We are still in French Polynesia as I write these few pages. We’ve been keeping this travel/photography blog with Melanie for more than three years now, and the passion is still here. As we explained it recently, we have started to test various and diverse accommodations for about a year now, here on the Polynesian territory. In the continuity of the other articles about Maitai Bora Bora or Taha’a Island Resort, we agreed to spend a small weekend on Tahiti’s sister island, Moorea, in the Manava Beach Resort and Spa.
As we always say, more and more of you are asking for our personal opinion on various mid-range and high-end accommodations. The idea of being able to test a range of varied accommodations in French Polynesia seemed obvious. What could be better to advise or privilege an accommodation rather than another one than to test it ourselves?
It must be said that this “Covid19 year” honestly was really particular and we finally did not leave French Polynesia that much. This weekend in the Manava of Moorea comes at the right time. While the French, in mainland France, are still in the phase of a second confinement, we are lucky here not to suffer the same treatment. Only the curfew applies here, phew.
For those of you visiting Tahiti Island, I recommend you read our detailed review of our weekend spent at the Manava of Tahiti, a very nice accommodation to spend a few days in such a beautiful location.
At the end of this article, we also give you some recommended activities to do if you are in the area.
As always mentioned, this article about our weekend there is done in partnership with the hotel. Nevertheless, it obviously won’t impact on what we think and the opinion we give you about it is completely honest. We remain entirely in control of everything written on this blog and if the experience had been bad, you would have obviously known it.
We arrive in a rather particular context, in the midst of the Covid crisis and, above all, at the beginning of the rainy season. We already had to postpone our weekend because of it, we then cross our fingers to have good weather, which will finally widely be the case during our two days on the spot – it’s great!
Finally, the article will obviously be less complete compared to our other accommodation tests, simply because we already know very well the island of Moorea and we will rather take advantage of this weekend to rest, have a good family time and relax. No activities planned! It’s also good to simply relax from time to time, isn’t it? Let’s go, I’ll tell you about our weekend and how we felt about our stay in the Manava of Moorea.
Knowing that we have been living in Tahiti for 5 years now, we simply jumped on the boat in the late afternoon on a Friday, like many locals wishing to flee Tahiti for a weekend in Moorea. We rightly appreciate the trip with the Aremiti, one of the two companies serving the island of Moorea. We have a very beautiful weather at the end of the afternoon, which is really appreciated. Even if it gets very cloudy when we arrive in Moorea, we are lucky enough to be able to see some whales jumping in the distance. It is always a treat! It is the end of the season (end of November), but there are still some around.
We arrive in Moorea under heavy rain with the car. Damn. But as very often in tropical islands, it is only the interior of the island that is overcast. Some 15 minutes-drive in the rain and we arrive dry at the Manava Beach Resort & Spa. I have to say that I had quite good feedback about this beachfront hotel from friends and local acquaintances who are used to go there from time to time, especially in the famous villas with private pools on the garden side.
At the hotel, we are warmly welcomed in a large wooden hall rather nice. The aquarium behind the entrance counter is pretty cool! It sets the atmosphere. Moreover, while speaking about the famous garden villas with swimming pool, we had asked the hotel if we could possibly test two types of accommodation. With their agreement, we are then going to spend one night in a villa with private swimming pool and another night in an over-water bungalow, great, isn’t it? The idea is to be able to give you our opinion on both types of accommodations!
We collect the keys, and a member of the staff leads us to our villa. To arrive there, we walk through a splendid alley in a beautiful tropical vegetation. We discover a very large bungalow of almost 50m2, out of wood and decorated in a very sober Polynesian style. We are surprised not to see some flowers laid here and there as in other hotels, but the setting of the bungalow remains very beautiful. The whole is essentially composed of wood and we feel very well there. We even had small chocolates as a gift, Louis treats himself!
The bungalow is composed of a King Size bed, very comfortable, a single bed for Louis as well as the baby bed which was gracefully put at our request for our little one. Regarding the equipment, the essential is of course there with the A/C for those who like it, a mini bar, a safe, a flat screen, free Wi-Fi, a hair dryer, etc… But the nicest part of the bungalow is obviously the secluded terrace. If opening the bay window, you see a beautiful small private swimming pool. I say “small pool” because it is not big, but you don’t need more.
The swimming pool and the garden area around it are really well maintained, and it’s such a heavenly environment. It has something “cozy”, as they say. We will give you our opinion about it at the end, but it clearly is a small villa perfect to enjoy a relaxing moment as a couple or as a family, in complete privacy. We take advantage of a break through the clouds in the late afternoon to quietly bask in this beautiful setting. We are just perfectly happy in our small cocoon with our family.
After a good bath and hot shower (yes, it is not so warm), we go around the hotel pool for the end of the afternoon – grandiose I must say. The idea was to appreciate a few moments in peace, a good Happy Hours and of course some cocktails. The setting around the swimming pool is really well designed. The swimming pool is huge and we will take a great pleasure all the weekend to swim in this big infinity pool offering a beautiful sea view and on the over-water bungalows. In any case, we take advantage of this good moment to relax and visit the wooded areas of the hotel, offering moreover very breathtaking views on the rocky summits in background.
After these few good cocktails enjoyed during Happy Hours, we went to eat at the hotel’s restaurant. I have to admit that the service was impeccable and we had a very good dinner with exquisite food. It was a hearty and fine cuisine, perfectly in our liking. Melanie had ordered Mahi Mahi and I chose a prime rib. There aren’t many people at the hotel, which is obvious with the Covid and the curfew. We meet some Americans who managed to come here as well as some locals who came to spend the weekend. A very nice atmosphere in the evening by the poolside. We feast, rest, and that feels so good.
Before telling you about our Saturday, I wanted to give you some interesting information about the hotel. It has a total of 90 “rooms and suites”, in the broadest sense of the word since they are divided into 7 categories. Here is in a few words what to remember about each one:
- The garden view bedroom (44m2): this is the simplest and cheapest room the hotel offers, with a king size bed, a bathroom with shower and a balcony with a garden view. 3 persons maximum,
- The duplex room with garden view (59m2): this is an ideal choice for those with a family since the room can accommodate 4 people (1 king size bed on the mezzanine and two single beds for children), with a balcony and garden view,
- The garden bungalow with private pool (48m2): this is where we spent our first night. A very beautiful environment with garden, relaxation area with deckchairs and private pool. 3 persons maximum or 2 adults + 2 children. For us the best choice for a couple with a child for example,
- The beach bungalow (44m2): a very good choice for a couple (with or without children) to spend the night in a beautiful setting with terrace and view on the beach and the lagoon below. 3 persons maximum or 2 adults + 2 children,
- The over-water bungalow (48m2): this is the standard over-water bungalow offering a view over the beach and resort. Considering the small price difference with the premiums, I recommend switching to the latter (and then avoiding the opposite),
- The premium over-water bungalow (48m2): we spent our second night here in this beautiful bungalow with a nice view on the lagoon and the drop off below. It’s the luxurious room of the hotel. For both over-water bungalows, capacity is the same: 3 persons or 2 adults + 2 children.
- The duplex with garden view and kitchenette (59m2): a large room on the second floor of the main building with a mezzanine and a kitchenette, perfect to be autonomous as it’s very well furnished. Maximum of 3 persons or 2 adults + 2 children.
Regarding food and beverage, the hotel has two restaurants located near the beautiful pool, as well as a bar. On the two evening we stayed, we always ate very well at the hotel. I will tell you more about it below, but we could even dine at the Saturday evening buffet, which was really complete, varied and very tasty for our taste. You can also organize a romantic dinner under the stars or even enjoy a “romantic champagne” aperitif, ideal for couples in honeymoon who want their privacy.
Breakfasts are correct, complete, but the only downside for us may be a lack of choice. Despite the quite long queue (in our opinion), omelettes were really good.
To get back to the hotel itself, it has a very nice private beach on the left (when you’re facing the sea) where you can benefit from the deckchairs and unwind on the white sand beach.
About services and activities, the hotel features a SPA, which we have not personally tested, but we have heard good things about it. It also provides free snorkeling equipment to discover the marine life, kayak, canoes and paddle boards. This is a great way to relax off the over-water bungalows, on the lagoon’s beautiful turquoise waters. You can check all the activities on the hotel website.
Of course, the hotel also offers a whole range of paid activities such as Jet Ski, a coral grafting workshop (we’ve tried it on Sunday and it’s very interesting), 4WD or horseback riding tours of the island , golf, scuba diving, etc. It’s up to you to choose whether you want to organize your activities through the hotel or not. As mentioned at the beginning of the article, we opted for a relaxing weekend. We are not on vacations, as we’re living here at the moment. We really just wanted to relax, and our only activity of the weekend consisted in experimenting with coral grafting (and that’s saying something!).
Let’s go back to our little summary of the weekend. After an excellent night in our garden bungalow with private pool, we leave for breakfast early in the morning. The weather is nice at 6 am and we take advantage of the fact that there are not so many people to go around the hotel, and especially enjoy the very beautiful beach on the left. The water is crystal clear, and the area leads us dreaming. It could be worse!
We decide to go early in the morning to the very large infinity pool in order to bask and relax ourselves. There are only few people and the calm reigning is truly pleasant. How could we better start the day? The pool area is rather well thought out, with a lot of deckchairs and big parasols at disposal, especially useful when you have a baby. Our favorite place remains the one under the tree, located at the edge of the swimming pool, in the shade. We feel so good here!
After a good hour of relaxation, we tidy up our stuff because we are going to change room for our second (and last) night here at the hotel. We have the privilege to test the famous over water premium bungalows, the ones facing the open sea. We are eager to see it and, above all, it allows us to test and give you our opinion on two different ranges of rooms in the hotel.
As usual when we come to Moorea island, we are going to lunch at the famous Snack Mahana. We did not make any reservation, but the Covid saves us because there are finally only few people. We will spend two good hours here to enjoy in family this small unpretentious snack we love and where, in our opinion, we eat really very well – all in a very nice environment, at the edge of the water, feet in the sand and hair in the wind. Even if prices have slightly increased in the last few years, I recommend everyone to stop by for a break during a tour of the island. Normally, you would almost have to book in order to have a spot on the weekend.
We come back to the hotel to get the keys of our over-water premium bungalow. We discover our beautiful bungalow, in the same line as the room, even if the place seems bigger. Regarding the decoration, it remains in the same idea as in the rooms: something sober and simple. Here again, we would have loved to see some flowers of hibiscus and tiaré on the bed or furniture, but it is just our taste for colors! We find obviously, as in all over-water bungalows, our coffee table out of glass with sight on the bottom of the bungalow. Louis is always having fun with this !
We then discover the very beautiful terrace overlooking the lagoon in front, and on the beautiful turquoise water below. In reality, the premium bungalows are directly located on the edge of a rather deep drop off, which allows you to swim quietly. The terrace offers a direct access to the sea but also a very nice view on the mountains on our left side, which we will appreciate at its true value in the morning when we’ll get up!
We will spend the end of the day by the pool, enjoying the nice weather and sipping cocktails, feet in the water. I had warned you: we did not planned any great activity. The setting is always so nice. We regret nevertheless the people who came by the pool with their music…
We benefit from being present on Saturday evening to enjoy a large buffet before the dance show starts. The buffet is really good, complete and there is enough to enjoy yourself! I really loved the raw fish appetizers and the tasty fish brochettes, as well as the chicken fafa. We appreciate the small local dance show just in front of us since we are in the first row. A beautiful mix of costumes, dances, smiles and singing. We are used to it but it is still always a pleasure to see. We go to bed with the family not that late, because we get up early with a 6-months old baby, eh!
As planned from the beginning, we mostly came here at the Manava to rest. So, our Sunday will not be crazy, but we keep enjoying a good family time in a very beautiful environment, quite simply. After our breakfast in the morning, we have the chance to try the coral grafting, an activity proposed by the hotel to their clients, directly at the bottom of the bungalows.
The principle is really nice, since it is a simple recovering of broken corals pieces to transplant them later in endangered sites in the lagoon. It’s a “simple” way to make the coral grow back and to bring back the underwater fauna and flora in places where a new habitat will emerge.
We did the activity with Mathieu, is in charge of the cutting, and Mai’, who will take over the Happy Reef Society, a coral cutting company initially set up by a passionate and a lagoon guide, William. The principle of cutting is as follows: we find a piece of broken coral in the lagoon, we fix it on a support (usually a bamboo), either with glue or with a small piece of iron. After that, you will have to be patient and wait for the cutting to really take. It is placed on a cutting table until the cutting can be reintroduced into its natural environment. The Manava Beach Resort & Spa Moorea hotel obtained EarthCheck Benchmarked silver accreditation, following an audit of its sustainable development performance and management system. This marks the beginning of their transition to an eco-responsible policy and also guarantees their clients a commitment to sustainable development.
In short, we’re having a great time and it’s really a fun, playful and more importantly eco-responsible activity. We honestly rather do this than an hour of Jet-skiing on the lagoon. Some may say it’s a matter of taste!
We end our afternoon quietly, by the pool, dreaming in this idyllic setting.
This is now the end of our small trip to the Manava Beach Resort and Spa of Moorea. We hope that you liked the ride with us! It is a place that we can only recommend if you are looking for a weekend or a few days in quietness on the Moorea island. If we had to choose one room, I think it would be the garden bungalow with private pool, which was really nice, quiet and in a beautiful green setting.
Obviously, the goal of this article was not to give you a list of all the activities to do in the area (there would be too many), but I wanted to end this article by mentioning 3 activities that I think are really interesting to try in the area.
- Clear kayak tour in Moorea : You will dream about this trip for a long time. Explore the beauty of Moorea's lagoon and its crystal clear waters with a few hours of clear kayaking
- 4x4 Discovery Excursion of Moorea Island : We have done this trip several times with the guide. A very nice way to discover Moorea!
- Excursion in a traditional pirogue : Experience the beauty of Moorea's lagoon on a traditional boat trip. Much more interesting than a classic boat trip!
We leave you now with these few words and if you already know the hotel, do not hesitate to tell us what you think about it – it is always interesting to have other opinions! If you are tourists visiting French Polynesia, we invite you to read our opinion on the Raiatea Lodge, a superb accommodation we were able to test in September 2020, after its renovation. If you are passing through Raiatea Island, this is clearly the place we recommend.
See you soon,
Mélanie and Sylvain