A 45 minute flight from Papeete will take you to Raiatea, the second largest economic area of Tahiti and her Islands. It is also a major nautical base for numerous sailboats and charter companies. A 3km channel separates Raiatea from its sister Taha’a both lying in the same lagoon. The scenery of Raiatea is dramatic: mountains, a few summits over 1000m of elevation, and coastline. The island doesn’t shelter many beaches but get in a canoe or boat to reach idyllic coral gardens on the nearby motu, relaxing in the shade of coconut trees. Scuba diving is popular and the shipwreck of the Norby is worth exploring at a maximum depth of 29m. Go on a hike and discover the age-old Polynesian culture.
Formerly named Hava'ī, Raiatea is known as the Gods’ cradle and hosts archeological treasures (marae, petroglyphs…) witnessing of an ever present epic history and culture. As the first Polynesian island to be populated, Raiatea shelters the most spectacular and first international marae of the Polynesian triangle, called Taputapuatea, where inauguration ceremonies, political alliances and international meetings would take place. The site was taboo and was the headquarters of religious and political powers of the Polynesian region. Nowadays, communities of Hawai’i, New Zealand and Cook Islands still meet at this pilgrimage venue, which they consider as the home of their sacred culture. The large ceremonial area including marae Taputapuatea is currently in a registration process to become part of the UNESCO World Heritage.
Raiatea is the top yachting location in Tahiti and her Islands. Most charter companies and marinas have chosen to settle around Raiatea. The island hosts a large number of moorings, bays (deep and calm) in a pristine and amazing environment (volcano craters, waterfalls). The sailing conditions are excellent. It is a pleasure cruising to the other peaceful Leeward Islands, all as beautiful inside or outside the lagoon.
Raiatea is an incredible natural source of interest for scientists and nature lovers due to rare endemic flora and fauna species. Mount Temehani shelters the tiare ‘apetahi (and about 30 other endemic plants), a flower which is unique in the world. It has become the symbol for Raiatea. This half-circle white and delicate flower only blooms at dawn. Temehani is also the home of lots of endemic animal species, such as the unique Polynesian cicada but also colonies of Tahitian petrels, a protected bird species.
Raiatea also shelters the only navigable river in French Polynesia. Go on an unusual outrigger canoe ride in the heart of a dense tropical forest of pūrau, bamboos and māpē (inocarpus fagiferus). Legend says that the river would have been the departure point of all Polynesian migrations to Hawai’i and New Zealand.