Scuba Diving & Snorkling
Rangiroa is one of the world's top diving destinations, with an extraordinary array of sea life. Hurricanes have damaged the coral here, so come to see fish, rays, and especially sharks rather than colorful reefs.
Tiputa Pass is the top dive site in French Polynesia. You can see graytip and blacktip sharks all year, but the best time is from December to March, when huge hammerhead sharks gather for their mating season. Another good (and less scary) time is between July and October, when manta rays look for mates. Diving in and out of the pass is for intermediate and advanced divers only, since it is both deep and subject to strong currents. Novices can dive inside the reef near Avatoru Pass and around the small islets sitting just inside both passes. Most other dives here are deep and long compared to American standards, so bring a buddy and be prepared to stretch the limits of the dive tables in order to see the magnificent sea life. Divers must be certified in advance and bring their medical certificates.
Snorkelers as well as scuba divers can "ride the rip" tide through Tiputa Pass, one of the most exhilarating waterborne experiences in French Polynesia. You are dropped off just outside the reef and literally drift with the incoming current through the pass, which looks like an underwater valley. These so-called drift snorkeling trips cost about 5,000CFP (US$63/£32) and are worth it -- if you've got a strong heart. Book at your hotel activities desk or contact Snorkeling Rangiroa (tel. 96.73.59 or 76.03.31).
While most of its lagoon shoreline consists of pebbly coral, and waves crash directly on the reef over on the ocean side, the main island does have a decent white-sand beach. You'll find it where the island makes a hook on its eastern end -- that is, from the Hotel Kia Ora eastward to Tiputa Pass.
All of Rangiroa's hotels and pensions can arrange dolphin-watching cruises, usually for about 3,000CFP (US$30) per person, but you can ride or walk to the public park at the western side of Tiputa Pass and watch them play for free. The best time is late afternoon, when the playful animals frolic in the pass, often leaping high above the waves churned by the strong currents.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.