By Pat – (San Diego, CA)
We actually googled “world’s best snorkeling” while researching a place to go for our 20th anniversary (2005). Avid snorkelers, we no longer bother to take a vacation to anywhere we can’t snorkel. Internet researching brought up some possibilities, including Moorea, and then a conversation with a well traveled neighbor furthered interest in Moorea, of the French Polynesian islands next to Tahiti.
We stayed in an overwater bungalow at the Sheraton (which is now Hilton). To be completely honest, I have to say that the snorkeling was, indeed, better than any we’ve ever experienced. A couple of steps down the ladder off our private deck into that shallow fish bowl was all it took for us to be wild about Moorea.
The corals were amazing. A head of coral about the size of a Volkswagen Bug would contain as many as 11 different types of coral, giant clams, and every kind of brilliantly colored tropical fish we could hope for.
The best part was that because of the barrier reef several hundred yards out, the lagoon area was very calm, and visibility was amazing. Schools of Convict Tang passed by, pairs of butterflyfish of every description flitted about, and eels of sizable girth waved their heads at us.
For the better part of a week we woke at dawn to enjoy our coffee in bed, taking in the amazing panoramic view of the barrier reef, then we’d slip down the ladder to get in an hour or two of snorkeling before breakfast. Coming out for baguettes, papaya, and pineapple juice would fortify us for couple of more hours of snorkeling, my husband hunting (with camera only, of course) for the best photo of the day.
A break for lunch (a hamburger at the poolside restaurant) and perhaps a nap, then back into the water for the afternoon snorkel which would find me more content to just hang over a coral head trying to ignore the colorful fish and look for the less obvious creatures, always a fun plan.
Wow. Such a vacation we’ve never had, and we’ve snorkeled Cabo San Lucas, Loreto, Hawaii (often), Jamaica, Cayman Islands, and Cozumel.
Sound too good to be true? You’d think, why ever go anywhere else? Well. There were downsides to this paradise.
Nowhere in the hotel could we find any books on the fish or the dangerous creatures. Not until in the last couple of days did I dig up this information, and realized I could easily have died, handling a live textile cone shell. The lagoon was not the hotel’s top priority, more attention being paid to the drink of the day and the evening dancers…
The hotel was expensive, and though because of location, we thought, worth every penny, but the food was often NOT worth eating, a fact made only more frustrating by the very ‘relaxed’ service. We guessed, by the smell pervading the entire island each afternoon, that it is customary to smoke pot before/during/after lunch. As we’re not smokers or drinkers, for that matter, we eventually decided to just stay in our cabin, and have room service.
Finally, we rented a car, drove to a “magazine” (local market) and bought fruit, french bread, cheese, and canned milk so we only had to venture out for meals when it was too dark to snorkel. Shopping was enough to suit our needs, but would not have appeased our daughters had they been with us (but who takes kids on an anniversary trip?)
Now anticipating our 25th anniversary trip, we’re again scouring the world for the perfect snorkel trip, and having more experience under our belt still think that though the dining/shopping/expensive hotel part of our Moorea trip wasn’t top notch (but not awfully bad) the snorkeling will, in good likelihood, again take us back to Moorea.
Even the local fellows who drove their boat over our snorkel grounds, and the kids spearfishing parrotfish and gathering urchins and clams while we snorkeled in front of our cabin, still cannot keep us from wanting to get back into the water at that amazing tropical fishbowl.
We’d criss-cross the area in front of our bungalows, then head towards the barrier reef, stopping short of the place where the larger boats drove, and then catch the current and drift back to shore to the dock in front the the equipment rental shack, then swim back towards our bungalow and begin again, our excursions directed by how high the tide was and how much coral we could get past that was not too high to swim over.
Even the few brief rain showers that would occur during some days did not cause us to get out of the water, we’d just laugh, watch the cloud as it tried to blow past the mountain it had hung up on, and soon the sun was shining again.
At night we’d look into the water with the lights under the cabin (the coffee table was glass over a glass window in the floor), and admire the young sharks that ventured into the shallows to hunt for a late night snack, hopefully, not our squirrelfish or wrasse friends.
Now we just have to decide when/how/what part of Moorea to return to. In the spirit of adventure, do we try somewhere new or should we not mess with a good thing, the best we’ve known?
Comments Moved From Previous System
Galen & Nicole – Mar 2, 2010 – Wow – Drool
Fantastic story Pat. You should have heard me and Nicole groaning at how enticing you made Moorea sound. Your words were like crack to us addicted snorkelers. We have that picture above posted on our snorkeling destination dream board, and definitely want to check out some South Pacific destinations.
But it is a bit pricey so it will probably be a little down the road. And I hear you about your mixed feelings on the service and food. Some of the areas we snorkeled in the Florida Keys were really some of the best we have seen. But the food and service in the Keys kind of spoiled it for us as a great destination to go back to.
We have a friend who, while not an avid snorkeler, used to live in Guam and had this to say “I lived in Guam when I was a kid, but let me please suggest you go there for some of the best snorkeling in the world. There and Truk Island.” Maybe worth looking into? And I bet you have looked into it, but what about Fiji as another option?
Thanks again for sharing that amazing story. Keep them coming. I would love to hear more about your other snorkeling experiences. It really helps us decide where to go next. Any pictures?
krashzmom – Mar 3, 2010 – Wow Again!!
That sounds great. The only questions I have are how is the language barrier there? What kind of sharks? It definitely sounds like something I would love. The cabin over the water sounds great too. It will be on my “to save up for” list also. I have a 20th anniversary coming up. Hmmm…
Anonymous – Mar 4, 2010 – Thanks!
The picture looks wonderful. The cabins in the water would be great. I had my husband read this and he even thought it sounded good. He’s not as crazy about snorkeling as I am but he does like to travel, if we could get our fill of Hawaii. 😎
Snorkel Rick – May 14, 2010 – The Best Snorkeling and Good Food
I am about to go back for a second time to the Hilton (previously Sheraton) Moorea Overwater Resort. I have been to Bora Bora and a few other islands and found in my opinion the snorkeling was similar at all. By far the best snorkeling and cannot imagine anything being better. I have gone to the best spots in Moorea and the snorkeling right off the balcony of the Hilton has been the best.
Our description of a typical day is very similar to yours. I would say 2-3 snorkeling ventures a day, each lasting about two hours. It is simply swimming in the best fish tank you have ever seen.
I wouldn’t go on a snorkeling excursion because they all venture to the same motu. You can save some serious cash by taking the boat ride from the Moorea Intercontinental that takes you to the exact motu where all the excursions venture. They even have a small restaurant on the motu, but you definitely need to bring your own water and snorkeling supplies. (Your own snorkeling gear is always a must no matter where you go.)
The food is actually good, but you have to venture away from the hotel. (Except lunch – sandwiches or burgers – at the hotel is good as well as their basic breakfast – the intercontinental has a great breakfast buffet). For dinner, the roadside truck by the Bali Hi has awesome fish and chow mein (where the locals go) and the Pizza at Allo Pizza is awesome, so that is two or three meals that won’t disappoint.
All the other French type restaurants have shuttle service (for free) to and from the hotel, so take advantage and try the recommended restaurants. I would also recommend the juice/liquor store where you can get tipsy just sampling their many options. Then you can always buy some snacks at the market — they have the best cheetos. Now that I review my thoughts the food is quite good, just different.
I should say this again, the best snorkeling in the world without a doubt.
Pat – San Diego – Aug 1, 2011 – Moorea Snorkeling Update
We returned to the Hilton Moorea for our 25th anniversary because of the mosquito-free overwater bungalows (OWB) in the barrier reef protected lagoon. Though Moorea is still amazing, I feel obligated to share some updates on some recent storm damage to the lagoon. The islanders said there had been a strong storm the previous year (2010?). We also noticed a large number of coral eating crown of thorns starfish which can regenerate from just a part of itself.
However, please note that an older honeymoon couple also at the Hilton had snorkeled the previous week in New Zealand and Bora Bora and though they noticed Moorea’s coral damage, they said Moorea was still better snorkeling than anywhere else they’d ever been.
There are still plenty of fish, and excellent variety. We would see new and unusual things on each excursion and no matter how far from the cabin we explored, often the coolest thing we’d see for the day was within 100 yards from our own cabin.
We loved the variety of fish – from a teeny ping-pong ball sized mustard yellow boxfish, to the 30 inch Tahitian Triggerfish munching on coral near our cabin that actually lifted its head towards the sound as my husband turned on the camera, checked us out, went on munching awhile, then swam slowly and directly towards us, passing by several feet in front of our amazed faces. Cool.
Among others we’ve spotted are lionfish, a couple of stonefish, shy Lemon-peel Angelfish, and while trying to get a photo of a large eel napping in the top of a coral head cavity, a small Violet-lipped Sergeant fish rushed me, and wouldn’t be ignored. Amusing, not alarming.
What did get my heart pumping was a white-tip shark circling us. I had slapped the top of the water to get my husband’s attention (never again) when shortly afterwards we saw a small white-tip (4.5 feet) lift his snout, shake his head, then circle us awhile.
The next day we encountered a couple of five foot Black-tip Reef Sharks, but they just were passing by on the way to their feeding station – which happens to be the bar in the center of the overwater bungalows. That’s right, they actually feed the fish and sharks (raw chicken and crepes) there every night. ??!!!?
Great place, but I would like to see them take a more active part in protecting their natural resources. I would like to see them sell a reef safe sunscreen. And I would make a big deal about not touching the coral. I looked for but didn’t see any signage about the wildlife, coral, or fish.
OK. I’ve done my duty. Moorea has taken a hit, but it is still an amazing island- I’d like to go back again -now!
Galen & Nicole – Aug 2, 2011 – Great Update!
Thanks so much for that detailed update. I was right there with you, breathing hard with your shark encounter, and trying to imagine those interesting fish. I had a similar experience with a much bigger Hammerhead Shark, and I was trying to get Nicole’s attention. But I really did not want to be making a bunch of noise and quick motions so Nicole missed it.
Reeftraveler – Aug 2, 2011 – Moorea, Maldives and World Class Snorkeling
Pat, thanks for your (somewhat sad) update on the Hilton Moorea. I visited this magical place in 2008, and it indeed has amazing, world class snorkeling. It was the best shore snorkeling I have ever experienced, until I visited Mirihi Island in the Maldives this year. If you are looking for a 30th anniversary destination, I would recommend looking at Mirihi.
Tom Wallace – Sep 6, 2011 – Moorea’s Very Good But Not Great
A problem for Kathryn and me on Moorea is (a) the lack of good beach access and (b) and lack of information on what’s available.
Yes, the off-the-beach snorkeling at one’s hotel can be exceptional. However, as two people who cut their snorkeling teeth on St. John, we’re used to bopping around the island to different beaches. That’s also where we learned to appreciate good beach information.
Huy – Dec 1, 2011 – Another Vote for Maldives
Moorea and Bora Bora were also on our shortlist for our honeymoon. We decided to go to Maldives. I really just started snorkeling on my honeymoon in the Maldives. It blew my mind. Next vacation, I plan to do plenty more snorkeling.
Pat – San Diego – Dec 1, 2011 – Do Tell!!
I’d love to hear all the details of the Maldives experiences, which island or atoll, the hotel, the reefs, the fish, the whole trip. Maldives is another place we’re contemplating, but there are SO many places there, and we know nothing! Are the reefs alive, can you snorkel from the room? Do they have in-room perked coffee or instant? Mosquitoes? Chickens?
Start talking, people! Give us something to dream about.
For now, though, we’ve just booked a stay near Kahalu’u on the Big Island, and are trying to decide what computer we’ll get Galen and Nicole’s Big Island eBook on. Happy Snorkeling!
Galen & Nicole – Dec 1, 2011 – New Story
We also would love to hear anything anyone has to say about the Maldives. But let’s start a new story page, since this page is mostly about Moorea.
P.S. Pat – you know you can put the eBook on more than one computer.
amberlower – Jan 5, 2012 – Snorkeling Moorea
In the past two years I have snorkeled Moorea (Hilton) and the Maldives (Conrad). I thought Moorea was better in that there were more corals and fish but also there were no currents or wind as was prevalent in the Maldives.
BUT I am desperate to find what I saw on Mana Island, Fiji 30 years ago. I went back last month and it’s no longer the same. There were so many fish I was startled and concerned that I wouldn’t be able to swim through the multitude of schools of all varieties. Where in the world does this exist any more? Or does it? If it does I would love to know where.
Cindi – Feb 6, 2012 – Snorkeling Maldives – The Best By a Mile
Having had the extreme fortune to have experienced snorkeling in both Moorea and the Maldives I can unequivocally say that I have not experienced anything better than the Maldives. Husband and I went in 2007 and mere words do not describe the experience. We did a ton of research to find the best house reefs and settled on the Hilton Rangali (now a Conrad), Soneva Fushi, and Cocoa Island – we don’t like to stay in one spot.
You could spend all of your time snorkeling the house reefs, but we also took at least one excursion at each different island – all were wonderful.
The Maldives are all coral atolls so you have the same protective reef around each of the islands – snorkeling within the lagoon is great, but the real treat is to swim out to where the house reef drops off. TONS of HUGE fish. If you didn’t see an eel, turtle, shark and a ray during a given snorkeling session you felt cheated. But then, hey, just go back out in a couple of hours. Coral was in so so condition having experienced pretty significant bleaching in a lot of areas. Personally, I snorkel to see the fish rather than coral, and the Maldives did not disappoint.
Downside? The very long distance to get there and the cost.
I’ll be glad to give further info to anyone who is interested.
Heidi – Oct 15, 2012 – Suggestion for Your 25th — the Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Hi Pat — thanks for your information about Moorea snorkeling. My husband and I are also avid snorkelers, and this past spring thanks to my husband’s work trip, we found ourselves in Sydney.
We went for it — changed our plans and went to the Great Barrier Reef, Australia after his business meetings. It was worth every penny. You don’t need to scuba dive the GBR, and although you may hear reports that it’s dying, it wasn’t where we were. The sheer size and vibrancy of life was positively mind numbing. And the beauty was insane.
We stayed at a cheap hotel — the reef was our main attraction, but next time we’ll rent a little flat or condo through Vacation Rentals By Owner. Lunch is served with all the reef trips since it’s 90 minutes. Happy travels! Cheers.
Anonymous – Oct 18, 2012 – Thanks for the info
Hi, I loved your article. I am looking for a wonderful place in the South Pacific to snorkel and this was a big help. I also wanted to share some information with you.
Last year my husband and I went to the Maldives. We stayed at the Constance Moofushi. It was the best snorkeling I have ever seen, and I am quite a snorkeling snob! It sounds very much like your trip to Moorea, but the hotel was five star all the way. Definitely something to look into for your next trip;) Thanks again for the information.
Jan S – Jan 9, 2014 – Looking for Another Maldives Type Destination
We are avid snorkelers and really enjoyed our stay at this resort in Moorea as well. I can’t say what the best snorkeling destination in the world is until I have tried them all. Of the places we have been I can rate them comparatively for us with 10 being the highest on my scale.
10 – Park Hyatt Hadahaa (Feb, 2013)
9 – Conrad Maldives Rangali (Feb, 2011)
French Polynesia (Aug, 2012):
7 – Moorea Hilton
6 – Bora Bora Hilton
Hawaii. Have been to all inhabited islands. Most multiple times.
4 – Kealakekua Bay, Molokini, Hanauma Bay
3 – Belize, Cozumel, Bahamas, Bay Islands of Honduras
Have been to most of the Caribbean, but admittedly I haven’t been to some of the better destinations in the southern Caribbean like Bonaire, etc.
Going on our third tip to the Maldives next month with a return after that already planned too. Would love to fit in Fiji and Australia after that.
Peggy – Mar 9, 2014 – Where to Snorkel on Moorea
We are now at the Intercontinental Hotel. The food is quite good. We took the snorkel trip for sharks and rays today. The snorkeling was abysmal. Snorkeling around the over-the-water bungalows was fair, but I could see better in Bonaire. So where are all these amazing spots to snorkel on Moorea?
Pat – Mar 10, 2014 – Moorea
I’d suggest asking a local to take you somewhere.
I remember the stingray tour we went on picked up a couple from the Intercontinental and the water seemed pretty deep for snorkeling in front of the hotel and was a water way for boat traffic.
I suggest to get access to Google Earth at the hotel if you can, it shows you where the reefs are shallow, the deeper water is dark blue and is where the boats travel.
Perhaps the concierge could set you up with a local for some touring. They could even take you to the area in front of the Hilton (used to be Sheraton). Between the Hilton’s overwater bungalows and the barrier reef is very worthwhile exploring! Gosh, I wish my hubby and I were there now…
Jennifer – Apr 4, 2014 – Bora Bora – Moorea
Hi Pat, I found your info on the Hilton Moorea very interesting as I’ve just been trying to decide where to go for some good snorkeling. I’ve just come back from a trip to Bora Bora (March 2014) which was excellent.
The snorkeling with stingrays was so funny – it’s a shallow area of the beautiful lagoon where you can stand up and only need a mask to see clearly underwater as a couple of dozen or more sting rays rub themselves all over you. The screams of some of the ladies added to the fun.
Then you move on to the outside of the reef, the open ocean, to swim with the sharks. I managed to get 12 sharks into one photo! They were stunning, mostly Black-tip Reef Sharks of varying lengths, but the “big boys” also moved in, Lemon Sharks of up to around eight feet long, which were thrilling as they milled around me. The water is very deep, over 30 feet where we were, but most of the sharks were obliging and stayed nearer the surface. I loved every moment.
Another spot produced the biggest moray eel I’ve ever seen – bigger than my 19 year old daughter in both length and girth! I actually couldn’t believe what I was seeing, as the eel came out to greet our guide – it just kept coming!
Those three were the highlights, but also there were huge schools of small fish, the ones I know as Humbug Damsels are everywhere, large numbers of butterflyfish and many many more. The snorkeling off our overwater bungalow was very low key, although we did have a small moray under our room – the water was around 30 feet deep off our room and the visibility not perfect but what a delight to fall off our own jetty into the water and just lie there.
Just giving you something to think about :-). If you want something really different go to Niue, the most pristine water I’ve ever seen, stunning corals, stunning fish, lots of friendly sea snakes, and the most geographically interesting place – caves and huge natural rock pools and arches to snorkel. You’ll have to come here to NZ to get a flight there though.
So now you have me wanting to go to Moorea and the Hilton to snorkel off my room again! It sounds good, is there anything else you can tell me about it? I’ll be going on my own as my husband has passed away so I’d like somewhere I can just go and stay and snorkel from my room or hotel beach all day. But as snorkeling is my passion it needs to be good!
Dale – May 20, 2014 – Definitely World’s Best
Moorea is still the clearest, most alive snorkeling I have done and I’ve been all over the world. The smartest thing we did was bring an inflatable stand-up paddle board. We could paddle the lagoons and look for the best coral spots, then jump off and check it out. You can roll the board up and carry it like a suitcase in a bag, and when inflated its almost as stiff as a regular board. We could also explore all the beautiful bays and coves of the islands.
Sarah – May 31, 2014 – Snorkeling Spots in Moorea Besides Hilton?
My sister and I have booked a trip to the Moorea Hilton and can’t wait! We’ll be snorkeling off our OWB every day but also wanted to check out other areas on the island. Anyone have any specific suggestions of where else on Moorea to go for a great snorkeling spot? And has the coral died all around the island or only in certain spots?
Granny Heather – Jul 17, 2014 – Where Next? How About Niue?
Thank you for your comments on Moorea – I found them whilst planning a trip there soon. I guess it’s too late to advise you about the next trip, but you would find world class snorkeling in Niue.
I’ve snorkeled the Solomons, Galapagos, Great Barrier Reef and Aitutake, but Niue is absolutely world class. You’ll get there via New Zealand, a shortish flight to a paradise miles from everywhere.
You seem to be able to fend for yourself for food, so I would recommend the Namukulu Cottages to stay in – lovely, reasonably priced and with a nice pool and excellent kitchens. It helps to remember that you buy fresh fish at the petrol station and carry change for the “coconut stops” which operate on the honesty-box system. You will probably want to rent a car, or a bicycle, because there’s no public transport.
Eating out is good – daytime at Crazy Uga’s, ask your host who’s best to book with at night.
But the snorkeling… Niue is a tall rock with cliff paths down to the water. There are lagoons and chasms round the coast, and the water is literally gin-clear.
Even in shallow water, you will see fish here you may have only dreamed about. The Niue Dive guides can take you out to in a boat which is spectacular, and they have waterproof fish guides, but I spent most of my time snorkeling in a chasm used by the royal family as a bathing pool, and in beautiful pools close to the shore.
I am a rather rickety grandmother, with four replacement joints, so I took the rock paths and well-built steps down to the water rather slowly, packed a sandwich and spent the day in the water, returning only when my camera batteries ran out.
You will be presented with a tide table when you get off the plane – that’s how good Niue is!
Best wishes from New Zealand!
Kathy Kelly – Aug 16, 2015 – Moorea in 2015
The best place we have ever been snorkeling is Palau… but we enjoyed Moorea.
After talking with friends who recently were in Moorea we selected the Hilton (garden area to save money) over the Intercontinental Resort. The food at the Hilton was excellent although a bit pricey. We think snorkeling off the Hilton is probably THE best walk-in spot on Moorea. We tried several others without much luck and it was way better than in front of the Intercontinental.
In front of the Hilton it doesn’t look like too much when you get in but there was quite a bit to see. Lots of different clams of different colors (red, blue, gold and black) peeking out of the coral. Some small black and white zebra-like fish darting in and out of small branched coral.
Several different types of sea cucumbers… one I called methuselah (unfortunately internet was down all four days we were there so I couldn’t look it up). Other cucumbers were black, some brown, some with purple spots. We saw a little creature that we found in Samoa that is related to seahorse. We saw a Picasso Triggerfish.
We did take a snorkel trip with Top-Dive and it was just a seven minute boat ride from the Intercontinental back toward the Hilton.
We saw Convict Surgeonfish, Tahitian Squirrelfish, Yellow Spotted Eel, Forcep Fish, Peacock Flounder, stingray, a variety of goatfish, including white, damselfish, Green Blue Chromis, a yellowish cousin of the seahorse, Moorish Idol, small parrotfish, black and white with one brown stripe (looks like a drum), grouper, Dot-And-Dash Butterflyfish, Chevroned Butterflyfish, and some other butterflyfish, Sergeant Major, wrasse shaped black front and yellow back end with a touch of blue, Female Blue Spotted Boxfish, Orange Lined Triggerfish.
We saw some white film on coral that is part of coral reflecting the sun. There were giant clams of various colors: blue, gold, black, and green. We saw four billion sea cucumbers: brown, brown with blue spots, black, and big white/gray methuselah. We also saw Christmas Tree Worms in blue and some other colors and sea urchins in white, black and red.
GrannyHeather – Aug 22, 2015 – Maybe Not the best, Far From the Worst!
I’m back after a great trip to Moorea, picked after reading these comments. This was a stopover heading back with Air Tahiti Nui after a trip to a family wedding in England, so it was a bit of a limited budget.
I took a grandchild along, as I like to do and we stayed at the Club Bali Hai so I could do a bit of the cooking, and we were delighted with it. Not a five star, but as good and as friendly as most New Zealand beach houses and just perfect for us. No problems with early check-in, late check-out or a ground floor apartment for a guest who swims better than she can walk.
We didn’t swim much off the hotel beach, mainly because there were huge sharks (faces like teddy bears) of a kind I didn’t recognize. But we rented a car to explore the public beaches, borrowed a waka ama (like a dug-out canoe) to go supermarketing at the head of the bay, and went out on a picnic boat to the island where everybody goes… and they go with good reason. The snorkeling at that island was easy and varied, and we were in good coral and great swarms of some tiny electric blue fishes in such numbers that it was like being in an insect swarm.
BUT – what I thought would be a tourist gimmick turned out to be the weird event of a lifetime! On the way we stopped in rib-deep water and joined our guide in feeding sharks and stingrays with chicken. They were not just extraordinarily friendly, the stingrays swam right up our backs (a little like being loved by a very slippery thick pancake) and the photo opportunities were mind-blowing.
I had considered a ‘swim with the dolphins’ for my teenage granddaughter, but she felt so sorry for the captive dolphin at the resort we passed that I was glad that we had the wild but happy sharks and stingrays to play with instead.
Anonymous – Sep 18, 2015 – Another Snorkeling Spot
Have just booked a trip to Moorea for March 2016 so very excited by the comments here.
Another spot where there is great snorkeling is Vanuatu. Lots of options for tours to some of the outer islands and Hideaway Island is only 15 minutes from the town and this is a great spot. Have been there three times with the last one being just four weeks ago. They are still recovering from the cyclone but still well worth a visit. Plus reasonably priced with plenty of restaurants and cafes serving great food. Highly recommend it.
Conni from San Diego – Oct 15, 2015 – Sold
We have an American Air “Circle the Pacific” ticket in 2017. We will hit 8-9 places from French Polynesia to Solomon Islands, Fiji, Bali, Raja Ampat, Palau, and Heron Island in the Great Barrier Reef.
After reading this post on Moorea, we have decided that the Moorea Hilton will be our splurge for the trip. Any other suggestions will be appreciated. We also want to hit the best snorkel spots of the world.
Pat – Oct 16, 2015 – Awesome!
Conni, I am just filled with awe at your proposed itinerary. Seriously! My heart leaps with joy for you!
I hope you post full posts on each of these locations, then do a comparison post for the “world’s best”. Would love to hear all about the trip.
Andrew – Oct 27, 2015 – My Suggestion
Hi there, try the Wakatobi Resort in Indonesia. That is my candidate for best snorkeling in the world.
CCRider – Mar 23, 2016 – Moorea Hilton
We are sitting on our deck at the Moorea Hilton at this moment. The comments on this website are largely responsible for us choosing this resort for our Moorea visit, and we are so glad that we did.
The water clarity is amazing, as is the marine life, and its abundance. Here is a sampling of what we have seen so far, just in the waters in front of the resort:
– Butterflyfish – Vagabond, Redfin, Threadfin, Racoon, Saddled, Ornate, Reticulated, Brushtail, and an amazing pair of Pennant Bannerfish.
– Triggerfish – Picasso (everywhere), Orange-lined (also everywhere), and a massive Titan (scary).
– Stingrays – Tahitian, and Spotted Eagle.
– Eels – many including a Giant Moray.
– A large Reef Octopus which we watched for over an hour from six feet away, Black-tip Reef Sharks, sea cucumbers of all types, Pincushion Starfish, Spotted Porcupinefish, and the largest school of Convict Tangs we have ever seen (at least a hundred of them).
AMAZING! And all of this in less than 10 feet of water. And that is to mention a few…
We’ll be back!
Julz – Mar 23, 2016 – Snorkel Gear?
I only read the first thread of this nicely written article, but did you folks bring your own snorkel equipment, or did you use the hotel equipment that they provided? What would you recommend, will probably only do the snorkeling on this holiday in Moorea?
Oh, was the water deep in the lagoon, or did it vary?
CCRider – Mar 23, 2016 – Moorea Hilton – Snorkel Equipment
We brought our own snorkeling equipment. We did notice that the flippers provided by the hotel were the adjustable type, and the snorkels had no float on top.
The water in the lagoon here is a perfect depth for snorkeling, ranging from 3-4 feet to 9-10 feet at the deepest. The tide only varies by about a foot.
There is a fairly steady, but mild current, that always goes in the same direction. I use it to drift silently past unsuspecting subjects that may otherwise become skittish.
Grannyheather – Mar 24, 2016 – BYO Gear – Even If Traveling Light
Julz – you have a wonderful holiday ahead of you.
I travel light – a tropical fish book, a grandchild, a minimum of clutter – but always my own mask and snorkel, and preferably my own fins – which weigh almost as much as said grandchild.
Masks are a very personal thing – you need to try them on in the shop (try every one in the shop, if necessary) and make sure they sit on your face comfortably. If you take a breath in through you nose, they should hold their own weight plus strap without leaking. The fit is the single most important thing. Particularly important for me, I don’t want to lose a precious contact lens.
Next, the snorkel. Choose one that clips neatly to your mask. You do NOT need a float – just don’t suck in when you’re diving below snorkel depth. You can always blast out any stray water.
Do not share (or rent) a snorkel from anybody you wouldn’t kiss. Just saying.
I bring fins depending on the local terrain. I like to wear reef shoes to get into the water, and then strap-back fins over these. Only if I know for sure that I can walk safely down the rocks or coral do I bring my whole-foot fins. HOWEVER, borrowing/hiring fins is really not a hygiene issue and you might like to save their weight.
Have a wonderful trip!
Nicole & Galen – Mar 24, 2016 – Choosing Gear
Hi Julz, in short, we always recommend you bring your own gear. One thing we differ slightly with on Granny Heather’s comment is the snorkel. If you are not freediving a dry snorkel (the snorkel with the float) is a great tool. But, if you are freediving they can be troublesome.
Galen freedives and has a snorkel he recommends for it. You need at least a splash guard. On our snorkel page we have lots of information on choosing snorkels and the ones we recommend. And there are also useful pages on mask fitting, preventing mask fogging, and choosing fins.
Julz – Mar 29, 2016 – Thank You… and Stay Tuned…
I have taken all of your suggestions into consideration, and I am going this week to purchase my own gear, and my boyfriend also. I will report back after my May vacation in Moorea, to give my comments on the area for snorkeling and everything else this adventure holds for us there…
Pat from San Diego – Mar 29, 2016 – World’s Best? It’s a Relative Thing!
Well. I know I originally posted that Moorea was the world’s best snorkeling. I’d set up my own criteria for “world’s best”:
– Warm water
– Protected snorkeling with plenty of shallows
– Very little current
– Lots of fish and coral
I chose TWICE to go to Moorea because of its barrier reef. Looking at the Maldives on Google Earth looked beautiful but scary so I kept side stepping the idea. Still, other posts here kept mentioning Maldives. Well – THANK YOU!
It was GREAT. For our 30th Anniversary, Hubby and I went to THREE different islands in the Maldives. The three Maldives resorts were at all price points and we booked them on our own and took off on a LONG LONG LONG trip across the planet. What an adventure! Read more about it in my Maldives story.
But once there, we just found ourselves repeatedly saying, “it doesn’t get better than this.” “Well, we’re spoiled now!” Amazing corals, tons of fish.
And the very best and astonishing thing (on my part) was the calm warm waters. We had to swim along the edge of the reef, next to open water most of the time. I don’t usually like that. But there was very little current, though it did change at random, it was so mild I was just AMAZED. At times the wind would pick up, and I’d head back, but mostly it was so placid it was more like a lake than an ocean.
So what is the WORLD’S BEST SNORKELING? I am realizing that it is all relative. It all depends on your criteria.
I’ll still go to Hawaii every year since I can fly out after breakfast and be snorkeling before dinner. I may even go to Moorea again, as I can travel one day, be snorkeling the next.
I’d like to try Wakatobi and all sorts of other places in Caribbean, Indonesia, and the lovely WORLD.
But if and when time is plentiful, and money no object, Maldives, here I come.
elleL – Apr 23, 2016 – Fish Guide Book Recommendation for Moorea?
Husband and I are heading to Moorea and Bora Bora in three weeks. We will be staying in a beach bungalow at the Hilton Moorea. I’m really glad to hear that the snorkeling is great from the shore. We are avid snorkelers and will be bringing our own gear.
I would like to have a guide book with us that will help us identify the fish. Any suggestions?
On Bora Bora we will be at the St Regis in an Overwater Bungalow (splurge!) Does anyone know if the snorkeling is good right from your room?
So glad I found this site! Hmmm, will have to think about one of the snorkeling trips for next year!
Places snorkeled: GBR, Hawaii (mostly Maui), St. Maarten, Puerto Rico, Cancun
Grannyheather – Apr 24, 2016 – ID Books for Snorkeling
My first choice reference book for a snorkeling holiday is “Reef Fish Identification – Tropical Pacific” by Allen, Steene, Humann and DeLoach.
Second choice? Its companion volume “Reef Creature Identification – Tropical Pacific” by Humann and DeLoach.
These books make it very easy to identify sea creatures both by common name and in scientific detail.
Together, they weigh 2.32 kg, but they are quality products that will survive a lot of traveling. What is more, they are books that my grandchildren have enjoyed since they were old enough to look at the pictures and spell out the names. “Look, Granny, it’s a Pajama Fish (Sphaeramia nematoptera)!”
Pat – Apr 25, 2016 – Fish Book
The small fish ID book they have for French Polynesia was sold right at the airport if they still have them. I’d give author and title, but I’ve loaned mine out to a honeymooning couple heading to Bora Bora.
I also usually carry the rather heavy “Reef Fish Identification-Tropical Pacific” by Allen, Steene, Humann, & Deloach. Love to flip through the pages and mark the place and date we saw each fish.
Have recently discovered a website called “Fishbase.org”. If you’ve got decent internet at the hotel you can try searching it by island, and it will display how you chose – with or without photos.
Have an absolutely lovely time – such a gorgeous place!
AnotherHeather – Dec 3, 2016 – Not Sure What to Say
Everyone, I hate to post this, but I want others to know so that they can forgo disappointment and expense. Here at the Hilton Moorea – this is a beautiful and friendly resort – but much of the coral on the house reef has died. There are still some fish here, but it is far from what I was hoping to find.
I went in for an hour and encountered only occasional patches of live coral, sometimes with a little clutch of damselfish in attendance. There are still occasional butterflyfish, parrotfish, and wrasses. I saw a pair of Pennant Bannerfish and a large group of Convict Surgeonfish, but they seemed out of place given that the coral life was so absent.
I’m here on Moorea for three more days and will try to find another snorkeling spot with the hope that there is healthy coral to be found. Had hoped to just stay at the Hilton the whole time and experience snorkeling bliss. Not to be.
CCRider – Dec 4, 2016 – Snorkeling at the Hilton Moorea
We found the best snorkeling to be on the right side of the resort. Go in the water beside the shore bungalows on the right side of the walkway, and swim out keeping to the right of the overwater bungalows. Once out a hundred yards or so, swim parallel to the shore, keeping in mind that you will have to swim against the current on the way back, or cross a sandy patch, and continue out to the reef. Fantastic snorkeling!
DJ – Dec 21, 2016 – Sofitel Moorea and Bora Bora
The best snorkeling on Moorea is around the Sofitel hotel on the other side of the island from the Intercontinental and Hilton. There is a large public beach there, so you don’t have to be staying at the hotel.
Bora Bora has amazing snorkeling for fish at the “aquarium”. This is an area in the lagoon near the Bora Bora Intercontinental and Sofitel private island.
There is a very shallow (four feet) area of amazing coral near the motu that the airstrip is on. The coral there is amazing and due to the shallow water it is incredibly colorful. There are friendly stingrays too.
There is a deeper area where Manta Rays come for cleaning by Pilot Fish. You can see them snorkeling and do not need scuba gear here. I understand that this area may now be restricted because the mantas are disappearing.
I’m going sailing at multiple islands this summer so I can update on other areas that are only accessible by boat. Going to Moorea, Raiatea, Tahaa, and Bora Bora. Maybe Huahine if time permits and winds are fair.
Dave K. – Jan 30, 2017 – Daily Tours in Moorea for Experienced Snorkelers?
Heard great things about snorkeling in Moorea on this page, so we reserved at the Hilton for next week.
We’re experienced snorkelers — Bonaire, Belize, two Caymans, Fiji.
We know the Hilton area has good snorkeling, on your own. But, we’d also like to see other areas, so would like to book a daily tour or two. All the tours we read about seem to be aimed at new snorkelers — Miti, Taina, etc. Are there tour companies for experienced snorkelers?
Evie – Feb 6, 2017 – Moorea Hilton Feb 2017
I am now in Tahiti on the way to New Zealand, and have stayed for five days at the Hilton. The hotel is fabulous. I was lucky enough to have Room 73, which is one of the overwater rooms at the end of the ramp.
Someone asked recently about the weather. There has been some mild rain in the afternoons, until today, when we’re having a massive tropical thunderstorm with intense rain. I was out in the water by 6:30 this morning; the weather has been good in the early morning.
The lagoon itself is mainly sand with some boulders in it. About 500 feet out, swimming against a very strong current, there are breakers and much more coral. Because there is so much algae old-growth on the boulders, there are a lot of Dusky Gregorys.
However, after having snorkeled at Wakatobi in Indonesia in October, the contrast is striking. Here there are just way less fish. I saw 265 species in Wakatobi, and 111 here in Tahiti. It’s further from the Coral Triangle, and there is way less variety and abundance. In Tahiti, there was a devastation from Crown-of-Thorns Sea Stars and hurricane damage.
I walked to a public beach about 10 minutes away, which has a tiny drop-off, and there were some Orange-Finned and False Clown Anemonefish, and Two-Spined Angelfish which aren’t in the lagoon.
It was definitely worth taking the trip out to feed the Tahitian Rays. It was supposed to be a snorkel trip, but the snorkeling was in a tiny channel with a very strong current.
Anonymous – Apr 15, 2017 – Moorea Hilton Snorkeling, Feb. 8-14, 2017
Stayed in overwater bungalow. 87 degree air, 87 degree water, 87% humidity. Great water access from the bungalow deck by ladder.
Snorkeling was good to very good though not excellent. Wide variety of fish throughout the bay, moderate in size. Not as many varieties as noted in the March 23, 2016 review, or maybe we just didn’t know all the names. Check out the metal enclosure underneath the crepe restaurant for a constant school.
Nearest public beach a mile to the west was uncrowded, had no current when I was there, and similar fish.
Try Pineapple Beach on the northwest side. Small, but uncrowded and fairly plentiful. Saw only Moorea Stingray of the trip there, as well as starfish and brown eel.
Took the Miti tour to nearby island to see rays and sharks. Good close encounter, because the tour guide chums.
In an effort to get a tour for experienced snorkelers, as we are, took a private boat tour through Pacifik Attitude to island close to Miti tour. No different fish there but went around the whole island and found spinner dolphins. Nicholas, the owner is very knowledgeable.
On the whole, aside from dolphins, not as much variety or as much size as fish in Bonaire.
We wouldn’t go back for snorkeling, but may go back in the fall to see the Humpback Whale mothers and calves when they’re in that general area of French Polynesia. You’re allowed to get in the water with a snorkel (not tanks), to view from about 40 yards. Sounds special.
BlueBird – Jul 28, 2017 – Maldives
From personal experience I think there’s nothing better than Maldives! We stayed at multiple different islands (the country has one resort per island policy) and I think my favorite was Angsana Ihuru. Amazing house reef for snorkeling, fantastic food, and short boat ride from the airport.
Anonymous – Sep 12, 2017 – Raja Ampat
Have you tried Raja Ampat in Indonesia? These islands are best we have experienced for snorkeling.
Grannyheather – Sep 12, 2017 – Raja Ampat
Thanks – heading that way soon, will check it out.
Rhonda – Oct 11, 2017 – Snorkeling Hilton Moorea
We just got back from the Hilton Moorea. We stayed in one of the overwater bungalows and it was all we expected it to be. The water was unbelievable and crystal clear. We took pics from the patio that were as clear as when we snorkeled. We saw all kinds of fish and a stingray came by each morning to have coffee with us. The hotel staff was kind and polite and very friendly. The restaurants were good enough. Some could be hit and miss like anywhere can be.
We did smell the pot before dinner each night and it was coming from the restaurant area, so we assumed it was the employees. Other islands we have visited we knew it was there but never smelt it as profoundly as we did there. We learned to acknowledge it and then ignore it.
We had a couples massage during our stay. They could very well update the Spa area. We were waiting for our massage half dressed as the others that were finished and dressed were all in the same lounge area. Made it awkward for us. The ambience could use some improvement.
All in all it was a great trip. We loved the shallow waters for snorkeling. My husband cannot tread water easily due to his condition and this is the first time we together got to enjoy the snorkeling as a couple.
The only really down side was the WIND. It was so calm in the mornings but boy did it blow mid afternoon three out of five days we were there. Maybe it was the time of year and hope the next trip less windy.