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Reviewed 6 June 2011

On a trip that included stays at the Manava Suites Tahiti (2 nights), Sofitel Bora Bora (4), and the marvelous Vahine Island Private Island Resort Taha'a - have posted reviews of each - the Sofitel Moorea was our first four night stop after our one day, two night stop on Tahiti after flying in from LAX.

We chose the Sofitel for three reasons - we like Sofitel in general; as we live in mountainous country - New Mexico, USA, we wanted an unobstructed view of lagoon and ocean; but we didn't want a property that would be over-crowded or with too many attractions for families. So, after looking at a lot of resort maps, we decided to pass on the garden, beach and inner OTW bungalows at other, more centrally located resorts, and opted for a "luxury beach bungalow" at the Sofitel. This faces east, toward the sunrise rather than the sunset but you get the bonus of looking at Tahiti about ten miles or so across the water.

[Side note - while "interviewing" a number of travel agents to find the one with whom we most wanted to work - turned out to be Laurel Samuela of truetahitivaction.com - we eliminated one - based on Tahiti - who told us how he enjoyed going to the Sofitel Moorea to have a drink and watch the sunset. Figured, with the entire island between the resort and the sunset, that would have either been quite a trick - would love to see the mirrors that would take - or perhaps he was more interested in a sale than making sure we - the customers - would have the best experience....]

i share our reasoning because, when we arrived at the Sofitel, we were quite surprised to be led not toward the beach bungalows but into the small maze of OTWs. The staff person took us to an OTW that was completely embedded in a small flock of other OTWs. The view, in fact, from almost everywhere was of the backsides of all the surrounding nearby OTWs! (You could see out into the lagoon from an open space between other OTWs from the lower dock from which you would slide down into the water for a swim.)

We explained this was not what we had booked and politely - but firmly - said "sorry but no." We were invited to relax in the OTW while they found us a room more appropriate to our reservation and desires. The young woman was quite friendly and handled the situation as well as could be done. (A note on the "interns" in a moment.) After a wait of a bit more than an hour - while they no doubt were getting a beach fare (bungalow) cleaned up and ready for occupancy, she returned with a bellman and led us to our bungalow which was exactly what we had paid for in the first place.

As our travel agent lives on Moorea, i was fully prepared to call and get her help with this as indeed we had to do at our next stop on Bora Bora. It wasn't necessary, the Sofitel taking care of it, but we did discuss this with our travel agent trying to figure out what was up with this. On Bora Bora it was no doubt simply a matter of the resort having over-booked (a regular process with airlines and hotels to cover themselves for no-shows and changes in plans on the part of guests). On Moorea, i'm really not so sure about that. Perhaps it was simply wanting to avoid having to get the booked-fare ready in time for the arrival of the guests. Or it could have been wanting to sell the higher-priced fare twice rather than just once. i don't know and it all turned out okay, but the lesson is be sure you know exactly what you booked and be sure also that you get what you paid for and that your travel agent is ready and available to back you up if necessary.

(The young woman who helped us was one of Sofitel's small army of delightful European young people working at the various hotels as part of their college studies in hotel management or related fields. From France, Switzerland, Austria - they were, if not always as knowledgeable as the permanent employees, nevertheless uniformly friendly and quite focused on being sure the guests they served were well cared for and happy in their stay. They were fun and always ready to help - actually a real plus.)

The beach fare, once we got it, was fine. We had the very first one #401 - step off the porch onto the beach, an unobstructed view across the lagoon, over the reef, to Tahiti across the way. It was spacious and clean. My only complaint would be the decorative wood extension at the top of the cabinet behind the bed that separated the living/sleeping quarters from the bathroom and shower behind it. The back side contained drawers, the coffee maker and cabinets. It was very useful. However, at the top was an extension that protruded a couple or three inches or so above eye level (i'm about six feet tall) so you simply didn't see it as you moved forward to use the drawers, cabinets, coffee maker, pick up your loose change, whatever.

After hitting your forehead on it a couple times, you will of course learn to duck or reach farther than you're used to reaching when you use it, but hopefully, having read this, you can avoid all that in the first place. (It's an example imo of people designing something without actually going through the experience of using it - walking through the steps and thinking it through - what if the user of this is actually 6 feet tall instead of 5'6" or less? It's like when the paper towel dispenser is hung up at head height in a bathroom, meaning that most customers have to reach up with wet hands to get a towel - while the water runs down your arms....)

Breakfast, as it was on Bora Bora, was a buffet - very nice - not made to order but you could order up an omelet and the choice was extensive. For us, anything we could want was there. The French tend to avoid over-sweetening and over-spicing foods so everything - from the yogurt - the local made in Tahiti yogurt was quite good - to deserts, it was all quite good.

The dinner buffet wasn't so great - nice selection of options but the food was - well, it was buffet food if that makes sense to you - it was made to be left awhile, selection trumping freshness. Anyway, there were other restaurants on the island and going to them provided a broader experience of Moorea anyway. [Note: the more upscale restaurants will send a car - cab - to your hotel to get you and to return you after dinner. Not all will go all the way to the Sofitel - some other resorts are more centrally located.]

We used the concierge services to rent a car and found that very satisfactory. The AVIS operation is quite near the ferry boat dock - we opted - based on trip advisor customer reviews - to take the fast ferry over from Papaete rather than flying and found it well worth the slight extra cost (we bought air passes for our trip and could have used our air passes to fly over at no extra cost). Arriving at Moorea from the sea is a magnificent sight. The Sofitel is just up the coast a bit from the dock and the car rental is right there.

Driving around the island takes about an hour and is a beautiful trip. And no one should miss getting up to the Belvedere lookout - magnificent. We had a marvelous lunch at the Snack Mahana at our travel agent's (Laurel's) recommendation - in the yard behind the restaurant just at the edge of the very short beach and the water. We had planned to go on an excursion while there but the weather didn't cooperate - the islands, which had been seriously short on rain, got about a week's worth of showers and thunderstorms courtesy of a late season hurricane (guess that would be a typhoon in the Southern Hemisphere but it's the same thing) off New Zealand. We instead visited our travel agent and her famous husband who is the only tattoo artist in the Society Islands who still does tattoos the old, traditional way. The Samuelas have a lovely large bungalow they rent out and it was also a way to see more of the island. In any event, the guest services desk was very helpful throughout our stay.

So - the room (once we actually got it) was comfortable, the bed was fine, the beach was excellent, there's a Padi Dive operation that was actually quite near our fare, there's a spa - and if it's like the one at the sister property on Bora Bora which we actually made use of it's in all likelihood quite nice. The staff is warm and friendly. The room - while not serviced until rather late in the afternoon - was clean and well cared for.

Internet access was by paid-for time card; machines provided, costly and could be somewhat intermittent.

Now, here's the question - would we book here on a future trip? It's not a bad choice - especially if you want to be on the beach or over the water without a view that is blocked at least in part by a pier and OTWs out there. For the criteria we applied to our search, the La Ora Beach Sofitel filled the bill just fine. On our next trip - especially if Moorea was not our final destination (meaning we can't conceive of returning to French Polynesia without ending our visit with a stay at the Vahine Island Private Island Resort, Taha'a -- nor can we conceive of NOT returning to Tahiti etc. as soon and as often as possible), i really think it is more likely that we would choose a garden bungalow at a more centrally located property - perhaps the Hilton or the Pearl resort.

The Sofitel was nice (once we got past the bait and switch greeting tactic) - the view was great - the staff was quite good - if you go there you will enjoy it - not a doubt in my mind. It all depends on what you want. If you do go, i would recommend renting a car - the little Ford product we had was small but big enough; it was peppy, the steering was tight - it was actually fun to drive and the drive around the island - past the stray dogs, the zillion or so roosters and chickens and the one stray pig we saw - was easy and the sight-seeing is great - beautiful island.

i guess the answer is to visit a number of times and work your way around the resorts yourself. The luxury beach bungalow at the Sofitel is very nice and the view is as advertised! Can't imagine NOT liking a stay here but note the comments above

Room Tip: Lux Beach Bung. is a great choice
  • Stayed: May 2011, travelled as a couple
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4  Thank barry a
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 1 June 2011

We stayed 2 nights at the Sofitel on Moorea after an 11 night cruise with Paul Gauguin.

We did have to wait a bit for check-in, but not bad & we had use of any resort facilities during that time. We had lunch & then were able to get into our room.

We had a garden bungelow. The couple we travelled with had an over the water. Both rooms were beautifully appointed & this gave us the best of both worlds.

Our shower was large and had a great glass door wall to a small garden space. I wish there had been screens on the windows so we could have enjoyed the fresh air instead of the air conditioning. The bungelows are staggered so that everyone has an ocean view, but we really could not enjoy our porch due to biting bugs. This was not a problem on the deck of the over the water.

Initially we did not have all the towel sizes, but this was fixed as soon as we talked to reception.

The snorkeling here was the best we experienced on our entire trip! Lots of great fish in a beautiful setting.

The rooms came with breakfast. The dinner buffet was expensive, but you can order from the menu & control your costs. The pizzas, hamburgers, and quiche are all good & more reasonably priced. Make sure you have the croissants at breakfast!! For some reason, the rest of the bread products are not good. The rooms have refrigerators. If you come by ferry, there is a grocery store about a block to the left as you face the main road. You can stock up on water, snacks, & wine to save by creating your own happy hour! I suggest having the taxi stop there prior to taking you to the hotel. We walked back which is about 2.5 km one way.

We had to vacate the room by noon, but again had full use of the resort until it was time to catch the ferry. There are 2 outdoor showers at the dive shop & 2 nice individual shower rooms in reception. This allowed us to snorkel until 2 pm.

Learn some basic French. It is the language of choice on the islands so if you don't want to be the ugly American make an effort.

Room Tip: #203 over the water = great view!
  • Stayed: May 2011, travelled as a couple
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Thank 2togoNebraska
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 29 May 2011

Moorea is a beautiful place, with some great places to see and things to do. This hotel is well located and the staff are friendly and helpful. Only negative is the food price.

  • Stayed: May 2011
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Thank PeterBarras
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 12 May 2011

We stayed at the Sofitel Moorea the week of April 13th to April 17th before departing over to Bora Bora. We stayed in a Luxury over the water Bungalow. The rooms were very spacious and nice - exactly what the pictures and the descriptions were on the resorts webpage.

The room itself was nice, had a king sized bed, separate closet for you to hang your clothes in along with a safe to keep your personal belongings in. The bed itself had a mosquito net around it which I thought personally was for decoration but my husband begs to differ for the following reason. The windows are covered with wood shades that you can crack open for fresh air, but the problem is that the windows do not have any screens or glass on them. So when you crack the shades open, your opening up your room to the fresh air along with all the bugs that are outside your room. What we did notice was that the rooms that are a category lower that ours actually had glass over their windows - didn't quite understand that. We had the air conditioning cranked up all the way and had to make sure that the wood shades were closed at all times in order to avoid losing the coolness of our room - which frankly was never an issue. The rooms overall were very nice, but if we revisited again, we may stay in a category lower or possibly in a beach bungalow since we have experienced the over the water bungalow once already.

We loved the fact that we had our own private deck where we could sunbathe and swim instead of going to the beach all the time. We were able to snorkel off the room where there were lots of beautiful fish all the time. There were even sting rays in the area - so beware if you go in the water off your room or at the beach itself that they are around.

The spa was very nice, we both went and got massages, which were quite comparable to other resorts we have stayed at before. We had breakfast included daily in our stay which was the standard American breakfast, fresh omelet’s, fruit, cereal, breads, etc. The chocolate croissants are to die for! We only ate dinner once at the resort, which was very overpriced. You can get great quality food out of the resort for less money, most restaurants offer free pickup as well. Ask the excursion desk for recommendations of restaurants, they were always very friendly!

Overall our stay in Moorea at the Sofitel was exactly what we wanted. We wish we would have stayed in Moorea a bit longer as it had so much more to offer than Bora Bora. Being able to explore outside the resort and try the local cuisine was everything that we could have asked for.

During our stay at this hotel, we also rented a car through Avis (they pick you up at the hotel). It’s cheaper to rent a car on your own for 5 hours than to get a taxi to come pick you up. We rented a car for half a day, drove around the complete island (I think it was 40 miles all the way around?) and were able to stop and see the scenery, the sunset, etc. The cost was around $90.00 (USD) for 5 hours.

One thing I will make note of, make sure you have some basic French speaking skills. Mostly everyone on the island speaks French (along with English too) but it helps if you know a little bit more of the island language to help you get around, etc.

Also, apparently it’s not customary to tip at restaurants, etc. They don't expect it, which we learned from someone while on our trip. We talked to others as well who said the same, just something to keep in mind when visiting the island.

FYI... we got an internet card to contact those at home and the rates are incredibly high. Its approximately $11.00 (USD) for an hour and the internet is constantly down on the whole island. If you plan to bring your laptop for internet - be aware of the high rates.

Great trip - great resort. Would definitely stay here again! (Miss it already!)

  • Stayed: April 2011, travelled as a couple
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4  Thank jenny311_chicago
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 30 April 2011

We stayed here for 6 nights for our recent honeymoon and were so sad to go home, I had to actually hold back tears! We had room 216 - would highly recommend this, or 217 or 218, all of which are at the end of the overwater bungalow pier with uninterrupted views straight into the lagoon and views over to the main island of Tahiti. The rooms are huge, the beds so comfy and the views sublime. We lazed about a lot just looking out over the lagoon. It's so beautiful, you can hardly believe your eyes.
We got a honeymoon package and were upgraded (I requested 216 after reading about it on TripAdvisor and voila, we got it, even though I think we paid for a less expensive overwater bungalow). We also got champagne in the room, a couples' massage and various other little gifts plus free breakfast every day. The lagoon is unbelievable. You have to see it to believe it ... we dunked ourselves in many times a day and just couldn't get enough of that warm, crystal clear water and amazing marine life.

K Restaurant is the 'posho' eatery at the resort and the food is beautiful but portions are small. Vue Bar - gorgeous place to hang out especially at night on the balcony. The staff here are lovely and although the bar menu is limited, portions are huge and could easily feed two people. Pure Restaurant - same deal. Big portions. The buffets are on every night and cost around $70 per person. We talked to another couple who had full board but said that they wouldn't have paid for the buffet otherwise. Lobster was out of season so the seafood buffet (that we did pay for) was a big disappointment, except for one very excellent prawn coconut curry. Pool was nice but didn't go in it once (why would you when there's the lagoon!) The day spa is what you'd expect, beautifully decked out, lovely relaxing vibe and friendly beauticians but very expensive - around $140 for an hour's massage is more than I'd pay in Sydney (and to be honest it wasn't AMAZING as you'd expect it to be. Still.)

Things to know:
- It's good to have some French. We spoke mostly in French and it was fun to practice(God knows I needed to, hubby's is pretty good so he saved me most times!) We found it was much easier; the staff were great either way but they definitely appreciated it if you tried to speak in French (a Polynesian greeting doesn't go astray either). Desk staff are happy to speak in English or French though and were extremely helpful to us especially Vanessa.
- It's not a particularly kid-friendly place. Sure, people brought kids and there were a couple of babies in the overwater bungalows, but you didn't feel it was really the 'done thing' here. The Hilton and Moorea Pearl Resort are far more family friendly, Sofitel has more of a honeymooners' vibe. And while the staff are lovely, other guests really keep to themselves. Being on our honeymoon we didn't want to be bothered at all (or meet people) but found Hilton/Pearl resorts had a much friendlier vibe amongst guests.
- Scooters cost around $50 a day to hire (petrol about $8/tank) from Rent A Bike, JuJu is the woman to talk to and she's great. You can zip round the island in around 1.5-2 hours. Belvedere lookout is a must (save some grunt to get you up the last stretch which is quite steep!).
- For all drinks and food, especially in the resorts or nicer restaurants on the island, expect to pay at least if not more than you would pay in Australia. A beer, a coke and two mains at the bar will set you back around AUD $50; dinner can easily be $150-200 if you have a bottle of wine - which is quite a shock when you get your hotel expenses at the end of the trip. So be warned!
- Internet here worked intermittently and again, you have to pay and it's quite expensive - about AUD $30 for 3 hours. It's pretty unreliable but we could get a signal in our bungalow at times and for a quick email check it was fine.

Ultimately, we felt the pluses of this place outweighed its drawbacks or annoyances. The bungalow was beautiful, the whole trip was so relaxing and just everything we wanted in a honeymoon. Just make sure you have the $$$ set aside for expenses!

Room Tip: Ask for a bungalow not facing other bungalows!
  • Stayed: April 2011, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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4  Thank SydneyGal37
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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