Raiatea

Travel Guide

Raiatea2022-04-19T11:51:03-10:00

Raiatea, The Sacred Island

Second economic and administrative center of French Polynesia, Raiatea is more than a simple tourist destination. Although it benefits from a resplendent nature and a beautiful lagoon, it owes its reputation to the fact that it is the cradle of Polynesian culture in its broadest sense. As starting point of the great migrations, Raiatea Island is located in the heart of the Pacific triangle linking Hawaii, New Zealand and Easter Island. With its insurrectionary and independence past, the island holds on to its traditions and heritage, occasionally taking back its ancestral name: “Havai’i Nui”. Not very popular among tourists, Raiatea nevertheless has an undeniable charm where culture, history and legends are still associated.

About Raiatea

  • Location: Society Archipelago

  • Area: 175 km²

  • Population : 12,300 inhabitants

  • Main City: Uturoa

  • From Tahiti : 215 km, 45 mins

  • Airport: Uturoa

Why Visit Raiatea

It is in Raiatea and not in Tahiti that the heart of all Polynesians beats. The island is the original home of the navigators who, thousands of years ago, set out to discover the islands of the South Pacific. Anyone interested in Polynesian culture should visit the Sacred Island, the mother of all mythologies and fantastic legends. As a matter of course, Raiatea Island has many archaeological remains: the marae. They represent an edifying and absolutely unmissable heritage.

Raiatea is also a wild and luxuriant nature, and green mountains suitable for hiking. Dominated by Mount Tefatoaiti, the rugged terrain plunges suddenly into the lagoon and cuts the edges into several bays. This high island is gigantic, so big that it is unthinkable to go around it by bike. However, the richness of the environnement can be discovered by venturing off the beaten track. The natural beauty of Raiatea is experienced as much on the land as on the sea. The magnificent lagoon that it shares with the sister island of Tahaa allows you to enjoy numerous nautical and underwater activities.

An atypical destination, Raiatea is a land of history and of today to better understand Polynesia and its ancestral cultures.

The Essentials Of Raiatea

1. A Land of History

Raiatea the Sacred is full of archaeological remains, symbol of the past grandeur of the island. At the bend in the road, the marae recall the history of Polynesian civilization. Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2017, the royal marae Taputapuatea is a thousand-year-old site. Its symbolic significance goes beyond the limits of French Polynesia and also concerns Maoris and Hawaiians.

The Taputapuatea marae is at the heart of the Te Pö ceremonial complex. Other marae and ancestral structures share the site, such as the Hauviri marae and its 2.4 m sacred stone. Long neglected, these sites are now maintained and in excellent condition. Everywhere else, the stone is also a reminder of the importance of the spiritual in Polynesian culture.

2. Nautical Excursions

The main island of Raiatea does not have any beautiful beaches available to tourists. On the other hand, the numerous motus that surround it are freely accessible. With the help of a kayak, you will go in search of virgin and peaceful spaces on the sandy islets. Among the lagoon excursions, the one to motu Iriru offers the most wonderful setting for swimming, snorkeling and contemplation.

Raiatea Island has the only navigable waterway in all of Polynesia. Aboard a boat, you will sail up the Faaroa River in the shade of the tropical vegetation and volcanic mountains. A practical and original way to discover the Polynesian lands.

3. The Search for the Sacred Flower

Many walking tours are possible on Raiatea Island. The hike on the Mount Temehani plateau stands out among them all. First of all, the tradition wants the route to be initiatory, an ode to the Polynesian culture. Several hours will be necessary to reach, through dense vegetation, the peaks and plateaus that hide the secret of the Sacred Island, namely a flower.

The Tiare apetahi is a unique flower in the world. Endangered, this now protected species is characterized by its five pure white petals. Above all, it grows and can only grow on the plateau of Mount Temehani. Rare and secret, meeting it is a real moment of grace. More than a Polynesian symbol, it is the emblem of Raiatea.

The Marae Taputapuatea in Raiatea, French Polynesia

Raiatea in a Nutshell

The Raiatea Island is an atypical destination. More populated and so much more extensive than its Leeward neighbors, the Sacred Island is above all an encounter with the history of Polynesia. It is here that everything becomes bigger, more solemn. To fully appreciate your stay, you must learn to get off the beaten track, and go and meet the ancient legends and ancestral rites.

The Sacred Island also offers a wide range of activities and excursions, both in the mountains and on the lagoon. Three nights on the island are therefore necessary. However, a visit to Raiatea can be accompanied by a day trip to the neighboring island of Tahaa. A way to enrich your stay and observe the richness of the islands.

Good to Know

  • Culture : As part of the annual Ono’U festival, dedicated to street art, the village of Uturoa has been covered in impressive wall paintings in recent years. Very colorful, the works are distinguished by their often expressionist quality and it is fun to look for them in the streets and on the docks.

  • Weather: The high island of Raiatea has a very changeable weather with heavy rainfall. Just like its sister island Tahaa, it is indeed one of the rainiest in all of Polynesia.

  • Festivities: In Autumn, Raiata is the main stage of the great pirogue race: the Hawaiki Nui. From the main harbor, the last high seas race leaves for the island of Huahine. Beautiful traditional events, mixing sport, dance and culture, are organized for the occasion.

  • History: Raiatea the Sacred has long been considered rebellious and insubordinate. After an armed revolt broke out, France sent an expeditionary force to quell the insurgents in 1897. Defeated, the hero of the guerrilla war, who has become the symbol of the independence movement, Teraupoo, was deported with his family to New Caledonia. Other rebels were sent to the Marquesas Archipelago, to inhospitable islands.

Beach in Raiatea, French Polynesia

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