One of the atolls that make up the Tuamotu island chain, located 320 mi/510 km northeast of Papeete, Manihi exhibits the usual atoll traits. The land is a thin strip of coral that barely rises above the water and forms a ring around its very large lagoon. The emphasis is on water and sky and—as far as most visitors are concerned—black pearls and scuba diving.

The island is a leader in pearl production, and visitors can tour the farms where they're grown and harvested. Those looking to buy may find lower prices on Manihi than on islands that aren't major pearl producers.

As for scuba diving, the prime site is the narrow pass leading into the lagoon. Sharks, rays and many other marine creatures gather there to feed on the rich supply of food riding the current through the pass. It's also possible to snorkel through some inspiring underwater gardens or go on a fishing expedition.

Aside from those pursuits, Manihi is very low-key. Visitors have the chance to relax—totally. Those looking for excitement out of the water will soon grow restless. Accommodations on the island are limited to one large resort and several less-sophisticated offerings, so make your arrangements before you arrive. A two-night stay is about right, unless you plan to do a lot of scuba diving. The air schedules for Manihi allow a visit there to be combined with Rangiroa.

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