water, the obvious amenities like a phone, desk, and safe deposit box, free WiFi, mini bar stocked with a selection of beers and sodas, and coffee and tea so you can enjoy a cup of Joe in your room before even heading to breakfast. The rooms themselves combine modern amenities with a fun, contemporary Polynesian design, consisting of bright colors to match the stunning flowers of the island and deep, rich woods for some sophistication.
Another great perk about the Sofitel Moorea is that it’s quite a bit more affordable than Bora Bora. Though travelers can expect to pay, on average, about $1,000 a night for a standard overwater bungalow and, in some cases, as much as $6,000 a night for premier rooms in Bora Bora, guests can stay in an overwater bungalow for as low as $500 at the Sofitel Moorea, or only about $250 for a luxury garden bungalow. You can’t beat that deal!
4. The Sofitel Moorea is going above and beyond to protect its guests from Covid-19
The measures the Sofitel Moorea have put into place to protect its guests from Covid-19 are apparent immediately upon arrival. Signs have been placed at the entryway, just off the porte-cochere, informing guests that masks must be worn at all times when in common areas on the property. Hand sanitizing stations have also been placed throughout the property, at entrances to all facilities, including the registration desk, spa, and all restaurants.
In the room, information has been left regarding the various locations where guests can retrieve hand sanitizer, and advising guests of good habits: washing your hands often with soap and water, covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or a sleeve (not with your hands!), avoiding shaking hands, and keeping at least five feet of distance from other people. Guests are also given the option to forego room cleaning, should they wish to avoid any additional exposure or are uncomfortable with having someone service their room.
At breakfast, they’ve removed the traditional breakfast buffet and instead replaced it with an a la carte menu, where guests who have breakfast included can simply order whatever they want off the menu and essentially stock their plate as they normally would have had a buffet been available. All guests are required to wear masks prior to entering any restaurant or bar area, and are only allowed to remove their masks at their table.
5. There’s SO much to do
As I alluded to above in point heading two, there’s just so much to do in Moorea—so much more than in Bora Bora. Unless you’re staying at one of the few resorts that are attached to the main island in Bora Bora, you’ll find your resort on the outer motu, which means that you’re—for the most part—stuck at your resort unless you pay for expensive excursions or taxi transfers to get to the mainland. In Moorea, all the resorts are attached to the island, allowing greater flexibility for the guest to go out and explore (which is something that my husband and I like to do just about everywhere we go). We loved the fact that the Sofitel is so close to the ferry and to town; we were easily able to rent a car, get to and from the ferry building, and stock up on snacks and beers at the grocery store nearby.
And if you’re not the type to like to leave the resort, that’s fine too. There are TONS of activities right there at the Sofitel, so you actually don’t have to leave if you don’t want to. Watersport equipment like kayaks, paddle boards and snorkeling equipment are available for guests to use, free of charge.
There are also tons of different options for excursions. Open every day from 8 am to 5 pm, the concierge at the Sofitel can book your ATV tour, cultural tour, book a jet ski so you can discover the lagoon, and even prepare a surprise dinner or romantic proposal. Whatever you need, they can help!
One thing you absolutely MUST do if you are traveling to French Polynesia between July and November is book a tour to swim with the whales. In fact, I would make the argument that this is reason alone to go to Moorea, as this is a bucket list worthy activity. It’s quite difficult to explain unless you’ve experienced it, but having the ability to come face to face with a majestic humpback whale and her calf is quite possibly one of the most magical experiences on the planet. I would go to Moorea again and again just do do this again.
I know what you’re probably thinking: “But can’t I swim with whales in Bora Bora? Why do I need to go to Moorea?” Well yes, technically you can swim with whales in Bora Bora. But it’s not guaranteed. Your chances of actually seeing the whales and being able to swim with them are so much greater in Moorea. So much so that many people make a special trip to Moorea just to increase their chances of swimming with whales.
It's also just kind of trendy right now. Just during the two weeks that I was in French Polynesia, I was joined by so many other travel bloggers and influencers in Moorea, who were all there for that same reason. Brian Kelly of The Points Guy was there the week before, and documented how incredible his experience with whales was when he was in Moorea. Christina Vidal of Jetset Christina was also there the week prior, and said in her story that they actually added a couple additional days to their French Polynesia trip just to swim with the whales. I actually ran into Nicole Isaacs and her photographer Michael Moretti while staying at the Sofitel Moorea, and actually caught them after not one but TWO trips to swim with the whales, where they came back on the second day gleaming with joy after reporting the absolutely incredible experience of coming face to face with a mama whale. When our time came to get in the water with them the following day, we were also joined by adventure travel influencer “Chelsea Kauai” and her professional photographer. Clearly the whales are all the rage right now, but for good reason: once you do it you totally understand the allure—there is no other way to describe it than simply magical.
And that’s it! I hope this post inspired you to book a trip to Moorea in the future. As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me by email (email@example.com) or by DM’ing me on Instagram.
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