PK9 Tropical Beach Fakarava Atoll French Polynesia

Fakarava Travel Guide

Fakarava Travel Guide

Last updated on March 9th, 2022

Fakarava Travel Tips

Listed here are specific travel tips for Fakarava to help with the planning stages of your visit.

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Lonely Planet Tahiti & French Polynesia

Tikehau, Fakarava or Rangiroa?

Every island in French Polynesia is different, so choosing the right mix of islands can be a challenging task. The same is true for the Tuamotu Atolls. Though similar in look, they each offer something slightly different. Listed below are what I consider the pros and cons of the “big three”, the most visited stops in the archipelago. For a more in-depth look, here’s a guide on how to choose which atoll to visit in French Polynesia

Tikehau

  • Pros: very laid back and not geared for large-scale tourism, activities, and sites to see apart from purely scuba diving, pink sand beaches that are relatively easy to reach, possible to see unique species of sharks (tiger and hammerhead) even in shallow dives.
  • Cons: the coral throughout the lagoon is not that impressive, lack of diversity in dive sites, travel time to dive sites takes up a lot of time, few places to dine around the main motu. 
aerial view - tikehau - french polynesia

Fakarava

  • Pros: laid back and still not yet fully discovered, plenty of ways to enjoy the atoll apart from diving, the coral is simply exquisite so every dive is memorable, two very distinct dive sites – the north & south passes, the motu where you’ll be staying is huge and you can easily get lost there for the day, beautiful white sand beaches, excellent snorkeling, shark walls, lagoon excursion to pink sand beach, possibility to see ‘shark walls’.
  • Cons: the north and south passes are very far apart and are essentially two separate destinations, the likelihood of spotting dolphins and hammerheads are lower, not as many dive and accommodation options. 
Living A Fantasy In The Fakarava Atoll - post cover

Rangiroa

  • Pros: really geared for tourism, plenty of dive centers and accommodations to choose from, greater likelihood of seeing the ‘big fish’ (dolphins, hammerhead sharks, silvertip sharks, manta rays, etc.), easier to get to from Tahiti, excellent snorkeling from just about everywhere.
  • Cons: aside from a couple of lagoon excursions (which aren’t cheap but worth it), there isn’t much to do aside from scuba diving, the coral here is not that impressive so if you lucked out on seeing the ‘big fish’ – your dive could be disappointing, relatively crowded with divers, the main motu where you’ll be staying is small and there aren’t that many options for self-discovery, no white sand beaches.
Diving in Rangiroa French Polynesia - post cover
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Get in touch for assistance with planning your trip to French Polynesia, either for a personal consultation or complete itinerary planning.

How Many Days Do You Need In Fakarava?

Fakarava can be enjoyed even when you’re not diving. To figure out how many days you need: (1) think about how many dives you want to do, taking into account you can do 2-3 dives per day (2) add a couple of days for relaxing, exploring the atoll and heading to the pink sand beach by the south pass (3) take into account if you’ll be diving elsewhere in the Tuamotus, like in Rangiroa for example.

If you’re looking to do serious diving in the south pass (more than 2 dives), consider basing yourself there for a few days and then transferring back to the main motu.

cycling fakarava atoll french polynesia

When Is the Best Time To Visit Fakarava?

Unlike the Society Islands, the Tuamotu Archipelago sees slightly different weather patterns. You’ll be able to dive year-round, though keep in mind that seas are a bit rougher during the ‘dry season’ (June – September) when the southeasterly trade wind blows. During the ‘wet season’ (November – April), you’ll get a passing storm that never sticks around for too long as there are no mountains to slow them down. During this time, you might get a full week of cloudy weather and periods of rain that lead to lagoon excursions getting canceled. The month before and after each season is probably the best time to visit. It’s not too hot, not too cloudy and not too windy.

I spent 8 days in Fakarava during February, having arrived from neighboring Rangiroa where the weather was similar. I had nothing but sunshine for 5.5 out of those 8 days.

How To Get To Fakarava

By Air: by far the most convenient way to get to Fakarava. Direct flights are available from Tahiti (70 mins), Rangiroa (30 mins) and a couple of small atolls in the archipelago. It is possible to fly from Rangiroa to Fakarava without having to connect in Papeete. As always, if you’re visiting multiple islands in French Polynesia, inquire about the Air Tahiti Pass.

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Overcome Air Tahiti’s 10kg weight limit on checked baggage by presenting your dive card. This should give you an extra 5kg and they hardly ever ask to see if you have equipment beyond a snorkel (which you technically should)!

By Boat: getting to Fakarava on a cargo ship is possible but very challenging. You’ll need to be very flexible with your time, lucky and speaking French will go a long way. The Saint Xavier Maris Stella IV serves the Tuamotus from Papeete and it may or may not carry passengers.

By Yacht: you can cruise around some of the atolls on a chartered yacht. Have a look at Dream Charter Yacht for all the options.

fakarava airport french polynesia

Getting Around Fakarava

To/From Airport: the airport is located about 4 km’s from Rotoava Village and all accommodations will pick you up (almost always for free).

Around Fakarava: the best way to get around the main motu is by bicycle. A sealed road runs from Rotoava to the airport in the north and about 10 km’s down south. It’s flat and easily doable on a bicycle. Beyond the airport, a cyclable dirt road runs all the way to the lagoon pass, also marked by the same PK markers that indicate distances on the sealed roads.

Riding bicycle in Fakarava Atoll French Polynesia

Getting to the South Pass of Fakarava

Fakarava’s two lagoon passes are a scuba diver’s paradise but it is the more remote south pass that is considered the best (see “where to stay in Fakarava”). Aside from chartering a boat, getting to the south pass is possible either by staying at one of the pensions located near the pass or by joining a day trip to the pink sand beaches. Some dive centers will periodically take divers on a day trip of diving in the south pass.  

Where to Stay in Fakarava

Much like the island vibe, the accommodations in Fakarava are as laid back as can be. There are currently no resorts on the island, just family-owned pensions. It’s important to note that Fakarava is split into two “mini destinations”, each centered around a lagoon pass. Close to the north pass is Rotoava Village, the main settlement on the atoll. Further south, the abandoned Tetamanu Village lies next to the south pass. This remote part of the island is close to the most known dive sites and the pink sand beaches but required a lengthy boat transfer to/from the airport or Rotoava.

Fakarava North

The most high-end option in the north part of the island is the Havaiki Lodge. This pension has beachfront properties as well as lower-priced options further back. Its location cannot be beaten and its restaurant is open to outside guests. Other solid pensions include Pension Veke Veke (great location), Pension Vaiama, Tokerau Village & Paparara (slightly remote but within cycling distance from the main village), and Kori Kori (very basic). 

Fakarava Lagoon Pension veke veke French Polynesia
Pension Havaiki Lodge Fakarava French Polynesia

Backpackers, budget travelers and campers should look into the Relais Marama. Accommodations range from simple one-bedroom open-air bungalows facing the reef, to larger family units in the gardenia and noni-filled garden, and even a handful of camping spots to pitch your tent. Units are simple but comfortable, with a mosquito net, small balcony, and even a lockable cabinet. As for the sleep quality? You’ll be sleeping like a baby to the sounds of the crashing waves on the reef just meters away. If there’s a breeze at night, you might even need to cover up.

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Relais Marama Fakarava Atoll French Polynesia hammock
Relais Marama bungalow Fakarava Atoll French Polynesia

Fakarava South

If you’re staying at one of the pensions in the south pass, your hosts will arrange the transfer, based on Air Tahiti arrival and departure times. Since the journey is quite long, on days when there are several flights, you might be instructed to wait. The “main” accommodation right on the south pass is Pension Tetamanu. However, slightly friendlier options can be found at Pension Raimiti and Pension Motu Aito. Due to their remoteness, pensions need to be self-sufficient so don’t expect luxury or even 24-hour electricity. Some pensions have strict booking conditions and some can bundle your stay with a dive and tour package.

Tetamanu Village ocean side Fakarava Atoll French Polynesia

What To Pack?

Fakarava is a tropical destination, and as such – I recommend packing clothes that dry quickly and keep moisture (a.k.a sweat) out. Have a look at the X Days In Y Packing List for recommendations on what to pack for Fakarava based on my experience.

Money

There is one ATM in Fakarava. You’ll find it at the post office and it does accept international cards. However, it may or may not work and some ATMs in French Polynesia have daily/weekly cash withdrawal limits. Inquire ahead of time at your pension if credit cards are accepted (shouldn’t be a problem). Dive centers accept credit cards.

WiFi & Mobile Data In Fakarava

A Vodafone SIM card will likely NOT have reception in Fakarava but should double-check that in Tahiti before purchasing. You’re better off with a Vini SIM card as they have coverage on all islands. Slow to adequate WiFi should be available free of charge in most accommodations but perhaps only in the common areas. 

Fakarava Average Costs

Here’s a breakdown of costs during my 8 days in Fakarava during my first visit in 2016. I stayed in a simple accommodation, did 5 dives and went on a full-day lagoon excursion.

Diving & Snorkeling In Fakarava

Fakarava is designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, with restrictions on commercial fishing and pollution in place, all in agreement with the local population. The exquisite marine life and coral are like no other I’ve personally seen anywhere in the South Pacific.

The snorkeling in Fakarava is superb and easily accessible. The water is clean, clear and good spots are to be found pretty much anywhere along the lagoon. I particularly enjoyed the snorkeling outside the village, along the sealed road before the airport, and of the breathtaking PK9 beach. I was also tipped off by a local that riding south of the village will bring you to lovely and secluded spots.

As for diving, Fakarava is rewarding every single dive. Not only will you encounter walls of sharks and thrilling drift dives back into the lagoon, but you’ll also witness some of the most pristine coral in the entire South Pacific. The protection that the Biosphere Reserve provides, combined with the direction the reef faces (away from the prevailing winds) – allows the coral to grow and flourish in Fakarava. It comes in all shapes, sizes, and most importantly – color! Keep in mind that dive centers only take CMAS and advanced SSI/PADI divers on extra challenging dives. This is for your own safety.  

I went diving with Dive Spirit Fakarava, currently operated by Yannick and Henri. Part of the totally worth it Te Moana Pass, divers are taken very seriously and personally here and it all starts the day before you dive. The owners or guides will meet you at your pension, sort out all the paperwork and make any changes to your dive schedule in case a spot opened up. 

Dive-Spirit-Fakarava-instructor-with-board French Polynesia

The following day, you’ll be picked up and driven to the dive center – located in a beautiful spot by the lagoon. Grab your gear, some morning coffee, and start your briefing. Safety is paramount, especially when drift diving in the wide north pass. Your instructor will also brief you on what to look out for and how to maximize the chances of seeing the ‘good stuff’. Each one carries an erasable board, used for scribbling down what it is you’re seeing throughout the dive.

Dive Spirit Fakarava - dive center French Polynesia
Dive Spirit Fakarava - dive boat French Polynesia
Fakarava Atoll Lagoon French Polynesia

Dive Spirit Fakarava offer ‘fun dives’, snorkeling trips, dive certifications, daily trips to the north pass and occasional trips to the south pass. Morning dives are two tanks with a break on the boat or a beautiful beach, while afternoon dives are single tank. The more dives you do, the better the price gets. Book early as space is limited.

There are plenty of more dive photos and stories in the ‘things to do’ section, but here’s more useful information for planning your dives.

Fakarava North Pass vs. South Pass

Where to dive?
Fakarava is famous for its two lagoon passes Garuae Pass (‘north pass) and Tumakohua Pass (‘south’ or Tetamanu Pass). Think of these two dive sites as two separate destinations. While the north pass is easily accessible from Rotoava, the south pass is about 2 hours away by boat. The North Pass: this is where you’ll do most of your diving. It’s the widest pass in French Polynesia with excellent drift dives that you’ll get to enjoy depending on your skill level and sea conditions. What to expect? Exquisite coral, lots of sharks, and a few other surprises (much more later on this). The South Pass: legendary for the multiple walls of sharks you’re pretty much guaranteed to see, diving the south pass is challenging due to its remoteness. There are three ways to dive the south pass: (1) spend a few nights in Tetamanu Village and dive with Eleuthera (2) join a dive safari from Rotoava with the likes of Dive Spirit Fakarava. This usually costs between 20,000-30,000F and includes a two-tank dive, picnic lunch and a visit to the pink sand beach (and excursion which on its own costs 12,000F). Such trips take place usually twice per month when there’s enough demand and when the conditions are right. (3) Join an excursion to the pink sand beach, skip the snorkeling session and instead book a single dive with Eleuthera (your hosts will sort this out for you). The Verdict: I’ve heard mixed reviews from those who dove in the south pass. Some said it was totally worth the effort and some said it was ‘OK’. I guess it’s all about expectations. I personally only went snorkeling in the south pass since I was quite content with the shark walls I came across in the north pass. If you are totally set on conquering the south pass, I recommend spending 2 nights there at the start of your Fakarava trip and then transfer back to the main motu.
Diving Fakarava Atoll French Polynesia North Pass Garuae reef dive

Beaches In Fakarava

Unlike Rangiroa, Fakarava has amazing beaches that are a short bicycle ride away. The best one is called PK9 (see ‘things to do’ section) and there are infinitely more (including pink sand beaches) on the more distant motus around the lagoon.

Drinking Water In Fakarava

Water in the Tuamotu Atolls only comes from the rain. Therefore, unless your pension offers filtered water, you’ll have to buy bottled water in Fakarava.  

Eating

I hate to disappoint you but much like in Rangiroa, there isn’t much choice when it comes to fruits and vegetables in Fakarava. Don’t forget – you’re on a coral atoll. The soil isn’t fertile, the wind blows right through and there’s not much rain. You’ll find that shops sell mostly canned goods and imported fruits & vegetables if you’re lucky. Locals pre-order fresh produce which arrives on the weekly cargo ship and there isn’t much leftover. Coconuts, on the other hand, are not a problem to find!

Your pension might offer the opportunity to go half board, including breakfast and dinner. In any case, Fakarava has a few good snacks for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nearly all will pick you and drop you off for dinner, or deliver food to your pension.

See the ‘places to eat’ section for specific recommendations.

eating dinner fakarava french polynesia

Safety In Fakarava

For general safety tips in French Polynesia, have a look at the ‘safety’ section of the French Polynesia Travel Guide.

As for Fakarava specific safety tips:

  • Your diving should be inclusive of insurance. However, it’s highly recommended to extend your travel insurance policy to include scuba diving-related emergencies.
  • You might come across some sand flies in Fakarava, though they are nowhere as nasty as the ones in the Marquesas Islands. You will for sure encounter wasps when venturing outside the village. I even got stung once on the back of my head. There really isn’t much you can do aside from trying to avoid them and not panicking if you get bitten (unless you’re allergic of course).

Excursions In Fakarava

There are three popular excursions in Fakarava: the ‘blue lagoon’ (~7000F for ½ day, 9000F full day), beach picnic (~4000F), and the pink sand beach (~12000F) – which we’ll cover in great depth later. If you must pick one, it should definitely be the pink sand beach. I heard that the blue lagoon is nothing special and you can easily cycle to the beach where the picnic is proposed on your own (it’s PK 9 beach).  

Pink sand beach Fakarava French Polynesia
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I strongly recommend going on these excursions during the first days of your visit to Fakarava. Why? Though it makes for a perfect way to spend your last day on the atoll (you shouldn’t dive in most cases), these excursions are very prone to cancellations due to weather and minimum passengers required. So, if you don’t want any last-minute surprises, get these out of the way early to allow for extra flexibility. Diving will almost always be possible in Fakarava.

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