Idyllic white sand beaches, crystal clear blue water, atolls that look like they’re out of a dream – that’s what you can expect when traveling to French Polynesia. And the best part? Some of the best scuba diving in the entire world! French Polynesia is an underwater paradise – healthy coral reefs, incredible marine biodiversity, and perfectly warm water temperatures to top it all off (80F/27C or more). Oh, and did we mention it’s one of the best places in the world to dive with schooling reef sharks? Sign us up!
Where is the Best Diving in French Polynesia?
When it comes to scuba diving in French Polynesia, you can’t really go wrong. However, there are a few sites that stick out above the rest.
The Tuamotus: Rangiroa, Fakarava, and more
Let’s make this easy – hands down the best diving in French Polynesia can be found in the Tuamotus archipelago. If you think French Polynesia in general is remote, wait until you see this island chain. Made up of 77 atolls, you can expect postcard-perfect beaches, swaying palm fronds, and jaw-dropping dive sites.
The most popular and largest atoll is Rangiroa. In particular, this atoll is known for its pass dives, namely Avatoru and Tiputa pass. A pass is an opening in the atoll, connecting the calm and sheltered inner lagoon to the outside ocean. Diving these passes can be quite challenging – depending on when they are dived, the current can be very intense. In fact, many divers flock to the area specifically to “shoot the pass.” However, these strong currents are exactly why this area is so great for diving – bringing with them an incredible level of marine diversity. You can expect to see life of every shape, size and color – turtles, barracuda, rays, every tropical fish you can imagine, etc. Rangiroa is also known for plentiful shark sightings, with large schools congregating at around 30 meters deep or below.
And that’s before the dolphins show up. Did you know that Rangiroa is one of the best places in the world to dive with dolphins?! Here, the dolphins are super friendly and curious, and will often stay with divers for 5, 10, 15 minutes or more! If you’re lucky enough to visit, seeing dolphins on scuba is definitely an experience you will never forget.
Nearby to Rangiroa is Fakarava, a UNESCO biosphere reserve. Like Rangiroa, Fakarava is also famous for its pass dives, namely the North (Garuae) and South (Tumakohua) passes. But what makes Fakarava world renowned is its “wall of sharks” – literally hundreds of gray reef sharks schooling in the strong current.
Other worthwhile atolls in the Tuamotus include Tikehau and Toua. Both boast healthy coral reefs and plenty of biodiversity.
Tahiti is the largest island in French Polynesia, and where the international airport is located. Home to beautiful mountains, hiking, jungle, and more, the underwater scene off the coast is just as stunning. One of the most interesting dives here is called “The Spring.” It earned its name from the underwater reservoir that lies underneath the reef, causing pockets of freshwater to bubble out of the ground. Nearby “Turtle City” is also a great site for novice divers. The calm conditions and shallow reef is perfect for beginners. Tahiti is also known for wreck dives, including a cargo ship and a Catalina amphibious aircraft. Many refer to the area as a whole as “The Aquarium.”
In the right season, you can also swim with humpback whales in Tahiti (and other islands throughout the country!). The season typically runs from July to early November, when the whales come closer to shore to give birth and care for their young. Many dive operators will offer snorkeling tours for a chance to swim with these majestic giants.
Known for interesting underwater topography, Moorea is home to many deep canyons and chasms. Perhaps one of the most famous sites is “Tiki Point,” one of the best places in the whole world to dive with lemon sharks. Here you will find incredible visibility (20-40 meters/70-100 feet!), large schools of fish, and healthy reef. This location is great for beginners and advanced divers alike, thanks to the variety of dive sites and conditions.
When is The Best Time to go Scuba Diving French Polynesia?
Although French Polynesia can be dived year round, most agree that the ideal time to visit is from April to November, which is considered the dry and sunny season. Year round, the water temperature is between 26–28 degrees C.
What Are The Best Things to do in French Polynesia Besides Diving?
There’s no doubt that the underwater environment in French Polynesia is astounding, but the topside activities are just as fun. Some of the best activities in French Polynesia include:
Located on the island of Moorea, this spectacular viewpoint offers a stunning vista over Opunohu Bay and Cook’s Bay. A great place to go for a scenic walk or just to hang out and take in the views.
On the coastline of Tahiti, this is one of the island’s most visited tourist sites. Come be wowed by this powerful geyser-like attraction along the rocky shore.
Although there are many waterfalls on the island of Tahiti, this is perhaps the most stunning. Also called the Cascades of Faarumai, this area actually includes 3 waterfalls. Incredibly accessible, this series of waterfalls tends to be very popular.
Go shopping for pearls
French Polynesia is world renowned for their pearls, in particular their rare black pearls. Why not take a visit to a pearl farm and bring home a souvenir?
French Polynesia is so much more than just beach time. There are countless beautiful hiking trails through the mountains and jungles. Some top options include Mount Aorai on Tahiti or a hike to a secret beach in Hiva Oa.
How to Get Around French Polynesia?
Consisting of over 118 islands and atolls, it’s going to take a bit of effort to island hop in French Polynesia. After flying into the capital Papeete on Tahiti, you’ll likely want to consider a domestic flight to the other islands. While island hopping via boat may sound like a good idea, it’s typically not feasible once you consider the vast distances between each island. The local airline, Air Tahiti, offers Flight Passes, which allow you to fly to several islands within one archipelago on one ticket. Top archipelagos to visit include the Society Islands, the Tuamotos, and the Marquesas Islands.
If you’re on a budget, you may be able to snag a spot on cargo ships traveling between the islands. However, it may be difficult to secure a ticket since locals are often given priority. If you have a lot of time on your hands, this option may work for you.
How Much Does it Cost to Visit French Polynesia?
Heralded as one of the most beautiful places in the world, French Polynesia does not come cheap. The remote location and high taxes on goods definitely can burn a hole in tourists’ pockets. But it’s all worth it once you take that first breath underwater.
A single dive in French Polynesia costs between 7,000 XPF ($60) and 15,000 XPF ($125), depending on the shop and location.
Accommodation can range from budget (usually around $50 a night) to honeymoon-level luxurious (well into the 1000s of dollars). Mid-level guesthouses will set you back $100-150 per night. Most islands outside of Tahiti don’t have hostels for those on a shoestring budget.
Like accommodation, food prices also cover a wide range. A beer will set you back about $4, while a cheap meal will typically cost between $8-12. Fancier restaurants and resorts can run in the $100s.
Itinerary Suggestion For French Polynesia
If you have just one week to explore the beautiful islands of French Polynesia, a possible itinerary might be:
- Tahiti – 2 days
- Moorea – 1 day
- Rangiroa – 2 days
- Fakarava – 2 days
If you have more time to spare, you might consider adding in extra days on the Tuamotus for more diving. If you’re craving a bit more luxury, perhaps head over to Bora Bora to be pampered. Whatever you choose, you can’t really go wrong in paradise!
Have you been to French Polynesia before? Tell us about your favorite parts in the comments!
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