Best Snorkelling Spots in the South Pacific

Outdoors & Animals

Woman snorkeling in clear tropical waters in front of exotic island, Bora Bora, Tahiti (French Polynesia)

When you head on an island escape, you probably have some interest in snorkelling. It makes sense. Snorkelling is a highlight of a vacation in the South Pacific, as this idyllic region of the world is home to vast coral gardens, warm waters, and incredible currents that make for spectacular underwater sights.

However, with so many great snorkelling spots to choose from, it’s often hard to know where to visit to indulge your underwater passions. To simplify your decision making, we’ve put together a short list of the best snorkelling spots in the South Pacific.

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Bora Bora is probably the first place that comes to mind when you think of the South Pacific. Its picture-perfect beaches, warm waters, and tropical mainland embody visions of paradise. But beyond the luxury resorts and the unparalleled glamour of a Bora Bora vacation, this French Polynesian island has some great snorkelling spots. You won’t have to travel far to explore gorgeous waters full of coral gardens and lively sea creatures like reef sharks and stingrays. The main lagoon is a great place to spend the afternoon snorkelling through waters that are home to manta rays and eagle rays and all manner of colourful fish like parrotfish and clownfish. In particular, the area known as the Lagoonarium is great to explore, with mind-boggling numbers of fish within a small area, hence the name. Aside from enjoying the clear waters and the diverse array of undersea life, you also won’t have many people to compete with for the best snorkelling spots, due to the exclusivity of the island.

Colorful fish, stingray and black tipped sharks underwater in Bora Bora lagoon, Tahiti (French Polynesia)
Colourful fish, stingray and black tipped sharks underwater in Bora Bora lagoon

Huahine, French Polynesia

Unlike Bora Bora, Huahine is often passed over when exploring the islands of French Polynesia. Huahine is best known as French Polynesia’s “garden island,” as the verdant tropical jungle is home to vanilla orchids, coconut plantations, and banana groves. However, the waters surrounding the island are also great, and some of the most overlooked spots in the South Pacific for snorkelling. If you take a motorized canoe out to the waters around Motu Tefarerii and snorkel through the lagoon, you’ll be treated to waters filled with clownfish, yellow and white saddleback butterfly fish, and eels. Huahine isn’t as immediately glamorous as Bora Bora, but for underwater sights, it’s a great place to visit.

The coast of Huahine island and coral reef fish school with a shark underwater, Tahiti (French Polynesia)
The coast of Huahine island and coral reef fish school with a shark underwater

Moorea, French Polynesia

Like Huahine, Moorea exists in the shadow of Bora Bora. Many people that do visit the island focus on the mountainous landscape, as Moorea is home to eight peaks that are all worthy of hiking. However, if you favour the water over the land, you’ll be treated to wonderful snorkelling spots with plenty of stingrays and black tip reef sharks to photograph with your underwater camera. In particular, Stingray City in the north of the lagoon is one of the best spots in the world to see stingrays and all other manner of underwater creatures, from butterfly fish to convict tangs to eels. You’ll also find coral the size of compact cars and be able to get up close to sharks. (Don’t worry, they’re more scared of you than you are of them.)

Young Couple Snorkeling in Moorea in Tahiti (French Polynesia)
Young couple snorkeling in Moorea

Rarotonga, Cook Islands

The coral reefs of Rarotonga in the Cook Islands might be less colourful than the other entries on this list, but they’re still great spots for snorkellers of all skill levels to swim through and enjoy. Rarotonga has warm waters all year around and a calm shoreline around most of the island. The most challenging currents are found at Tikioki, which happens to be the best spot for more practiced snorkellers. If you can handle the current, you’ll find angelfish, pufferfish, boxfish, moray eels, turtles, and white tip reef sharks to keep you company under the waters. If you’re more of a beginner, you should focus your attention on Aroa Beach, which has gentler waves and still plenty of sea life to spot.

Woman snorkelling above healthy corals with tropical fish in Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Woman snorkelling above healthy corals with tropical fish, Rarotonga

Tahaa, French Polynesia

Perhaps the greatest snorkelling spot in all of the South Pacific can be found near the French Polynesian island of Tahaa, which is within shouting distance of its sister island, Raiatea. Tahaa is a quiet island distinguished by its low hills and vanilla farms, but it’s also home to breathtaking coral reefs. You can snorkel along the shoreline and enjoy the colourful reef that’s home to a variety of fish species. However, the best snorkelling adventure is a drift snorkel through the island’s Coral Garden. Drift snorkelling takes advantage of the water’s strong currents to let you drift from one spot of a coral reef to another to see all the happenings beneath the waves while doing nothing but keeping your body horizontal to the sea floor. The journey through the Coral Garden takes you from the side of a motu into the island’s lagoon to see a kaleidoscope of undersea life. It’s arguably the best-kept secret in all of French Polynesia.

Colourful coral colonies grow on a sandy bottom near the islands of Raiatea and Tahaa, Tahiti (French Polynesia)
Colourful coral colonies grow on a sandy bottom near the islands of Raiatea and Tahaa

Tivua Island, Fiji

Captain Cook Cruises’ private Fijian atoll is blessed with 500 underwater acres of coral gardens that are home to colourful marine life, including the stunning lionfish. While Tivua Island didn’t always allow travellers to scuba dive or snorkel on Fiji vacations, nowadays you’re able to snorkel off the shoreline and discover the world beneath the waves. Making Tivua Island even more enticing is the purposefully sunk wreck of the MV Raiyama, which offers snorkellers the opportunity to see marine life take over a sunken boat. Even if you don’t opt to snorkel Tivua Island specifically, the entire Coral Coast of Fiji is great for snorkelling and worthy of your attention on a South Pacific vacation.

Young girl snorkeling with lionfish, Fiji
Young girl snorkeling with lionfish in Fiji

Snorkelling will always be one of the great highlights of a trip to Polynesia. If you head to any of these destinations, know that you’ll find incredible coral gardens and abundant sea life to discover beneath the waves. These best snorkelling spots in the South Pacific will leave you enchanted with the splendour of the natural world.