Snorkel some of the world’s most beautiful lagoons

Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, and the 11 other islands that make up the Society Archipelago attract snorkelers from all over the world. At the foot of the mountainous green peaks of the islands, dozens of world-class snorkeling spots await, all offering their own unique sea life and experience.

The islands are divided geographically into two groups; the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands. 

From shallow lagoons awash with blacktip and butterflyfish to vibrantly colored reefs with a spectacular selection of marine life, here are some of the best snorkel spots that Tahiti and the Society Islands have to offer.

A blacktip shark surrounded by butterflyfish in Bora Bora
Friendly blacktip sharks and butterflyfish… Welcome to French Polynesia!

The best snorkeling spots in Tahiti

In Tahiti, most of the snorkeling spots are located on the west coast of the island. The coastline of Punaauia and Paea offer miles of sandy beaches bordered by a lagoon. Locals call these islands by their kilometric point (PK, point kilométrique in French) from Papeete.

The best spots are located at Tahiti Ia Ora Beach Resort (PK15, formerly Le Méridien), Toaroto Beach (PK15.5), Vaiava Beach (PK18), and Mahana Park (PK18.5). All these locations feature shallow lagoons with vibrant reef life, despite the corals being in pretty poor condition overall.

School of convict tang at Mahana Park, Tahiti
A school of convict tang at Mahana Park, Tahiti.

Pointe des Pêcheurs (also known as “La Source”), at the northern tip of Punaauia’s lagoon, is considered the best spot in Tahiti to see eagle rays and sea turtles. A word of warning: don’t go there without someone who knows the spot well, as currents can be very strong and dangerous at this location.

If you stay at the InterContinental Resort Tahiti, near Faa’a airport, consider snorkeling around the overwater bungalows and in the hotel’s artificial lagoon, the Lagoonarium.

Snorkeler swimming with a stingray and a shark in Moorea
The Sharks Sandbank, in Moorea, is a great location to swim with sharks and rays.

The best snorkeling spots in Moorea

Located just 30 minutes by ferry from Papeete, Moorea Island is one of the best snorkeling destinations in the archipelago. If possible, don’t miss visiting this location. 

The most well-known snorkeling location on the island is the Sharks Sandbank in Tiahura. It offers a unique opportunity to swim alongside blacktips and pink whiptail rays in their natural environment. If you get to the Shark Sandbank by kayaking from Hotel Les Tipaniers, combine it with a visit to the channel between Motu Tiahura and Motu Fareone, which is home to a nice coral garden.

Snorkeler swimming with a green sea turtle in Tiahura Beach
Tiahura Beach is one of the very best locations in French Polynesia to spot green sea turtles.

In the same area, don’t miss Tiahura Beach.   A drift snorkel, starting from the shore, will lead you to a pass that is home to a multitude of green turtles. There are some other public beaches that offer good snorkeling in Moorea. Those beaches include Ta’ahiamanu Beach in Opunohu Bay, as well as Temae Beach, which boasts crystal clear waters filled with a rainbow of colorful fish.

If you dream about snorkeling at the foot of an overwater bungalow, the Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort and the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa are both great options.

Longhorn cowfish at Plage de Temae
A longhorn cowfish at Temae Beach.

The best snorkeling spots in Bora Bora

With its jade lagoon dotted with motus and overwater bungalows, Bora Bora is the most well-known and celebrated Polynesian island. Many snorkeling spots, some truly exceptional, are scattered all around the island and its lagoon.

Two of the famous shore access locations are found along the coast of the main island: the iconic Matira Beach, bordered by white sandbanks and coral patches, and Pointe Ta’ihi, known for its Manta rays cleaning station. Don’t miss Pointe Ta’ihi if you have ever dreamed of swimming with these majestic creatures.

Snorkeler swimming with a manta ray at Pointe Ta'ihi, Bora Bora
For a truly memorable experience with some of the sea’s most fascinating creatures, visit Pointe Ta’ihi Manta Ray Cleaning Station, Bora Bora.

To explore the legendary lagoon of Bora Bora, embark on a day boat trip. Tapu, a deep area of the outer reef visited by large blacktips and occasional lemon sharks, Toopua’s Shark Bank, a sandbank where stingrays and small sharks abound, and The Aquarium, a reef with translucent water filled with fish, are among the most popular sites with day trippers.

Snorkelers swimming with blacktip sharks in Bora Bora
Snorkelers observing blacktip sharks at Bora Bora’s Shark Bank.

If you are lucky enough to stay in a hotel located in the lagoon, most of them offer good snorkeling around their overwater bungalows. This is the case, for example, at the Intercontinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa.

The best snorkeling spots in Raiatea and Tahaa

The sister islands of Tahaa and Raiatea, the second largest island after Tahiti, share the same lagoon. Both islands offer great opportunities to explore the Polynesian underwater treasures.

Radial scorpionfish at Muto Ofetaro, Raiatea
A radial firefish at Muto Ofetaro, Raiatea.

In Raiatea, Motu Ofetaro is a popular spot that offers frequent sightings of radial firefish, orangefin clownfish and several species of butterflyfish.

One of the most spectacular reefs in Tahaa is a site called The Coral Garden, located at the edge of the Taha’a Island Resort & Spa. The Coral Garden is home to colorful coral gardens populated by sergeants, butterflyfish and parrotfish. Still in Tahaa, but on the main island’s shore, don’t miss the Manta Ray cleaning station found at Pension Au Phil Du Temps. This area is accessible from the pension’s pontoon or from the main road.

Snorkelers at Tahaa's Coral Garden
Snorkelers drifting in Tahaa’s Coral Garden.

The best snorkeling spots in Maupiti

Located 195 miles (315 km) northwest of Tahiti, Maupiti is often described as a “miniature version” of Bora Bora. Maupiti has several locations that are great for snorkeling and its Manta Ray Cleaning Station, where you can swim freely with these sublime giants of the sea, makes a name for itself as the best location.

In the northern part of Maupiti’s lagoon, the drift-snorkeleable Fausse Passe, is the perfect location for observing the shallow water’s sea life. Butterflyfish, in particular, enjoy gathering around snorkelers.

Manta ray at Maupiti cleaning station
Maupiti’s Manta Ray Cleaning Station is one of the best locations in French Polynesia to spot these gentle giants.

The best snorkeling spots in Huahine

Huahine is one of the most authentic and picturesque islands in the Society archipelago. It has several shore access locations. A 10-minute drive from Faré, the Coral Garden is one of the most famous. Its coral heads attract a swarm of colorful fish. Be careful here and watch out for the current, which can be strong in the area.

Orangefin anemonefish in Huahine
The Orangefin anemonefish is a common sighting in Huahine’s Coral Garden.

In Avea Bay, at the southern tip of Huahine, you can walk straight off the beach into a spectacular snorkeling experience. The Mahana Hotel jetty shelters marine life including snappers, batfish, and anemone gardens filled with clownfish. Just 6 miles (10 kilometers) away, the very beautiful Hana Iti Beach also offers pleasant underwater explorations.

Want to explore the lagoon? Many agencies organize boat tours around Huahine. Typically, tours include two or three snorkeling stops. Among the most visited stops are the Natural Aquarium, opposite Faré, where blacktip sharks are easy to see, and Motu Vaiorea, fringed by a colorful reef.

School of batfish at Avea Beach, Huahine
A school of batfish under Mahana Hotel’s jetty, in Avea Bay (Huahine).

What can you see while snorkeling in Tahiti and the Society Islands?

The Society Islands are one of the world’s best destinations for snorkeling with big fish. Their shore waters are loaded with blacktip sharks and stingrays, and in very specific spots you will easily encounter green sea turtles, manta rays and eagle rays.

The blacktips are found almost everywhere, but the Sharks Sandbank in Moorea, easily reached by kayak, is a favorite spot if you want to see them without having to take a tour. For green turtles, Tiahura Beach in Moorea is probably the best site, it is freely accessible from the shore. If you are looking for  manta rays, they are mainly seen at three locations: the Maupiti Cleaning Station, Pointe Ta’ihi in Bora Bora, and Pension Au Phil Du Temps in Tahaa.

Spotted eagle ray at Matira Beach, Bora Bora
Spotted eagle rays are common in the Society Islands lagoons. Here, at Matira Beach, Bora Bora.

If the Polynesian coral reefs are less colorful than in other regions of the world, they still feature a diversity of hard corals, including massive porous corals, finger corals and some massive branching corals.

The reef abounds with wrasse, dozens of species of butterflyfish, pufferfish, schools of goatfish and angelfish. Orangefin clownfish are easy to see at shallow depths, especially around Raiatea, Tahaa and Huahine.

Stonefish in Bora Bora
A stonefish in Bora Bora’s Aquarium snorkeling location.

In the protected areas, snappers, trevallies and emperors are prevalent along the drop-offs. In the most visited sandy lagoons, double-saddle butterflyfish and threadfin butterflyfish will congregate in the hundreds around boats, creating great backdrops for underwater photography. But, please, don’t feed them.

School of double saddle butterflyfish in La Fausse Passe, Maupiti
A school of double-saddle butterflyfish in La Fausse Passe, Maupiti.

What is the best time of the year for snorkeling Tahiti and the Society Islands?

French Polynesia is a huge territory and each of its archipelagos has its own climate. A tropical rainforest climate rules over Society Islands and sets a two-season rhythm. Summer (November to April) is wetter while winter (mid-April to mid-October) brings a dryer climate.

During summer, temperatures can rise as high as 86°F/30°C and the air is damp. Showers occur frequently, and they can be particularly intense in December and January. Hurricanes are less frequent than in many South Pacific areas, but they are more likely to happen during these months.

Aerial view of Tahaa's Coral Garden
Aerial view of Tahaa’s Coral Garden.

During winter, humidity lessens and showers are scarce. The sun shines a lot and temperatures are easier to cope with (81°F/27°C on average).

It is the best moment to visit and snorkel the Society Island, even though trade winds sometimes disturb the otherwise quiet ocean. August and September are said to be the best months to visit the archipelago.

500+ spots have already been featured on Snorkeling Report thanks to people like you. Share your favorite snorkeling spot and help us cover the world map. Your contribution will help the snorkeling community find sites and enjoy the underwater world!


Where to spot them?

Discover on which snorkeling spots you are most likely to see your favorite species