Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora… Snorkel some of the world’s most beautiful lagoons

There is a recurrent Polynesian cliché figuring a shallow crystal clear lagoon in which snorkelers are surrounded by small blacktip sharks, pink whiprays and hundreds of double-saddle butterflyfish. More than a dream, it is actually a must-do in the Society Islands.

But Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora and the 11 other islands that made up the Society Islands are not all about splashing with sharks. Dozens of delightful snorkeling spots await you at the foot of the green peaks; whether you are a beginner or an experienced snorkeler. The snorkeling locations range from shallow lagoons teeming with colorful fish to gorgeous reefs bordering unexplored motus (sandy islets grown on coral) or atoll passes where manta rays and turtles meet in the deep blue.

Banc de poissons chirurgiens à Punaauia, Tahiti
Punaauia Lagoon is Tahiti island’s most renowned snorkeling spot (here, a shoal of convict tang at Mahana Park).

In Tahiti, most of the snorkeling spots are located on the west coast of the island. The coastline of Punaauia and Paea indeed offers several kilometers of sandy beaches bordered by a lagoon, that locals call by their kilometric point (PK, point kilométrique in French) from Papeete. The best spots are located opposite the Tahiti Ia Ora Beach Resort (PK15, formerly Le Méridien), Toaroto Beach (PK15.5), Vaiava Beach (PK18), and Mahana Park (PK18.5). Pointe des Pêcheurs, at the northern tip of the lagoon, is considered as the best spot in Tahiti to see rays and sea turtles, but don’t go there without someone who knows the spot well (located at a “pass “, the currents can be strong and dangerous). If you stay at the InterContinental Resort Tahiti, near Faa’a airport, snorkeling is possible around the water bungalows and in an artificial lagoon, the “lagoonarium”.

Snorkeling the Moorea Lagoon, Society Islands
Moorea’s gorgeous lagoon (left: picture taken from Magic Mountain, from where one can catch sight of the Hilton Moorea’s overwater bungalows) notably boasts the Sharks Sandbank (right), a spot where snorkelers can freely swim with rays and sharks.

Located only 30 minutes by ferry from Papeete, the island of Moorea is a true snorkeling paradise. The most famous spot on the island is the Sharks Sandbank in Tiahura, where you can swim with blacktips and pink whiprays in a few meters of water. Motu Fareone and Tiahura Beach are two other great options in the northwest of the island. To snorkel at the foot of overwater bungalows, opt for the superb lagoons of the Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort and the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa, where coral restoration projects have been carried out for several years.

Orangefin anemonefish in Raiatea
The orangefin anemonefish (Amphiprion chrysopterus) is a common sighting at Motu Ofetaro‘s reef in Raiatea.

The other islands of the archipelago are all home to fantastic spots, including in Bora Bora, where boat tours to the lagon to swim with rays and sharks are a must-do. In Raiatea, we recommend Motu Ofetaro, where a shallow reef allows you to spot clownfish and butterflyfish on a shallow reef. The Coral Garden, located near the Taha’a Island Resort & Spa, is a must-see for snorkeling in Tahaa, and arguably one of the best spots on all of the Society Islands. Maupiti, often described as a “miniature version” of Bora Bora, is renowned for its Manta Ray Cleaning Station, where you can swim freely with these sublime giants of the sea.

Snorkeling the Coral Garden of Tahaa, Society Islands
Dive in the Coral Garden, inside Tahaa lagoon, and quickly find yourself amidst a swirling school of double-saddle butterflyfish (Chaetodon ulietensis).

When to go 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-seasons 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, 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.

During winter, humidity lessens and showers are scarce. The sun shines a lot and temperatures are easier to cope with (81°F/27°C in average). It is the best moment to pay a visit to the Islands and go snorkeling, even though trade winds sometimes shake the otherwise quiet ocean. August and September are said to be the best months to visit Tahiti and its archipelago.

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