While Tahiti and Bora Bora may get most of the attention in French Polynesia, more and more LGBTQ+ honeymooners are discovering beautiful, relaxed Moorea, located roughly seven miles west of the island of Tahiti. Getting to Moorea is fairly easy, given its close proximity. International flights land on Tahiti in the capital city of Papeete. From there, a short taxi ride will take you to the ferry dock, where two companies provide modern, high-speed ferry service across the ocean to Moorea’s eastern shore. The pleasant ride takes about 30 minutes and costs $15 per person each way.

French Polynesia is very welcoming to LGBTQ+ travelers, making it an ideal tropical honeymoon destination. The culture here has a history of acceptance, and has long embraced a third gender called Māhū, a description for males who were raised as females. Today, the term is more inclusive of a variety of different identities. On our recent honeymoon, we were warmly welcomed all over, and never once felt awkward — or anything but accepted and seen.

From a geographical perspective, Moorea has a distinctly Kauai-like vibe, with lush green folded mountains towering over stunning valleys. The northern portion of the island, which is where most locals live and where tourist facilities are located, features two beautiful bays that slice into the island’s interior. The easternmost bay is called Cook’s Bay (or Paopao Bay), while Ōpūnohu Bay is located a couple of miles further west. Moorea’s main road runs the entire circumference of the island, and hugs both bays, providing incredible views at every turn.

There are a variety of resorts and price points here; the higher end hotels are the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa and Sofitel Kia Ora Moorea Beach Resort. Both feature the iconic overwater bungalows, an item on many honeymooners’ must-have lists. However, more budget-minded travelers can still enjoy a comfortable stay in one of the island’s many guesthouses, which feature an intimate, local vibe.

Let’s eat local

A great introduction to the region’s fascinating cuisine is on one of the excellent local food tours provided by Tahiti Food Tours. Whether as part of a group or on a private tour, you’ll be shuttled to wonderful local food vendors and restaurants by owner and guide Heimata Hall. The island features an interesting fusion of Tahitian, Chinese, and French cuisines, and you’ll fall in love with the eclectic local food scene.

We started with fresh fruits including pineapple and crunchy mango, both topped with a dried prune powder. In fact, we loved the powder so much that we bought packets of it at a local grocery store to bring back home with us. At Golden Lake, we stopped for casse croute chow mein — a French baguette with chow mein noodles and a Chinese BBQ sauce. Sure, it’s carbs on carbs, but it was delightful and very unique! We loved everything we tried with Heimata, including the national dish — poisson cru au lait de coco — or raw fish in coconut milk. We tried chicken dumplings in mustard at a roadside stand at the tip of Cook’s Bay and marveled at the world-class scenery around this little gem. And at Moe’s café, we tried Chinese tuna tartare with avocado, crispy wonton, sweet potato, and coconut milk.

Discover the island’s interior — and exterior

Other great day tour options are available from the fun and personable Maui, who runs Corallina Tours. On rainy days, he’ll take you to explore the island’s interior, where you’ll visit incredible lookout points such as Belvedere, and drive through pineapple and banana farms. He explains the culture and challenges faced by his home island, and his passion for the place easily rubs off. Maui took us to see a small vanilla farm, where the famous Tahitian vanilla beans are grown, and we visited a distillery and local jam maker, as well — more food souvenirs to bring back!

When the weather’s sunnier, book one of Maui’s water tours, where you’ll see highlights of Moorea’s incredible lagoon, which forms the northern exterior of the island. The water is cast in simply unbelievable shades of green and blue. You’ll be able to swim with sharks and rays, as well as snorkel among the coral gardens, with colorful fish all around you. From July through October, Corallina is one of the few companies in the world that allows people to snorkel with humpback whales, generally right outside the reef. Of course, the handful of operators allowed to do this respect the humpbacks through the way the boats and swimmers approach them. Often times, visitors are able to see both mother and calf swimming together, an experience that honeymooners can’t experience anywhere else in the world.