There are two "villages", Avatoru and Tiputa, both in the very narrow inhabited zone in the northern area of the atoll. Avatoru is on the same motu as the airport; however, you will need to take a boat to get to Tiputa.
French is the official language, and Tahitian is also spoken, but the majority of tourist-related activities will be able to cater to English speakers.
Polynesians appreciate any effort in trying to speak their language. The words below are the ones you might recognize during a conversation:
- Aita = no
- E = yes
- Fare = house
- Ia ora na = Good Morning or Hello
- Ma'a = food
- Maeva = welcome
- Maita'i? = How are you?
- Mauruuru = Thank you
- Nana = Goodbye or See you later
- Manuaia = Cheers or Toast!
- Pape = water
- Tama'a = Let's eat
Air Tahiti flies into Rangiroa from various Polynesia islands such as Bora Bora, Papeete, Fakarava etc. Rangiroa Airport is located at the main motu of Avatoru, near the village and near most hotels and pensions. The airport has an Air Tahiti agency, snack bar, souvenir boutique and public restrooms.
Most travelers stay at Avatoru motu (Tiputa motu is only accessible by boat). Not much point renting a car, it is probably best to hire a bicycle, there is only one main road on Avatoru after all, and it is just a few kilometers long!
You will need someone with a boat to bring you to the outer motus.
Silvertip (and sometimes hammerhead) sharks can be found in the Avatoru Pass dive site.
Tiputa Pass is great for reef sharks (and also possibly hammerhead and tiger), dolphins (sometimes they come and play with you!), eagle rays, manta rays, barracudas, tunas, Napoleons, and many other smaller colourful fishes!
On the boat ride to and from dive sites at Tiputa Pass, you might even see dolphins jumping out of the water playing with the waves.
- Scuba Diving is breathtakingly fabulous in and around the Tiputa pass, with dolphins, sharks, manta rays, turtles... Coral and "small animals" lovers may be disappointed, but for the "big thrills", Rangiroa delivers. The drift dive riding the current flowing from or to the lagoon through the pass is an absolute must-do. Drift snorkeling is a great adventure. At any time there are manta rays that go through the pass.
- There are several dive shops, all on the main motu. You can for instance try TopDive, Six Passengers or Raie Manta Club. The Kia Ora hotel has its own TopDive shop.
- The tour to the Blue Lagoon is also a great trip. It takes about an hour from the Kia Ora to get to it, but is an amazing sight. There is not much in the way of coral to see, but there were plenty of blacktip reef sharks (over 40 have been spotted by one party of visitors). Most of the sharks are small, but it is quite an experience when you are not expecting them.
- There's also a Pearl Farm that offers free guided tours during the week. They explain their production of the cultured Tahitian pearl. Their boutique can also be found inside their site, Gauguin's Pearl.
There are only a handful of places where you can grab something to eat on the island. Do not expect 5-star gourmet food; however, you can give a try at the following places:
- Snack Rio, near the airport, with some very decent local food besides the takeaway pizzas.
- Te Mao Lounge Bar can offer nice events, with local groups who play music
- Cafe Obelix. A truck restaurant. Very decent local food and kindly ruled by their owners
Like other similar small and sleepy atolls of the Toamutos, there is no night life. The locals maximise the sunshine hours by getting up before 6AM and retiring early when the sun has set.
There are only two "large" hotels, the luxurious Kia Ora and the comfortable Novotel. Besides those hotels, there are several smaller family-run pensions, for instance Les Relais de Josephine.
- Kia Ora, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. A very luxurious but old establishment, with a few overwater bungalows. The annex Kia Ora Sauvage is located on a remote motu, perfect for a complete castaway from civilization. The hotel will undergo renovation during 2009. The hotel is located near a very narrow stretch of sand which could be described as a beach. There is good snorkeling once you get off shore a bit. We saw many fish and rays. The hotel restaurant is good and the seafood buffet is a nice touch. They also have staff (Willie) who speaks excellent English and makes communicating much easier. The infinity pool is a great place to relax during the day.
- Hotel Maitai Rangiroa (formerly Novotel Lagoon Resort), BP 17, Avatoru, ☏ . Less plushy than the Kia Ora, but still high-range. Located close to the airport, but due to the very low number of (propeller only) flights this is really not a problem. Note that the hotel is right on the lagoon, with wonderful snorkelling but there is no sand beach.
One of the cheapest family-run pensions would be Pension Loyna (http://membres.lycos.fr/pensionloyna/us/main-us.htm). Loyna is very friendly and helpful, provides free bicycle rental, knows everyone else in the island, and cooks delicious meals!
Although there are (plenty of) sharks in the area, some of which often come very close to the shore, they are for the most part harmless.
Tikehau is only a few km away on the map, but counting taking off and landing, it takes 20 minutes to get from Rangiroa to its closest Tuamotu neighbor.