Moorea – Society Islands, French Polynesia

A Monument to the Bounty of Nature

Perhaps the only thing more awesome than the incomparable view from Moorea’s Belvédère lookout is Moorea itself. Contending with Bora Bora for the World’s Most Gorgeous Island title, Moorea’s jagged, dinosaur-scale peaks and spires have been the backdrop to numerous Hollywood films set in the South Seas. The paved circle-island road can be traveled by bicycle, scooter, car, or foot, but no matter how you go, you’ll find it hard to keep your eyes on the road for most of its 36 scenic miles.

The climax is the Belvédère, in the interior of the island at the highest point accessible by car, commanding one of the South Pacific’s most incredible views: the deep blue Cook’s and Opunohu bays cutting into the island’s lush green interior and the dramatic Mount Rotui that separates them. As an awed James Michener put it, “To describe it is impossible. It is a monument to the prodigal beauty of nature.”

The Hotel Sofitel la Ora’s Polynesian bun­galows sit on Moorea’s most beautiful coconut-grove-shaded beach. Beyond is the cobalt blue Sea of Moon, and beyond that a postcard view of the green, cloud-topped mountains of Tahiti. At sunset, watch the whole sky ablaze with pinks, purples, and reds as you sip a sun­downer at the la Ora’s bar, built on stilts over­looking the lagoon.

To maintain the day’s high, head over to Te Honu Iti on picturesque Cook’s Bay for dinner at a thatched-roof snack bar (also called Chez Roger), whose casual dock-side atmosphere belies some of French Polynesia’s best cuisine. You’re in luck if chef-owner Roger Iqual’s blackboard menu includes mahi mousse, an island favorite; you’ll find out why.

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