PERFECT FOR: Families
WHY: July is the beginning of whale-watching season off the coast of Moorea, a family-friendly island known for jagged volcanic peaks, turquoise waters, and a coral ring protecting a shallow, inner lagoon. In addition to snorkeling and swimming in the calm waters, parents and kids can hike, horseback ride, or take an ATV quad or SSV buggy excursion in the lush, mountainous interior. “Your summertime is our wintertime and my favorite time of year for many reasons,” says Moorea resident Laurel Samuela, owner of True Tahiti Vacation and mom to son Dushan, 12, and daughter Fiona, 15. “Less humidity, slightly cooler nights—meaning you can get away with a long-sleeve T-shirt in the evenings—and whales! I definitely recommend doing a whale/dolphin-watching tour while you’re here. Beyond that, I encourage you to take out the complimentary kayaks provided by the hotels and head out toward the reef or bay. You’ll be amazed at the sea life you'll encounter.”
WHERE: Moorea is in the South Pacific, 10 nautical miles northwest of Tahiti and about 2,700 miles south of Honolulu. International flights arrive at Faa’a International Airport on Tahiti.
HOW: Flying is the most convenient way to get from the international airport to Moorea. The flight is only 15 minutes, and you can book a domestic Air Tahiti connection with your international flight. Air Moorea runs multiple small-plane shuttles throughout the day; however, Air Tahiti’s larger planes are better for family travel. Arrange airport transfers and island excursions through your hotel or with a private tour operator, such as Albert Transport and Activities.
STAY: The beachfront Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa makes it easy for parents and kids to stay and play together. The hotel’s lagoon is teeming with marine life, and rates include free use of snorkeling gear, paddleboards, and kayaks. Twin garden pool bungalows can accommodate two adults and two children and have a private terrace and plunge pool. Larger families could book adjoining or connecting bungalows.
EAT: The top dish to try is poisson cru (raw fish), or e’ia ota in Tahitian. Similar to seviche, the Tahitian recipe requires marinating chunks of fresh fish in both lime juice and coconut milk. Kids likely will be bigger fans of another island favorite, “local fries,” made with sliced and fried breadfruit. The prickly skinned breadfruit is roughly the size of a cantaloupe. When peeled, sliced, and cooked, the starchy fruit lives up to its name: It smells and tastes a lot like fresh-baked bread. Try the fries at Snack Mahana and the poisson cru at Restaurant Le Sunset, located beachfront at the Hibiscus Hotel.
PRACTICAL TIP: Moorea’s coarse sand has bits of broken coral and shells, which can easily cut tender feet. Have everyone in the family wear reef walkers (rubber-soled water shoes) when snorkeling, swimming, and playing or walking on the beach.
INSIDE TIP: “Tahitians love children and don’t expect them to sit still,” says Samuela. “Eat at any beach restaurant and your children will be welcome to play on the beach while you enjoy your meal at the table.”
FUN FACT: Moorea has its own lycée agricole (agricultural school), where high school students learn how to grow tropical fruits—such as bananas, papayas, and pineapples—and vanilla plants and other local crops. The school runs a snack bar where visitors can buy, among other items, Moorea-made jams, fresh fruit juices, and homemade ice cream and sorbets in exotic flavors such as lychee-guava, gardenia, and soursop (a spiny fruit with a tart, custardlike pulp).