Tahiti is one of those places I never thought I’d get to travel to, only because the plane tickets were always ridiculously expensive when I looked them up! But through some miracle our friend Ben told us about $600 plane tickets and we were like, DOWN. We bought our tickets that night.
I think it’s safe to say that French Polynesia is my new favorite place in the entire world. Words really can’t describe the magic you feel in these islands. They are sacred and special. The lush jungle mountains, the pristine turquoise water, the vibrant culture, the delicious food, and friendliness of the locals made it feel like a dream.
Our favorite spot was a little island called Mo’orea just a short ferry ride away from Tahiti (the main island). We spent every day waking up before the sun, slipping below the surface and immersing ourselves in the clearest water I’ve seen, interacting with wildlife, and then always somehow ending up sharing a meal with some of the locals. We met some of the friendliest souls and I’ve never felt such a connection to a place - as cheesy as that sounds.
If you plan on visiting Tahiti, I highly recommend stopping in magical Mo’orea. It’s small but more beautiful than photos can even do justice. It’s quiet, mostly untouched, and so amazing that you almost don’t want to tell anyone about it (I wasn’t even sure I wanted to write this blog post!).
Getting around is beyond easy, we joked that it felt like traveling to another Hawaiian island. We rented a car at the Papeete airport and took it on the ferry ride with us to Mo’orea. It was nice because we were able to keep our stuff in the car while we enjoyed the short ride over.
We rented an Airbnb owned by a local family (I don’t have an exact link but there are many affordable options on Airbnb.com) and it had a beautiful view of Cooks Bay. We were on the north side of the island which is where pretty much everything you’d want to do is located.
Food was definitely expensive (sometimes $45 a person at a restaurant) so we actually bought groceries most of the time and cooked in our little kitchen. Despite this, I’d say our trip was very affordable and was cheaper than traveling to another Hawaiian island (minus the plane tickets).
We stayed on Mo’orea for a week and then the island of Tahiti for about 4 more days. If I could go back though, I wish we stayed on Mo’orea longer! Next time we come, we want to explore more of the islands French Polynesia has to offer. There are so many!
Here’s the must things to do and see if you make a trip out there:
Swim with whales! I highly recommend Moorea Moana Tours. They are ethical, affordable, and total experts. We did a whale tour with a different company and you could tell they didn’t know what they were doing at all (we didn’t even see whales). With Moorea Moana Tours though, they found whales within 5 minutes and knew exactly how to respect and watch them. It was an experience I’ll never forget.
See the sharks and rays. I recommend grabbing a kayak from a nearby hotel and heading out before all the tour boats get there in the early morning. If you want the rays and sharks to swarm you, grab fresh (not canned) fish from the market the day before and pass out little chunks! They are extremely friendly but remember they are still wild animals so be respectful and don’t harm them. Make sure you wear reef safe sunscreen as well.
Try poisson cru - only if you’re okay with stomaching raw fish though! If you love poke bowls then poisson cru will be mind-blowing to you. Our favorite place to grab a plate was called Snack Mahana. It’s very busy so arrive before the craziness of lunch!
Grab fruit or a meal from a local food stand. We had creamy bananas, smoked chicken, fresh fish, and the Tahitian version of a philly cheese steak (baguette + grilled steak + crispy french fries + cheese sauce = best $3 ever spent) just from stopping at random off the side of the road. It feels way more authentic than the meals any hotel would feed you!
Visit a motu! These are little islands off of the main island and you can usually boat, kayak, or even swim to some of them. We visited a couple and the water was so clear and we saw hundreds of fish!
Get some fresh air in the mountains. You can easily drive up to Belvedere lookout which is also a launching point to lots of little trails to give you the best views Mo’orea has to offer. Polynesian mountains are something special!
Hike a waterfall. When we go back I want to hit up more, but a waterfall hike is a must if you visit Tahiti! There are so many to choose from and I recommend doing some research and spending a day immersed in the jungle.
Have you been to French Polynesia? What’s on your bucket list?! Drop a comment below and let me know what you dream of doing!
Enjoy the photos!
Many of these were taken by Ben so make sure you give him some love!
We went out with Moorea Moana Tours and had the most incredible experience of my life. Within 5 minutes we were floating above a mother whale, her calf, and her escort whale (males who protect the mother and calf). After observing for a while we slipped beneath the surface and found ourselves immersed in their world. Every 15 minutes or so the playful baby would come to the surface, check us out, and sometimes roll around and mimic our swimming! Then, every 45 minutes or so, the mother and escort would surface.
There’s really no way to describe the feeling of something so massive coming towards you in the ocean. I had a few moments where I couldn’t even lift my camera because I was in so much awe. I couldn’t believe how close they got to us, their eyes huge and observing.
After we spent a couple hours with them we boated to another part of the island where we were able to listen to a singer whale making his music. Not gonna lie, before we saw him, listening to such a loud vibrating sound underwater was almost spooky while still somehow beautiful and spiritual.
We swam with 4 whales, a massive pod of spinner dolphins, black tip reef sharks (dozens of them, one even nipped at my butt!), a hammerhead shark (he was shy!), and even a sea turtle.
There’s just no way to describe it all, so I’m going to let the photos do the talking. It’s safe to say this was one of the happiest days of my life, and I’ll be dreaming about it for a while.
After spending the morning out on the ocean, we headed back to Titouan’s house to learn more about the work he does to help save reefs through his organization Coral Gardeners. I was so impressed by all these young people who give every day to this amazing cause! We got to meet the team, paddle out to one of their gardens, select a coral, give it a name, and “plant” it onto another larger coral structure to help it grow. I highly recommend taking their eco tour if you find yourself on Mo’orea some day! If the islands are too far of a dream for ya, you can still do your part and adopt a coral online and learn more about how to save the ocean.
Afterwards we came in for some lunch and relaxed a little. It wasn’t long before we were out on the water again, though. We hopped back on the boat for sunset and got to dive among some thriving reef out by the surf break in front of Titouan’s house.
We spent our last night on Mo’orea among friends and laughed about all our crazy memories together. Like how we watched the milky way reflect in the perfectly still water, or how the roads were covered in huge crabs late at night. How much we loved watching all the locals bike along the highway with giant baguettes in their bags. The BBQs with a bunch of strangers who became friends, buying sketchy street food from the cutest little old ladies, crawling up too many coconut trees, getting rained on while trying to get the shot, making whale noises in our apartment because we were too dang excited, attempting (very poorly) to speak French, and so many more moments I’ll hold forever in my heart.
The next morning, Ben headed home and we parted ways as we took the ferry to Tahiti. We spent the next four days exploring black sand beaches, making new friends, walking around Teahupo’o (waves were flat), meeting Michel Bourez, sipping fresh cocos straight from the source, dancing around the forest, collecting plants, cooling off in mountain springs, sliding down magical waterfalls, making poisson cru with the most generous Tahitian family, listening to Rava and Lolo croon sweetly in French on their patio overlooking the ocean, devouring a baguette filled with steak french fries and cheese sauce (the best $3 I ever spent), following a friendly dog to the end of the island, and soaking up this incredible island as much as possible.
Until next time Tahiti…