Consisting of hundreds of islets and sandbars, Rangiroa is the largest atoll in French Polynesia. The locals will proudly tell you that the entire island of Tahiti could fit in its massive interior lagoon.
Stay in hut built on poles and sit on the verandah to dangle your feet in the clear, warm water below. Float in a glass-bottomed boat over the Lagon Bleu or go snorkelling to catch a glimpse of the colourful underwater world. Enjoy a relaxing drift dive to see hammerhead and reef sharks, turtles, manta rays and other spectacular marine life swim by.
The huge interior lagoon, with its clear waters and prolific marine life, is a scuba diver’s dream. Some 100 reef passages give access to the wider Tuamotu archipelago and the strong currents caused by the changing tides attract bigger marine species. Book a tour and hire gear with the dive centre in Avatoru village, one of the main settlements of the atoll. On your way to the dive site, keep an eye out for dolphins playing in the wake of the boats.
At Pink Sand Beach, a 90-minute boat ride from Avatoru, watch how the angle of the sun creates lovely colours on the seabed. Visit Gauguin’s Pearl farm, built over the lagoon, to see how the stunning black pearls are created and buy some jewellery. At night, order a fresh seafood meal with a glass of wine made from grapes grown among the local coconut trees.
Regular flights from Tahiti, Bora Bora and other South Pacific islands arrive at the airport near the northern tip of the atoll. The airport is on the island of Avatoru. You’ll find accommodation and a few restaurants in the village and around Tiputa, across the reef pass to the east.
You can see many of Rangiroa’s sights in just a few days, but if you are a keen diver you may want to extend your stay to make the most of the atoll’s clear waters.