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Moorea boasts a beautiful lagoon and is easy to reach from Tahiti

Moorea boasts a beautiful lagoon and is easy to reach from Tahiti
Humans and sea creatures both have plenty of space on the Austral Islands, the southernmost islands of French Polynesia. (Daniel A. Anderson)

Bora-Bora is known for its beautiful lagoon. But other French Polynesia islands also have lovely lagoons, without the hype and commercialism that is turning Bora into a tourist zone.

Raivavae qualifies as one of these non-touristy spots. But it requires a 90-minute flight from Tahiti to reach it, and accommodations are limited.

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Not so in Moorea, which is equally as beautiful and can be reached by way of a 30-minute, $12 ferry ride from Tahiti.

If nothing else, take a Moorea circle-island tour when you're in the area. You can rent a car from Avis when you exit the ferry and go on a do-it-yourself tour (eight-hour rentals are $106 for a car, $38 for a scooter), or you can sign up with a tour company (several companies offer half-day tours for about $50 to $75 per person). It's hard to get lost on the island, so if you're game, the do-it-yourself tour is more fun.

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The island is about 40 miles across, so you can drive it in about a half-day. Plan to go to Belvedere Lookout for an outstanding view of the bays and island and visit both Cook's Bay and Opunohu Bay. Stop in at Manutea Juice Factory for free samples of rum-laced Tahitian juices.

Don't forget your swimsuit. You'll probably want to play and snorkel in the warmth of the lagoon, where you'll see rays, sharks and colorful fish.

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