Welcome to the scuba diving capital of French Polynesia! Known as ‘the infinite lagoon’, Rangiroa is the world’s second biggest atoll, so big that you cannot even see its other side. Like a giant pearl necklace floating in the ocean, the magic takes place beneath the waves but also above, thanks to superb beaches and tropical settings at the atoll’s remote corners. I visited Rangiroa three times on my journeys across the South Pacific. Here’s a sample Rangiroa itinerary to help you experience all the magic of the giant atoll.
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Rangiroa Itinerary Map
All the places mentioned in this itinerary appear on this companion map. Simply click on the image to open it in Google Maps.
About this Rangiroa Itinerary
I visited the Rangiroa Atoll on three separate occasions, first during my long voyage across the South Pacific islands. A few years later, I returned to the atoll on a cruise from Tahiti to Easter Island as a tour guide. My third visit to Rangiroa was part of a month-long honeymoon in French Polynesia, which included scuba diving and excursions to the atoll’s best beaches. This itinerary is based on my experience and extensive research.
Day 1: The Blue Lagoon or Reef Island
Counterintuitively, start your Rangiroa itinerary with a guided non-scuba diving excursion. Rangiroa is home to some of the best beaches in French Polynesia but to reach them, you need to join a guided tour. The island’s two legendary spots are the Blue Lagoon (Le Lagon Bleu) and Reef Island (Ile aux Recifs). Both gems are located about one hour by speedboat from the main island and depend on good weather conditions and a minimum number of passengers. Tours to the Blue Lagoon are much more frequent than outings to Reef Island.
The Blue Lagoon
Rangiroa’s Blue Lagoon is a small lagoon “trapped” inside the atoll’s massive lagoon. This stunning tropical setting is about one hour by speedboat west of the atoll’s inhabited section. The tour begins with an attempt to spot jumping dolphins in the Tiputa Pass. Rangiroa is home to several species of dolphins, and the Tiputa Pass is the best place to spot them, especially during the changing tides.
After the long journey, you’ll have a few hours to explore the area as your crew prepares a delicious BBQ lunch. The Blue Lagoon attracts many species of birds and countless sharks and stingrays. Go for a stroll and realize you’re the star object in a postcard from paradise.
Throughout your time on dry land, the crew does their best to introduce you to the local culture. You might learn how to fashion a bag from coconut branches, learn some dance moves, or learn a few Polynesian tunes. On the way back to the main island, the boat usually stops at The Aquarium for snorkeling.
Reef Island is about one hour by speedboat south of the main island. Its visit is possible as part of a combo tour with the Blue Lagoon, but I recommend devoting a full day to this incredible spot and even trying to combine it with a visit to the abandoned Otepipi Village. In my opinion, Reef Island is superior to the Blue Lagoon in terms of “classic” tropical beauty.
At Reef Island, fossilized coral towers above the waterline on the ocean side, creating clear and shallow pools. Narrow channels, called hoa, connect the ocean with the lagoon; coconut palms dominate the landscape. The resident pigs have a blast meandering between the two sides and so will you.
The excursion to Reef Island follows a similar program as the Blue Lagoon. You’ll start with the dolphin watching and end at The Aquarium if all goes well.
Day 2: Scuba Diving In The Tiputa Pass
Devote the second day of your Rangiroa itinerary to scuba diving. After all, this is what draws most of the visitors to the atoll. There are several dive centers on the island, from high-end Topdive to the excellent Six Passengers, who are also members of the Te Moana Diving Pass.
Most dives occur in the Tiputa Pass, the primary entrance to Rangiroa’s lagoon. The lagoon pass has several dive sites around it, such as the Angle and the Ohotu Cliff, where divers can expect to see dolphins, reef sharks, sea turtles, and countless fish species. Usually, at least one of your dives will be a drift dive back to the lagoon. You’ll ride the incoming current or perhaps “fight your way” back in.
Experienced divers with CMAS or advanced certifications might visit more challenging spots and deeper depths, where the chances of spotting tiger sharks are much greater.
Lunch at the main quay
If it’s not too late in the day, head to Snack Chez Lili or Snack Puna at the main quay, especially if you like fresh fish. The dishes at these two snacks (simple local restaurants) are plentiful, delicious, and always fresh. But don’t arrive just before closing as most dishes will likely be unavailable.