Hotel Review: Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort for the Second Time

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Max and I had the opportunity to be hosted at the beautiful Sofitel Moorea two years ago and were so excited to return this year on another media stay. Moorea is our favorite island in the world that we’ve been to thus far and the Sofitel Moorea has a stunning location just 5 minutes from the ferry port, with endless blues and views of the main island, Tahiti. Things didn’t go quite as expected, so read on to find out more about our experience.

Location: 5/5

Situated just five minutes from the ferry, the Sofitel Moorea has an excellent location in terms of access from the ferry and offers stunning views. The twinkling lights of Tahiti make for a beautiful site during the evening and the sunrises are spectacular.

It’s worth noting that due to the position of the hotel, the sun does “set” on the earlier side, due to it disappearing over the mountain.

Sofitel Ia Ora Beach Moorea

Lobby & Check in experience: 4/5

The lobby of the Sofitel Moorea is small, but offers ample seating for guests. There is a section of the lobby that is roped off and available to only Accor members and offers coffee and water throughout the day. We didn’t realize we had access to this area until the last day as we were not informed by the agents at check-in.

We arrived around noon and while the room was not ready, we were provided two complimentary cocktail tickets to use at the restaurants – win!

The check-in experience overall was fine; however, the staff neglected to inform us of the multiple events and the construction that was happening while we were on property. While it may be easier for them to not tell guests about events and construction, it makes for a negative guest experience when they come as a surprise instead. We inquired with a few other guests on property to find out if they were alerted to the wedding, race or construction and they all said no. While we recognize that this may have been an exceptional situation, it’s worth mentioning that the lack of concern for guests on property became a theme throughout our stay. I say this because the majority of folks we talk to plan trips to Moorea for honeymoons and anniversaries so it’s important to consider the experience you want for your own trip.

Rooms: 4/5

This time, we stayed in two different room types: the Luxury Horizon Overwater bungalow and a standard Garden View bungalow. I’ll break down our thoughts about each, but I will say overall, they’re essentially the same exact size and layout.

Luxury Horizon Overwater Bungalow:
Last time we stayed on property, we were in the Luxury Overwater Bungalow. The difference with the Horizon level room is the view. With the Horizon view, you have more of an unobstructed view of the beautiful blue lagoon, whereas with the standard Luxury Overwater, you can end up either facing the beach or other bungalows if you’re not put in one of the bungalows further down the walkway. This particular room had not yet been renovated and therefore had the beautiful white drape over the bed. This was one of our favorite features on our first stay and we were so happy to see it in the room. According to some other guests, their Luxury Overwater did not have this anymore after the renovation (at least in their rooms). Hopefully, they will be added back as they add such an elegant flare to the room.

The Luxury Horizon Overwater has a beautiful bathroom with Hermes products and a semi-outdoor shower as well as a dual-vanity. The bed is large and comfortable and there is a large terrace outside, leading to the secondary platform that you can swim from. The room has the same exact layout as the Luxury Overwater Bungalow with the view as the only exception.

Garden Bungalow:
The next evening, we moved to a Garden Bungalow. The Garden Bungalow, much to our surprise, was essentially a carbon copy of the Overwater bungalow. The only difference was that the Garden Bungalow had been updated in the renovation and a permanent twin bed was added to one corner of the room, which was quite odd. Since many of the guests were honeymooning couples, it seemed misplaced to have a permanently built-in twin bed in a king room with no real pillows on it. It seemed less like a sofa and more like a bed that was accidentally left over from a family stay. Similarly, the products in the bathroom are Lanvin instead of the Hermes products in the overwater bungalows. We were unsure if the property was moving to a different brand or if the Hermes products were for the “elevated” room type.

Our Garden Bungalow had a partial beach view, as it was situated between two other bungalows, which was a great surprise. The bungalows are not super private in any position, however, since pathways cross in front of the bungalows and to the sides.

The only room type we have not tried at the property are the standard overwater bungalows. They offer similar views as the Luxury overwater bungalows, they just have a smaller footprint. If you’re looking to upgrade from the beach, but do not want to splurge on the Luxury overwater, these may be a great middle ground for you.

Overall, the rooms are size-able and well-appointed from an amenities standpoint. However, even the updated rooms have broken curtains or issues with plumbing, etc. We were disappointed to see such a dramatic difference in the quality of the furnishings over just 2 short years.

Facilities: 3.5/5

The Sofitel Moorea has a lot to offer – from a beautiful spa, to multiple restaurants and a long, beautiful beachfront. However, we noticed several things about the property that are missing or just downright off.

The first missing facility is a fitness center. The property does not have a gym and does not offer a discount or access to the local gym up the road. When a guest asked the front desk if they had a gym, they responded “not at this time”. It was very unclear if they were going to build a gym or were simply sweeping the subject under the rug. In the future, we’d like to see them offer fitness classes on property or discounts to the local gym, as a 5-star property should have options for guests in this wellness-centric day and age.

Second, while the beachfront is stunning, we counted over 10 different types of chaise lounges and chairs. Not a single chair had a matching set of 3 or 4 across the beachfront. It looks disorganized and quite messy. They were not arranged in any particular order and looked a bit like the hotel had collected chairs from different places just to add seating for people. Even on the overwater huts, there were different chaise lounges. After the wedding, there were beer cans, beer bottles, cups and trash everywhere across the beach that were not cleaned up until mid-morning the next day.

Lastly, it seems as though in the last few years, the property has dedicated all their focus to local events and activities. As mentioned previously, several events were held on property that guests were not made aware of: including a large wedding and a local race with hundreds of people hosted directly in front of our bungalow. These events were really disruptive to guests – the race taking over much of the beachfront for most of the day and into the early-evening. The wedding took over the main restaurant and no options were provided to guests other than the pre-fixe fine-dining option directly next to the sound system. It was disappointing to experience this disruption on our last night and we met several guests who expressed disappointment at both management’s lack of communication as well as the fact that the music continued to midnight and could be heard across the entire property.

Those issues aside, the hotel does offer complimentary snorkeling equipment and complimentary paddle boards that guests can use during the day. The snorkeling at the Sofitel was exceptional and many of the coral regrowth initiatives have started to yield wonderful results.

Dining: 3.5/5

During our first stay a few years ago, we had some of the most incredible meals we’ve ever had: from the deliciously flaky croissants at breakfast, to the detox juice, to the incredibly delicate cuisine at their main and fine-dining restaurants. One of the reasons we were so excited to go back was because of the quality of the food. However, this trip, we didn’t have the best food & beverage experiences. The flaky croissants were replaced with croissants resembling store bought pastries, the green juice was replaced by orange juice from a carton and the dinner we had in the main restaurant was hit or miss depending on the dish. We tried not to be disappointed, but every meal missed the mark in some way. Even the bacon was reheated over and over again…

On our last morning, Sunday, we went to breakfast as usual as we were never told there was a Sunday brunch (and the brunch is not listed on any documents, activities sheets or welcome folders). Again, the food was hit or miss, and it wasn’t until we walked by the restaurant on our way to the beach that we realized there was a whole Sunday brunch happening around 1pm. It appeared to be mostly focused on locals, but the spread of food looked great and there was live music. We were so upset that we missed out on such a nice-looking experience and had never been told this was even an option. The theme of catering to locals was particularly prevalent when it came to food & beverage and not inviting guests to experience Sunday brunch was a big miss.

Since the wedding took over the main restaurant directly next to the outdoor fine-dining restaurant, we were unable to try the fine-dining cuisine this year. To be honest, we were ok with that since the price is quite high and we were fairly displeased with the rest of our food & beverage experiences.

Service: 3.5/5

We met many great staff members, particularly at the bar. However, it’s difficult to rate the service higher than a 3.5 due to the management issues that seem to permeate across the guest experience. Unspoken about construction, large-scale events and poor communication seemed to degrade most guests’ experiences throughout our stay. Staff were unwilling to assist with issues or were too busy when you called to provide any real information or support. Housekeeping would do an excellent job one day, and then the opposite the next. Overall, compared to our first experience, the service was lacking.

Style: 4/5

Overall, the style is still a great feature of the property: with its lush landscape, beautiful wood elements and decor in the rooms. You truly feel as though you are on an island and the partial-outdoor shower is a great feature of all the luxury overwater and garden rooms. While there are many outdated elements, mis-matched chairs and odd twin-bed additions to the property, the bones are good.

Overall: 3.92

We were disappointed that the experience was so different from our last trip. We do hope that the management is able to turn things around and put a renewed focus on the guest experience, rather than cater exclusively to the local audience. To be a 5-star hotel, they need to step up their customer service and communication skills and think deeply about how to improve their offerings for their paying in-house guests. It is our hope that we experienced this property in a time of change and we have no doubt that proper management will bring this hotel back to its former glory. Until we see tangible changes, we are uncertain if we would return to the Sofitel Moorea.

If you have your heart set on booking this property, here are our recommendations:

  1. Email the hotel and specifically request your preferred view or room on property, regardless of the category you booked. If they do not reply, keep pushing (even call!)
  2. Enjoy the local restaurants, such as: Vaiare Pizza, Mayflower, Le Lézard or Le Mahogany
  3. Rent a car to explore the island and all it has to offer (can rent easily at the Ferry terminal- or bring the vehicle over from Tahiti)

Disclaimer: We were hosted by the Sofitel Ia Ora Beach Resort. The opinions expressed do not represent the hotel’s opinions.

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