Dining · French Polynesia · Travel Tips · Uncategorized

Moorea, French Polynesia and the Sofitel Ia Orana Hotel

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We left Dallas on Friday evening and headed to LAX to catch our late night Air Tahiti flight to Papeete.  Unfortunately, we flew coach and I have to say that Air Tahiti has probably the narrowest and most uncomfortable coach seats I have experienced in a really long time. The flight from LA is about 8 hours and it leaves at midnight.  Neither of us got very much sleep on the plane but once we landed were were ready to go jump on the ferry and head straight to Moorea, which would be our first stop for the three days.

It was raining when we first arrived so I couldn’t get any really good shots of Moorea as we had to stay inside the ferry.  The good news is that the clouds cleared and the sun came out shortly after we arrived.

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Moorea from the ferry
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View of the overwater bungalows at the Sofitel

We booked this trip through our Virtuoso travel agent and it was seamless from beginning to end as the ferry and all hotel and airport transfers had been prearranged.  We stayed at the Sofitel Ia Orana Hotel and Resort on Moorea and had a beach front bungalow, which we loved.  We decided to save the more costly over the water bungalow for Bora Bora and I think this was the right call.  After the 30 minute ferry ride, we went straight to the hotel but as it was only 8am, our room wasn’t ready yet.  Steve and I took a nap at the pool until our room was ready and when we walked in and saw the view from our balcony, we were more than pleased.

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View from beach bungalow – the most comfortable, wide chairs on our deck too
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View from our patio – Tahiti is in the background

Here’s a little photo tour of our beachfront bungalow, which had a large bathroom with walk-in shower, a king size bed, walk-in closet and a big covered patio that overlooked the shallow lagoon.  The A/C in the room worked wonderfully too and the room was well sealed so no issues with mosquitoes in the room.  The beach was large and never crowded and there was a small beach bar about 2 bungalows down from us.

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Beachfront Bungalow – we were in the first line of bungalows on the beach so the view was completely unobstructed
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Very comfortable king size bed with good quality linens and good lighting
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Spacious bathroom  – very modern and clean. Plenty of plugs and excellent lighting
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On our patio after my first swim (I hadn’t had a shower yet after our loooong plane ride so excuse the greasy hair and no makeup look)

I know this may sound bad but we never left the hotel during our 3-day stay.  Frankly, we were tired and just wanted to sit on the beach and read, swim and relax.  We ate all of our meals at the hotel and mostly did their casual beach bar though we did try their more upscale restaurant as well.  Overall, we were pleased with the food here though we did find the service, while very sweet and well meaning, to be rather slow in the evenings.  One of our favorite meals was a seafood pizza at the beach bar that had scallops, shrimp and smoked mahi mahi on it that paired wonderfully with a French rose wine.

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Seafood pizza – YUM!
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Mai Tai Time!

As many have said, the food and drinks in French Polynesia are insanely expensive.  They were a bit less on Moorea, though.  Cocktails were generally about $20 per drink and most casual food (burgers, sandwiches, pizza) ran about $30 for one entree.  We did find that the French wine on the menu was very reasonable.  Before we left LAX, we hit up the duty free and picked up 2 bottles of rum and one bottle of vodka, which lasted us the whole trip and really helped keep drink costs down, especially on Bora Bora.

So, what did we do on Moorea?  Not much.  Generally we were up early every day around 6:30am, hit the expansive breakfast buffet around 7:30am, and then would set up on the beach to swim, read and nap.  Afterwards was a casual lunch or room service, followed by more swimming, reading and napping and then some sundowner cocktails on our balcony before we would each shower up and get ready for dinner.  Mostly, we just enjoyed hanging out together and floating in the clearest, most beautiful water ever.  Blue water photo overload:

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Water clarity was unreal
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The beach was a little rocky but not too bad – we didn’t need water shoes
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Steve from the water

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We almost got the energy up to go out for dinner one night as a few restaurants in town will come pick you up from the hotel for free and drop you back off but then I got lazy.  It was just too easy to walk down to the beach bar and we liked the food at our hotel.

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Dinner time
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Rose wine with ice in it – no shame in my game
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Local beer – it was pretty good actually

A few tips for Moorea – definitely bring bug spray or wipes.  We brought these Off! moist towlette wipes that worked great and didn’t require us to check our bags.  There are mosquitoes in the evening.  Definitely go by the duty free in LAX to get some alcohol if you like cocktails.  You are permitted up to 4 liters but we only got 3 and that was more than enough – the duty free bags it up for you and delivers it to you at the gate before departure so you don’t have to lug it around.  Also, Air Tahiti does not count your duty free as a carry-on bag.  We found the fruit juices and sodas we used as mixers to be more reasonably priced.  Also, the portion sizes on food entrees were huge so Steve and I usually split things at lunch, which kept the cost down a lot and was far less wasteful.

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Sunrise in Moorea
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Grounds of the Sofitel – very lush and tropical
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Baby Hermit crab by my beach chair
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Grounds of Sofitel Hotel with other bungalows set further back from the beach

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Overall, we were very happy with the Sofitel Hotel.  Our only quibble was that the dinner service could be a bit painfully slow and we sometimes got our food before getting our drinks, which was kind of annoying, but we tried to take it in stride.  We planned to be a little more active on Bora Bora so this was a great way to start the trip off nice and slow and let the jet lag wear off.

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Working on my tan
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My view everyday – the snorkeling right off the beach was great
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Beer Thirty
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Steve with his Polynesian dollars
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Isn’t he cute?  At least I think so

Overall, we loved Moorea and I would definitely return to the island and the hotel.  Next time, I would do at least one day trip to see more of the island and I’m kind of sorry I didn’t get over to see Cook’s Bay but it was just too easy to relax!

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After 3 days, it was goodbye Moorea and we caught a small plane to Bora Bora for 4 nights at the St. Regis Hotel.

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