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The sight of Moorea’s jagged volcanic peaks, just 12 miles from Tahiti, proves irresistible to most visitors. Tahiti’s hustle and bustle gives way to a quiet isle boasting beautiful bays, lagoons and pineapple-plantation-draped mountain slopes. Moorea means “yellow lizard” and you can reach it by plane (10 minutes) or ferry (30 minutes) from Tahiti.

Before You Go: Need-to-know info

Entry requirements: Passport valid six months post-departure
Language: French, Tahitian and English
Currency: French Pacific franc
Flight time: 20 hours from New York City; 12 hours from LA; 18 hours from Dallas

When to Go: Moorea at its best

Best weather: Dry season runs May to October; evenings are sometimes cool enough to need a light sweater.
Best prices: November and April

What to Do

Splurge and swim: Overwater bungalows (where your room is on stilts, and you can step out your door and right into the crystal-clear water) are the way to stay when you’re in French Polynesia, and the accommodations provide a unique opportunity to indulge. Stay at certain hotels, for example, and you can have your breakfast delivered to your door by canoe!

Take a four-by-four tour: Rent a jeep or join a tour to see Moorea, and follow the coastal road to ogle the stunning interior mountain range. Be sure to visit Belvedere Lookout, surrounded by mountains and vistas of Cook’s and Opunohu bays. At night, feast your eyes, and stomach, at the Tiki Village Theatre. The evening begins with a feast, in which food — usually an entire pig — is wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in a pit oven in the ground. Next, a drum-beating dance and fire dancers create a true island ambience.

Shop for black pearls: Polynesia is the capital of these exotic members of the demure pearl family, which are cultivated in the indigenous black pearl oyster. Tour pearl farms, learn how they are cultivated and choose your own to take home from black pearl boutiques, like The Black Pearl Gem Company, Perle d’O and Moorea Black Pearls.

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