Size-wise, Rangiroa is one of the biggest atolls on Earth. It is also the biggest in the Tuamotu cluster. Rangiroa covers a distance of about 110 miles. Its surface is covered with islets and a large lagoon. The warm waters along Rangiroa's shores are populated with an abundance of fish and marine life, which makes it a popular place for scuba diving and snorkeling. The island's sandy beaches also make it an attractive resort destination.
Rangiroa is home to approximately 2,560 residents. Most people live in the village of Tiuta, which contains over 800 people and lies on the northwestern shore of the island. The biggest city in Rangiroa is Avatoru. Along with fishing, the current economy is supported heavily by tourism. The island has its own airport, called the Rangiroa Airport. It also has many hotels and resorts, including some that cater specifically to divers. The introduction of coconut trees to the island has historically supported the economy and continues to do so now, as locals transform the trees and fruits to many types of coconut products, including copra. Vineyards, which are founded along the lagoon's shores, support the island's wine production.
While many French Polynesian islands were not discovered until the 18th and 19th centuries, the first explorers are believed to have set foot on Rangiroa in the early 1600s. Several other European ships documented landing on Rangiroa's shores in the years following the island's initial Dutch discovery, including Charles Wilkes, who sailed through French Polynesia around 1840. Long before the Europeans arrived, however, the island was inhabited by a native population. Archaeological evidence dates the first settlement on the atoll back to the 10th century C.E.