By Allison Mitchell By Allison Mitchell | February 16, 2022 | Lifestyle
This French Polynesian resort is making tropical vacation dreams come true—visit to experience beautiful waters, a relaxing atmosphere and an island otherwise unsung.
Moorea’s breathtaking blue waters are still and ideal for exploring thanks to the natural coral reef that surrounds the island. Waves break at the reef before they ever reach the shoreline.
Tranquil, turquoise waters; eight verdant mountain peaks; and two symmetrical bays—Cook’s (Paopao) and Opunohu—characterize the magic of Moorea, French Polynesia’s volcanic island that lies just 10 nautical miles from its sister island of Tahiti. It’s there travelers can fulfill their bucket-list dream of waking up in an overwater bungalow at the tony Sofitel Kia Ora Moorea Beach Resort, where 113 bungalows offer a true tropical escape. “The resort enjoys a secluded location on the picturesque white-sand beach of Temae, the longest of the island, within a protected marine area,” notes Sabine Lamberts, the resort’s charming general manager. “Accessible via a short ferry ride from Papeete, positioned on the eastern side of Moorea, makes Sofitel the most convenient and one of the best off-Tahiti island experiences.” Follow along to the next page to get inspired to plan your own getaway to majestic Moorea. Let the island time begin!
Situated on 21 lush acres, Sofitel Kia Ora Moorea charms with French Polynesia’s iconic overwater bungalows.
For years I have dreamt of experiencing what it’s like to stay in an overwater bungalow hovering above the unbelievably blue waters of French Polynesia’s Society Islands—Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora among them. So, when the chance to board a direct eight-hour flight—thanks to the hospitable crew at Air Tahiti Nui—came about, I jumped at the opportunity to take the trip that I thought would surely be put off until I walked down the aisle— Tahiti’s islands are some of the world’s most popular honeymoon destinations, after all. One red-eye flight later—made much more enjoyable by the evening and morning meals served by Air Tahiti Nui’s attentive flight attendants—and we land in Papeete, where we’re greeted with leis and live music. A quick taxi ride followed by a 30-minute ferry cruise, and we finally arrive on the breathtaking island of Moorea. It’s here that my tropical dreams become a reality at Sofitel Kia Ora Moorea Beach Resort, a stunning property that embraces its picturesque locale with open-air restaurants, a beachfront pool and plenty of those coveted overwater bungalows (with equally enticing accommodations situated in its lush gardens and just steps from the sand). The best part? From the West Coast, the time change is only two hours behind Pacific Standard Time, keeping jet lag to a minimum.
Outdoor showers and private decks off each overwater bungalow allow guests to enter the azure waters below at their leisure.
Our trip begins with a cultural immersion led by local guide Yvette from Moorea VIP Tours, who whisks our group all over the island to see its viridescent mountains—the most famous of which are Rotui, Mouaputa and Moua Roa—flourishing pineapple fields and the last remaining indigenous temple in the Opunohu Valley. Yvette also treats us to her own homemade fruit juices and chilled face towels fragranced with local flowers to beat the heat. (Book a trip between May and October to enjoy less humidity.) The adventure continues over the next few days as we explore Moorea by both land and sea. Local resident Johanna of Temoana Tours picks us up dockside at Sofitel to take us to her private motu (meaning “little island” in Tahitian), where she and her husband serve us lunch and tropical drinks as we excitedly discuss the pod of nearly 100 dolphins we saw on the way over. From there, we head out to snorkel with stingrays and black-tip reef sharks—don’t fret, they’re much more tame and relaxed than one might expect, and the shallow transparent waters allow you to stand and see everything swimming around you (including colorful tropical fish). Meanwhile, a guided ATV excursion with Torea Nui Transports lets us zip down the island’s red-dirt roads— and even across a river or two—culminating in a steep but rewarding climb to the top of Magic Mountain, where the views are as memorable as the journey itself.
Buffet-style dining awaits at Pure Restaurant
On property, Sofitel is set on a protected marine lagoon—ideal for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding or snorkeling from the privacy of your bungalow’s deck or from the white-sand beach of Temae. Le Jardin Spa & Beauty allows guests to enjoy massages and facials using 100% all-natural ingredients in a garden setting, while two on-site restaurants—Pure and K—feature seafood-forward menus as French Polynesian dancers entertain you with song, movement and even fire. Tap general manager Sabine Lamberts for one-of-a-kind dining experiences to up the romance factor, as her team is happy to curate menus for private dinners on the sand as tiki torches burn and live music plays. (You can even attend one of Yvette’s flower crown- and lei-making classes to dress like a local for the occasion.)
Moorea’s water temperatures stay in the mid-80s, making its beaches ideal for swimming.
The excitement of our adventure leaves me ecstatic to share the wonder of Moorea with friends, family—and you, our readers!—but it’s the full uninterrupted day of lounging on the beach and taking a dip in the warm but refreshing ocean that leaves me in awe of this South Pacific paradise. The waters are the bluest I’ve ever seen and the off-the-grid locale, teamed with Sofitel’s unmatched service and accommodations, ensures I’ll be flying the extra two hours beyond Hawaii and back to this heavenly destination. I hope to see you there.
Photography by: PHOTOS COURTESY OF SOFITEL KIA ORA MOOREA BEACH RESORT