The island of Raiatea holds a special place in the hearts of all Polynesians. Both the largest and the most populated of the Leeward Islands, it is an atypical and privileged destination. Atypical because it is much less coveted by tourists from all over the world than the other islands of French Polynesia. It is therefore off the beaten track. Privileged because the Sacred Island is a land of fantastic legends and unique natural discoveries. For an out of the ordinary stay, we offer you a selection of the best things to do in Raiatea.
1. Taputapuatea Marae
Located in the center of the famous Polynesian triangle, which connects Easter Island, New Zealand and the island of Hawaii, Raiatea is the original land of the peoples of extended Polynesia. In pre-colonial times, the Sacred Island played an essential role in the settlement of the South Pacific Islands and the development of a Polynesian national and cultural sentiment. Of its past power, Raiatea has preserved several vestiges, namely the marae, these ancient places of religious and political power. One of them stands out both by its size and by its international influence: the marae of Taputapuatea.
Classified as a Unesco World Heritage Site since 2017, the archaeological site showcases Polynesian culture in an exceptional natural setting. The original remains have been restored and reveal an extraordinary emotional strength when accompanied by a local guide. A guided tour allows you to learn about ancestral rites, legends and more generally about questions of identity. It is a beautiful discovery and a dive into ancient times.
2. Discover a Motu on the Lagoon
Unlike the islands of Bora Bora or Moorea, Raiatea does not boast the most beautiful sandy beaches. Unless you go and discover them off the main island, on the motus that surround it. Indeed, the commune of Raiatea has developed two small islets located to the northeast and to the east to the delight of travelers from around the world and the local population. An unforgettable adventure and the feeling of being at the end of the world.
Not far from the town of Uturoa, the motu Ofetaro is easily accessible by kayak, the crossing being less than two kilometers long. Once there, you will enjoy the beautiful beaches in Raiatea, the view of the main island and the ocean horizon. It will also be an opportunity to snorkel. Indeed, the aquatic life on the site is fantastic. Further south, motu Iriru is more remote but it is possible to go there on an organized half-day trip.
3. The 3 Waterfalls Hike
Raiatea is a volcanic island and a magnificent terrain for hiking. The most emblematic of them all, Mount Temehani, is recommended for seasoned hikers. So we recommend a less physically demanding but equally spectacular alternative: the 3 waterfalls hike. As the name suggests, you will discover three waterfalls, each one more magnificent than the other. At the end of the excursion, you will also have the possibility to go swimming.
You can live this experience in contact with a dense and luxuriant vegetation and preferably in company of a certified guide. Indeed, part of the land crossed is private and requires an authorization. Anyone in good health will be able to do this hike of about 6 km round trip. This is probably the best thing to do in Raiatea to discover the interior in such a short time.
4. Kayaking up the Faaroa River
The island of Raiatea has the distinction of being home to the only navigable river in all of French Polynesia. On the waters of the Faaroa River, all the mountains of the Sacred Island are available to you. Going upstream, you will discover a luxuriant nature. The rhythm is calm and we are far from the river of no return of Otto Preminger. Indeed, no need to be an accomplished sportsman to appreciate this excursion. On board your kayak, you will live an initiatory adventure and will have a completely different perception of Raiatea.
For optimal comfort, we recommend that you use the services of an organized tour. In addition to the practical and organizational aspects of the expedition, it is also the possibility to learn more about the fauna and flora of the island. To do so, Raiatea Activities offers high quality services and a friendly support.
5. The Botanical Garden of Faaroa
A visit to the botanical garden of Faaroa is one of the best things you can do in Raiatea. Completely modernized and redeveloped, the park covers more than 3 hectares. You cann access the gardens by road and river thanks to its newly built pontoon. The whole offers all the necessary infrastructures to spend an excellent moment of discovery. The paths are now very well marked and informative panels explain in detail the floral wealth of the island. In addition, playgrounds and picnic areas have been set up.
During a nice walk with your partner or family, you will meet ornamental, hygrophytic (growing in aquatic or humid environments) and mountain plants. We also note the presence of several endemic plants that are found only here in Polynesia and even only in Raiatea. The setting with the mountains is absolutely magnificent and the routes inside the park are very well thought out. The initiative is remarkable and shows the dynamism of the island of Raiatea.
Ready to Discover the Sacred Island of Polynesia?
Remember to choose your accommodation among the pensions and hotels in Raiatea. Most of the activities are located on the eastern side of the island. On the other hand, staying in an establishment on the west coast, you will enjoy unforgettable sunsets and see the ocean light up with a thousand colors. In any case, Raiatea is a destination that deserves your full attention: there is so much to discover.
After going to Raiatea, what else can you do? Contact us to prepare your itinerary and your activities in French Polynesia. You will benefit from our personalized advice to make your trip to the South Pacific Islands unforgettable.