French Polynesia

Discover Moorea By Car

The first time I visited Moorea, I spent most of the time in the resort – Hilton Moorea so I didn’t get a chance to see Moorea. This time, I decided to rent a car to check out the island on our own pace. Additionally, we have 4 of us so splitting the cost of the rental was cheaper than doing a tour. I booked via the Avis Tahiti website which has locations in Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora and their rates were good for an automatic car; it was a challenge to find an automatic car in French Polynesia. The rate was $108 for a day included all taxes and fees. I like the fact that they offered free hotel pick up and then drop off at the office with free transfer to the airport which I took advantage of so I booked the pick up at 9 AM and drop off the next day at 9 AM; our flight at 10:40 AM. After I booked, I send them an email to confirm the pickup location and our plan for the return to the office and the free transfer to the airport.

Early in the morning, we stopped by the pool area to photograph the overwater bungalows before headed to the breakfast room. It was very quiet in the morning with no one in the pool.

I was looking forward to the Sofitel Moorea breakfast, I remembered tons of fresh fruits and my favorite mango juice in previous French Polynesia hotels. I was a little bit disappointed on the selections. The yogurts weren’t good:

The selection of fruits included star fruits, watermelons, papaya, pineapple, and something we couldn’t tell what that is. There was no mango 🙁

Do you know what’s the fruit second to the left?

A desk of salami and cheese:

I was glad that they have a table for “Asian style breakfast” which consisted of plain congee, shumai (pork dumpling type), and the rest are basically grilled veggies, corns, beans, not-so “Asian”.

My breakfast plate below. The shumai with Thai sauce dipping was decent.

There’s also a table of juice but they didn’t even have my favorite Rotui mango juice out so I asked the waitress if there’s mango juice. She said yes and bought out a cup for each of us. I got Peter addicted to the mango juice as well so we asked for a refill 🙂

After breakfast when we were walking out, we saw the table of breads and croissants but those baskets weren’t covered so the flies were all over them urg….

Just before 9 AM, we walked to the lobby to wait for the pickup. The tree outside the lobby looked cool so I took a picture of it.

At 9 AM, a van from Avis came and picked us up and drove us to their office in “town” right next to the boat pier. The paper work was fast and easy and we got our car in no time. The lady in the office gave us a map of Moorea and identified the spots she recommended. In addition, she told us that it is a holiday today so many places might be closed. I asked what holiday is it? She said some religious holiday.

We started counter-clockwise direction as it has more sights the “top half” of Moorea while the bottom half has nothing to see. The loop around the island is 2.5 hours nonstop. The first stop was Toatea Lookout which gives a great view of the overwater bungalows of Sofitel Moorea (our hotel). The clouds covered the sun the time we reached the lookout so the water doesn’t look as turquoise.

It was a quick stop and then we were back to our car again. There’s only one main road looping around the island so not possible to get lost here 😛 The speed max 40 km/h? as it’s only one lane per direction and some locals cut like crazy so just take your time.

We saw a little beach with beautiful shades of blue ocean so we pulled over to take a picture. There were locals down at the beach.

Next, we drove to Pao Pao with awesome views of Cook’s Bay and a mountain peak in the background.

Our SUV that comfortably fit 4 people and our 2 medium luggage and 2 small luggage.

Continued on our drive around the island, Moorea is very green.

Next, not sure where this is but it’s between Pao Pao and the Hilton Moorea.

Then, Public Beach Ta’ahiamanu which is the most picturesque spot with many coconut trees. We found a spot on the side of the road to pull over like other locals do and check out the beach.

We were lucky that a pirate ship was in the distance which made the photos to look much cooler.

Next stop, we drove up to Belvedere Lookout and on the way:

We finally made it up with twist and turns up the mountain. The views were amazing of the Belvedere mountain peak and the ocean. The last time we were here when we took a half day jeep tour through the Hilton Moorea, it was rainy so we didn’t get to see the full mountain peak. So glad we rented a car and made our way up here!

Then, we continued our drive all the way pass the Intercontinental Moorea. Along the way, we passed supermarkets and small shopping plazas but all of them are closed except this one:

We checked out the stores in this small plaza and bought a cold can of Rotui mango juice – so good!!! There’s a pearl store in the plaza that is open and Peter and Jeffrey both got a pearl bracelet each.

Knowing that most of the stores are closed due to the holiday, we decided to turn around and not make the rest of the loop to save time. Also, I planned to have lunch at Snack Mahana however that was closed too!!! The backup plan – back to Le Mahogany and luckily they were open!

We had a wonderful dinner last night so we were looking forward to trying other dishes on the menu. We ordered the lobster bisque and it did tasted like lobster but it was so salty!

The mussels were disappointed!

Jason ordered a parrot fish fillet with crushed almond and it was tender.

I ordered a Le Mahogany chow mien and it was so bad without much taste.

Our lunch was not that great so I recommend to stick with French cuisine and meat dishes at Le Mahogany, they are much better cooking those than Asian dishes. The lunch was $136.15.

After lunch, we checked the supermarket again but it was closed as well as the post office; Jason was hoping to get some French Polynesia stamps but no luck. On the way back, one other place that was open was the convenient store at the gas station. We went in and it has my favorite Rotui mango juice so I bought like 2 big and 2 medium cartons!

We got back to our hotel and took more photos of the resort.

We called the front desk to request a golf cart to drive us to Peter and Jeffrey’s overwater bungalow to save on walking. We spent the rest of the afternoon there.

We saw a huge eel swimming by and a rainbow!

I made a reservation at Rudy’s for dinner and the pickup at 6:30 PM so we headed out to the lobby at around 6:20 PM. Poor Jeffrey dropped his credit card when he walked out the overwater bungalow and it rolled right into the water underneath his bungalow LOL! He ran back in the bungalow and jump in the water to get his credit card. He took a quick shower, change, and met us at the lobby….he did all those within 10 minutes!

Rudy’s was fully booked too as it is one of the highest rated restaurants along with Le Mahogany. We were looking forward for our dinner but totally disappointed! First, we were seated in a room with 5 other tables of guests; it wasn’t much open space so it got really loud that we had to speak up in order to hear each other. I didn’t like the atmosphere at all, very crowded and loud. Unlike Le Mahogany where it is more open so the noise level weren’t as concentrated even when they are full.

We ordered the fried shrimps and calamari. The shrimps were so bad quality like those shell-less frozen shrimps, no shrimp taste at all.

The crab cake was a little bit better but on the salty side.

I ordered a seafood pasta and OMG it was the sweetest pasta I ever had. It was so weird that I do not ever expect pasta sauce to be sweet! The shrimps again was cheap frozen quality.

The parrot fish fillet wasn’t as good as the one we had in lunch at Le Mahogany.

The only good dish was the duck breast that Peter ordered. The quantity and quality weren’t even near the duck breast I had at Le Mahogany.

Jason ordered the shrimp curry and the shrimps were absolutely cheap quality!!! We were not sure if Moorea doesn’t have good shrimps or the restaurant being cheap?

I couldn’t believe how Rudy’s was able to have such high ratings with this quality? It was like day and night compared to the dinner we had at Le Mahogany the night before. We so regretted to try out Rudy’s!

Our day exploring Moorea with our own car was great,
Ta’ahiamanu Beach and Belvedere Lookout are the must stops! Too bad it was a holiday so many places were closed, otherwise, our experience would be even better!

Hilton Moorea or Sofitel Moorea? My preference is the Hilton Moorea, I think the property look nicer, better beach and scenery, excellent breakfast, and much faster internet (Sofitel’s internet is snail slow). Things that I liked about the Sofitel: free daily minibar refill and their toiletries smell so good 🙂

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