Backpacking Fakarava is relatively new and that newness has kept this hidden slice of paradise off the main tourist radar, for now. The few other tourists I saw on Fakarava were mostly dive enthusiasts.
Located in the Tuamotu archipelago of French Polynesia Fakarava is an atoll style island, meaning it lacks a lot of mass and elevation but it is elongated and takes up a generous amount of area. Fakarava is bombarded with continual wind and occasional rain. Being long and flat, the rain comes in quick short bursts leaving you with most of the day to enjoy the sunshine.
Fakarava is a UNESCO biosphere reserve, meaning it’s coral reef is protected by the United Nations. This protection provides a rich and lush ocean environment, allowing the coral and sea life to thrive.
Due to this biosphere and remoteness, scuba diving here is arguably the best in the world. Shark diving is the main attraction when visiting Fakarava. The Wall of Shark dive, as it is called an indescribable experience. Diving is slightly expensive compared to other destinations but it is well worth the price tag. The best dive sites are in the South Pass and they start at 20,000 XPF. This includes a one hour rough boat ride, 2 dives and lunch. Snorkeling on the other hand is free and you can basically step off the shore anywhere to find lush coral full of fish.
There are only two small grocery stores and a couple of restaurants on Fakarava. The main town of Rotoava is quite small. There is a newly constructed concrete road that runs from the airport through town. Fakarava is accessible by daily flights from other islands or you can arrive by a twice-a-month cargo ship from Papeete.
On the outskirts of Rotoava is a decent beach but the best and most hidden stretch of sand is located at PK9, passed the airport, off a dirt road, next to kilometer marker 9.
There are 2 active campgrounds on Fakarava, Relais Marama and Camping Tekopa Village. During my time backpacking Fakarava I stayed at Relais Marma. I also visited Tekopa Village to see how it was.
I recommend camping at Relais Marama, Jacque, the owner, is fluent in English and very friendly. He keeps the place nice and tidy. You are provided free airport pickup, free breakfast, access to a kitchen, fridge and BBQ. You also get free filtered rainwater and free WiFi, along with two bathroom/shower areas that are equipped with hot water and free use of well kept bicycles to ride up and down the island.
Relais Marama is located in the city of Rotoava. You have shade provided by tall trees and you are located in the center of the island that helps block the constant wind. The price is 3,000 XPF per person to camp or 7,000 XPF per person for a bungalow.
I biked out to Camping Tekopa Village on my second day because camping was cheaper than Relais Marama at 2,000 XPF per person. It is located almost 7 kilometers from town and what I found was slightly rundown and completely exposed to the wind and sun.
The owners seemed very friendly but they did not speak English. They had to bring over a young french backpacker to help translate. I asked him what he thought of the place and he basically confirmed what I could see. Everything was slightly run down and you were not provided many amenities, only one cold water bathroom. You have to pay for your airport transfer to the property, 1,000 XPF and if you want to use one of the two rusted out bikes it’s 1,500 XPF per day.
With no breakfast included and the cost to rent a bicycle, it is actually more expensive to stay here than Relais Marama. I would not recommend camping here because of it’s condition, lack of amenities and distance away from town.
I spent 10 days camping and backpacking Fakarava. I enjoyed every single one of those days. Fakarava was what I was looking for when I was backpacking the Society Island archipelago, a nice campground, decent beach, easy to bike around and top notch snorkeling. If Fakarava had mountains I probably would never leave. But even without mountains this island was a paradise.
Every morning I awoke to watch the sunrise before grabbing one of the campground’s bikes to ride a short distance down the road to snorkel. With the UNESCO biosphere snorkeling here is near perfect and unlike the Society Islands on Fakarava you can snorkel almost anywhere on the island, just pick a spot and hop in!
After my morning snorkel I would eat breakfast before relaxing in the hammock. Then it was time to grab lunch with Emma and we would head to the beach, snorkel or take the bikes on a little explore for the afternoon. Night came early with dinner at dusk. With dinner everyone staying at Relais Marama would gather and hang out before bed.
Fakarava was my favorite island in all of French Polynesia, I only wished I wasn’t still hurt from the Cook Islands so I could have experienced the once in a lifetime diving but fingers crossed that one day I get the opportunity to go back.
Where has been your favorite island while traveling? Let me know in the comments below. Make sure to check out the Destination French Polynesia page to read about my whole experience and learn great backpacking tips for this remote area!
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