Last updated on March 9th, 2022
So much more than just incredible diving, Fakarava is truly a magical place to get lost in for a few days. Known as the ‘dream island’, it is the second largest atoll in French Polynesia and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. With walls of sharks, thrilling drift dives, pink sand beaches and a super relaxed vibe – pay a visit to Fakarava before everyone else discovers the secret. I spent a week in Fakarava while backpacking across the South Pacific Islands for six months. Here’s a sample 5 days in Fakarava itinerary which covers all the highlights – above and beneath the waves, while still leaving plenty of time to recharge your batteries.
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Here’s a quick 90-second preview of some of the sights that await you in Fakarava. You might need to disable to ad-blocker to load the video.
All places mentioned in this Fakarava itinerary can be found on this companion map. Simply click on the image to open in Google Maps:
Accommodations in Fakarava are primarily based on family-owned pensions. I personally stayed at the Relais Marama, close to the center of Rotoava and the closest thing to a hostel on the island. Check out the Fakarava Travel Guide for additional accommodation choices both in Fakarava North and Fakarava South!
Much like with the excursions in Rangiroa, I highly recommend visiting the ‘pink sand beach’ (les sable roses) on your first day(s) in Fakarava. Why? There’s a minimum amount of passengers required for this full-day tour and bad weather may lead to last-minute cancellations. It’s wise to attempt this early on to leave some room for flexibility.
The pink sand beach is one of the prettiest sights you’ll ever see, totally worth the steep price of actually getting there (12,000F incl. lunch, leave at 8 am and back at 4 pm). The good news is that you won’t be spending 90 minutes on a boat in each direction just to see some sand.
I joined seven other passengers on a tour operated by Vaiama Village Pension. After 90 minutes, you finally reach Tetamanu Village and the Tumakohua Pass (also known as the ‘south pass’). Though older than Rotoava in the north, Tetamanu Village is home to only four families these days – mainly here for the scuba divers who come all the way to the middle of nowhere to dive in the legendary south pass.
While the crew prepares lunch, go for a stroll along the grassy ‘main street’. Have a look at the charming church – the oldest in the archipelago, built in 1874 and made entirely out of coral rock. A little further down are the abandoned school and tiny prison – testaments to a busier past.
After the quick tour, put your snorkeling gear on and dive into the pristine lagoon. The water is super clear and though quickly plunging into the deep, you’ll love watching reef sharks swim in and around the carefully maintained formations of lagoon fish. Stingrays, trevally and massive Napoleon are also out in full force.
If you want to scuba dive in the south pass and a one-tank dive is enough for you, simply mention this when booking the tour and you’ll likely be able to join Eleuthera (Tetamanu Dive Center) on a lunchtime dive instead of the snorkeling (add 7,000F).
Lunch is finally served picnic-style and boy what a selection: lobster, grilled fish and sashimi to go along with breadfruit, rice and my absolute favorite – coconut bread!
After lunch, it’s back on the boat for the short ride to the famous pink sand beach. It’s a dreamy spot at the very edge of the massive Fakarava lagoon and you’ll probably be the only ones here. The sand? On a cloudy day it’s more orange than pink but I could only imagine how beautiful this spot would be under the warming sun!
It’s time to get down to business and do a bit of scuba diving, the real reason why you came all the way to Fakarava! Book your dives with Yannick and Henri from Dive Spirit Fakarava. I had an amazing time with them and even improved my diving skills. They are also part of the totally worth it Te Moana dive pass, a great way to save money if diving multiple times on multiple islands. Check out the complete Fakarava Travel Guide for lots more practical information on diving in Fakarava.
Book a two-tank morning dive and head out to Garuae Pass, more commonly known as the ‘north pass’. It’s a quick boat ride from Rotoava Village and where you’ll do the bulk of your diving in Fakarava, if not based way down in the south pass.
The first couple of dives will be easy going, along the Ohotu Cliff. You’ll simply be amazed at the beauty of the coral garden down here, way better than anything seen in Rangiroa. Corals in all shapes, colors and sizes seem to be springing up from the rocky bottom in search of some sun. Simply magnificent!
With visibility usually between 20-40 meters, hundreds (that’s right) of sharks will be patrolling the deep blue, sometimes coming close to check out what’s on the menu for tonight.
When you’re not swimming with the sharks, you’ll be swimming with giant napoleon fish, trevally and my all-time favorite – the goatfish. These small fish swim in large numbers, and the fun is heading into their well-maintained formation, which adapts to your movements. It’s exactly like some BBC documentary film!
Back on land, head to Snack Kori Kori for lunch with a view. It’s just a few steps away from the dive center and they make killer sandwiches as well as your all-time favorites!
Head back to the Relais Marama or wherever it is you’ll be staying and pick up a bicycle – the best way to get around. You have 9 kilometers of cycling to do, but I promise it’s worth it. Head north this time and pass the airport, where the paved road turns into a dirt road.
After about 5 kilometers past the airport, look out for the PK9 marker which indicates your distance from Rotoava Village.
Turn left and head all the way to the beach. This little slice of heaven is simply known as PK9 beach and it’s one of the best beaches in French Polynesia!
Bring everything you’ll need (including lots of water and a book) because there’s a whole lot of nothing around you. When you’ve summoned enough energy, go for a dip and enjoy the fine snorkeling just meters away from the sandy beach!
When you’ve had enough, head back towards Rotoava. If you’re up for a little more adventure, cycle for another 2 kilometers to the end of the dirt road and finish off at the north pass. This is where you went diving this morning.
As you near Rotoava, turn left at PK2 and have a look at the Topaka Lighthouse. Also known as Phare de Topaka, this former lighthouse dates back to 1957 and was used to signal neighboring atolls in times of emergency. It kind of looks like something the ancient Maya would build…