Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort – the Ultimate Overwater Bungalow Island Getaway
Magnifique! This is the word often used to describe the beautiful island of Moorea in French Polynesia. It is also the word that best describes the Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort. Imagine spending a few days in an overwater bungalow on the resort’s crystal-clear lagoon. Magnifique in its purest form!
Why Stay in Moorea?
Moorea is only a 10-minute flight or 30-minute ferry ride away from the main French Polynesian island of Tahiti. The tropical wonderland of sawtooth mountain ridges and lush rainforests surrounded by white sandy beaches and turquoise lagoons offers an island breakaway of unrivaled beauty.
Moorea was voted the world’s third-best island by readers of Conde Nast a few years ago. I can understand why. Believe me when I say absolutely no filter is needed when posting pictures of the island and the Sofitel Moorea overwater bungalow on social media or any other place. The vivid colors make every shot a winner.
The eight mountain peaks rising from the Pacific Ocean that form the central interior of Moorea are in sharp contrast to the translucent lagoon. Is it a wonder that the heart-shaped island is also a popular honeymoon destination? The northern shore is split by two bays: Opunohu Bay and Cook’s Bay.
Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach
The Sofitel Moorea Overwater Bungalow
Representing the ultimate in luxury, the overwater bungalow was invented in nearby Tahiti. Of the 112 bungalows in Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort, 39 are overwater bungalows.
It’s an incredibly soothing experience to fall asleep to the sound of gently rolling waves lapping against the stilts. A dip in the crystal-clear, warm lagoon water is only a few steps away because each thatch-roofed bungalow has its own ladder for exclusive access to the lagoon. Instead of taking the wooden walkway, you can swim there while marveling at the selection of colorful tropical fish around you.
If you don’t like the sea water, there is also an infinity pool near the overwater bungalows. You won’t even realize you’re not in the lagoon.
The influence of French painter Paul Gauguin is evident in the interior of a Sofitel Moorea overwater bungalow. Think bright colors, bold patterns, and floral motifs. The unspoiled beauty of the heart-shaped island, also known as the ‘Island of Love’, was a great source of inspiration for the French Impressionist artist.
Each Sofitel Moorea overwater bungalow has the following special features that invite the ocean inside:
- Sliding glass doors
- A glass floor viewing panel
- Private terrace
You can book a Sofitel Moorea overwater bungalow in four different categories:
- Superior Overwater Bungalow
- Superior Horizon Overwater Bungalow – with additional butler service, free bottle of Champagne on arrival and a free mini-bar refilled once a day.
- Luxury Overwater Bungalow – including a free mini-bar with 2 beers, sodas, and water.
- Luxury Horizon Overwater Bungalow – with the same features as the Superior Horizon Overwater Bungalow.
The bathroom in our Sofitel Moorea overwater bungalow had a stone tile rain shower. It didn’t bother us that it had no tub, which is only available in the garden or beach villas.
Dining at the Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort
French-influenced menus with the inclusion of fresh local produce as far as possible is what the dining experience at Sofitel Moorea Ia Beach Resort is all about. The resort has 2 restaurants and 2 bars each with their own unique features and each in a stunning setting.
Pure Restaurant – Enjoy a scrumptious seafood dish right on the edge of the lagoon while staring at the silhouette of Tahiti across the water. Wednesday and Saturday nights are popular for the Polynesian feast. This is when the restaurant celebrates Polynesian millennium history with a theme evening called Ahima’a.
K Restaurant – A restaurant best visited barefoot. Why? Because although it has a vaulted wooden ceiling, the sand floor invites the ocean and the beach inside. This is where local flavors and traditional French cuisine meet under the internationally acclaimed Chef Guillaume Burlion. On request, K also serves private dinners in a romantic setting on the beach.
Vue Bar – The place to enjoy a cocktail while watching the shimmering ocean from the open-air bar area.
Beach Bar – Ideal for an informal snack or drink on the water’s edge during the day.
Tip: You can also opt to dine in the privacy of your own Sofitel Moorea overwater bungalow. Just remember to book and order in advance.
5 things to do in and around Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort
1. Explore the beaches around Sofitel Moorea
You won’t find gyms or tennis courts at Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach. Instead, all the action happens on the beach and in the ocean. The resort’s lagoon is a protected marine area which means it’s free of jet skis and other motorized watercraft.
Goggles and flippers are available to explore the sea life on your own. The resort also has its own scuba diving operator with whom you can book a dive.
If you don’t want to be too active, you can simply walk along the beach. Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora’s own beach is not that long but it merges with a public beach until you get to the headland. It’s a good idea to wear shoes to prevent your feet from getting cut by pieces of coral.
2. Swim with Sharks
Take a boat ride with a local tour operator. They know all the best spots for snorkeling and where you are likely to find sharks and dolphins. We had the amazing experience of actually swimming with sharks!
Choose a trip that takes you to see Moorea’s two bays, dolphins, sharks, and stingrays. The skippers are knowledgeable about the area and the ocean and you learn so much about the history and the culture of the local people. The fresh fruit served during breaks is a bonus.
Some tours include a barbecue lunch on tiny islands. You actually sit at tables in the shallow surf while little fish nibble at your legs.
Tip: If you visit between August and December, the chances of seeing and swimming with humpback whales are excellent. Imagine getting as close as 10 m from these magnificent giants of the ocean.
3. Explore Moorea’s Interior
Take a break from the ocean to explore the mountains and rainforests of Moorea. There a number of tours that take you to pineapple plantations, an ancient marae, a beautiful waterfall, and even some locations for the Mutiny on the Bounty movie featuring Mel Gibson.
If you like to do your own thing, it’s possible to rent a car drive around the island on your own time and pace. Since the island is not even 60 km in radius, you won’t need the car for more than one day. Use the opportunity to do shopping in Maharepa and Haapiti and to check out some of the other beaches on Moorea.
Tip: Rent bicycles instead of a car. There are dedicated cycling paths along big sections of the main road. Also, ask about horseback treks and quad bike tours.
4. Hike to the Belvedere Lookout
Hiking to the Belvedere Lookout will reward you with unforgettable views of Cook’s Bay and Opunohu Bay split by Mount Rotui. While there are other options to get to the Belvedere Lookout, hiking there takes you via different forest trails with different ruins along the way.
It can get busy up there when big tour groups arrive but if you wait it out you can enjoy the views and take photographs in peace and quiet.
Tip: If you like exploring nature on your own two feet, do the hike from Vaiare to Paopao. It’s a beautiful hike through the tropical forests of Moorea and also passes several archaeological sites.
5. Visit Tiki Village
Tiki Village is a reconstructed ancient Polynesian village showcasing Tahitian culture. Entering the village is free but it’s up to you if want to pay to participate in a workshop to learn some traditional Polynesian skills. Among others, you can weave a basket from palm tree branches, make a sarong, learn a Tahitian dance, and play the ukulele. There is even a cooking class where you get to make poisson cru (raw fish in coconut milk), French Polynesia’s national dish.
About French Polynesia
French Polynesia is an overseas territory of France about halfway between California and Australia in the Pacific Ocean. It’s 118 islands are divided into five groups: the Austral, Gambier, Marquesas, Society and Tuamotu archipelagos. Only 67 of the 118 islands are inhabited, with Tahiti the most populous.
Tahiti and Moorea are part of the Society Islands. The capital of this island group is Papeete which is situated on Tahiti.
Tahiti was discovered by the British in the mid-1760’s with Captain Cook stopping by in 1769. He observed the Transit of Venus before sailing on in search of the fabled Terra Australis Incognita. The various Polynesian island groups were annexed by the French during the 1800s. Today, the Islanders are working hard to get their independence back. The process is underway but is expected to take at least a decade or two.
Although the Tahitian language has a special status in the territory, French is still the official language. Of course, English is also spoken in the tourist areas but to a lesser degree. Here are some basic Tahitian words to help you get along with the locals:
Ia ora na – Hello
Nana – Goodbye
Mauruuru – Thank you
E – Yes
Aita – No
The Best Time to Visit Moorea
While the peak travel season to French Polynesia and Moorea is between June and August, I would say the best month to visit is May. The temperatures in May range from 21 to 31°C while the average hours of sunshine are seven.
No matter when you go, Moorea is warm and tropical. The average year-round real feel temperature is 27°C with the average temperature of the water in the lagoons at around 26°C in winter and 29°C in summer. Do you now understand why you could spend the entire day in the water?
The months to avoid if you can are November to March when humidity and rainfall are the highest and there is a possibility of cyclones. Not the best time to be in a Sofitel Moorea underwater bungalow.
You may also want to time your visit to coincide with some popular annual events. These include the Tahiti Pearl Regatta in May, Heiva in June and July (a cultural festival), and the Moorea Marathon in February/March.
Getting to French Polynesia and Moorea
The following airlines offer regular flights to Tahiti’s Faa’a International Airport:
Air Tahiti Nui – from Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Auckland
Air New Zealand – from Auckland
LAN Chile – from Easter Island
Air Tahiti – from Rarotonga in the Cook Islands
Hawaiian Airlines – from Honolulu
Several cruise ships as well as cargo ships from Australia, New Zealand, Panama, and Hawaii stop in Tahiti and other French Polynesian islands.
Paul Gauguin Cruises offers luxury cruises to Tahiti and other French Polynesian destinations such as Moorea. Their flagship, the m/s Paul Gauguin was designed specifically to sail the lagoons of French Polynesia. It does a regular weeklong trip around the Societies.
By air – Getting from Tahiti to your Sofitel Moorea overwater bungalow is made easy by domestic flights from Air Tahiti. It’s also possible to book a private charter or helicopter flights. To make it easy to visit several islands while vacationing in French Polynesia, Air Tahiti offers special air passes that cover different islands.
By sea – There are ferries traveling between most islands, but especially between Tahiti and Moorea.
5 Tips for your Stay in Moorea
Pack only lightweight cotton clothes. Synthetic fabrics are a definite no due to the heat and humidity. They don’t fit into the Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort lifestyle anyway. And don’t forget a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen lotion!
US citizens need a valid passport but require no visa to visit French Polynesia and Moorea for up to 90 days.
The local currency is the CFP franc. It’s pegged to the Euro and costs tend to reflect European norms.
Take mosquito repellents as a precautionary measure. Dengue fever has occurred on the islands. However, no vaccines are required before visiting Tahiti and Moorea.
If you want to buy a unique souvenir to remember your stay in Moorea, pearls are a good idea. Black pearls are more exclusive (and expensive) while there is a wide choice of more affordable mother-of-pearl jewelry for yourself or to buy as gifts.
Moorea island life truly is magnifique!
Have you been to the beautiful island of Moorea and the Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort? Any tips and recommendations?
How was your experience? Comment below!