The island of Moorea, located in French Polynesia, is a stunning tropical paradise with a rich and fascinating history. The island is known for its lush mountains, turquoise lagoons, and pristine beaches, but it has a story that goes beyond its natural beauty. In this article, we will take a look at the history of Moorea, from its earliest days to its modern-day identity as a popular tourist destination.

Early History

The island of Moorea has been inhabited for thousands of years, with evidence of human settlement dating back to at least 800 AD. The island was initially settled by the Polynesians, who came to the area in large canoes and established communities along the coast.

The Polynesians who settled on Moorea were skilled navigators, fishermen, and farmers. They built homes out of thatch and cultivated crops such as taro, breadfruit, and coconuts. The Polynesians also practiced a complex religious and cultural system, which included the worship of gods and goddesses, the creation of intricate artwork and carvings, and the performance of traditional dances and ceremonies.

European Contact

In the late 18th century, European explorers began to make contact with the Polynesians of Moorea. The first European to arrive on the island was British explorer Samuel Wallis, who visited the island in 1767. Wallis was followed by French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville in 1768, who named the island “Nouvelle Cythère” after the Greek island of Cythera.

In the early 19th century, the island was visited by several other European explorers and traders. In 1819, the island was visited by the famous British explorer James Cook, who named the island “York Island” after the Duke of York.


In 1842, France declared Moorea a protectorate, and the island became a part of French Polynesia. The French established a colonial administration on the island and began to exert control over the native population. The French also introduced Christianity to the island, which quickly became the dominant religion.

During the colonial period, the French established sugar and coconut plantations on the island, which were worked by the native population. The French also built a prison on the island, which was used to house political prisoners and convicts from other French colonies.

World War II

During World War II, Moorea played an important role in the Pacific theater. The island was used as a base for American troops and served as a refueling station for military planes and ships. The island also became a popular spot for R&R for American soldiers, who enjoyed the island’s natural beauty and relaxed atmosphere.

Post-War Period

After the war, Moorea experienced a period of rapid growth and development. The island became a popular tourist destination, and hotels and resorts were built along the coast. The island’s economy shifted from agriculture to tourism, and today, the island is a popular spot for honeymooners, scuba divers, and other travelers seeking a tropical getaway.

The history of Moorea is a fascinating one, from its earliest days as a home to Polynesian settlers to its modern identity as a popular tourist destination. The island has weathered many changes over the centuries, from European colonization to World War II, but it has remained a beautiful and welcoming place. Today, Moorea is a testament to the enduring spirit of the people who have called it home over the centuries, and a symbol of the natural beauty and cultural richness of French Polynesia.