Rangiroa Travel Guide

May 27, 2016

Rangiroa Atoll aerial panoramic view French Polynesia

Like giant pearl necklaces floating in the warm blue ocean, the Tuamotu Atolls are like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Thin slivers of coral rock surround endless lagoons, where traditional Polynesian life moves extra slow and rich marine life awaits you beneath the gentle waves. Rangiroa is known as ‘the Infinite Lagoon’. It’s not only the second biggest atoll in the world, but also one of the best scuba diving destinations. Encounters with families of friendly dolphins, scary looking sharks and thrilling drift dives are all part of the daily routine in Rangiroa. Plan your trip to scuba diving heaven with this Rangiroa Travel Guide and don’t forget your dive card!

About This Rangiroa Travel Guide

I spent three months in French Polynesia, as part of a six-month backpacking trip across the South Pacific Islands – with 5 nights in Rangiroa. I later returned as a tour guide to Rangiroa in late 2019, visiting the atoll as part of a cruise from Tahiti to Easter Island. This travel guide to Rangiroa was written based on my experiences and is meant to help you make the most of this destination. The Rangiroa Travel Guide is geared towards independent travelers, but any visitor will find it useful.

Heading off to French Polynesia? In-depth island guides to all 5 archipelagos await you, including sample itineraries and essential travel tips & tricks.

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Why Should You Visit Rangiroa?

Rangiroa is to scuba diving what Bora Bora is for the ultimate luxury vacation. It’s one of those destinations that’s on every serious diver’s bucket list. Come here if you’re already a certified diver and come here pretty much just for the diving. Rangiroa is known for having the greatest chances of seeing ‘the big stuff’ like sharks, dolphins, and manta rays while offering superb drift dives. If you’re looking to do only a small number of dives and/or looking for something to do beyond scuba diving, consider Fakarava instead.

sand bank in Rangiroa Lagoon French Polynesia

Rangiroa Lagoon pearl far floating - French Polynesia

Sunset 2 - Rangiroa Atoll French Polynesia

What’s Included In This Guide To Rangiroa?

Rangiroa Travel Guide Map

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

Rangiroa Travel Guide Map - French Polynesia

Facts & Brief History

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

The Tuamotus Atolls

Rangiroa 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!

pink sand beach 7 - tikehau lagoon tour - french polynesia

An atoll is basically all that’s left from a once ‘proper’ island that had a mountainous center surrounded by a lagoon, like Bora Bora, Maupiti, and the rest of the Society Islands. At some point, the extinct volcano began to slowly sink and all that was eventually left is the coral reef that once surrounded the giant. The atoll sits slightly above sea level, with palm trees being its tallest features. As long as the coral can keep growing upward, the atoll will survive.

atoll formation

Atolls do not usually completely encircle the lagoon. Where rivers once flowed from the mountains into the ocean, coral could not form. These are known as lagoon passes. Some passes are deep enough for ships to travel through and they also serve the purpose of draining the lagoon during the tides.  

Tiputa Pass Rangiroa French Polynesia from the air

Not much grows on an atoll and there are hardly any freshwater reservoirs. While ancient Polynesians managed to settle here sometime after 1000 AD, the first European visitors did not find much interest in these flat, infertile and odd-looking islands.

Rangiroa atoll French Polynesia

In the 1970s the French government took advantage of these remote atolls to test nuclear weapons. The deep enclosed lagoons were ideal grounds for testing, and though this practice has long been halted, its aftermath is a HUGE issue for islanders until this very day.

These days, the economy of the Tuamotu Atolls heavily relies on black pearl farming, copra production, fishing and scuba diving-oriented tourism.

Making copra Rangiroa French Polynesia


Rangiroa is the largest atoll in the archipelago and the second biggest atoll in the world. In fact, it is so big that you can fit the entire island of Tahiti inside and still have some leftover space. Its lagoon, accessed via the Tiputa and Avatoru passes is so massive, that it has its own weather patterns and horizon (you cannot see the other side of the atoll from any point). The atoll is made up of over 400 small motu (islets) connected, with the bulk of its roughly 3,000 residents living in villages near the passes.  

Children - Rangiroa Atoll French Polynesia

Polynesian canoe in lagoon - Rangiroa Atoll French Polynesia

Sunset - Rangiroa Atoll French Polynesia



  1. Thank you so much!! We are organising a short trip to Polynesia/Maquesian islands and your information it’s simply great!!!

    1. Thanks Jasmine! You’ll have such an amazing time in paradise, and kudos for including the Marquesas in your plans!

  2. This information is fantastic as we are in the middle of planning our Xmas trip to Rangiroa and Fakarava. Thank you so much!

  3. I’m not a scuba diver but I love snorkelling. Is Rangiroa an island I should consider? Or do you still recommend Fakarava or another?
    (I’m planning on going to Bora Bora and Moorea and possibly Vahine island).
    Thank you in advance. Tina

    1. Hi Tina

      If you do not dive, visiting the Tuamotu group is not a must unless you want to experience life on an atoll. If I had to choose though, Fakarava would definitely win as there’s more to see and do other than diving. That said, the snorkeling is more accessible in Rangiroa, though Fakarava has beaches, miles of road you can cycle on, excursions etc. Hope this helps!

  4. Thank you for your amazing travel blogs and destination guides Avichai! We are on a 34 day trip throughout French Polynesia and your guides are indispensable for navigating and getting the most out of each island. Thank you for doing all the leg-work, for your insights, for your funny comments, and for your tips on travel that has connected us with the locals for an authentic experience here! So far we have travelled to Tahiti, Moorea, Huahine (a favourite, but don’t tell the masses), Raiatea, Bora Bora, and off next to Rangiroa, Fakarava, and a final few days in Tahiti-iti. Thanks so much!!

    1. Ia Ora Na Sally

      Thank you so much for the lovely feedback. It keeps me motivated to keep writing these guides. Enjoy the rest of your time in paradise and don’t forget to savor everything moment in the day.

  5. Hello,
    Thank you for your precious information !!!
    I am a backpacker from Brazil, I will make a 22 day trip in May 2018.
    Your information was amazing for my trip.
    my trip … Maupiti, Bora Bora, Tikehau, Rangiroa, Fakarava and Moorea.
    I’m super excited !!!!

    1. Obrigado Marcelo for the lovely comment! So glad I could help. I actually met a well-known Brazillian blogger in Fakarava. We had a great time together. You’re gonna experience the trip of a lifetime. If you stay with any of the people I stayed with or go with the guides I mentioned, please say a big hello! Happy travels!

  6. Omg!!! Thank you so much! Still figuring out if I can make it budget wise, but because of you I know where I would wanna go! Im gonna go camp to cut the cost and experience the real nature 🙂
    Do you know if you can wild camp anywhere? (I mean just in case there is no camp in that island )
    Again! Thanks a bunch!

    Love kimmy

    1. Hi Kim. Thanks for the feedback. Theoretically, you might get away with it but in some cases, the land is private. You could always pay a few dollars to camp on someone’s property but just ask beforehand. Some islands have campgrounds within pensions.

  7. Loved reading your report.. Can you help by letting me know where the public beach is .? We are doing a snorkeling tour in the morning but would love to go to the public beach in the afternoon.
    Thanks in advance..

    1. Hi Karen
      Thanks for commenting. At the start of the Rangiroa Travel Guide, there’s a map which lists all the points of interest. The pubic beach is between the Kia Ora Resort and the Six Passengers dive center. Note that it’s not much of a beach but it is one of the rare stretches of sand on this part of the atoll.

  8. Hi there,

    Just wondering how much your backpacking trip in French polynesia cost? I’m hoping to do it for a month and want to see what to budget. TIA!

  9. Can you give us an idea of what the local market had to offer and estimated prices? I’m wondering after what I read if we should try and buy fruits and veggies at our previous island and bring them in our carry on, if we still have room with the weight restrictions.

    1. I remember they didn’t have much and prices were expensive. A cargo ship comes once every few weeks and most fresh produce is gone from the stores in a matter of days. So if you are keen on eating specific fruits and vegetables, then bring with you. You won’t have a problem finding thimngs like potatoes, onions, cucumbers, bananas on the island.

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