There’s a certain comforting familiarity that comes with hospitality brand names.
I was recently traveling in French Polynesia, a destination I’m pretty familiar with, and the day had turned into a bit of a schlep. Even when travelers are well informed about the geography of their travels, there’s always that thin underlying pulse of anxiety, primarily because of the remaining unknowns—will there be traffic? Will my reservation for a car space on the ferry be honored? (It wasn’t.) Will my room be ready?
With Hilton, many of the unknowns are known. Bedding and linens will be brand standard, as will bath amenities. There will be in-room coffee, and it will be drip coffee or an espresso pod (similar to Europe, many hotels in French Polynesia provide instant coffee in response prevailing guest preference).
From the aerial photos, it looks as though the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa is one of those sprawling megaresorts taking up residence over a vast acreage, but it turned out instead to be a pleasantly intimate affair. Reception, a pair of retail shops, restaurant, bar and spa are all clustered in the main buildings next to the pool, while the rest of the acreage is given over to bungalow-style accommodations nestled into mature plumeria trees abundant with blooms.
Guests have a choice of garden, beach or overwater bungalows. Garden bungalows have private outdoor plunge pools and expansive outdoor sitting areas. Inside the Hilton-standard comforts abound. Refreshments ranging from soft drinks and candy to local Hinano Beer in the minibar are included in the rate and replenished daily upon request.
Breakfasts are served buffet-style in Arii Vahine Restaurant, with views of the turquoise lagoon dotted with overwater bungalows. There’s an overwhelming assortment of pastries, hot egg entrees, fruit, cold cuts and an omelet station. For dinner, guests can dine in the restaurant or on the terrace, where the menu is international and on the affordable side for fine dining on Moorea. Highlights included a fresh exotic fruit salad with passion fruit vinaigrette and apple tart with a marvelously mealy crust.
Beachside lunches can be had at Rotui Grill and Bar with an international menu ranging from traditional entrees like Poisson cru to pizzas, pasta, sandwiches, salads and burgers. For a lighter option at dinner, Toatea Creperie and Bar is out on the overwater pontoon among the bungalows. In-room materials noted reservations were required but the place seemed to accommodate walk-ins easily. Sweet or savory crepes are generously portioned and range from classic to inventively contemporary.
The resort is located on the head of butterfly-shaped Moorea, between Cook’s Bay and ‘Opunohu Bay, convenient to the Le Belvedere lookout and some of the island’s best coastal vistas. It’s also next door to one of the island’s only public beach parks (which are uncommon in French Polynesia), where tall palms tower over manicured lawns.
When not shopping for pearls at Robert Wan, which has a wider selection of higher grade pearls than many other pearl shops on the island, or browsing through the minute sundry shop, guests can take a dip in the pool, relax on a shaded beach chair, or check out snorkel equipment to explore the reefs just steps into the lagoon. Guests interested in cultural demonstrations need to go no further than the pool area on weekday mornings, where they’re presented compliments of the resort.
Guests wishing to venture outside the resort can visit the activity desk in the reception area where a wide variety of options are available for half and whole day, including private and shared catamaran excursions, PADI diving, sea life watching excursions, island tours, car rentals for as little as a few hours and more.
The guest profile is international; Americans appeared to make up the majority during our late November visit. There was a not surprising number of traveling families as the resort facilities and staff seemed well-equipped to accommodate travelers with children of all ages.
Well-located with friendly staff and large, comfortable guest rooms, this charming resort effortlessly combines Hilton’s brand standards with the personable hospitality of Polynesia and 360-degree views of Moorea as an enviable showpiece.
I’ve seen low season rates from around $370 per night plus tax; rates can double during the high season.
Shots of the overwater bungalows with early morning light from breakfast at Arii Vahine will get engagement.
Good To Know
Guests who plan to stay on-property for most of their time can book transfers from the ferry terminal or airport via the hotel activity desk.
Guests who prefer to rent cars on Tahiti and arrive via ferry, or rent on Moorea at the ferry terminal or airport will find plenty of free parking.
On theme nights, Arii Vahine dispenses with the a la carte menu in favor of a set price buffet and show.
Eimeo Bar has a 2-for-1 happy hour each evening; drinks needn’t be ordered together to get the discount.
The hotel has planned renovations during the 1st Quarter of 2020; contact the property directly for details.
Accommodations were furnished by Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa in preparation for this story.
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