Avatoru, Rangiroa

Photo: Hotel Kia Ora Resort & Spa
Photo: Hotel Kia Ora Resort & Spa

What do you want for Christmas this year? Your mind may be on tomorrow’s turkey, pumpkin pie, and table setting, but everyone else seems to be looking farther ahead. They’re thinking about online deals and Black Friday sales. So you’re supposed to come up with a list of electronics, kitchen gadgets, and clothing. You don’t really need more pajamas, though. There’s only one thing you’re dreaming of this year. But it can’t go on a list. All you want for Christmas is a trip to the South Pacific.

You’re dreaming about the Hotel Kia Ora Resort & Spa on the northern side of Rangiroa. It’s everything you imagine a French Polynesian resort to be. Overwater bungalows stretch across a turquoise lagoon. More villas are tucked in between coconut trees onshore. Sun loungers and hammocks are spaced out on the beach. An eye-shaped infinity pool has a view of the reef. While an open-air restaurant sits on stilts at the edge of the water.

Rangiroa is the largest atoll in French Polynesia. Its huge lagoon is an enclosed coral ring surrounded by more than 400 islands, motus, and sandbars. Unlike the volcanic Tahitian islands, 350 kilometers to the north, Rangiroa is flat, barely above sea level. Its name means “vast sky” in Tuamotuan, for the uninterrupted views.

Photo: Hotel Kia Ora Resort & Spa
Photo: Hotel Kia Ora Resort & Spa

You’ve come to relax on Rangiroa, so you plan on doing practically nothing during your time here. Wake up to bright sunshine, singing birds, and the scent of Tahitian Gardenias. Relax in your jacuzzi before breakfast. Claim your spot on the beach. Spend the next few hours staring at the crystal-clear water, listening to the small waves wash against the shore, and watching white yachts pass through the lagoon. Snorkel among schools of angelfish and parrotfish. Kayak farther from shore to see the dark shadows of manta rays beneath you. Book a massage at the spa, if you’re still feeling tense from your long flight. Watch the sun set from the end of the pier. Then eat a seafood dinner at Te Poerava. Despite doing nothing, you’re exhausted.

After a few days of doing “nothing,” you begin to wonder what the rest of the lagoon looks like. Walk to the southeastern tip of the island to watch dolphins ride the strong current in the Tiputa Pass. Ride a bike to Avatoru, the main town. It’s single paved road is lined with churches, the town hall, and tiny shops. Continue to the Avatoru Pass, where sharks—hammerhead, lemon, and whitetip—congregate. Ride a boat to Les Sables Roses at the southern end of the atoll. The Pink Sands’ sandbars sparkle because of crunched red shells. Or head west to the Blue Lagoon, where white-coral beaches, swaying coconut trees, and the brightest, clearest water you’ve ever seen await. It’s a postcard-perfect setting and the best gift you’ve ever received.

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