Today, we were checking out of Manava and moving over to the Hilton. Without any real plans for the upcoming day, and sunshine overhead, we decided today was the day to rent a car and explore the island some more. There are few options for renting cars on Moorea, and they aren’t cheap, which we knew from our research before the trip, but since we planned to relax most of the time, we decided a one day rental was better for us. Alternatively, a lot of people will rent a car on Tahiti for cheaper, and then bring it across on the ferry. Taxis are also plentiful here, and the drivers have all been friendly.
Across the street from Manava is a little hut where there is a local tour group and car rental. Albert’s is a small operation, but once we were able to talk to someone, they were incredibly friendly and helpful. We lucked out in getting the last car they had this day, and it was an automatic! Most of the cars on the island are manual, though it seems each company has a few automatics (for the Americans, I’m sure). We waited for around 25 minutes, during which we saw multiple employees come and go, though none seemed to be “the person” to rent the cars, as they all ignored us. One man even talked to the couple in front of us for a bit, then abruptly walked away, got into his car, and drove off. Eventually, a woman came to the desk, and she helped us all get a vehicle. The rental process is pretty quaint, with a handwritten logbook of the cars being rented for the day, and a quick check of the driver’s license. It only cost us around $90 USD for the day rental. The best part is that she let us keep the 8 hour rental overnight, and return by 8 AM the next morning, and then she even drove us back to our resort after dropping off!
We decided on a moderate level hike, around 4-5 miles for the day. The temperature doesn’t seem to fluctuate much throughout the daytime, so we didn’t feel the need to get out super early, but we did want to explore the whole island, so we didn’t want to do an all day hike. We grabbed a few bottles of water from the grocery store near Manava, and then ventured in the direction of Belvedere Lookout. This is a really popular viewing spot, and you can easily drive to it. In fact, we thought the road up to the parking lot was one of the best maintained roads we have been on here.
There were two cruise ships in Moorea today, so there were a fair number of people up top. We snapped a quick picture at the overlook, and then put on lots of sunscreen and bug repellant (hello no-see-ums!) and set off on the Three Coconuts Trail. There are a couple of trails from the parking lot to choose from. This trail promised great views and about 950 feet of elevation gain to see them, so this seemed perfect for the next few hours.
This trail had everything; walking through dense forest, the sound of running water, creek crossings, chickens, a bamboo forest, squishy/slippery tropical island mud, humidity, and killer views! While it is covered for virtually the entire path, it is very warm and humid, and we were glad to have our liter of water and a few oranges along the way. Chris and I always keep around an older pair of tennis shoes that we then take on our trips, knowing that we may get into some muddy or wet areas when we hike on our travels. It is running joke that we often leave at least one pair of shoes behind as we traverse the globe, and hey, this gives us more room for souvenirs! We tried our hardest to stay out of the wettest areas on this trail, so we’ll see if the shoes make it back or not this time 🙂
All Trails had this hike listed as 4.1 miles round trip, though both of our watches put it around 5 miles round trip from the parking lot. There were several blissful areas with the most wonderful cross breeze, but we were very warm and sticky by the end. The views from the top of this hike definitely made it worth it, though!
After we finished our hike, we grabbed a bag of fresh pineapple, and some homemade breadfruit chips from a lovely woman selling in the parking lot. Moorea is known as the pineapple island, and you pass the pineapple farms on the way up to Belvedere lookout, so there is no shortage of amazing pineapple to eat while on the island, and the sweet smells from this bag of fresh pineapple filled our (tiny) car as we enjoyed our post-hike (lunch?) snack. We headed back down to the main road that encompasses the island, and our next stop was the pearl shop. When we honeymooned in Fiji many years ago, I did not purchase any pearls on that trip, so I knew this time around I wanted to look for one to remember our French Polynesian adventures. Most of the pearls around Tahiti are black or gray, but this particular shop, P.Originals, specializes in rare colored pearls, and I had my heart set on one. After looking at all of the beautiful options, I settled on a rainbow pearl pendant, and a cheaper souvenir for Aly as well.
Back on the road, to take in the rest of Moorea. We continued driving, and made it around the entire island. Without stops, it takes around 1.5 hours or so to circle the entirety of Moorea. You pass many snacks (the small, local food stands), a few cute schools, and get frequent glimpses of the stunning, turquoise waters that surround Moorea. The island is stunning in that despite the high cost of traveling to and staying here, it has remained very simple, without large shopping centers. There are a few small grocery stores on the island, a few small restaurants, and almost everything closes by around 7:30 or so in the evening.
The plan for dinner was to try Fare La Canadienne tonight, as it promised good burgers and poutine! We waited for about 30 minutes for it to open. As we sat in the car, we noted the lack of people, or lights, or any sign of life around the restaurant. Thinking that maybe they were on island time, we walked across the street at 6:00 to check it out, and saw a handwritten sign in the window that it was closed and would reopen the next day. After being here for almost a week, this sort of schedule seems to be the norm, so we weren’t surprised when our plans changed once again. We drove back towards the Hilton, ready for a dinner of granola bars and free mini bar drinks in our room, but by happy accident, we passed a Thai food stand on the way and opted for that instead. This stand makes 2 dishes per day, and they were out of one when we arrived, so Thai chow mein it was. Let me tell you, this was the best thing we have eaten on our trip so far. And at $13 for a huge bowl of noodles that we shared, it was also possibly the best deal for any meal we have had. It’s no secret that it’s not cheap to eat in French Polynesia, so $13 seemed like a major steal of a deal when we were used to paying around $30 for a simple salad here. We have already decided that we will visit Aoy Thai food stand at least once more on our trip! Drank our free bottle of champagne with our Thai, and called it a night.