Raiatea is rich with cultural and historical significance. Believed to be the original birthplace of Polynesia, this legendary island is a secret garden of ancient myths and hidden temples. Her unique and fascinating heritage gives the island of Raiatea an intriguing sense of place.
Raiatea, which translates to "faraway heaven," was once the cultural and religious center of the Society Islands. Known in legends as Hawaiki, "the homeland," many cultures believe that this is where the great Polynesian migration began, from which large double-hulled sailing canoes set out to colonize Hawaii and New Zealand. Believed to also be the final resting place for the spirits of these ancestors, the island has remained a place of pilgrimage today.
Raiatea is the second largest of the Society Islands, next to Tahiti. Flight time is about 45 minutes from Papeete, or just a few minutes from the neighboring islands of Huahine or Bora Bora. The island shares its expansive lagoon and surrounding coral reef with sister island Taha'a. This central location and large, protected lagoon makes Raiatea one of the best islands in French Polynesia for sailing, deep-sea fishing and scuba diving.
Raiatea serves as the nautical center of French Polynesia. The island is home to nearly all sailboat and yacht charter companies in the region, including Tahiti Yacht Charter and Archipels Cruises. You will find them in the main town of Uturoa, a sleepy waterfront village reminiscent of Papeete from years past. Raiatea is also the only island in Tahiti with a navigable river. The Faaroa River curls through its lush rainforest, providing a great way to explore the island via powered outrigger canoe, kayak or motorboat.
Mount Temehani, the Polynesian equivalent of Mount Olympus, towers over the northern part of the island. You can hike to the top of this extinct volcano and encounter the rare and sacred Tiare Apetahi. This delicate flower only grows in Raiatea and cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Polynesians will share with you a popular legend to explain this phenomenon, but it remains a botanical mystery. In addition, there are over two dozen other plant species indigenous to the island.
Marae Taputapuatea, on the southeast coast of Raiatea, is the largest outdoor marae (temple) in French Polynesia. You can embark on a Jeep Safari tour into the island's interior jungle and pay homage to this massive archaeological site, discovering other small historical remnants along the way.
There are two quaint hotels on the island, as well as several pensions and guesthouses. The first option is the charming Raiatea Lodge Hotel, located on the western coast of the island. The second is the Opoa Beach Hotel, which features white wooden cottages along a lovely beach toward the south end of the island.
Raiatea invites you to immerse yourself in the stories and legends surrounding ancient Polynesia. Whether you are looking to explore her inner jungles or sail the sapphire blue waters on a chartered catamaran, this island will surely deliver on its promise.
The Raiatea Lodge is located on the northwest coast of Raiatea, facing the nearby island of Bora Bora. This quaint hotel is only five minutes from the airport and ten minutes from the main village of Uturoa, serving as the ideal home base from which to...
The Opoa Beach Hotel is located on a lovely white sand beach on the south side of Raiatea, about thirty minutes from the airport and the main town of Uturoa. This secluded setting affords incredible views of the lagoon and the island of Huahine. The hotel...