Sara Fondo standing on top of a mountain in Tatra National Park, Zakopane, Poland

Mount Rotui Hiking Trail: Best Hike in Moorea

Mount Rotui Hiking Trail: Best Hike in Moorea

Mount Rotui Hiking Trail is the most challenging yet rewarding hike on the island of Moorea in French Polynesia — This is the ultimate guide to conquering the beast of Moorea!

Welcome to your ultimate guide to the Mount Rotui Hiking Trail, one of the best hikes in Moorea. Nestled between the picturesque bays of Opunohu and Cook, Mount Rotui offers breathtaking panoramic views, lush tropical landscapes, and a rewarding sense of accomplishment for those who reach its summit.

In this blog post, I cover everything you need to know to safely and enjoyably conquer this iconic peak, from trail descriptions and difficulty levels to essential tips and local insights.

Let’s embark on your next adventure!

Mount Rotui Hiking Trail Details

Mount Rotui Hiking Trail: Best Hike in Moorea

The Mount Rotui Hiking Trail is a captivating and challenging route that offers hikers a unique blend of breathtaking, tropical scenery, strenuous climbs, and rewarding summit views of the island Moorea in French Polynesia.

It’s a great outdoor activity in Moorea, but for your safety, it’s best to obtain some knowledge about this trek before attempting to reach the summit.

Here are some details about the Mount Rotui Hiking Trail:

Trail Overview

  • Location: Island of Moorea, French Polynesia.
  • Trail Length: 7 kilometers roundtrip
  • Duration: Approximately 5 to 7 hours roundtrip
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Elevation Gain: About 899 Meters
  • Best Time to Hike: Early in the morning

Starting Point

  • Access: The trailhead for Mount Rotui is conveniently located near the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa. I cover this in greater detail in the How To Get There Section.

Trail Description

  • Initial Section:
    • Begins with a steep ascent through dense tropical vegetation.
    • Features a mix of native flora and fauna, providing an immersive nature experience.
    • Path is relatively easy to follow, making for a gentle start.
  • Midway Point:
    • Trail becomes steeper and narrower, requiring more careful navigation.
    • Includes sections with loose rocks and exposed ridges, demanding attention and balance.
    • Offers stunning views of Cook’s Bay and Opunohu Bay, with rest spots to enjoy the scenery.
  • Final Ascent:
    • The most challenging part of the hike, with a steep and strenuous climb to the summit.
    • Requires careful footing and may involve minor scrambling over rocks.
    • Provides breathtaking panoramic views at the summit, showcasing the full beauty of Moorea and its surrounding waters.
Mount Rotui Hiking Trail: Best Hike in Moorea

Scenic Highlights

  • Bay Views: Early in the hike, you’ll be treated to stunning views of Cook’s Bay and Opunohu Bay, with their clear, turquoise waters contrasting against the green mountains.
  • Panoramic Vistas: As you reach higher elevations, the views expand to include the surrounding islands and the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean.
  • Summit Experience: The summit of Mount Rotui offers a 360-degree panoramic view, showcasing the full beauty of Moorea. The vistas from the top are truly breathtaking and provide a perfect reward for the challenging hike.

Essential Tips

  • Footwear: Wear sturdy, high-traction hiking boots to handle the rocky and uneven terrain.
  • Hydration: Carry ample water, as the tropical climate can be quite dehydrating.
  • Timing: Start early in the morning to avoid the heat and ensure you have plenty of daylight. I would recommend you start around 7 AM.
  • Preparation: Pack light snacks, a first aid kit, sun protection (hat, sunscreen), and insect repellent.

Safety Precautions

  • Weather Check: Always check the weather forecast before setting out. Avoid hiking during or after heavy rains as the trail can become dangerously slippery.
  • Trail Markings: While the trail is generally easy to follow, bringing a map or GPS device is recommended for navigation.
  • Companionship: Hike with a partner or group for safety, you might be able to find a local guide through Mana Moorea Tours. If hiking alone, inform someone of your plans and estimated return time.
  • Pacing: Take breaks as needed and do not rush. The climb is strenuous, so pace yourself to avoid exhaustion.

Check Out Viator’s Top Moorea Tours

Nearby Attractions

  • Cook’s Bay and Opunohu Bay: Spend some time exploring these beautiful bays, known for their crystal-clear waters and excellent opportunities for snorkeling and kayaking.
  • Relax at Public Beach, Ta’ahiamanu: This stunning beach is a short walk from the trailhead, tempting you with a refreshing dip after your sweaty endeavors on the Mount Rotui Hiking Trail.
  • Treat yourself to a Cake-Shake: If you turn left when you get back on the main road after the Mount Rotui Hiking Trail, a dessert place called La Macaroulette will appear on your right-hand side. Here, you can get the famous Cake-Shake (think milkshake, but more extravagant).
  • Belvedere Lookout: A short drive from Opunohu Bay, this lookout offers spectacular views of the island and is a great spot for additional photo opportunities.
  • Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa: After your hike, relax and unwind at the nearby Hilton hotel, where you can enjoy luxurious amenities and stunning lagoon views.
  • Tiki Village: Experience local culture and history at Tiki Village, a cultural center that offers traditional Polynesian shows, crafts, and a glimpse into the island’s heritage.

How to get there

Save the location – this map shows you the beginning of the hiking trail.

Different Means of Transportation

By Car

  1. Starting Point: The trailhead for Mount Rotui is located near the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa.
  2. From Moorea Airport:
    • Head south on the main coastal road (Route de Ceinture).
    • Continue for approximately 30 minutes until you reach the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa.
    • You should be able to find parking nearby. There’s a public beach – Ta’ahiamanu – a 10-minute walk from the trailhead, where you can park for free.
  3. From Moorea Ferry Terminal:
    • Exit the terminal and turn right onto the main coastal road (Route de Ceinture).
    • Follow the road for about 20 minutes.
    • The Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa will be on your right-hand side, while the trailhead will be a little further down on your left-hand side.

By Public Transport

By Bicycle or Scooter

  • Rentals: Bicycles and scooters are available for rent from various locations on the island, including near the airport, ferry terminal, and hotels.
  • Route: Follow the main coastal road (Route de Ceinture) towards the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa. The ride offers scenic views but be prepared for some traffic and varying road conditions.

Walking

  • Proximity: If you are staying nearby, you can walk to the trailhead. Check out the How To Get There section for specific location details.

Hitchhiking

  • Thumb-and-tarmac: Hitchhiking on the island of Moorea is very common. It’s the only form of transportation I have used to get around French Polynesia, and you typically don’t have to wait very long before someone picks you up. But I’m not you, and you may not feel comfortable doing that, and if so, that’s perfectly fine. Please use your judgment and hitchhike at your own risk.

Finding the Trailhead

Mount Rotui Hiking Trail: Best Hike in Moorea

You’ll recognize the trailhead by a palm tree standing on the road with a sign reading “Rotui.” It might feel like you’re venturing into someone’s house as you follow the driveway, but keep going until the end. There, you’ll encounter another sign with a red arrow pointing right. Follow the arrow.

Polynesians are typically friendly, and homeowners don’t mind hikers passing through, but if you spot someone outside, greet them with a friendly “Ia Orana” (hello) and Shaka, the local gesture of goodwill.

Red Strings to Guide You

The beginning of the trail is marked with a few strings tied around the trees, but it’s generally not a hike where you need to fear getting lost, it’s very straightforward from the beginning to the summit.

However, I highly recommend downloading the Maps.me app and the map of Moorea. Not only does it allow offline map usage, but it also displays detailed hiking trails, helping you stay on course. This is not an ad; it’s just the map app I swear by when traveling

What you need to know

Mount Rotui Hiking Trail: Best Hike in Moorea
Mount Rotui Hiking Trail: Best Hike in Moorea

Wear long pants

Do yourself a favor and wear long pants, preferably a long-sleeved shirt too. The vegetation is heavily overgrown, and you will get cuts if you don’t cover up your skin.

Don’t trust the rocks, ropes, or roots

I experienced a rock crumble beneath my hand as I tried using it for climbing, same goes for ropes and roots and vines – basically anything you can cling too. Give it a once-over before you trust it with the weight of your body.

Don’t go any further than you feel comfortable

The hiking trail to Mount Rotui is not for the faint-hearted. Always prioritize your safety and well-being. If you don’t feel comfortable doing the Mount Rotui Hiking Trail alone, you might be able to find a local guide through Mana Moorea Tours.

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Mount Rotui Hiking Trail: Best Hike in Moorea

The hike can be challenging

The hiking trail has steep sections and uneven terrain. Take breaks as needed and don’t rush. Also let someone know that you’re going and when you expect to be back.

Bring plenty of water

People generally undermine this hike due to its distance, but it’s tough! Bring more water than you think you need – at the very least 2 liters per person.

Respect the natural environment

Leave no trace. Carry out any trash you generate during the hike.

My experience

Enter Dora the Explorer

Mount Rotui Hiking Trail: Best Hike in Moorea

At 9 AM, I set out under the blazing sun, sporting long sports tights and a pink children’s backpack – channeling my inner Dora the Explorer. It was the first time in months that my legs were covered by fabric, and it felt weird. But I’d soon discover why it was a necessity.

The beginning of the hiking trail is heavily overgrown with plants exceeding my height (1.60 cm) – if you want to avoid cuts, wear long pants and long sleeves

As I forged ahead, I held my arms up in an attempt to shield myself from branches and thorns and shrubs, while loose dirt and rocks beneath my feet threatened to send me slipping. I have a history of consequently getting lost but for some reason making my way through this seemingly impenetrable tropical vegetation, feeling like Rambo, I somehow stayed on track, though my navigation relied heavily on intuition.

The most grueling section of the hike, at least for me, was the first 1.5 kilometers’ leading to the first viewpoint overlooking Opunohu Bay. My arms were now covered in tiny cuts, I was sweating profusely, and the sun seemed to set my skin ablaze.

Why do you enjoy this, Sara? I questioned myself. I gulped some water and took some pictures of the stunning view before continuing.

Mount Rotui Hiking Trail: Best Hike in Moorea

Walking the ridge of Mount Rotui

As I was walking on the ridge, clouds rolled in, mercifully shading me from the searing sun. It made the hike significantly more pleasant, but I couldn’t help but dread the prospect of rain and increased slipperiness.

Picture an infinite humpbacked camel. That’s what the hike to Mount Rotui feels like. Up and down, up and down. Just when you think you’re nearing the summit, another hump appears in front of you.

Somewhere amidst these humps, I had to climb a rocky wall, and there were only three rocks to step on. One. Two. Three. Breathe out.

Why do I feel so much more alive, when I’m actively dying? I thought to myself. I trod on, feeling the adrenaline in my body dwindling. A feeling that wouldn’t last long.

Mount Rotui Hiking Trail: Best Hike in Moorea
Mount Rotui Hiking Trail: Best Hike in Moorea

“You’re risking your life for the views”

“You’re risking your life for the views,” warned the first review I stumbled upon about this hike on AllTrails when I did my research. Now, it pierced my consciousness again as my left foot slipped over the edge while I was walking on the ridge of Mount Rotui.

I hastily grabbed hold of a tree root poking out of the ground, my right knee now kneeling on the ground, and my heart knocking on the inside of my ribs. With my knuckles now white around the tree root, I couldn’t help but wonder – had this been a bad idea all along?

As I crawled my way back up, my mind wandered to some stories, I’d come across prior to going on this adventure. I’d read about a 34-year-old American who died on this exact hike one year ago, presumably from falling, and a few more years ago a Texan party was killed after trying to climb the southwest face. Maybe they too felt most alive when actively dying.

As I got closer to the summit, the wetter the ground became, making it somewhat slippery. At this point, I was using my hands as much as my feet to hike, grabbing everything within reach and maintaining a low center of gravity in case of a fall to hopefully stop me from going too far.

Mount Rotui Hiking Trail: Best Hike in Moorea
Mount Rotui Hiking Trail: Best Hike in Moorea

Comfort Zone < Adventure

I did slip a few times, and I did feel my heart thundering in my chest, but I don’t consider myself to have been in any real danger.

At the summit, the clouds had overtaken the sky, making me enjoy the views through a hazy lens. I smashed a mashed granola bar from my bag while mentally preparing myself to go all the way down again, and I smiled.

I smiled because I had made it to the top of a hike that quite frankly had scared me a little, but once again I was reminded that life is best lived outside your comfort zone.

FAQs

Mount Rotui Hiking Trail: Best Hike in Moorea

Questions and Answers about Mount Rotui Hiking Trail and Visiting Moorea

How difficult is the Mount Rotui Hiking Trail?

  • The Mount Rotui Hiking Trail is considered challenging due to its steep ascents, narrow ridges, and rugged terrain. It requires a good level of physical fitness and hiking experience.

How long does it take to complete the hike?

  • The hike typically takes around 4 to 6 hours to complete, depending on your pace and the weather conditions.

What should I bring on the hike?

  • Essential items to bring include sturdy hiking shoes, plenty of water, snacks, a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, a first aid kit, and a map or GPS device.

Is it safe to hike Mount Rotui alone?

  • It is generally not recommended to hike Mount Rotui alone due to the challenging nature of the trail. It’s safer to hike with a partner or in a group.

What is the best time of year to hike Mount Rotui?

  • The best time to hike Mount Rotui is during the dry season, from May to October, when the weather is more stable and the trail conditions are better.

Are there guided tours available for the hike?

  • Guided tours are available and can provide valuable knowledge about the trail and the local flora and fauna. They also enhance safety.
Mount Rotui Hiking Trail: Best Hike in Moorea

Visiting Moorea

How do I get to Moorea?

  • You can reach Moorea by ferry from Tahiti, which takes about 30 to 45 minutes, or by a short flight from Faa’a International Airport in Tahiti.

What are some other popular activities to do on Moorea?

  • Besides hiking, you can enjoy snorkeling, scuba diving, jet skiing, visiting pineapple plantations, exploring local markets, and relaxing on beautiful beaches.

Where is a good place to stay on Moorea?

  • Moorea offers a range of accommodations, from luxury resorts to budget-friendly guesthouses. Popular areas to stay include Maharepa, Hauru Point, and Temae.

What is the local cuisine like on Moorea?

  • Local cuisine on Moorea features fresh seafood, tropical fruits, and traditional Polynesian dishes such as poisson cru (raw fish marinated in coconut milk and lime).

Is it easy to get around Moorea?

  • Getting around Moorea is relatively easy. You can rent a car, scooter, or bicycle, or use local taxis and buses.

What currency is used on Moorea?

  • The currency used on Moorea is the French Pacific Franc (XPF).

Are there any cultural considerations I should be aware of?

  • It’s important to respect local customs and traditions. Dress modestly when visiting villages, and always ask for permission before taking photos of people.

Is English widely spoken on Moorea?

  • While French and Tahitian are the main languages spoken, many people in the tourism industry speak English. It’s helpful to know a few basic French phrases.

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