Avatoru, Rangiroa, French Polynesia
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The world's second-biggest atoll, Rangiroa, is a wonderfully languorous and remote place to explore. It's beautiful: The stark whiteness of the bleached coral contrasted against the turquoise water creates vivid delight for the eyes. The lagoon here is vast and dazzling, ringed by gorgeous white-sand islets accessible only by boat and just perfect for lazing away a long afternoon. The majority of visitors come here to dive, but Rangi (as locals call it) offers more ways to explore its magnificent lagoon than to just go deep: Opt instead for a relaxed snorkel, or take a glass-bottom boat out for a cruise.
The port town of Avatoru may seem middle-of-nowhere quiet to most
Westerners, but this is the hub of the Tuamotu Archipelago. The town's paved roads, shops and even gourmet restaurants are not standard amenities on other atolls in this far-flung island group. But should you prefer to not spend the day in the water, there are experiences to be had on terra firma. Head to a small site overlooking Tiputa Pass to watch the daily performances of dolphins dancing in the waves created by the strong current. Or stop in at a pearl farm to learn how the famed black pearls are cultured—and then treat yourself to a bit of shopping afterward.