Fakarava Travel Guide

May 27, 2016

PK9 Beach Fakarava Atoll French Polynesia panoramic view

I already fell in love with Fakarava as I peaked out of my Air Tahiti window seat. From up here, the magical atoll looks like a NASA satellite image – a massive ring of coral rock in the middle of the vast ocean, encircling a blue lagoon often sprinkled with tiny golden sand bars. Fakarava not only offers scuba divers the chance to visit underwater heaven, but also offers anyone the chance to enjoy life as it should be – extra slow and on your very own tropical beach. Visit this dream atoll before the secret is out, and use this Fakarava Travel Guide to make your tropical wishes come true!  

About This Fakarava Travel Guide

I spent three months in French Polynesia, as part of a six-month backpacking trip across the South Pacific Islands – with 7 nights in Fakarava. This travel guide to Fakarava was written based on my experiences and is meant to help you make the most of this destination. The Fakarava Travel Guide is geared towards independent travelers, but any visitor will find it useful.

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Why Should You Visit Fakarava?

If you love scuba diving but looking for something beyond, Fakarava is a perfect choice. On the diving side, Fakarava never disappoints – with pristine coral as equally impressive as the walls of sharks. But the ‘added value’ in my opinion is the possibility to enjoy life in the slow lane back on dry land, whether on a stroll through the sleepy village or on your very own tropical beach. While neighboring Rangiroa is (relatively) mass-marketed, Fakarava is still off the tourist radar (for now). You’ll find fewer hardcore dive enthusiasts who schlep their gear with them wherever they go, and a lot more down-to-earth independent travelers like you. Fakarava can also be “two destinations for the price of one”. Its north (lagoon pass) is the most visited but it’s the south pass that’s most known for superb diving and pink sand beaches. You’ll need to lower your standards and make an extra effort if you wish to overnight in the south pass. 

Here’s a quick tour of Fakarava. Enjoy!

What’s Included In This Fakarava Travel Guide?

Fakarava Travel Guide Map

Click on the image to open in Google Maps. This map features all the highlights mentioned in this guide. 

Fakarava Travel Guide French Polynesia

Facts & Brief History

Before diving into what Fakarava has to offer, let’s briefly discuss the uniqueness of the island and its archipelago.

The Tuamotu Atolls

Fakarava is part of the Tuamotu Archipelago of French Polynesia. Consisting of 78 islands and atolls, the Tuamotus form the largest chain of coral atolls in the world, covering an area of the South Pacific roughly the size of Western Europe! Visit the ‘facts & brief history section’ of the Rangiroa Travel Guide to learn more about atolls and the Tuamotu Archipelago in general.

Fakarava Atoll French Polynesia aerial view

Fakarava

The second-largest atoll in the archipelago, Fakarava is home to the largest lagoon pass in French Polynesia – the Garuae Pass (~2km wide). The atoll is home to incredibly rich marine life, which is protected as part of Fakarava’s status as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Its huge lagoon may not be as big as Rangiroa’s, but it measures a whopping 60*25 kilometers, sitting on top of a former volcano that sunk millions of years ago that reaches a depth of 1,100 meters!

Fakarava Atoll French Polynesia from the air

About 850 locals are living on this huge yet isolated stretch of narrow coral rock. They live a very easy-going life, tending to coconut plantations used in the production of copra, cultivating black pearls, fishing, and catering to scuba diving tourists.

Main street Rotoava village Fakarava Atoll French Polynesia

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10 comments

  1. Fantastic detail and thankyou for the effort and great photo’s
    My wife and I will be visiting late August/Early September and was wondering if you could advise what type of food is available in the local shops? as two people we are meeting are cruising yachties

    1. Hi Patrick
      Thanks for the feedback! Fakarava is such a unique destination! Fruits and vegetables are imported to the island for the most part. Locals pre order those as do the shops. It arrives on the weekly cargo boat if all goes well. Shops will have durable foods such as: canned food, pasta, cookies, alcohol, rice etc. and I’m pretty sure also frozen stuff. There are two shops in the main village and the one that ‘doubles’ as the bakery, also has some fruits and vegetables. I recall there were apples, mangoes, tomatoes… There is also the sarong and island fashions shop in the village which is technically also a fruits & vegetables ‘market’, but that is really up to the mood of the owner. Enjoy your time and feel free to hit me up with more questions!

  2. Hi
    Thanks for the info on Fakarava. We are planning to visit but I am concerned about the wasps you mentioned bc I am allergic to them and other bee stings. Are there many wasps/bees on Fakarava? and is their emergency medical facilities?
    We are avid snorkelers. We plan to visit Moorea, Bora Bora, TaHaa, Rangiroa, TIkehau. Now we are thinking to add in Fakarava and skip TaHaa. Is snorkeling wonderful in Fakarava. We love to see colorful coral. Will Fakarava have that?

    1. Hi Susan

      I’m not sure if it was a seasonal thing but there were wasps there. Not in crazy amounts, but there were. I can’t recall if I encountered them on other atolls. There is an infermary in the main village of Rotoava which I assume is also on call 24/7. I did visit the plave with a local and it seemed legit though I think it’s staffed only by certified nurses with doctors visiting a few times per month.

      Fakarava was incredible for the “island life” viba combined with the incredible diving and beaches. Rangiroa has no beaches and I think Tikehau as well (unless you take a boat excursion). As for the snorkeling, it is lovely in Fakarava but probably similar to what you see in Rangiroa. The difference is in the diving because Fakarava’s corals are in much better state than anywehere else. The coral in Rangiroa was of the “hard” kind and the fun was in snorkeling with sharks pretty much off the dock of your pension. So if it’s corals you like, Fakarava is an excellent choice and more of an “off the beaten track” destination.

      Hope this helps!

  3. Great post. Thank you
    How hard is it to be a vegetarian on Fakarava? Unfortunately I dont eat fish either.
    Thx
    Niraj

    1. Hi Niraj
      If you’re staying 1/2 board at pensions, do let them know in advance. The availability of fresh fruits and vegetables is limited, but local hosts do usually have. Otherwise, it’s mostly rice, fruits and canned vegetables. If you’re staying at a self-catering accommodation, perhaps bring some with you.

  4. Do you know if the tours you talked about take credit cards or are they cash only? We will be visiting for the first time next month and your articles have helped us greatly in the planning of our trip!

    1. Do you mean the to the South Pass? If yes, that was done through a pension so I do believe you can pay by credit card. It’s worth booking this tour in advance so you can always ask that beforehand.

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