French Polynesia Diving: 8 Best Places To GoApril 25, 2022
With its lush emerald islands, bucket-list pelagics and spectacular coral reefs, French Polynesia diving is some of the best in the world. Beginner divers can explore coral gardens and calm lagoons whilst advanced divers tackle the fast-paced channel dives and ‘walls of sharks’ this destination is famous for. But with so many islands to explore, it can be daunting to choose where to go. Here are all the essentials you need to go diving in French Polynesia, so you can choose the right time and place for you. Read on to find out more.
The Society Islands.
The Society Islands is the most popular area for diving in French Polynesia. It hosts extremely healthy marine ecosystems and nutrient-rich waters that support diverse marine life. Including bucket-list destinations Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora, these islands are a paradise for every diver.
With an array of black and white sand beaches dotted around the island, there are plenty of places to kick back and relax at Tahiti, the largest island in French Polynesia. This vibrant island hosts Papeete, French Polynesia’s capital, and is the main arrival point for tourists.
There are plenty of dive sites for all experience levels at Tahiti, including shallow coral reefs and easy wreck dives just offshore.
Beginner divers will enjoy the Aquarium dive site, a large sandy basin inside a calm lagoon full of reef fish. La Vallée Blanche is one of the most beautiful Tahitian dive sites and offers drift diving with numerous sharks.
With so many land-based things to do in Tahiti as well, this is a great destination for families.
Top things to do in Tahiti:
- Explore Papeete’s vibrant markets, home to hundreds of food and craft stands.
- Check out Tahiti’s famous surf spots, suitable for all experience levels.
- Visit one of the tallest waterfalls in the world, Fautaua Waterfall.
Moorea is surrounded by a fringing reef that contains clear, current-free water averaging just 18 meters (59 feet) deep. It is a perfect place for beginner divers to enjoy some of French Polynesia’s gorgeous coral reefs.
It is also one of the few places in the world where you can swim with humpback whales and dive with grey reef, tiger, lemon and nurse sharks as well.
There are numerous dive sites to choose from, with landscapes covered in rose-shaped corals and a thrilling drift dive along a vast 2-mile-long channel.
Just make sure you visit Moorea Lagoon to go snorkeling with Moorea’s famously-friendly stingrays and blacktip reef sharks.
Moorea’s topside highlights include:
- Hop on a boat for lunch on Cocobeach, an idyllic islet in Moorea Lagoon.
- Hike up to Belvedere Lookout for striking views across the island.
- Join a guided tour of Te Mana O Te Moana, Moorea’s sea turtle sanctuary.
3. Bora Bora.
Bora Bora is one of the most beautiful islands in the world, known for its turquoise lagoon, luxurious resorts and pristine white sand beaches. If you are looking for a romantic French Polynesia diving destination, this is a great place to go.
There are striking volcanic views across the water from Bora Bora and the island’s valleys are filled with blossoming hibiscus. The underwater world is equally as mesmerizing, with caves, canyons, swim-throughs and tunnels busy with fish life, morays, stingrays and sharks.
After all that diving, treat yourself to some Bora Bora luxury:
- Indulge in a spa treatment or two at Bora Bora’s resorts.
- Visit one of the top ten beaches in the South Pacific: Matira Beach.
- Enjoy a glass of champagne on Tupai, a heart-shaped, deserted atoll.
Raiatea might be less well-known than other dive destinations, but it has outstanding significance for Polynesian people and hosts French Polynesia’s most famous wreck dive.
Known as the ‘sacred island’, Raiatea is home to the Taputaputea UNESCO World Heritage Site, a marae that was once the central temple and religious center of Eastern Polynesia.
Raiatea also hosts Uturoa, a charming town with food markets and food trucks that are perfect for a post-dive feast.
There are plenty of dive sites to enjoy at Raiatea, with seamounts, caverns and drop-offs, plus big pelagics at Teavapiti Pass. Inside Raiatea Lagoon, there is colorful coral gardens ideal for novices.
The Nordby, French Polynesia’s best-known wreck, is a must for any diver. This three-masted boat sank in 1900 and sits at 29 meters (95 feet). She is in great condition and is a thriving artificial reef.
Other highlights of a trip to Raiatea include:
- Kayaking up Faaroa River, the only navigable river in French Polynesia.
- Visiting Raiatea’s vanilla farms.
- A waterfall hike and swim.
The Tuamotu Archipelago.
The Tuamotu Archipelago is the largest chain of atolls in the world and is roughly the size of Western Europe! It is no surprise that this incredible archipelago hosts some of the most famous French Polynesia diving experiences.
5. Rangiroa Atoll.
The enormous Rangiroa Atoll consists of a loop of islands that stretches for more than 100 miles and completely encircles a deep lagoon. The lagoon is so vast it could hold Bora Bora!
Rangiroa is the best place in the region for land-based diving. There are plenty of easy lagoon dive sites for new divers with schools of reef fish and visiting sea turtles.
Further offshore, experienced divers can enjoy the pass and canyon dives that Rangiroa is famous for. Washed by strong currents, these passes host countless sharks, schooling fish, dolphins and visiting mantas.
As well as world-class diving, Rangiroa also has thriving villages with restaurants, crafts, and locally-produced wines.
Top land-based things to go at Rangiroa:
- Explore Rangiroa’s traditional coral churches and craft centers.
- Taste Tahitian wine at Rangiroa’s Dominique Auroy wine estate.
- Visit the black pearl farms dotted along the lagoon.
6. Fakarava Atoll.
Fakarava Atoll is the main liveaboard diving destination in French Polynesia. It is so vast that some liveaboards spend their entire itinerary there. If you love diving all day long with big marine life, this could be the destination for you.
Known for being a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Fakarava Atoll is an exceptional ecosystem with untouched environments and rare species found nowhere else on Earth.
There are two major passes at Fakarava, including Garuae Pass, the largest pass in French Polynesia. This immense pass hosts hundreds of grey reef sharks and an array of other pelagics.
If you are unsure about the currents, there is still some excellent French Polynesia diving for you to enjoy at Fakarava.
The Tumakohua Pass is shallower and gentler than Garuae Pass, making it a great place for divers who are new to drift diving. There are also wonderful dives throughout Fakarava’s calm lagoon.
Top things to do at Fakarava include:
- Strolling along an idyllic pink sand beach.
- Joining a lagoon tour to the best snorkeling spots.
- Renting a bicycle and exploring the atoll at your own pace.
7. The Marquesas Islands.
If you want to experience a remote French Polynesia diving vacation, take a trip to the Marquesas Islands. This island group is the farthest away from any landfall on Earth.
The Marquesas Islands are dotted with tumbling waterfalls and covered in lush rainforests that hide thousands of pre-European artifacts. They are rich in culture and host some of the finest craftspeople in French Polynesia.
Whilst the water is less clear than in other areas of French Polynesia and the coral is less diverse, the sheer isolation of these islands has created a unique underwater world.
There are rocky reefs and towering pinnacles with thousands of schooling fish, plus scalloped hammerheads, reef sharks, dolphins, and unusually large manta rays.
It is also one of the best places to spot melon-headed whales in calm waters.
Above water, there are plenty of things to do at the Marquesas:
- Go rainforest hiking or horseback riding.
- Join a 4x4 tour to explore the interior of the islands.
- Visit the Marquesas’ many archaeological sites.
- Go on a viewpoint hike through landscapes of waterfalls, striking peaks and valleys.
8. Austral Islands.
Sitting at the southernmost boundary of French Polynesia, the Austral Islands are peaceful, far from the modern world and alive with Polynesian culture.
The Austral Islands have slightly cooler water than the rest of French Polynesia and host a variety of pristine lagoon and barrier reef dive sites. The water is incredibly clear and there are diverse landscapes with abundant marine life.
Just make sure you have enough time to visit Rurutu Island, the ‘Island of the Whales’. Rurutu hosts breeding southern humpback whales from August to October each year and you can go snorkeling with them.
Offering excellent shark diving as well, these islands are visited every year by keen underwater photographers and people seeking the heart of Polynesia’s rich culture.
Topside highlights of the Austral Islands include:
- Colorful villages with locally-made artworks and handicrafts.
- Numerous pre-European archaeological remnants.
- Abundant hiking trails.
- Coffee, pineapple, wild basil and lychee plantations.
Who is diving in French Polynesia suitable for?
With dozens of islands to choose from, dotted with a mixture of gentle lagoons and exciting offshore dive sites, French Polynesia diving is suitable for all experience levels.
Be aware that currents through the atoll channels can be extremely strong and many of the more advanced dive sites are deep.
When is the best time to go diving in French Polynesia?
May to October is the peak French Polynesia diving season, offering dry weather and excellent dive conditions. November to April is the rainy season but there is still great diving on offer.
- Visit from August to late October to encounter humpback whales.
- Dive the Tuamotu Archipelago from December to March for great hammerheads.