Moorea

From Honolulu we took a 6 hour flight directly South to Tahiti. (over lots and lots of water…I try not to think about it too much because it freaks me out)

We landed in Pa’peete (pronounced pa-pee-ah-teh, not pa-peete…unfortunately I referred to it this way for the months leading up to our trip. Good thing no one else knew my mistake!) around 10pm, made it through customs, collected our luggage and inched our way out through security into a sea of people.

We were greeted by our transfer group and given our Tahitian leis…flower leis…beautiful and fragrant.

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We wove our way through the streets of Pa’peete straining to see the city in the darkness, but we wouldn’t really see Tahiti’s beauty until the next morning.

We left our hotel Sunday morning and headed for the ferry that would take us 30 minutes Northwest to the island of Moorea.

Moorea is 134 square kilometer island surrounded by an atoll (ring shaped reef of coral). The lush greenery, white sandy beaches and crystal clear turquoise water make this island absolutely breathtaking.

As the ferry pulled up, we got our first look of the place that would capture our hearts on this trip.

Moorea

Our resort, The Manava Pearl Resort, was so beautiful. With rooms that ranged from your standard garden view room (which we stayed in for 4 nights), to a garden bungalow complete with a little splash pool in the backyard, to the incredible overwater bungalows (which we stayed in for two nights), you can’t miss no matter which you choose.

Moorea

We got to the resort early in the morning, and we couldn’t actually get into our room till after lunch. But because we Skinners are prepared, we had packed our beach stuff in a small bag that was easily accessible. So we doned our suits and hit the beach!

Moorea

We settled ourselves on some beach chairs and I do what I always do at the beach…pulled out my book and got to reading.

As Andrew was settling in a family of three sat down in the chairs beside us.

“Did you guys just arrive?” the lady said to Andrew.

“Yep” Andrew responded

“Oh, where are you from?” she probed further.

“Canada” Andrew said. See when we travel, we find not a lot of people don’t know where Edmonton is…and Alberta doesn’t really help them out either. So Canada is the quick answer…it is usually followed by “Oh, Vancouver?” to which you respond…”No, we are about a 12 hour drive from Vancouver.”

“Oh us too!” She said cheerily, “We are from Edmonton”

This is the point where I put down my book and joined in the conversation because I had just said to Andrew on the ferry ride over that it was incredible we could so quickly be so far away from Edmonton…that we were literally half a world away.

“And now that I said that” I told him, “We are going to see someone we know here!”

Well we didn’t know Tanya, Mike and Freya (their sweet 6 year old) but we did come to realize that we are all teachers with the same school board. (Tanya asked me 3 minutes into our conversation if I was a teacher…)

We became fast friends and spent the rest of their time in Moorea together enjoying the water, finding great places to eat and visiting a lot. It was great to feel so comfortable with people to quickly and for Andrew to have someone to explore the ocean with when I was feeling too nervous. (thanks Matt!)

Moorea

Besides the incredible views, amazing snorkeling (right off our bungalow deck and beach), friendly people, laid back pace of life and delicious food (I ate more fish, green beans and rice in one week than I have in the past year…and loved every minute of it!) we had the opportunity to take one of the best tours we have EVER been on.

But let me back up a bit…there is a story about how we found this gem.

Before our ferry ride over, we were given a little presentation about different tours that we could go on in Moorea. We booked a snorkeling/ray and shark swimming/lunch tour for halfway through our trip that we were very excited about.

The night before our tour, we got a call from the operator saying that it wasn’t going to go the next day because the weather was not supposed to be good, but that we could go on the next available tour at the end of the week.

We really wanted to enjoy our resort and our overwater bungalow those last few days so we decided to cancel our trip.

Dissapointed, we turned to our hotel to help us find another tour to take…but it was going to be more expensive, which, if you know me well, was bothersome. But we booked it and got ready to go.

I have to say, it was money well spent. Our gracious hosts Romain and Olivia gave us a very special day to remember.

Moorea

It started by boarding their beautiful outrigger boat with the other 6 guests (yep, that’s right…just the 10 of us…it was so nice)

We made our way around the island and saw turtles, spotted rays and whales! As we watched two whales breach the water close by the entire boat was silent…its was an amazing sight to see.

Moorea

We got a history lesson of the island as we sat in Opunohu bay and then continued on to the area where we got a chance to swim with rays and reef sharks.

Now, I’m not going to lie…being from land-locked Alberta makes me a little fearful of the ocean. I did spend the first part of our time with my hand out of the water in fists (as you can see by the pictures) but I did relax a little.

Moorea

These wild rays have been fed in this little spot for the last 20 years, so even though they still have that scary barb at the base of their tails, they are happy curious little guys who just want to sniff you and have you feed them. They feel a bit like velvet or suede…and are soft and squishy. The reef sharks never really got too close to us…they were less curious and far more wary of us.

Moorea

We moved on to a coral garden where we had a chance to snorkel and see all kinds of amazing fish and coral.

Moorea

Finally we were given a delicious lunch with our feet in the water.

Moorea

If you ever go to Moorea, book a tour with Romain and Olivia and Moorea Miti Tours. You will not be disappointed, I promise.

Besides incredible tours, an amazing hotel, lots of beach fun and great fish, we also had some of the best pizza we have ever eaten. (funny right?) Allo Pizza makes an incredible wood fired, thin crust pizza. We had it delivered twice we liked it so much!

Moorea

Moorea is a place that I fell in love with. I would go back there in a heartbeat and loved every minute of our time there.

Moorea

If you ever get a chance to visit this beautiful place here are the few pointers for you:

  • Make sure you take local money. You can change American or Canadian money there and lots of places take credit card, but they want their local currency, and sometimes there is a minimum payment for credit.
  • Packing snacks could be a benefit. Our hotel offered an included breakfast buffet with our stay and we made good use of it.

Moorea

But lunch and dinner were done on our own. We ended up brings a few things with us from Kauai and bought snack stuff (fruit, cookies, drinks etc) at the local grocery store. You can buy baguettes for about $1 so we did that with jam and cheese for lunch most days.

Moorea

  • Find local places for lunch and dinner. We ate off our resort during our stay and it proved to be tasty and economical. Andrew and I would usually share an entree and it was more than enough because of their large portions (2 large pieces of fish, a whack-load of green beans and rice in one serving). We found that by sourcing out our own places to eat meant great food at half the price of the hotels.

Moorea

Our last stop in our 3 week adventure was Maui…a place that has been a favorite of mine ever since we visited there 5 years ago. I was excited to go back but so sad to leave Moorea…a new favorite for sure.

 

Kauai

Andrew and I are celebrating 10 years of marriage this year. 10 years…it’s crazy to think that time has gone so quickly. It is getting harder and harder to remember life without Andrew.

I like it that way.

We decided the best way to celebrate was with a huge holiday…and when I say huge, I mean huge…3 weeks huge. It was an awesome idea.

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Our trip started in Kauai

As we approached the U.S. customs officer at 5 am he said “How are you doing today?” I responded with “Well, we are heading out on a big holiday, so I would say we are doing pretty great.”

He looked at me and with no expression on his face said

“Well you are in the US now, and we take vacations. Have a good one.”

They call Kauai the garden state, and the minute we landed, it was clear to see why.

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This island is incredibly lush and jungle like. The air is humid and it can (and does) rain often and many times a day. It doesn’t seem to deter anyone because the rain is warm and never lasts long…except the rain that comes overnight. That is unlike any rain I have ever heard. And was is really interesting about Kauai rain…no thunder or lightening. I’m used to the crack and crash of thunder accompanying my Alberta rain storms, but in the 5 days we were in Kauai, there was none.

Kauai has one little thing that Andrew neglected to tell me about before we left…chickens. There are crap-loads of chickens and roosters on the island. Hurricane Iniki leveled Kauai, releasing many domestic birds into the wild…and well, they just wander free. This was quite a stress at the beginning of the trip, but as the week went on I became a little more desensitized to them. Don’t get me wrong, my hate for birds in general is still very strong, but at least I didn’t want to run every time I saw one…because I would have been doing a lot of running…

Unlike lots of our holidays, we did not spend a lot of our time at the beach. There was so much we wanted to see and do on the island that it really only left us one dedicated beach day at the end of our time (which led to some pretty wicked sunburns…)

While on the Island we-

Hiked the Mahaulepu Coast

This easy hike started less than a kilometer from our hotel and goes along the coast and through the trees. We didn’t hike the whole thing, but we made a significant dent in it. I have never been somewhere where my skin is constantly wet…not because I am sweating but because there is so much moisture and humidity in the air.

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Went to the Kauai Coffee Company

Kauai Coffee Company

The Kauai Coffee Company is the largest coffee plantation in the US. They have 4 million coffee plants on the island. We toured around the grounds and got a quick education in coffee production, then we promptly drank as many samples of coffee as our bodies could handle.

A Coffee Plant Up Close
A Coffee Plant Up Close

Saw Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon is the Grand Canyon of Kauai…and they aren’t kidding when they call it that. We started the drive up to the lookout point and it was just a steady climb up, up, up. At the bottom the temperature was around 89 degrees Fahrenheit (who the heck knows what that is in Celsius…) The road wound and we passed waterfalls and drove into thick treed areas, and when we reached the lookout point parking lot, the temperature around us was 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The view was breathtaking and the pictures we got really don’t do it justice. It was unlike anything I have ever seen before.

Waimea Canyon

Went to the Queen’s Bath

The Queen’s bath is an outcropping of rocks on the Kauai coast that, when the tide is out makes a pool that warms up in the sun and you can swim in. Now getting to the bath is somewhat treacherous and taxing, but once you are there you will forget about what it took to get there and be happy you did it.

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Finding parking will be your first hurdle. The entrance to the Queen’s bath is a small cut into the trees that leads down a dirt path. It is right in the middle of a neighborhood in Princeville and the parking is at a premium. 10 spots at most with no street parking to be seen for blocks. I am sure that the people who chose this lovely neighborhood to live in curse the tourists who mill around and try to block their streets so they can go for a swim.

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It is quite a trek down to the rocks and, because it is constantly raining there, the ground is wet and slippery. We saw many people walking barefoot, flip flops in hand, to try to get a better grip on the slippery slope through the trees. You are greeted by little waterfalls along the way which makes for a happy reprieve as you try not to fall head first down the treacherous red path.

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Once you make it to the bottom, you walk along the black rocks past a few inlets where the seawater splashes in a sprays up. At the first one we saw two guys swimming away in the water. They would dive in and it would churn up and spit them back out on the rocks as the waves crashed over. Very, very dangerous, very, very stupid. I naively, thought this was the bath. I looked at Andrew and said “You’re not going in there and neither am I!”

But after a little walk farther, we saw the calm little pool, full of people, with water lightly trickling over the rocks. We made our way down and dove right in. It was warm and calm and so much fun.

The hike back up was much easier though not much drier. We cleaned as much red dirt off our shoes and legs as we could, hopped in the car and continued on our tour of the island.

Saw Ke’e beach and tried to hike the Na Pali Coastline

Ke-e beach is known for its snorkeling so we headed there. The weather was poor that day but Andrew braved the water. Our big goal was to hike part of the Na Pali coast but because of all the rain the trails were closed. Good thing it was a beautiful drive up.

Courtesy of planetware.com

Saw Wailea Falls

These are the falls from the Jurassic Park movie. It was a quick and easy drive up with a view that did not disappoint.

Wailea Falls

It’s amazing how fast 5 days can go. We were ready for our next adventure: Tahiti and Moorea, but first a quick stopover in Waikiki

Waikiki

Since we had to fly out of Honolulu anyways we decided to take one day in Waikiki to say we had experienced it. From the moment we got off the plane and waited for our transfer, I knew Honolulu/Waikiki were not the places for me. When I go somewhere warm and tropical I want the idyllic, unspoiled, natural, slow-paced style of life. Not “L.A. on an island” like the guy at the airport proudly reported to us. It was a sea of people, high-rise buildings and shopping. We couldn’t even see the beach until we were on it. I am sure that Oahu has lots of beautiful things to see and do that do not require you to be in the hustle and bustle of the city, but I don’t know that I would return to find out.

Waikiki

Give me calm, quiet and scenic any day over the craziness of Waikiki.

Thankfully Moorea did not disappoint in that respect…