South Pacific Specialists

Raiatea – The Sacred Island

Raiatea, meaning “faraway heaven” and “sky with soft light”, was first named Havai’i after the homeland of the ancient Polynesians and is the most sacred island in the South Pacific.

This, the second largest Tahitian isle, was the center of religion and culture over 1000 years ago and still lends enchantment to ancient legends told to this day. The green-carpeted mountains include the celebrated Mt. Temehani, a sort of Polynesian Mt. Olympus.

Only 40 minutes away by plane ride from Papeete, the capital of Tahiti, Raiatea is the second largest Island in all of French Polynesia and is just slightly smaller than Tahiti itself.


The islands of Raiatea and Tahaa are both enclosed by the same coral reef, and may once have been a single island.

Raiatea is both the largest and most populated island in the Leeward Islands, with a land area of 64.7 sq. miles and a total population of 12,024 inhabitants at the August 2007 census.

Raiatea has a landscape of waterfalls, bays and fertile valleys with the highest point being Mount Temehani. Most of the beaches that are to be enjoyed on Raiatea take the form of deserted little outer lying islands known as Motus.

For the visitor to Raiatea, the legends of this ancient land add fascination to every activity:

  • Discovery of the sacred Mt. Temehani Plateau by foot, horseback, or 4×4 excursion.
  • Exploration by canoe of the Faaroa River and to the ancient and sacred complex of the legendary Taputapuatea.
  • Freedom of chartering a yacht in some of the most famous sailing waters in the world.
  • Enchantment from the people and their villages while touring the by bus.
  • Adventure into the clear waters with day- or night-time dives.
  • Enjoyment of the ambience of the smaller resort atmosphere.

Some of the most popular activities for visitors include:

Island Exploration
By car or bus tour, drive along the quiet circle-island roads and stop at the villages and peaceful shores. By boat, cruise within bays dotted with pearl farms or come ashore on a tiny motu. By foot, follow a guide along ancient footpaths including a trek to the Temehani Plateau and to the slopes of Mount Temehani to see the opening of the Tiare Apetahi flowers.

Sail Boat Charter
Many of the largest sail boat charter companies in the world are located on Raiatea. Here, yachts are launched for voyages among the Society and Tuamotu Archipelagos where passengers enjoy the steady trade winds, temperate climate, and the hundreds of dramatic anchorages around each of the islands.

Faaroa River Trip
Winding through a lush rain forest, the Faaroa River is the only navigable river in Polynesia. These historic waters launched migratory journeys to faraway islands now called Hawaii and New Zealand. Powered outrigger canoes provide a comfortable and unique way to enter the river and explore the coast.

Marae Exploration
The most sacred and best-preserved historical site in Polynesia is Raiatea’s Taputapuatea. Now considered a national monument, this immense archaeological area is easily explored by foot and includes dozens of marae and shrines.

A favorite of all divers, the shared lagoon between the islands is rich with numbers of sites and in variety including landscapes of sea mounts, caverns, drop-offs, and famous wrecks.

The calm and secluded lagoon is home to a wide variety of reef fish and plant life. Since fish-feeding is practiced, the lagoon attracts large schools of eels, perches, triggerfish, red snappers, silver jacks, tunas, red runners, and reef sharks.

Picnic on Your Own Island
Dozens of tiny motu surround these islands and many are available for half- or full-day use for couples or groups. Most islands can be circled in a few minutes by foot and are the perfect spot to picnic under a coconut tree, snorkel around the island, or relax with a book.

Village Hopping and Shopping

On Raiatea, the villages are also tiny so the best shopping is found in Utoroa, the only town of size on either island, where many quaint shops and markets line the newly renovated waterfront area with art, crafts, and collectibles from local artisans.

Other activities and sites on Raiatea include:

  1. Guided hike to the slopes of Mount Temahani.
  2. 4X4 Safaris to explore the remote interior roads and coastal villages.
  3. Vanilla plantations and family-owned pearl farms.
  4. Lagoon excursions by powered outrigger canoe, glass-bottomed boat, motor boat, kayak, or jetskiing.
  5. Circle-island tours by bus or private car.
  6. Deep-sea fishing.
  7. Shopping on the waterfront in the village of Uturoa.
  8. Botanical gardens.
  9. Sea turtle preserve.
  10. Snorkeling excursions around the islands and motu.


Find a Specialist Near You

South Pacific
Cook Islands
New Zealand