Part I: 3 Days in Tikehau
Tikehau is by far the smallest of the three islands on this Tuamotu itinerary. Nonetheless, it’s still considered “off the beaten track” and only tourists who have heard of it will venture out here (as opposed to package holidaymakers). Tikehau is well known for scuba diving and its unique and ubiquitous pink sand beaches.
Tikehau Travel Guide Video
Watch this video to see what’s expecting you in Tikehau (you might need to disable your ad blocker).
Where to Stay in Tikehau?
Tikehau is still an off-the-beaten-track stop but it does offer a wide range of accommodations. For luxury, choose between the remote and pampering Pearl Beach Resort or the more secluded Ninamu Resort. For a more traditional stay, pensions are the way to go. The Relais Royal is the most upscale, followed by the more simple albeit perfectly situated Tikehau Village and Pension Hotu near the main village, Tuherahera. If those are full, look towards Pension Justine and Pension Aito Motel Collette. Finally, if you’re traveling to Tikehau on budget, have a look at Pension Coconut Beach.
Day 1: Beach, Snorkeling, Reef Side Visit
Use the first day in Tikehau to get acquainted with life on a remote coral atoll. What you can achieve on this day depends on your arrival time. Feel free to casually spend the day at the beach close to your accommodation and head to the main village of Tuherahera for lunch in one of the snacks (local restaurants).
If you’re up for an adventure, rent a beach bicycle and head to Coconut Beach, a wide strip of soft white sand on the western edge of the “main island”. Don’t forget your snorkeling gear (and reef shoes) as there’s plenty of marine life underwater. What I especially like about this spot is that you can swim to a nearby sandbank and “go Robinson Crusoe”. To extend your adventure, swim further out and explore Motu Tavararo, just be sure to stick to the coastline because it’s technically private land belonging to the Ninamu Resort.
Pro tip: Coconut Beach can also be a good last stop for this day as it’s perfectly situated for watching sunsets on Tikehau.
If you still have more time, cycle on the dirt road in the direction of the airport. Stop at the signposted La Cloche de Hina to enjoy a natural symphony courtesy of incoming crashing waves. Continue on the path through the thick grove of coconuts, pausing whenever you want to check out the wild beaches that are oh so close to the reef. You can cycle back whenever you want or complete the circle tour back to the village.
Day 2: Scuba Diving
Most of the dives in Tikehau take place in and around Tuheiava Pass, the only way in and out of the lagoon. It takes about 30 minutes by boat to reach the dive sites. Factor in the waiting time on the boat between dives and you can expect the bulk of your day being spent on this activity. Your dive usually begins with a glide along the reef shelf on either end of the pass, after which you either ride the incoming current and drift into the lagoon or gently swim inside.
Expect to see lots of nurse sharks taking shelter from the current inside small caverns on your drift dives and large schools of fish on other dives, including tuna, barracuda, jackfish, angelfish, lionfish, moray eel, and many more. If you get lucky, you might even spot tiger and hammerhead sharks in the shallows.
Day 3: Lagoon Tour
The last day in Tikehau will be a memorable one. Prebook a full-day lagoon tour through your hosts and set out on a day of exploring the magical spots inside Tikehau’s lagoon.
The first stop is at the manta ray cleaning station, a tiny islet in the middle of the lagoon that used to house a pearl farm. Under the water, giant manta rays gather every morning to get cleaned before “heading to work” by small fish that feed off the parasites on the manta’s skin. It’s a win-win situation not only for the mantas and the fish but also for snorkelers and divers who get to swim with these gentle giants at shallow depths.
The next stop is Motu Puara, better known as Bird Island or Ile aux Oiseaux. As the boat approaches this rocky outcrop in the far end of the lagoon, it becomes clear how this place got its name. Hovering in circles above the island are hundreds of birds. Even if your eyesight isn’t what it used to be, you can clearly tell who lives here by the sound they emit.
You’ll disembark on a patch of sharply raised coral and begin the guided tour of the island. Countless noddies and boobies nest in the trees and they have no fear of humans, so you can approach them but do respect their space.
The full-day lagoon tour reaches its climax on the famous pink sand beaches of Tikehau, where you’ll also have lunch (Les Sables Roses). The setting couldn’t be more spectacular, with crystal clear waters, strings of small pink-sand motu separated by narrow channels like a pearl necklace, and coconut palms swaying in the gentle breeze. As the guides fire up the grill, you’ll have plenty of time to explore the surroundings. This is an unforgettable day that will surely make your list of the top highlights in French Polynesia.