Moorea is a high island in French Polynesia, one of the Windward Islands, part of the Society Islands. An older name for the Moorea island is ‘Aimeho, sometimes spelled ‘Aimeo or ‘Eimeo.Early Western colonists and voyagers also referred to Mo’orea as York Island.

The island was formed as a volcano 1.5 to 2.5 million years ago. Moorea is about 10 miles in width from the west to the east. The highest point is Mount Tohi’e’a, near the center of Moorea. It dominates the vista from the two bays and can be seen from Tahiti.

History of Moorea Island

Moorea was first settled by Polynesians from the islands west of Moorea. They arrived on canoes coming down from South Asia looking for islands to settle. It is estimated that they arrived on Moorea roughly 1000 years ago. There are some ancient landmarks on Moorea known as marae, which consists of ancient stone rocks shaped like pyramids.

The first European that recorded its sight was Pedro Fernandes de Queirós in 1606. The first settlers who were Europeans arrived during the 18th century. The first European to arrive on the island were the Englishmen Samuel Wallis and James Cook. Captain James Cook first landed on Tahiti, where he planned the 1769 Transit of Venus observed from Tahiti and Moorea Island. At Moorea, where Ta’aroa was chief, Cook first landed in ‘Ōpūnohu Bay, Cook’s Bay was later named in his honor.

The island was among those visited by the United States Exploring Expedition on its tour of the South Pacific in 1839.

Charles Darwin found inspiration for his theory regarding the formation of coral atolls when looking down upon Mo’orea while standing on a peak on Tahiti. He described it as a “picture in a frame”, referring to the barrier reef encircling the island.

Don the Beachcomber lived here briefly in the 1920s until his houseboat was destroyed by tropical cyclones.

On October 7, 1967, construction was completed on the Moorea Airport, which opened the following month.


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