Shaped like a heart and crowned with emerald-green spires, Moorea is easy to love. The Magical Island, as it's nicknamed, is celebrated for its untamed landscape and symmetrical side-by-side bays (called Opunohu and Cook's); it was said to be the inspiration for the mythical isle of Bali Hai in James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific. Its languid lagoon seems without end, wrapping this 132-square-kilometer (50-square-mile) isle in shades of liquid blue, from pale aqua to intense turquoise. Dolphins and stingrays glide through the waves alongside snorkelers and divers exploring the stunning undersea scene. Venture inland to the valleys and another aspect of island life becomes clear: agricultural abundance, with crops that include pineapples, bananas, taro, sugarcane, coffee and cotton. Moorea has shopping, too, mainly for lustrous Tahitian black pearls and brightly patterned pareus (wraparound skirts).
Wherever you head, you'll find the South Pacific you have dreamed of, moving to the leisurely pace of island time. It can be hard to believe Moorea is just 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Tahiti’s bustling capital, Papeete.