Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort features beachfront accommodations. // © 2016 Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort
Feature image (above): Reef formations and a wide array of marine life are just off the coast of Moorea in French Polynesia. // © 2016 Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort
Determined to get a good look at the island from the water, I clambered onto a stand-up surfboard and paddled away from the white-sand beach fronting Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort.
With a dive mask wrapped over my right wrist and a long surf leash strapped above my left ankle, I planned on combining two activities into one solo ocean expedition — first, a little stand-up paddleboarding and island sightseeing above the sea’s surface, followed later by some underwater coral exploration and tropical-fish viewing.
Paddling into a stiffening breeze, it was hard not to admire the jagged green mountains of Moorea, a French Polynesian island located about 18 miles west of the Tahitian capital of Papeete. The lush giants rose abruptly out of the warm, blue ocean, burying their peaks in the fluffy base of an obstinate gathering of cement-gray clouds.
And behind me, out beyond the lagoon’s not-so-distant barrier reef, the far larger island of Tahiti was unmistakable across the Pacific, loitering like an older sister up to no good. Happily, that older sibling seemed disinterested by my afternoon paddle plans, and I later managed to spend all kinds of time under the ocean, admiring the intricate reef formations just a few hundred feet from Sofitel Moorea.
Schools of yellow and black Moorish idol fish, a collection of sea cucumbers, delicate pastel-colored corals and the purple, leopard-print inner flesh of some large clams were just some of the highlights of my free dive. Soon, however, the growing appeal of an afternoon snooze on the large, open-air lanai of my beachfront bungalow became far too great to ignore, and I began the short paddle back to shore.
With a total of 113 bungalows (as well as one luxury villa), including a number of overwater options, Sofitel Moorea offers travelers a luxurious and quiet escape, featuring a full-service spa, two restaurants and two bars, an infinity-edge pool and one of the island’s most gorgeous beachfronts. Bungalow rates begin at around $515 a night and include daily breakfast.
During my far-too-brief stay, my stand-alone, thatched-roof bungalow was, in fact, so comfortable and enjoyable that convincing myself to head outdoors to explore the natural beauty of the property was at times rather challenging. Couples looking for a romantic getaway are likely to enjoy the spacious accommodations, which feature massive bathrooms with his-and-her sinks and both an outdoor shower and sprawling exterior bathtub.
Meanwhile, the resort’s open-air Pure and K restaurants turned out terrific food in a gorgeous setting. For honeymooners looking to dine well and then do next to nothing, Sofitel Moorea is certainly a fabulous place to unplug and simply relax. But couples looking to be more active can take advantage of the property’s wonderful collection of ocean activities, which include kayaking, snorkeling and stand-up paddleboarding. Or folks can venture beyond the resort for hiking, diving and ATV adventures. Plus, Moorea offers surfers some top-notch reef breaks.