Rangiroa, French Polynesia
Rangiroa is the world's second largest coral atoll and floats amid the Tuamotu Archipelago in French Polynesia. Comprised of more than 240 “motus” (small islands), Rangiroa surrounds a huge lagoon that’s ripe for water sports or soulful contemplation.
What We Love
Diving: A combination of the huge lagoon and the steep drop-offs beyond the reef, as well as drift and night diving, make Rangiroa one of the holy grails of global scuba.
Pearls: Found in shades of sapphire, violet, gray, and sometimes even black, pearls farmed in Rangiroa's lagoon are available both on their own or set in jewelry sold at shops in Avatoru.
Best Known For
Drift Snorkeling at Tiputa Pass: You'll feel like Superman when you shoot down this channel during the outgoing tide, flying past tropical fish and the occasional shark or dolphin.
Domaine Dominique Auroy: Grapes grown in atoll vineyards are fermented into the better-than-expected Vin de Tahiti white and rose wines at what is surely one of the world's most offbeat winemakers.
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Who It's Best For
Scuba Divers and Snorkelers: Coral gardens, underwater walls, millions of tropical fish, and a plethora of large creatures like sharks, dolphins, manta rays, and tuna make Rangiroa the perfect place to slip into the water with mask and fins.
Beach Bums: With 110 miles of shoreline, the atoll offers plenty of sand at varied beaches such as the pink-sand Les Sables Roses, the tide-pool-laden Île aux Récifs, and Le Lagon Bleu, with its dozen different shades of blue and green water.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
There's Not Much in the Way of Nightlife: The after-dark scene can be sleepy, although you might try Te Mao for live music and cold Hinano beer.
Beaches Lack Facilities: Make sure to take everything you need with you (including toilet paper). Rangiroa's beaches are "primitive" — no toilets, no shops, no bars, no nothing.
Joe Yogerst is a California-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Travel + Leisure.