Moorea, French Polynesia travel guide and things to do: Nine must-do highlights

THE ONE RESORT

The wickedly-indulgent accommodation concept of the overwater bungalow originated in this part of the world and Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa is a luxurious example, with giddy tariffs to match. It features a necklace of lavish overwater bungalows and one of its most distinctive attractions is its overwater Toates Creperie & Bar, where guests can dine under the stars while looking out for blacktip reef sharks circling below in the crystal-clear, illuminated water. See hilton.com

THE ONE PENSION

One way to save on accommodation in French Polynesia is to stay at a locally-operated pension. Located in the amphitheatre-like foothills of Moorea's magnificent mountains and run by French expats, Village Temanhoa consists of simple timber bungalows, with kitchens for self-catering, set in gorgeous tropical gardens. You'll likely need to hire a robust vehicle to access the rather challenging unsealed road to the property. See villagetemanoha.com

THE ONE RESTAURANT

Luxury resorts aside, the relaxed Moorea Beach Café enjoys one of the choicest lagoonside locales of any restaurant on the island. Be sure to secure one of the coveted waterside tables at sunset then sit back and savour one of the menu's excellent fish dishes, such as wasabi-crusted seared tuna with creamy mashed potato. The service is friendly and polished, and there is a handy, free shuttle service to and from its guests' accommodation. See mooreabeachcafe.com

THE ONE BREAKFAST

One of the best bargains on Moorea is available at the start of each day. It's the humble yet delicious French baguette, one of the most visible legacies of the Gallic influence in this South Pacific idyll. Early each morning, you'll see locals toting fresh baguettes as they walk or cycle (sans berets, as this is the tropics) away from their local, often ramshackle, boulangerie. See tahititourisme.com.au

THE ONE WALK

Moorea is dominated by magnificent mountain scenery, yet few visitors actually venture into its steep hinterland to explore it. The best way to do so is to take a guided hike with Moorea VIP Tours. The hikes offer the opportunity to see and swim in a spectacular 40-metre-high waterfall and end with a feast of tropical fruit in the backyard of a local family home, beside a stream teeming with eels. See mooreaviptours.com

THE ONE CHURCH

French Polynesia's relatively modest churches must nonetheless rank among the world's most photogenic and beautifully-positioned places of worship. One such example is Moorea's 19th-century whitewashed Haapiti Catholic Church of the Holy Family, with its backdrop of ethereal saw-toothed, mist-covered mountains and groves of lofty coconut palms. See tahititourisme.com.au

THE ONE BOAT TOUR

Moorea, like everywhere else in French Polynesia, is overshadowed by Bora Bora yet it is every bit as spectacular and, for that matter, far more authentic. One of the best ways to experience its boundless natural wonders is small-group lagoon tour in a glass- bottomed vessel with an expert local operator such as Captain Taina. Full-day guided tours include swimming among various species of sea turtles, sting rays and even sharks. See glass-bottom-boat-moorea.com

THE ONE ECO-TOUR

Moorea, like so many parts of the planet, is subject to the effects of climate change, and the coral in its lagoon has suffered bleaching. Visitors to the island can assist efforts to preserve the reef by taking a lagoon eco-tour with Coral Gardeners, established by a group of young environmentally-aware Mooreans. You can also contribute to the cause by adopting a piece of transplanted coral for about $40. See coralgardeners.org

THE ONE LOOKOUT

Toatea Lookout is more accessible than the more publicised Belverdere Lookout, which is Moorea's highest accessible point by vehicle and where views can be obscured by clouds. Toatea overlooks the thatched rooftops of overwater resort bungalows as well as the lagoon and neighbouring Tahiti, French Polynesia's main island. The lookout also includes a sombre and moving memorial to an airline tragedy that befell Moorea over a decade ago. See tahititourisme.com.au

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ONE MORE THING

Don't be captive to your accommodation on Moorea. Rent a vehicle for at least a day to properly explore the island. The scenic, coast-hugging main road that circumnavigates the island is well-made and maintained, and there's also the bonus of being able to glimpse  daily village life along the way. Beware, Mooreans drive on the right side of the road.

Anthony Dennis was a guest of Tahiti Tourism, Air Tahiti Nui and Viking Cruises. See tahititourisme.com.au; airtahitinui.com; vikingcruises.com.au

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