Punaauia may officially be a suburb of bustling Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia, but it still looks like a tropical getaway. Its main resort juts out into a stunning lagoon. Bliss!

After mingling with the locals in the local mall, wade or dive into the clear, warm waters to meet the underwater residents of Tahiti as well. Say hi to stingrays, black-tip reef sharks, colourful angelfish and shy anemone fish or take a cruise to see dolphins and whales. Afterwards, relax by the sea as you watch the sun set over nearby Moorea Island with its dramatic volcanic peaks.

Frequently Asked Questions about Punaauia

What about shopping and sightseeing in Punaauia?

The modern shopping mall, named Centre Moana Nui, is along the main road in Punaauia. It has a huge supermarket, cute little boutique stores, and cafés and takeaway shops. Remember that most of the shops in Papeete close on Saturday afternoons and won't open until the Monday or Tuesday. Head to the tent-like roof across the parking lot for the Centre Artisinant, with its Polynesian-influenced gifts and souvenirs, sold here mostly by local women who make these items by hand. Their colourful tivaivai quilts are sought-after items, so bring your credit card if you want one of those. The locally based Musée de Tahiti can teach you all about Tahiti's culture and origins. It's one of the main cultural attractions in French Polynesia.

What are my accommodation options in Punaauia if I want to base myself near the beach?

There are several big-name, international hotel resorts and bungalows set up along the beach in Punaauia, with one dominant luxury resort that has rooms with balconies and a massive infinity pool overlooking the turquoise lagoon. If you are on a budget, look for the small Tahitian 'pensions' that are dotted around the residential and shopping area just behind the beach. These family-run guesthouses offer an authentic island experience and often include excursions and family meals.

Is the snorkelling really that good in Punaauia, being so close to the airport and city?

Yes, the snorkelling in Punaauia really is that good. Most of the lagoon here is a marine reserve, to protect the coral reef that is just offshore. To find the best patches of coral, swim over the seaweed on the seabed for about 12 metres, to a point where you can see coral about three metres below you. Due to currents in the open sea beyond, that's as far as you should go too. Dive down to get a closer look. The coral attracts colourful reef fish such as angel, parrot and butterfly fish. You can also expect to see eagle rays, black-tip reef sharks and sting rays resting in the sands below you.