Food and Drink in Rangiroa
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, fresh seafood and Polynesia favourites such as poisson cru (raw tuna marinated in lime juice and coconut). 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. A casual place right on the lagoon, and a short walk from Avatoru town, is Snack Rangiroa Plage, which is part of a family-run pension (guest house) by the same name. There's fish and tasty cafe snacks on offer from 11.30 am until 2pm every day except Monday. (40-87-75-43-40).
Lunch with a view: Stop in for a snack or an ice-cold Hinano at Lili's house, a rustic wooden shack decorated with colorful curtains and tablecloths and bright beach umbrellas. (689-87-32-42-50)
Dolphin-watching lunch: Located within the guesthouse, Les Relais de Josephine, you'll find one of the atoll's finest restaurants, Le Dauphin Gourmand, which serves delicious French and Polynesian meals at dinner. During the day, Josephine and her daughter rustle up more casual fare such as quiche, salad, omelettes and paninis. There's every chance you'll see dolphins cavorting in the waves as the terrace overlooks Tiputa Pass. It's a popular spot for divers once they've emerged from the deep. Book an early dinner if you're ship doesn't leave until late, where gourmet dishes such as Asian-style mahi mahi, green papaya gratin and seafood curries, along with the coconut tart for dessert may grace the menu. (Located at the eastern tip of Avatoru island on Tiputa Pass (40-96-02-00).
Beaches in Rangiroa
As Rangiroa is made up of hundreds of motu -- which are, in reality, big lumps of coral strung together like a misshapen necklace -- there are plenty of little beaches edging the vast lagoon. There are several beaches within walking or cycling distance from Avatoru town; go exploring or ride a bicycle and you'll discover one. If you have a meal at Snack Rangiroa Plage (mentioned above) there'll be chance to take a dip there.
The best sandy beaches are found at the Green Lagoon and Blue Lagoon, accessed via private boat or shore excursions.
Don't Miss in Rangiroa
The Blue Lagoon: This 'lagoon within a lagoon' is Rangiroa's best-known attraction. Located about an hour's boat ride from Avatoru, the blue lagoon is an enclosed calm body of water within the main lagoon. After an hour's fast boat trip, the captain will anchor in shallow water where passengers disembark and a few metres across a seabed strewn with coral to another little motu which has its own lovely, sandy beach.
Like a scene from a classic South Seas' postcard, the water is crystal clean and the palm trees bend down towards the sand. Most excursions will include a barbeque seafood lunch and swimming. While the beaches are littered with coral (wear reef shoes), the underwater coral viewing isn't very good. You'll also see a few harmless black-tipped reef sharks; they swim about hoping for a (non-human) fee. The Blue Lagoon can only be visited by boat, so book a ship shore excursion or one from a local operator at the wharf. As it's a magical place, trips are likely to see out quickly.
The Green Lagoon: For those who don't have time to visit the Blue Lagoon, there's the smaller Green Lagoon, located only about five minutes from Avatoru town in a sheltered spot near the Avatoru Pass on the adjacent motu. Rangiroa Excursion is one operator who'll take you there. (40-87-79-24-66).
Ile aux Recifs: Many consider this, the Isle of Reefs, as the best excursion as it combines swimming, snorkelling, a beach picnic and great coral -- but coral with a difference. Also located about an hour's boat ride from Avatoru (but south of the Blue Lagoon), this area is dotted with raised feo (coral outcrops) some of which stand five to six metres above the water on the ocean side. Pack your reef shoes to wade through the lagoon to see their weird shapes and sizes. Ship excursions are bound to feature this trip, along with private operators waiting at the wharf.
Les Sables Roses: If time allows those who want to see the pink-sand beach should head to Les Sables Roses on a shore excursion. Be warned it's a two-hour boat ride each way -- located at the southern tip of the atoll on Motu Vahituri. Operators always offer a picnic lunch at this deserted spot. It might be best to take the ship's excursion (if one is offered) especially if the port visit is short, as the ship will always wait if one of the short trips is late.
Shooting the Pass and Drift Snorkelling: Divers get an adrenaline rush and a chance to see "big fauna" as they like to call sharks and rays, as they whoosh along through either Avatoru or Tiputa Pass with the incoming tide. Drift snorkeling offers a similar experience, with snorkelers also travelling in groups with a guide and boat near at hand. It's not advised to do these activities without an experienced guide. Ships are likely to offer these tours, otherwise there are many dive companies in Rangiroa with representatives ready and waiting at the pier.
Gauguin's Pearls: Some of the highest-quality black pearls come from Rangiroa, so a visit to Gauguin's Pearls, one of the largest black pearl farms in French Polynesia is a must for jewelry lovers. Guided tours take place at 8.30am, 10.30am and 2pm from Monday to Friday. The boutique, also open on Saturdays, sells some stunning pieces. You'll find it on Motu Avatoru not far from the airport. (40-93-11-30)
Dolphin Tours: Those who'd rather watch dolphins without getting wet can take boat cruises to see bottlenose dolphins playing among the waves in Tiputa Pass. Your ship may offer this tour, however, local company DeDe Excursion (40-87-78-47-17) runs them and also has fishing trips.