Those looking to experience one of the world’s greatest dive destinations should opt for a vacation in Rangiroa. A string of coral atolls, encircling a luminous turquoise and jade-green lagoon, Rangiroa offers French Polynesia’s best scuba diving, featuring sharks, rays, dolphins and moray eels, as well as snorkeling and fishing.
Located over 300 miles northeast of the Society Islands lie the 76 atolls of the Tuamotu Archipelago. Twenty-nine of these islets are accessible by plane, and offer charming hotels and pensions for travelers.
Rangiroa is perhaps the best known and most frequented of the Tuamotus. The atoll is a ring of low islets extending more than 43 miles enclosing the world’s second largest lagoon.
Much of the Tahitian black pearl industry is supplied through these atolls. Here, visitors can experience the many pearl farms and admire the fish cages that the Paumotu, people of the sea, have used in the lagoons for millennia.
Arrival in Rangiroa is at the airstrip located on a 7-mile series of flat motus on which most of the Rangiroa hotels, including famous Kia Ora Resort & Spa, are located. It is equidistant from the atoll’s two principal villages, Avatoru and Tiputa. Although car rental agencies are available, scooters and bicycles are the most common forms of transport on Rangiroa. The motus are connected by small bridges that tend to make driving an adventure all its own.
Aside from water-sports, the main activity on Rangiroa is lagoon excursions. Two popular spots for tourists are Lagon Bleu (Blue Lagoon) and Les Sables Rose (The Pink Sands). French Polynesia’s only vineyard (it is French, so there has to be a vineyard) is the Cave de Rangiroa, the tasting room for Vins du Tahiti (Wines of Tahiti).
Three notable places to stay on Rangiroa are the luxurious Kia Ora Resort and Spa, The Kia Ora Sauvage (one of the world’s most escapist resorts), and the Novotel Rangiroa Beach Resort. Recommended restaurants are Le Kai Kai just west of the airport, and the dining room of the Kia Ora Resort and Spa.