The 9 Best Scuba Diving Sites in French Polynesia

Scuba diver and ray in Bora Bora

Bernard Radvaner / Getty Images

When it comes to diving in French Polynesia, there are some givens you can expect no matter which island you pick. Expect warm water (over 80 degrees F is the norm), great visibility (100 feet or more in some areas), and healthy populations of wildlife ranging from sharks to schooling neon-colored parrotfish.

If you're planning to dive on a few different islands, consider buying a multi-dive package with Top Dive. They run dive shops on Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Fakarava, Rangiroa, and Tetiaroa. If you're diving with Top Dive, they can usually arrange dives through their partner shops on smaller islands, though they have shops at major hotels like the Intercontinentals in Tahiti and Bora Bora.)

If you're in Hiva Oa, you'll want to dive with Marquesas Diving, which is the island's best (and only) dive shop. Try Tahaa Diving on Tahaa and Tikihau Diving on Tikihau. You'll likely have a dive shop associated with your hotel if you dive from a major tourist island like Bora Bora or Tahiti, so you could always ask your hotel concierge to arrange your diving for you.

Tahiti used to allow boats to feed sharks (a process called "chumming") to make them come near the boats. However, chumming is ultimately harmful to sharks, so the country banned it in 1997. But some sharks still associate boats with the chance to get some tasty dead fish scraps, so you'll still have a good chance of seeing sharks in many of these sites. Sharks get a bad rap in the media and movies, but they're not out to hurt you. Between the loud underwater bubbles and how big divers look with fins and tanks on, divers are scary to sharks and certainly not considered prey. They don't want to mess with you. With all that said, here are the best dive sites throughout French Polynesia.

01 of 09

Tiki Point, Moorea

A diver in Moorea on prolific hard or stony corals as far as the eye can see.

Stephen Frink / Getty Images

One of the best spots in the world to spot lemon sharks is the Tiki Point dive site on the northwest side of Moorea. Why is it the best? For starters, it has great visibility—on a bad day, you may only be able to see for 70 feet, but on good days you can see for well over 140 feet or more. It's also not hard to find sharks as they're often already near the surface to greet divers as they jump in. During the short boat ride to the site, you may also see dolphins or whales on the surface.

At Tiki Point, likely shark sightings include lemon sharks, grey reef sharks, black tips, and white tips. If you dive on a day with a slight current, you may notice larger schools of fish or sea turtles coming in to grab the tiny plankton being carried in the current.

  • Dive Type: Boat dive
  • Closest Departure Point: Tuahura, Moorea
  • Depth: 55 to 75 feet
  • Certification Required: Open water
02 of 09

The Spring, Tahiti

A sea turtle at The Springs dive site in Tahiti

Suzie Dundas

Though the whole of French Polynesia is often called "Tahiti," that name is actually reserved just for one island. Fortunately, it's the island with the international airport, so all travelers will visit it while in the country. And that means divers should squeeze in at least one dip below the surface while there.

One of the most fun dive sites for novice divers is The Spring, so named for the freshwater bubbles constantly bubbling up through the reef from an underwater reservoir. As if swimming through the bubbles wasn't cool enough, divers will usually see six or more sea turtles as the site is extremely close to a dive site called "Turtles Flat" (or "Turtle City"). Shallow reefs and minimal currents make this a great site for first-time divers or those who haven't been in the water in a while.

  • Dive Type: Boat dive
  • Closest Departure Point: Puna'auia, Tahiti
  • Depth: 50 to 100 feet
  • Certification Required: Open water
03 of 09

Tahuata, Hiva Oa, Marquesas Islands

A marble ray in Hiva Oa

Suzie Dundas

Diving in the Marquesas is more of an adventure than diving in most of the other islands. It's a bucket-list dive for those who seek to go below the surface in the world's most remote places. The Marquesan island of Hiva Oa (once home to French fauvist Paul Gauguin) is one of the very few places to dive in the Marquesas, but it's a great spot. The rocky island looks much the same under the water as over, with steep walls dropping below the ocean. The water is a little colder and visibility isn't as great as in Tahiti or Moorea, but divers who don't mind some currents and swells are likely to be treated to sightings of sharks as well as giant eagle and marble rays. The latter evolved to blend in with the rocky ocean floor and can be nearly impossible to spot when not moving.

  • Dive Type: Boat dive
  • Closest Departure Point: Atuona, Hiva Oa
  • Depth: 50 to 100 feet
  • Certification Required: Open water, though currents and downswells can be strong
04 of 09

Anau, Bora Bora

Manta ray and a scuba diver in Bora Bora

Bernard Radvaner / Getty Images

You won't find a bad dive site in Bora Bora but Anau is a cut above the rest thanks to the manta rays that call the area home. While ray sightings aren't guaranteed, they're very common as Anau is a cleaning station. An underwater "cleaning station" is any area where small fish and invertebrates eat parasites and, for lack of a better word, ocean crumbs, that collect on the bodies of mantas. These stations are usually shallow and mantas generally visit every day as they know schools of cleaners like parrotfish and wrasse will be there. If you want to maximize your chances of seeing mantas, book this dive two mornings in a row as it's off-limits to divers in the afternoon.

  • Dive Type: Boat dive
  • Closest Departure Point: Motu Piti A'au (near the Intercontinental Bora Bora)
  • Depth: 30 to 80 feet
  • Certification Required: Open water
Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09

Garuae Pass, Fakarava

A diver watching sharks in Garaue Pass, Fakarava

Suzie Dundas

Love sharks? Then there's no better dive site in French Polynesia than Garaue Pass, famous for the "wall of sharks" that prowl the reefs just outside the pass. Generally, divers will make a quick descent, sitting on the bottom of the ocean as sharks swim just beyond around 70 to 90 feet deep. You'll stay there for 10 or 15 minutes to watch the sharks before beginning the ascent. You'll likely need to hold on to rocks as you'll get very tired and burn through your air quickly trying to fight the strong currents. Because of the unpredictable currents, the chance of large shark sightings (tiger sharks, if you're lucky), and the depth, this site is generally recommended only for advanced divers.

  • Dive Type: Boat dive
  • Closest Departure Point: Rotoava, Fakarava Atoll
  • Depth: 70 feet
  • Certification Required: Advanced open water
06 of 09

Tiputa Pass, Rangiroa

A dolphin approaching divers in Rangiroa

Suzie Dundas

Not into sharks? Then head to Rangiroa, where you're more likely to encounter a different extra-large species: dolphins. The pass has both incoming and outgoing currents, which can create random waves at the surface. Bottlenose dolphins like to jump and play in those waves, and divers are likely to encounter them underwater. They're curious and friendly and will often come up to say hello. There are actually several unique dive sites in the pass, but which you visit will usually be determined by the direction and speed of the current. Fortunately, divers usually stay near the reef, where the currents are fairly minimal, so divers of all levels have the chance to swim with dolphins.

  • Dive Type: Boat dive
  • Closest Departure Point: Rotoava, Fakarava Atoll
  • Depth: 50+ feet
  • Certification Required: Open water
07 of 09

The Cargo Ship and Catalina, Tahiti

A diver on the cargo ship wreck in Tahiti


Stephen Frink / Getty Images

Non-certified or beginner divers don't need to miss out on the experience of being underwater in Tahiti. Inside the lagoon are two sites very popular with new divers: a cargo shipwreck and the wreck of a Catalina amphibious aircraft (flying boat.) The latter was gutted and intentionally sunk in the 1960s for snorkelers and divers but the cargo ship (La Goelette) was an accidental sinking. Divers with experience penetrating wrecks will have no problem with either site as both have wide openings, no currents, and great visibility. Some dive shops refer to this area collectively as "the Aquarium."

  • Dive Type: Boat dive
  • Closest Departure Point: Puna'auia, Tahiti
  • Depth: 40 to 75 feet
  • Certification Required: Open water or less (it's a popular spot for students.)
08 of 09

The Canyons, Tetiaroa

A scuba diver doing a safety stop with a coral reef in foreground


Global_Pics / Getty Images

The Canyons is a dive site to the south of Tetiaroa Atoll, just outside the lagoon. The site is known for being a perfect example of what makes French Polynesia diving so wonderful. Expect a lively, populated reef with extreme biodiversity; you're likely to see everything from sharks to eagle rays to barracuda to spiny lobsters. Currents are rare, visibility is usually at least 90 feet, and the reef has dozens of caverns and channels that make it feel like you're diving in an underwater maze.

  • Dive Type: Boat dive
  • Closest Departure Point: Tetiaroa Atoll
  • Depth: 65 feet
  • Certification Required: Open water
Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09

Tu Heiava Pass, Tikehau

Tiger shark photo taken by diver in French Polynesia

Baptiste Le Bouil / Getty Images

Tu Heiava Pass seems like it was intentionally designed to encourage sightings of big wildlife. The underwater pass is narrow, so all marine creatures coming into the atoll have to pass through the same area. That makes it an excellent spot for sightings of nearly every marine species in French Polynesia. Better still, many fishermen have underwater fish traps in the lagoon near the end of the pass, and the fish traps tend to attract species like hammerhead and tiger sharks.

  • Dive Type: Boat dive
  • Closest Departure Point: Tuherhera, Tikehau
  • Depth: 30+ feet
  • Certification Required: Open water
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