Moorea Main

moorea-main

You can make a good case that Moorea, not Bora-Bora, is the most beautiful island in Polynesia. Moorea's lagoon may not be as spectacular, but the island is more lush, the mountainous landscape just as dramatic, and its two magnificent bays on the north shore (Opunohu and Cook's) are the stuff of sailors' dreams. And there is simply more of it: Moorea is six times the size of Bora-Bora and has better beaches (Temae is just one of several white-sand wonders), better diving (more than 20 dive sites, most along the north coast), and more things to do, from hiking through the Paopao Valley to horseback riding on the sand.

Yet many visitors come here simply to do nothing, because Moorea has somehow managed to hold on to that slow-down-it's-the-South-Pacific feeling. There is really no town, and in the small clusters of shops along the road that circles the island, you'll be hard-pressed to spend those colorful Polynesian francs on much besides pareus (wraps) and black pearls.

Tahiti's bustling city of Papeete, only nine miles away across the Sea of the Moon, might as well be in another galaxy; for now at least, Moorea remains its own sea of tranquillity.