Moorea - the real Bali Ha'i

Updated: Jan 22, 2020

It's been debated for years as to which island inspired James Michener's perfect Bali Ha'i in his "Tales of the South Pacific." The author himself admitted, upon seeing Moorea for the first time, that it was exactly what he had imagined when he wrote his story. So, we'll agree with Michener's claim of enchanted island beauty and Moorea. Just across the strait from Tahiti, the island offers a true escape from the hustle and bustle of Tahiti. You can reach it on a 10-minute flight on Air Tahiti or via a 30-minute ferry ride.

View of Cook's Bay from the Magic Mountain outlook

To get an overview of the island, we booked an all-day adventure with Pierre who owns Enjoy Moorea, a one-man operation that promises to give visitors "the real island tour." We agree that he meets his promise and actually offers much more than you would expect. Pierre was born on Moorea and is an expert on the flora, fauna and cultural heritage of his beloved island. He eagerly answered our questions and proved to be an excellent cook, guide and all-around nice guy. After scenic stops atop mountains, in the middle of a huge pineapple plantation and to a hidden-away marae (religious site), we went to a private beach for an extraordinary Tahitian fish picnic and swimming. Pierre took fresh raw premium grade tuna and "cooked" it in lime and coconut juices with an accompaniment of fresh pineapple and rice. We ended the day with a private climb up a mountainside to a waterfall where we were able to swim. You know you are really off the beaten path when you jump into a Polynesian waterfall with no other tourists in sight.

A day with Pierre of Enjoy Moorea includes a private beach picnic and deserted waterfall (not your usual tourist experience).

Our other favorite location in Moorea was a motu (small island) just a 10 minute ride away from the Intercontinental Hotel. On the way we stopped to swim with reef sharks and stingrays. The water around the motu is crystalline blue and features some of the best snorkeling we have ever experienced. We returned to the motu several times as the charge for the boat was only $12 and you can stay all day if you want. The shark/ray excursion is extra but well worth the money.

Swimming with sharks and stingrays is a popular once-in-a-lifetime experience in Moorea.

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