Swimming with Sharks and Sting Rays in Moorea, Tahiti

Mo’orea is a simply stunning French Polynesian island… it’s literally the stuff movies are made of (wait, I think a few movies were filmed there, actually). In fact, some say it’s the most beautiful island you’ve never heard of. We visited Moorea with kids for a week without a planned itinerary. We found ourselves swimming with sharks of all sorts, snorkeling with massive stingrays, and experiencing as much of the island as we could with our two young boys.

Swimming with sharks and stingrays in Mo'orea tahiti with the kids

Getting to Mo’orea

We’ve been to Fiji, and we fell in love with the South Pacific. For our next tropical vacation, we decided to take a family trip to a different setup of islands and chose French Polynesia. We visited both Tahiti and Mo’orea with our kids and loved it.

We took the red-eye from LAX on a 9-hour flight.  I’d heard since you do fly over the equator, the flight is more bumpy as humidity is highest causing more turbulent weather possibilities. So be sure to prepare for that if you’re a “nervous Nelly” flyer like I am.

That said, it was a smooth flight into Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia on the big island of Tahiti.  We then took a ferry 10 miles to the island of Mo’orea.

Upon arrival, we realized we had arrived in paradise.  The cool breeze and turquoise water surrounded by gorgeous green cliffs, felt as though we had stepped into a movie.

Moorea has eight mountain peaks rising from the turquoise lagoon, and the striking scenery inspired the mythical Bali Hai in the movie The South Pacific.

When we walked into the Manarva Resort and Spa and were shown to our incredible overwater bungalow, we couldn’t get into our bathing suits on fast enough.

We dove off our private deck to swim and snorkel with the most beautiful marine life, and practically spent the whole week in the water.

family fun in Moorea tahiti with kids

The island is a popular honeymoon destination and was full of adorable newlyweds de-stressing from their weddings. I’d be lying if I didn’t catch the beautiful brides once in a while gazing longingly at our boys.

We spent a day swimming and snorkeling with sharks and sting rays (totally normal to put your seven-year-old in water with sharks, right?!?).

I was the most apprehensive in the family, but after Hot Hubby and both boys jumped into the shark-infested water without any hesitation, I slowly lowered myself into the water. I didn’t want to miss out on this bucket list experience.  The black tip reef sharks and huge stingrays started circling us immediately.  It was amazing but also slightly unsettling, for me at least. The boys were loving it!

We were able to touch and pet the stingrays, and even hold out fish parts to hand-feed them.  They’re very comfortable with people and often bumped us, and no matter how many times it happened, I still jolted every time I felt something slimy on my legs.

At one point I was swimming with my face in the water holding Julian’s hand, and about seven reef sharks swam towards us and just sort of parted and swam around us…. I was hyperventilating and happy they didn’t decide to nibble on Julian.

Rum punch takes the edge off after swimming with sharks
A little rum punch takes the edge off after swimming with sharks

I’d strongly recommend a lagoon tour and snorkeling with sharks and stingrays when you visit Moorea with kids. It’s safe, fun, and one of the most heart-thumping experiences ever. (If that’s your cup of tea).

Alternatively, if you’re a certified scuba diver like Hot Hubby, you can experience swimming through a school of 15 or 20 lemon sharks. He signed up for a 2-dive scuba program from our hotel and found himself surrounded by a school of lemon sharks that were just out of hands reach. Unlike the smaller black-tip reef sharks that swam around us in the shallows, lemon sharks can reach 14 or 16 feet and have big teeth, so this isn’t for the faint of heart. But the experience of swimming in a school of scary-looking sharks at around 35 feet off the island’s barrier reef was incredible (according to him).

Visiting Moorea: It’s Pricey!

In the spirit of full disclosure, Moorea is not a budget destination. French Polynesia is nothing like Fiji when it comes to affordability. Everything is expensive on Tahiti, and even more expensive on the small island of Moorea. Be prepared for some sticker shock!

Accommodations are expensive and grocery stores are overpriced and have limited options. Restaurants are outrageously expensive (think $20+ USD for a kid’s meal of grilled cheese and a glass of milk). Beer and wine are insanely expensive ($15 for a small glass of house beer). And public transportation is practically non-existent.

We would fill up with the buffet breakfast that was included in our hotel and try to last the entire day on the banana and granola that we were able to sneak out.

Hot Hubby was able to not let the crazy prices bother him or intrude on his vacation, and I’m trying to do that more, too.  I’m just super value-conscious, and had a hard time relaxing and not looking at the $15 beers and $20 milkshakes at dinner!

Watching the sunset with kids on Moorea

Moorea with Kids: Hidden Gems and Insider Secrets

Moorea is a gem in the crown of the South Pacific and a playground for families with kids. The island’s turquoise waters and luxury overwater bungalows were amazing, but the high prices made us look for some free or inexpensive activities. Aside from snorkeling, swimming with sharks, ocean kayaking around the bungalows, and sunbathing all day, of course!

1. Magical Pineapple Plantations

Who knew pineapples could be magical? In Moorea, they are. In the island’s interior, you’ll find vast pineapple plantations that are enchanting. The kids will love learning about how pineapples grow. Spoiler alert: they don’t grow on trees!

2. The Belvedere Lookout Adventure

Pack a picnic and head up to the Belvedere Lookout. The drive itself is an adventure, winding through lush forests with the promise of something spectacular at the end. And it delivers — the view from the top is a jaw-dropping panorama of Moorea’s mountains and twin bays, Cook and Opunohu, and over the stunning Opunohu Valley. This spot starred in “Return of the Bounty.”

Belvedere Lookout, Moorea
Belvedere Lookout, Moorea

3. Secret Waterfalls Hike

Ask a local about the Afareaitu Waterfalls, and watch their face light up. These hidden Moorean waterfalls are a bit of a trek to get to, but are fantastic to experience. Imagine plunging into a natural pool as clear as glass, surrounded by the sounds of the jungle.

4. The Coconut Trail

Lastly, for families who love a good treasure hunt, the Coconut Trail offers an off-the-beaten-path adventure that’s both challenging and rewarding. It’s not just a walk; it’s a journey through Moorea’s lush landscapes, with coconut palms overhead and the promise of secluded spots no guidebook will tell you about.

Exploring Moorea with kids is an adventure in every sense of the word. It’s more than just swimming with sharks, rays and sea creatures. It’s about finding those special places that aren’t in every travel brochure — the spots that make you feel like an insider on this magical, and beautiful island.

Make some family memories on Moorea with your kids!

Have you ever been swimming with sharks?  Would you do it with your children?

Let me know in the comments below!

About The Author

Samantha

I’m a travel and health writer, digital brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising an active family, life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.

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