Coral abundance continues to decline on tropical reefs around the world, and this trend suggests that coral reefs may not persist beyond the current century. In contrast, this study describes the near-complete mortality of corals on the outer reef (10 m and 17 m 19 depth) of the north shore of Mo’orea, French Polynesia, from 2005 to 2010, followed by unprecedented recovery from 2011 to 2017. Intense corallivory and a cyclone drove coral cover from 33–48% to < 3% by 2010, but over the following seven years, recovery occurred through rapid population growth (up to 12% cover y-1) to 25–74% cover by 2017. The thirteen-year, U-shape trajectory of coral cover over time created by the loss and replacement of millions of corals through sexual reproduction underscores the potential for beneficial genetic responses to environmental conditions for at least one genus, Pocillopora. The high ecological resilience of this coral community appears to have been enhanced by variation among genera in the susceptibility to declining cover, and the capacity for population growth (i.e., response diversity). These results suggest that the outer coral communities of Mo’orea may be poised for genetic changes that could affect their capacity to persistence.