The White Sands of Moorea

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The White Sands of Moorea
Moorea has a lot of choice when it comes to beaches, from wide and busy Temea to tiny, empty strips of sand on offshore islets. Beyond the sands is the huge, clear blue lagoon, perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and splashing.
Photo by age fotostock
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    Lunch on a Secluded Islet
    Paddle a kayak, swim, or take the shuttle to Coco Beach, a little outdoor restaurant located on its own dreamy white-sand islet. The food is pretty good, too—think burgers, salads, and grilled fish—but you can't beat the lost-on-a-desert-island setting under shady palms with a view of the sharp-edged mountains of Moorea rising over a sky-blue lagoon. Enjoy the islet for as long as you want, swimming, sunning, strolling, or simply chilling out on the deck at the restaurant. When you're done, take your choice of transport back to the main island.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Temae's Natural Swimming Pool
    Temae, one of the country's best beaches, is so wide, long, and white that simply lounging on its fine sands is reason enough to come here. It's the big, blue, sandy-bottomed bowl of water that fronts the beach, however, that's the even bigger draw. Protected by its own reef, the waters here are nearly always calm, making it the perfect location for swimming laps, bobbing around like a floating coconut, or for families simply to splash around. Snorkelers will find gorgeous coral gardens towards the reef. The beach itself is often busy with locals and visitors alike.
    Photo by Monica Sweet/age fotostock
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    Get Social at Ta'ahaimanu Beach
    This is one of Moorea's only beaches that is easily accessed by public road, so it's popular both with locals and visitors. Families picnic, kids splash around in the shallows, and honeymooners hold hands while walking into the clear, warm water. Snorkelers will find beautiful corals to glide over close to shore. The beach itself is just a slim patch of white but it manages to hold a crowd well, and there's still plenty of space to throw down a beach towel. This is a beach that packs in a lot of character and you'd be hard pressed not to wear a smile while hanging out here.
    Photo by Jose Fuste Raga/age fotostock
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    The Sublime Sands of Hauru Point
    A number of small-to-medium hotels line this beach but their presence hardly takes away from its beauty. Wander the svelte strip of white sand around its twists and turns; at high tide you may need to walk in knee-deep water to continue your exploration but chances are you'll be dressed for a swim anyway. To one side are palms and pretty villas, to the other, a brilliant hue of turquoise water that extends out to a reef and palm-covered islets. It's a lovely place to relax. Grab a beer or order a cocktail at one of the beachside bars and restaurants to watch the sunset.
    Photo by Peter van Veldhoven/age fotostock
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    Lagoon Excursions
    It seems like everyone is offering some sort of lagoon excursion on Moorea, and with good reason—this is the way to see a whole other aspect of this stunning place. Most tours visit the dark, deep Cook's and Opunohu Bays and include snorkeling and a picnic on a white-sand islet. You'll get to jet over the clearest water you've likely ever seen, lounge on the whitest sands, and be treated with specialty local dishes like poisson cru (marinated raw fish salad with coconut milk). Some trips also include an exhilarating stop to feed sharks and stingrays. You can do this from the boat or get in the water where a ray may actually lunge onto you to get the food.
    Photo by Josh Humbert
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    Rent Your Own Boat
    Rent an outboard or a pedal boat to get around the island's waters without a tour guide. Putter out to white-sand beaches on the islets surrounding Moorea, then spend as little or as much time as you like sunbathing, snorkeling, or strolling. Pack some French bread and cheese, a bottle of wine, some pâté, and maybe a few mangoes, and voilà, you have the makings of a truly romantic, glorious day. Moorea Loca Boat has been renting boats to tourists for years—no license required. There are also a few sandbars where you can anchor for more swimming and snorkeling.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Resorts with Beaches
    Not all of Moorea's resorts are on beaches, so if being steps from the sand is important to you, do your homework. Neither Cook's nor Opunohu Bay has a beach. Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort is on a gorgeous, quiet slice of Temae Beach, the best on the island. Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa comes in second with its smaller and quieter but still lush white beauty; there's also great snorkeling. Intercontinental Moorea Resort and Spa has plenty of sand space on an inner lagoon, though its location between bungalow areas makes it less attractive than the seashore. Moorea Pearl Resort and Spa is small and its manmade beach involved bringing in sand from other places, but its intimate vibe is great for honeymooners.
    Photo courtesy of Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa
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    Over-the-Water Bungalows
    Moorea can't compete with Bora Bora's luxe over-the-water bungalow offerings, but the few choices it does have are far more economical. The elegant, modern options at Sofitel Ia Ora Beach Resort are among the island's best, or try Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa, where bungalows hover over light-blue, waist-deep water. Intercontinental Moorea Resort and Spa is the biggest resort offering over-the-water bungalows and is a good choice for groups and families, while Moorea Pearl Resort and Spa is far more intimate. And if a big resort is too hard on the wallet, Moorea has a few midrange over-the-water offerings, too, including Club Bali Hai, the original resort to offer this type of lodging and with a the mid-century vibe.
    Photo courtesy of Sofitel Ia Ora Beach Resort
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    Belvedere Viewpoint
    High up a winding road, above ancient stone temples, fruit plantations, and forests, is the Belvedere Viewpoint, set between Moorea's iconic geometric peaks. In the center is volcano-shaped Mount Rotui, to its left is Opunohu Bay, and to the right is the almost identical (from up here, anyway) Cook's Bay. Then, all around behind you are impossible-looking crags rising up like mossy, jagged fingers. It's one of the most spectacular views on the island, if not in the whole country. If you catch it on a cloudy day, don't despair: The clouds and mists wafting between peaks make the whole scene look like a movie set of some lost world from the Cretaceous period.
    Photo by N. Eisele-Hein/age fotostock
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    Tahitian Barbecue at Painapo Beach
    Painapo Beach is hard to miss, not because of the beach itself, but because of the giant, crumbling statue of a tattooed warrior that welcomes you to it. To get to the beach you must first pass through the semi-outdoor restaurant. On a weekday, grab one of the fish specialties or any meal a la carte and you are granted access to the very pretty strip of white sand in front and the blue water beyond that. The highlight, however, is on Sundays, when there's a big Tahitian-style barbecue. Locals and visitors turn up in numbers, so be sure to reserve in advance. Then, it's a beach party—and an unforgettable one at that.
    Photo by Marcel Pepeira/age fotostock