Tuamotu Archipelago Travel Guide
Tuamotu is the largest of French Polynesia's five archipelagos with 77 atolls and one high island—Makatea—scattered in a vast 2,092-km (1,307-mi) chain. The closest is 350 km (219 mi) from Tahiti; about an hour's flight.
Rangiroa is the largest of the group and the largest atoll in the South Pacific. It's 354 km (220 mi) northeast of Tahiti, in the northwest corner of the archipelago. It has a circumference of 281 km (175 mi) and a huge lagoon that's roughly 72 km (45 mi) long and 25 km (16 mi) wide. The main village of Avatoru, the airport, ferry port, and most of the accommodations are on a 6-mi piece of land on the northern edge that lies between the two passes—Avatoru and Tiputa. The village of Tiputa, on the east side of Tiputa Pass, is reached by a regular boat service from Ohotu wharf.
The oblong Fakarava, the second-largest atoll in Tuamotu, is 120 km (75 mi) southeast of Rangiroa. Garuae Pass, measuring more than a mile across, is located on the northern edge; the narrower Tamakohua Pass is 59 km (37 mi) away to the south. The airport, the main town of Rotoava, and most accommodations are strung along the atoll's only semi-paved road in the northeast corner. The tiny village of Tetamanu (population: about 11) sits beside the Tamakohua Pass.
Tikehau, 14 km (9 mi) from Rangiroa, is an almost perfect circle enclosing a lagoon measuring 26 km (16 mi) in diameter. The airport, town of Tuherahera, several pensions, and a diving center are on Motu Tuherahera in the south. The island's one resort is a 10-minute boat ride away from the town. There are miles of calm lagoon beaches and wild surf beaches on the ocean side. The popular dive site of Tuheiva Pass is on the west coast.
Manihi, 161 km (100 mi) northeast of Rangiroa, is the cradle of the Tuamotu pearl industry. Its first pearl farm was established in 1968, and today about 60 farms dot the lagoon, which measures 30 km long by 6 km wide (18 mi by 4 mi). The airport, the main town of Paeua (also known as Turipaoa), and Turipaoa Pass lie in the atoll's southwestern corner; lodgings are spread around the southern half.