There's not much to Avatoru or Tiputa, but take the time to talk with the locals about life in the Tuamotus. Both towns also offer island handicrafts for sale.
Even though Blue Lagoon
is an hour from Avatoru by boat, many travelers wouldn't miss it. It's there that the coral reef has formed a natural pool where visitors swim and snorkel. Accented by a white-sand beach fringed with coconut trees, Lagon Bleu is postcard perfect. (Closer to Avatoru -- five minutes by boat -- is Green Lagoon. It's smaller than Blue Lagoon and is in the middle of a residential area, but it's the next best thing if you don't have time to make it out to Blue Lagoon.)
When people talk about Rangiroa, they'll no doubt tell you about the gorgeous pink-sand beach they visited. That's Sables Roses
near Motu Vahituri. It's a two-hour boat ride from Avatoru. While pink sand is intriguing, this particular beach is eroding, so depending on when you visit, you may not see as much sand as expected.
Some of the highest-quality black pearls come from Rangiroa, so visit a pearl farm like Gauguin's Pearls (689-93-11-20). This is one of the largest black pearl farms in French Polynesia and is located on Motu Avatoru.
For something that's decidedly off-the-beaten-path, spend some time at Dominique Auroy Estate
(689-54-99-40). This is the only vineyard you'll find in the Tuamotu Islands. That's right, vineyard
. To access the winery in Avatoru, you'll need to take a short boat ride, followed by a 4x4 trek.
If ocean mammals are your thing, get out on the water, and visit some wild bottlenose dolphins. Rangiroa Activities
(689-77-65-86) offers a two-hour dolphin-watching tour.
Sportsmen favor tours with a bit more adrenaline, and deep sea fishing
expeditions definitely fit that bill. Local guides are available at the pier.
By Car: Europcar and Avis both have locations near the pier. The main drag, and really the only accessible road on the island, is less than seven miles long and runs between the villages of Tiputa and Avatoru. At Tiputa, you'll need to park your car and take a water taxi across the pass to the actual town. Avatoru, on the other hand, is located right on the road.
By Taxi: Few taxis are available at the pier, but you will find a mini-bus (689-77-28-02) that drives between Tiputa and Avatoru a few times a day (no set schedule). The fare to and from just about everywhere on Rangiroa is just $5. Water taxis are also available to take you to various swimming and snorkeling sites.
By Bike and Scooter: Local hotels and guest houses rent bikes and scooters to tourists.
Rangiroa may be one of the most remote ports of call you'll ever visit, yet the restaurants there serve up memorable fare -- everything from traditional French dishes and gourmet pizza to Polynesia favorites. It's definitely worth leaving your ship to enjoy lunch on the island.
Local Favorite: You won't find many restaurants on Rangiroa, so locals and tourists alike gather at the few establishments that have set out their shingles. Everyone loves Le Vaimario (689-96-05-96) in Avatoru, near the Maitai Rangiroa Lagoon Resort (formerly Novotel). With both indoor and outdoor seating, you can order a traditional French entree or pizza.
Lunch with a View: Kick off your shoes, and dig your toes in the sand at Le Lagon Bleu at the Maitai Rangiroa Lagoon Resort. This casual beachside restaurant serves up fresh fish, local Polynesian favorites and Continental cuisine.
Luxe Lunch: Located within Les Relais de Josephine, you'll find one of the atoll's finest restaurants, Le Dauphin Gourmand (689-96-02-00). There are just a few private tables, but the proprietor, Josephine, also entertains guests at her table at both lunch and dinner. The menu ranges from Polynesian to French cuisine and features korori curry, Chinese-style mahi mahi and green papaya gratin. Don't miss fruit sorbet or coconut tart for dessert.
Where You're Docked
Ships anchor right inside Rangiroa's interior lagoon, most often at Tiputa Pass. You'll tender to shore.
Watch Out For
There's no public transportation on the island, and there are few taxis. More often than not, you'll use the services of a water taxi to get where you want to go. Because of the lack of development, it's best to sign up for ship-sponsored tours or book an excursion with a local activities company.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The French Pacific franc is the local currency. A good rule of thumb is that 100 francs equal $1 -- but you'll want to check XE.com
for the latest exchange rates. There are two banks in the small village of Avatoru, but their ATM's are only accessible during the banks' limited operating hours. It's best to exchange currency onboard your ship or on one of the larger islands before arriving in Rangiroa.
The official languages are French and Tahitian, but many French Polynesians, especially those in the tourism industry, also know English. When in doubt, refer to an English/French phrase book.
While you can buy unique jewelry throughout French Polynesia, Rangiroa is known for its exquisite black pearls. Visit a farm, and hand-select your pearls to be made into a bracelet or necklace.
Don't miss your chance to sip a chilled glass of "Coral White" wine from the only vineyard in French Polynesia, Vin de Tahiti. This may be the only wine you sample that has a hint of mango, pineapple and coral!