10 Days In the Tuamotu Atolls of French Polynesia

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

Pink sand beaches panoramic view - Tikehau - French Polynesia

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). 

coconut grove - tikehau - french polynesia

church - tikehau - french polynesia

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

beach at pension coconut beach - tikehau - french polynesia

small islet with coconut palm - tikehau - french polynesia

the motu of - ninamu resort - tikehau - frech polynesia

tropical beach - ninamu resort - tikehau - frech polynesia

coral head - snorkeling in tikehau - french polynesia

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.

wild beach - tikehau - french polynesia
family cycling in coconut grove - tikehau - french polynesia
You may also like

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. 

scuba diving tikehau atoll - french Polynesia - nurse sharks in cave
scuba diving tikehau atoll - french Polynesia - school of fish
scuba diving tikehau atoll - french Polynesia - hammerhead shark
scuba diving tikehau atoll - french Polynesia - lionfish
scuba diving tikehau atoll - french Polynesia

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. 

manta ray cleaning station - lagoon tour - tikehau - french polynesia

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. 

bird island tikehau - french polynesia

birds in the sky - bird island tikehau - french polynesia

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. 

mother and baby in nest - bird island tikehau - french polynesia

two birds romantic - bird island tikehau - french polynesia

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.  

pink sand beach 7 - tikehau lagoon tour - french polynesia
pink sand beach 10 - tikehau lagoon tour - french polynesia
pink sand beach 3 - tikehau lagoon tour - french polynesia
pink sand beach - tikehau lagoon tour - french polynesia
reef shark - tikehau lagoon tour - french polynesia