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Imagine an ellipse of narrow islets encompassing a gargantuan lagoon. This is Rangiroa. An atoll in the Tuamotus where you can sip wine from the only atoll vineyard and watch dolphins leap out of the water. The people are ultra friendly, and the best way to get around is by boat or bicycle.
Rangiroa is a peculiar place, and it’s one of my favorite atolls in all of French Polynesia. Amongst its ~400 sandbars and islets (called motu), only Motu Tiputa and Motu Avatoru are inhabited. While these thin islets only measure 300 to 500 meters wide, there’s still plenty of adventure to get up to.
In this guide, I’ll dive into the best things to do on Rangiroa.
Discover all the best travel tips for the Tuamotus in Moon Tahiti & French Polynesia.
1. Scuba dive at the Passes
I never saw a barracuda fight off a gray reef shark until I went to Rangiroa.
Scuba diving is undoubtedly one of the top things to do in Rangiroa — especially if you have some experience. Most of the dive sites in Rangiroa are in the passes between the main islets, and the tide influences the speed and how fast your dives will be.
Between Motu Tiputa and Motu Avatoru is Tiputa Pass, the premier dive site of Rangiroa. At the peak of high tide, exploring this 300-meter-wide reef pass takes you on a swift drift diving adventure that can reach speeds of up to five knots.
The dive starts at the reef ledge, where you can take refuge and watch sharks like silkies, lemons, whitetips, and blacktips cruise along with the current. Barracuda are also often seen in the pass.
Most exciting of all, however, is the pod of bottlenose dolphins who call the waters of Rangiroa home. Divers have a strict no touch policy when it comes to the dolphins… but occasionally, the dolphins swim so close by, they’ll often touch you.
For divers opting to ride weaker and more manageable currents, Avaturo Pass is usually a little more tranquil. Aside from the impressive underwater topography dominated by reef canyons, a dive here often leads to encounters with one of the gentle giants of the deep, who twirl like acrobats as they feed on plankton. Behold the manta rays!
If a drift dive isn’t what you’re comfortable with, there are plenty of calm, sheltered spots within the lagoon. One popular dive and snorkel spot with hundreds of reef fish swimming through coral gardens is found at the aptly named Aquarium, lagoon-side of Tiputa Pass.
I like scuba diving with Topdive Rangiroa who offer courses and fun dives.
2. Take a day trip to the Blue Lagoon
Is it possible to have a lagoon within a lagoon? There are several in Rangiroa, but nothing beats the Blue Lagoon on the west coast of the atoll. I truly have never seen waters so blue. They rival the likes of Bora Bora!
Formed naturally by its surrounding islets within the Rangiroa atoll, the shallow waters of Blue Lagoon are a nursery for baby reef sharks. Snorkel with juvenile lemon sharks and blacktip reef sharks just a few fin kicks from the shore.
When it’s time for some sunshine, head to the islets for a snooze under a palm frond. The beaches of the Blue Lagoon are cookie-crumb texture, and it’s impossible not to feel relaxed here.
The only way to reach the Blue Lagoon is on a full-day excursion. Lunch takes places on a tiny island, and while there are food variations between tour operators, you’re bound to enjoy freshly baked coconut cooked in a banana leaf.
3. Sip wine from Vin de Tahiti
Rangiroa home to the only coral atoll winery in the world — and that’s something to celebrate. Despite having a small landmass, years of trial and research have led Vin De Tahiti to successfully grow its island-based grape plantation.
Located in Motu Avatoru, their six-hectare vineyard is now producing over 30,000 bottles of wine every year.
One of the best ways to end a day on Rangiroa is with a glass of Vin De Tahiti’s wine in hand. Personally, I’d opt for the rosé! Enjoy a glass at Relais de Josephine, a tropical garden resort perched at the edge of Tiputa Pass. Unwind for a while at the resort’s restaurant and watch as dolphins jump in the waters of the pass.
4. Snorkel in the lagoon from the front of your resort
Checking in any of the resorts in Rangiroa is like having your own snorkeling spot. Most resorts are situated just in front of a reef or lagoon, and exploring the underwater beauty of Rangiroa doesn’t need you to travel to far-flung places. Even if you’re in the heart of a motu, the beach is never further than 200 meters away.
If you’re wondering where to stay in Rangiroa to enjoy prime snorkeling, these are a few top choices:
5. Visit the Ile aux Recifs
South of Tiputa and Avatoru is Ile Aux Recifs, also known as Reef Island. This is somewhat of a bizarre place to be — eroded volcanic rocks have created the illusion of an inhospitable lunar landscape. Spend your time here snorkeling and swimming in the natural rock pools, rife with tropical reef fish.
6. Explore the lagoon with a kayak or SUP
An ink-black manta ray emerged next to a woman paddling her kayak — the manta’s wingspan was nearly the same length as the kayak. The manta lingered around, circling her kayak before cruising into the deeper blue.
Without the thrum of an engine, you can often get much closer to Rangiroa’s marine wildlife with a kayak or a paddleboard than you can with a bot. Sea kayaking can also be quite dangerous out in the open ocean, but inside Rangiroa’s lagoon, you’re typically protected. Spend a day cruising along the atoll’s varied shoreline in search of sea turtles, manta rays, stingrays, and reef sharks.
7. Ride your bike around the motu
Cars are all useless in Rangiroa. The easiest, fastest, and most commonly used land transportation for tourists in Rangiroa is a bicycle.
On Motu Avatoru, pedal along its lone ten-kilometer road past neighborhoods filled with fragrant plumeria trees and vibrant bougainvillea. Then, load your bike into the taxi boat crossing Tiputa Pass and pedal along the road of Tiputa.
If you prefer a bit more speed than what your legs can provide, rent an e-bike at E-bikes Rangiroa. Most accommodations have simple push bikes for guests to use, free of charge.
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