Honestly, it took me a while to understand why I hadn’t written about Fakarava Atoll despite spending six years in Polynesia. I still don’t have a clear answer, but I believe it’s more of an oversight on my part than anything else. I’ve written about other classic atolls like Rangiroa or Tikehau in the Tuamotus.
Come to think of it, I’m the only person who has visited this renowned atoll twice—once for a brief business stay and again during a catamaran cruise in the Tuamotus. Although I’ve explored the atoll a bit, I’m not entirely familiar with it. Yet, being a blog specializing in Polynesian territory, I found it crucial to share an article about the Fakarava atoll with my readers. Even though we no longer reside in Polynesia, it was essential to address this.
Regrettably, I don’t know the atoll like the back of my hand. I’ve gathered valuable insights from friends and family who spent several days there, and we’ve also drawn upon our research for crafting a comprehensive guide to French Polynesia (only in French for now, sorry).
Here’s a comprehensive guide to Fakarava: places to visit, activities to enjoy, and practical tips at the end of the article! While Fakarava might be less famous than Bora Bora, it’s a must-see in French Polynesia.
Regrettably, I lost most of my atoll photos due to a hard drive crash, so not all the pictures are ours!
Here are a few key facts if you’re interested in Fakarava Atoll:
- The atoll is in the Pacific Ocean, part of the Tuamotu Archipelago, and holds UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status, alongside the atolls of Aratika, Kauehi, Niau, Raraka, Taiaro, and Toau.Interestingly, I’ve personally visited all of them except Taiaro.
- The atoll is globally renowned for its exceptional diving opportunities.
- It spans 21km in width and 60km in length, making it the second-largest atoll in French Polynesia after Rangiroa.
- It features two main passes: the North Pass (known as Garue) and the South Pass (known as Tetamanu).
The atoll is definitely worth a visit, especially for marine lovers. As I often mention, it’s evident that all atolls share similarities, and most activities and must-see spots are along the coast. This makes sense considering you’re only a few meters above sea level. If you prefer land activities, I wouldn’t recommend visiting more than one atoll as you might find it less engaging.
Despite visiting Fakarava twice, I haven’t dived into its waters, a renowned haven for divers. Nevertheless, I’ve immersed myself in the atoll’s waters, discovering coral gardens, turtles, tropical fish, and the thrill of swimming with sharks. Whether at the North or South Pass, the underwater scenery is exceptional. Generally, Fakarava’s coral appears healthier than what I observed in Rangiroa. Yet, encountering dolphins is rarer here compared to Tiputa Pass in Rangiroa.
Most tourists opt to stay near the village close to the northern pass, accessible by a brief 30-minute boat ride. The Tetamanu Pass (South Pass), situated at the southern end of the atoll, is approximately 1.5 hours away by boat from the North Pass. For avid divers, consider allocating two days to each pass – North and South. The experience is truly rewarding. Although I didn’t dive at Tetamanu, spending two days around it on a catamaran was one of the most liberating and enchanting feelings. Exploring the turquoise lagoon amidst diverse marine life was magical. Take time to visit the charming little church and the historic cemetery; they are truly magnificent.
When it comes to dive clubs, most are situated in the North Channel. However, I can’t endorse one club over another. In the north, you have O2 Fakarava, Top Dive, Dive Spirit, and Kaina Plongée. In the south, the options are more limited. You can either visit Tetamanu Diving Centre, which I believe is receiving mixed reviews, or, alternatively (and our recommendation), opt for Enata Fakarava Diving. This newer club is located in Pension Raimiti, not far from the South Pass. We’ve received excellent feedback from both the dive center and the pension, where friends have stayed and been captivated.
The Fakarava lagoon is vast, providing an excellent playground for delightful lagoon excursions. There are several areas to choose from, but the most classic and popular is the trip to the blue lagoon in the northwest of the atoll, just under an hour’s boat ride from the main village. There’s no doubt that this is a must-see during your visit!
If you have a bit more time, consider another day trip to the South Channel and Les Sables Roses.
This is a full-day trip, considering the distance from the North Channel, and includes several snorkeling stops on islets in beautiful surroundings, swimming with blacktip sharks, discovering the small village and life around Tetamanu, and enjoying the magnificent pink sand beaches in the south of the atoll. You can also take half-day trips to the Green Lagoon or Pufana site (to the north).
There are several companies offering this type of excursion. We’ve heard of Kariga 2 Excursions, but there are others.
For an enriching experience, we recommend dedicating two days to two distinct day trips.
It’s an excellent opportunity to explore pearl farming. You can also explore similar places in the Leeward Islands, like Raiatea or Huahine.
On Fakarava, we often suggest visiting the Havaiki Lodge pearl farm—a renowned establishment on the atoll. Here, you can tour the farm and, of course, purchase a pearl.
While you won’t cover the entire distance (it’s vast), cycling is the most efficient means of transportation. Start early to avoid the intense heat, as there’s minimal shade on the roads.
Though the journey may not offer many sights, spending time in the main village of Rotoava and exploring the Taputavaka and Topoka lighthouses is worthwhile.
Take a moment to explore both sides of the atoll. Surprisingly, you can walk from the lagoon side to the ocean side in just a few minutes. These areas are markedly different, and exploring both sides is highly recommended.
We biked to the end of the road where the North Pass is located. You can’t swim there, but the view is worthwhile. On the lagoon side (PK 9), you can pause at a beautiful white sandy beach.
Heading south, there’s nothing particularly special about it, except for the sensation of driving on a road at the world’s edge between two oceans!
Still, I cherished the few days in Fakarava. It remains a magical place, especially at the southern pass, where you genuinely feel that ‘end of the world’ vibe. I can still recall that magnificent sunset over the South Pass, as if it were yesterday, truly moving!
For a honeymoon in Polynesia, I recommend Rangiroa, which provides superior accommodation.
Concerning water sports, aside from traditional scuba diving, it’s possible to engage in board sports like kitesurfing, wakeboarding, and others with the Tuamotu Kite School. There’s also jet skiing, although it’s not our favorite, and quad biking (though it might not make much sense on an atoll). If you seek activities on land, we suggest exploring the high islands, such as the Marquesas, Hiva Oa, Nuku Hiva, and Ua Pou.
Here’s all you need to know about visiting Fakarava Atoll.
Getting to Fakarava has become easier since our first visit to Tahiti. You can still find reasonably priced air tickets, especially if you’re flexible with your travel dates and airline choice. Check Skyscanner’s flight comparator for potential great deals.
Once you’re here, the process is straightforward. You’ll likely fly with Air Tahiti, the sole airline serving the atoll. Fakarava, along with Rangiroa and Tikehau, is part of Air Tahiti’s classic routes. Consider exploring all three atolls if you plan to visit multiple Tuamotu islands, especially for diving. It’s the most economical approach.
Unfortunately, boat options from Tahiti to the atoll seem no longer available since the onset of COVID-19.
Exploring the expansive atoll is simple. Rent a basic or electric bicycle for a day to tour around. Most of your time will be spent diving or on boat trips, and in both cases, the service provider will pick you up from your accommodation. Some guesthouses also offer car and buggy rentals for added convenience.
There are several options, but note that luxury accommodations like overwater bungalows are not prevalent here. Here’s a brief overview:
- Camping: Set up your tent at Camping Tekopa Village or Relais Marama (priced between 3,500 and 4,000 XPF/night for 2 people).
- Guesthouses: During both of my visits, I enjoyed my stay at Paparara Guesthouse. It offers a great atmosphere and excellent food. Other options include Vekeveke Village and Tokerau Village.
- Lodge: Havaiki Lodge is highly recommended, setting the standard for accommodations. Alternatives include Fafapiti Lodge Fakarava.
- Campsite: Try Camping Tetamanu Chez Sab. It’s simple, but the hospitality is reputedly excellent.
- Guesthouses: Consider Raimiti Guesthouse or Motu Aito Paradise; both have received positive feedback.
That concludes my Fakarava visit summary. This atoll is truly remarkable, especially for diving enthusiasts!
Stay tuned for more articles to assist in planning your Polynesia trip.