“Do you speak French?” Jean-Luc asked as we pulled away from the ferry dock, our bags stowed in the back of his Jeep.
“Oui, a little,” I replied.
Jean-Luc immediately switched into French — slowing down his speech to be sure I could follow — and for rest of the 15-minute ride to the inn that he runs with his wife Isabelle, introduced my husband Alan and me to the French Polynesian island of Moorea, where we’d just arrived on the catamaran from Tahiti’s Papeete harbor.
Most visitors to Moorea — and to many of French Polynesia’s islands — book themselves directly into deluxe waterfront resorts. And while that’s an amazing experience (one that we enjoyed during our stays at the Kia Ora Resort and Spa on Rangiroa and the Maitai Lapita Village on Huahine), we were looking for a more personal connection to these tropical islands and their residents.
That’s what brought us to Jean-Luc and Isabelle’s Green Lodge on Moorea’s northeastern tip.
You don’t have to speak French to stay at the Green Lodge, a small inn located in an upscale residential neighborhood behind the island’s tiny airport. Both Jean-Luc and Isabelle speak more-than-adequate English.
But we found that throughout French Polynesia, our attempts to communicate in French were welcomed everywhere. As Jean-Luc happily announced when arrived at the inn and he introduced us to Isabelle, “Elle parle français!” (“She speaks French!”)
Guest Rooms and Facilities
D’accord, mes amis, let me tell you more about this stylish French-accented inn, set on Moorea’s wilder ocean side, where the sounds of crashing surf can lull you to sleep.
Jean-Luc designed and built the six bungalows, all with private terraces, in an understated Zen-meets-the-tropics style. Two face directly onto the beach, while the others are set in the lush gardens and around the small swimming pool.
Jean-Luc and Isabelle outfitted the airy, high-ceilinged bungalows with lots of natural wood and stone. The Asian-inspired carved wood furnishings include canopy beds draped with mosquito nets and topped with appliqued quilts and pillows. Works by local artists adorn the walls.
Rooms have both air-conditioners and ceiling fans, as well as satellite TVs, DVD players, mini-fridges, small safes, and an electric kettle with coffee and tea makings.
Wi-Fi is available (for a fee, as we found throughout French Polynesia).
I especially loved the spacious bathrooms.
Ours had a walk-in shower, its rounded walls hand-crafted from local stone and decorated with tropical blossoms.
The stone sink sat on the handmade wood counter, which had ample space to store our toiletries.
High-season rates for the bungalows, in effect from June through mid-November and during the Christmas/New Year’s holidays, start at 23,000 XPF (US$265) per night. The rest of the year, rates start at 19,600 XPF (US$225).
Breakfast and Dinner, à la Français
Gracious French hosts, bien sûr, won’t let you go hungry, and at the Green Lodge, we enjoyed an ample Continental breakfast (included in the rates), served on the deck overlooking the pool.
We sat down to mugs of good coffee and a platter of tropical fruits, brimming with papaya, mango, banana, kiwi, pineapple, and slices of tart pomelo.
Next up was a basket of mini croissants, slices of baguettes, and petits pains au chocolat, served with several homemade jams. My favorite was the banana, but we also liked the tiare and christophine, made from island flowers.
Isabelle and Jean-Luc will also prepare dinner for guests if you reserve in advance. Our evening meal started with crispy shrimp and spring rolls, followed by mahi-mahi with local vanilla sauce and a fruit crisp decorated with a local flower.
While there aren’t many places to eat within walking distance of the Green Lodge, there is a decent Chinese restaurant right next door.
One day, we took the inn’s free bicycles — rather aging and rusted models that Jean-Luc said are slated for replacement — and cycled into the nearby village for lunch, about 20 minutes away. If you had a rental car, you could choose from several other restaurants in town or elsewhere around the island.
Another windy morning, we cycled to the nearby Teavaro public beach, facing the normally calmer lagoon side. We parked on the sand, watched a group of locals engaged in a fierce pétanque match, and cheered on the beginning windsurfers from the adjacent Sofitel Resort as the unusually strong gusts knocked them into the water again and again.
Activities and Attractions
Jean-Luc and Isabelle were amazingly helpful hosts, quick with directions and suggestions for activities all around the island.
Jean-Luc sat down with us at breakfast on our first morning and laid out different options for things to do, offering up so many ideas that we had to sketch out a calendar on a piece of notebook paper.
He told us about the Sunday Ma’a Tahiti, a lavish traditional Tahitian outdoor brunch, at Painapo Beach, which turned out to be a delicious highlight of our Moorea stay. He and Isabelle also booked a guided hike for us into Moorea’s mountains.
At the Green Lodge, if you want to stay put, lounging on the beach and listening to the sound of the surf, you can do that, too. But whatever you choose, expect a special French-accented experience at this stylish and welcoming Polynesian inn.
And, perhaps under the influence of those pains au chocolat, you might even find that your rusty French skills improve just a bit.
Hotel review by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller, author of the books, Moon Handbooks: Ontario and Living Abroad in Canada. Photos © Carolyn B. Heller.
Tahiti Tourism can provide more details about traveling to Moorea and throughout French Polynesia.