Hotel Review: Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa, French Polynesia
The Hilton Moorea is a place that’s near and dear to our heart after our first visit in 2018 when we absolutely fell in love with the crystal clear waters and majestic location. While it may not be the most luxurious resort in French Polynesia, guests can expect genuine interactions with staff and a stunning backdrop for their vacations. Read on to learn more about what to expect!
Between the dramatic mountain, stunning sunsets and magnificent blue lagoon that stretches as far as the eye can see, the Hilton Moorea has one of, if not the best, locations in Moorea. Due to its spectacular location, you will see sunrises and sunsets each day from the overwater bungalows.
The hotel is located about 30 minutes from the port, costing you around 40-50 US dollars each way for a private transfer, or $30 for a shared transfer. Hilton does offer a few transfer options that cost the same as hiring a transfer yourself.
Due to the property being open for many years, there hasn’t been any construction overwater, allowing ample coral and sea life to flourish. There is so much to see right under the overwater bungalows and around the resort, including Moray Eels, fish, sharks and rays. Most of the tours in Moorea also leave directly from the hotel’s dock, making it a convenient jumping off point on the island.
Lobby & Check in experience: 3.5/5
We arrived to the property around 3pm and were able to check into our overwater bungalow promptly. The service at the front desk was excellent and the front desk agent was extremely kind and patient. Unfortunately, the Hilton has removed their bell services and a number of onsite services such as glassware for welcome beverages, but the hotel is truly doing everything it can to maintain the higher levels of standards that they used to have. We were served pineapple juice in our plastic cups, for which the agent was very apologetic for. The agent went through a very detailed explanation of the hotel’s amenities, facilities and tips for where to go and what to do.
Shortly after our check in, the security guard drove us to our overwater bungalow to enjoy our stay.
The Hilton Moorea offers a few different types of rooms on property: Garden rooms with pools, partial overwater bungalows facing out to the lagoon and overwater villas. They do also have a garden view room, but it seems to be primarily used as transit rooms. The garden rooms with pools will be the most private, but will not offer any exterior views. Many people split their stay between garden rooms with pools and then overwater bungalows. If you go this route, be sure to book the overwater for the second half of your trip :).
We were in an overwater bungalow with direct access to the beautiful lagoon. The room sits at about 650 square feet and features a king bed, sitting area, mini bar, large bathroom with a separate tub and an outdoor patio with a swim platform. The only truly private overwater bungalow will be the end caps, or Panoramic View bungalows.
The room is certainly dated, with large, heavy furniture inside that’s actually supposed to be outdoor furniture, and the outdoor furniture no longer has cushions, making it uncomfortable to lounge on for longer periods of time. While they did paint the furniture inside grey to “modernize” it, it was a bit like putting lipstick on a pig to be honest.
That being said, the room is very spacious and the complimentary mini bar is stocked daily with beer, water and soft drinks. There is a nespresso-esque machine that makes excellent coffee and pods are refilled daily (you can always ask for more without charge).
The bathroom has a wonderful oversized rain shower, standalone claw-foot tub and Crabtree & Evelyn products. There is a pass-through from the bathroom to the bedroom, but you can close a roller blind if you would like some privacy in the bathroom.
The access to the lagoon is excellent and most guests we saw spent all day lounging on their swim platforms and snorkeling around the lagoon. We took others’ leads and brought our chaise loungers down to the swim platform for the day to relax in the sun.
Overall, the rooms could use a big refresh to re-enter the luxury accommodation market, but they are comfortable, perfectly air-conditioned and quiet.
Overall, the staff at the Hilton were incredibly kind, authentic and hospitable. While the service lacks the refinement of a 5-star property, we believe a lot of this comes to some fairly severe understaffing at the hotel. Across the board, we saw maintenance people supporting the waitstaff and security guards acting as bellmen. The staff we engaged with were doing their absolute best to provide the best service they could to guests. We genuinely had very nice interactions with staff and most of them spoke perfect English. We did notice that, at times, people near or next to us had slightly different experiences: forgotten drinks, forgotten meals, etc so we do recognize that it can be quite hit or miss.
While tipping was something that was very expected on our last trip to the Hilton, it seemed this trip that what got you better service was just interacting with the staff and being nice to them. Simply saying thank you (ma ru ru) or goodbye (na na) in Tahitian meant the world to them and they suddenly couldn’t do more to help you. They would go above and beyond for guests they got along with, and we felt this many times over.
We also did receive a bottle of wine and some sweet treats in our room due to our Hilton Gold status. We felt this was a nice touch, made even better when I called to ask if they offered anything other than chardonnay. They sent me a rosé instead, which I felt was very nice of them. It’s become all too common for service to be rude and jaded when you ask for an alternative or simply ask a basic question and they could not have handled my request better.
They do no longer offer turndown service, which was a disappointing discovery since this was an amenity they had in the past. However, we do hope that once Hilton’s corporate policies get updated with the end of the pandemic that they will hire enough staff to support the demand.
Finally, they did offer a complimentary continental breakfast for early arrivals. On the days they had people checking in very early, they had set up a nice table of breakfast items outside the restaurant. It was a nice gesture for those arriving before check in time.
Overall, we really enjoyed the dining outlets at the Hilton, especially when ordering local dishes such as Poisson Cru (local raw fish, like a ceviche) or the grilled fish. We did find a lack of traditional dishes available, which did make the menu more limited when looking for 5 star dishes.
Arii Vahine is the breakfast restaurant on property. Hilton Gold and above does receive complimentary breakfast and it is a full spread of eggs, American dishes like pancakes, fruit, baked goods and some Asian options, like ramen. We found Hilton to have the best omlettes of any hotel we stayed at throughout our trip in French Polynesia and the breakfast was pretty consistent.
They also had some gluten free baked goods as well as a good selection of fruits and juices.
Rotui Bar & Grill
We tried the Rotui Bar & Grill on our last night at Hilton and we really enjoyed their local dishes. You can order from the Rotui menu or the Arii Vahine menu. They appear to have similar cuisine, just on two different menus and they give you both when you arrive.
The Poisson Cru is fantastic and the prices are fairly reasonable. Wine & beer is between 6-9 USD, which we felt was more than acceptable. We did not try any of the international cuisine and chose to stick with the Polynesian cuisine, which we have heard is significantly better and we are very glad we did.
Toatea Bar & Creperie
The creperie is our favorite place on property. Not only is the food very good, but the atmosphere is very exciting. There are sharks feeding on the small fish surrounding the restaurant thanks to the lights and grease that tends to fly off the grill. The savory and sweet crepes were excellent and we highly recommend trying it with a bottle of the dry hard cider.
The Hilton does have a happy hour at the bar from 5-6:30 every day and they offer a 2 for 1 deal. This is a great deal for cocktail drinkers as most cocktails are between 20-25 dollars.
One oddity we experienced was their refusal to provide tap water. Tap water on Moorea is entirely drinkable, in fact most of the servers drink the tap water and the ice is also from the tap. The explanation is “corporate policy” and we felt this was more of a way to just guarantee you spend the extra 4-6 dollars per bottle of water. If the hotel refuses to allow tap water for any reason (health or otherwise), it’s our professional opinion that they must offer complimentary water to guests.
Overall, the food is very good, particularly when you stick to the local cuisine. We do hope they incorporate more of the delicious Polynesian food that we love so much into their menus when we return.
The property has complimentary snorkels, paddle boards and kayaks. Guests can pick up snorkels and fins at the start of their trip and drop them off at the end, which is particularly fun when you stay in an overwater bungalow and can snorkel straight off your deck.
They also offer a scuba center next door to the hotel, near the pier, as well as a number of motorized activities for a charge, such as jetskis. We saw a lot of guests exploring the perfectly flat lagoon via jetski.
Many of the tours in Moorea depart from the dock at the Hilton, making the Hilton a very convenient location to explore the island from.
There is a spa on property, but the menu is extremely limited at this time and they do not offer any facilities such as a steam, sauna or otherwise.
There is also a very sizeable fitness center for Moorea. Some hotels, like Sofitel, does not offer a fitness center so this is a nice touch. It’s located across the street from the property, next to the tennis court.
Finally, there are two shops on property. There is a casual shop with swimwear, sun screen and clothing as well as a Robert Wan shop that sells high-end pearls and jewelry. There are not a lot of shops within walking distance of the hotel, so we did buy some items at the hotel and found the prices reasonable.
Overall, the facilities are aging a bit but they certainly have everything you need when it comes to amenities such as the pool, activities and more.
There are many elements at Hilton that we love, especially the original Tahitian features of the hotel. Over the last few years, they’ve added “modern” elements to the hotel, such as a painting the furniture in the room a modern grey-tone or adding very contemporary lighting fixtures. This has added a lot of very clashing style to the hotel, when we really feel they should have taken advantage of their local surroundings and local craftsmen to bring in the Tahitian culture, rather than try to erase it. By removing decorative pillows, swapping the nice metal beach chairs for cheap blue plastic ones and removing the cushions from outdoor seating, they’ve become a bit more sterile, rather than “updated”. We do hope they revert back to the more Tahitian style and bring back some of that local energy in the rooms that they used to have.
Is Hilton Moorea the best luxury 5 star hotel in the world? No. However, it is one of the only resorts and one of the best options on Moorea if you are looking for a resort that has amenities like a pool, fitness center and wonderful beachfront. While they may be resting on their laurels a bit because of the lack of competition from a corporate level, we love the location, the staff and the incredible lagoon.
It’s always incredible to come back to Moorea – to this day, it is our sweet, beloved island and it truly is magic. The people of Moorea, the landscape and the lagoons are truly some of the most spectacular things we’ve ever experienced and we will continue to return time and time again. If you know where the shortcomings are, you will have an amazing experience.