A Visit to Raiatea Island!
Raiatea is considered one of the most sacred islands in the South Pacific. Its name means “faraway heaven” and over 1,000 years ago, this island was the spiritual center of the Polynesian world.
It’s the second largest island in the Society group of islands of French Polynesia, surrounded by lush green mountains with its highest peak Mt. Temehani. Here is where Tahiti’s rare flower is grown, the Tiare Apetahi.
We arrived on the Windstar Cruises Ship, MSY Wind Spirit, and docked at Uturoa town, where 4,000 of the island’s 12,000 inhabitants live. One of the highlights on our Windstar Cruise Ship was meeting some of the locals, the Mamas and Papas of Raiatea. A group came aboard to share some of their traditions with us. We listened to them play ukuleles, drums and sing some local songs. They taught us some basic Tahitian dancing, and how to tie pareos in different styles, and how to make floral leis! A real cultural treat and opportunity to connect with the local people.
There aren’t many beaches on the main island due to its topography, but there are many sights to see and activities to experience on this island.
Sharing some recommendations on what to do on Raiatea.
THINGS TO DO
First up as you travel to Raiatea, check out Marae Taputapuatea. It is the cradle of Polynesian culture, a sacred meeting place for ceremonies and meetings with the chiefs. This marae is dedicated to the God of War, Oro, and soon-to-be acknowledged as an UNESCO Heritage Site.
Excursion to Taha’a with L’Excursion Bleue:
Owner Bruno met us in the Uturoa marina and took us for an incredible tour of the neighbor island Taha’a where we snorkeled in some of the most magnificent coral gardens in East Taha’a and Northeastern Taha’a!
It was easy to get between and around the islands in his motorized outrigger canoe, and stopped in areas that are difficult to access. We even found a shallow area of the lagoon where we snorkeled with stingrays and black-tip sharks.
Bruno arranges a private lunch on a magnificent motu prepared by a Polynesian family, on the beach of the 2nd coral garden ( West Taha’a ).
Before returning to Raiatea, we visited a pearl farm and Bruno gave us a tour of how oysters are grown and harvested.
Another highlight was visiting an authentic vanilla farm in South Taha’a , off the beaten track, and learn about how vanilla is grown and produced.
Make a Reservation
Contact: Bruno Fabre, Owner of L’Excursion Bleue
Shopping – Uturoa Covered Market & Handicraft Huts:
There are handicraft huts near the cruise ship port where you can find lots of homemade items to take home as a souvenir – jewelry, purses, wood carvings, etc.
There’s also a covered market in the center of Uturoa town is the covered market, where you can find fresh flowers, tropical fruits and produce downstairs. Upstairs you can purchase local handicrafts – manoi oil, pareos, vanilla, woven goods.
Hours are normally 6AM – 4PM Monday through Friday, and 6AM – Noon on Saturdays.
Hike Mt. Tapiol:
Hike up to 900 feet for a great lookout with incredible views. Other hikes on this island require a guide since the paths aren’t well maintained.
Kayak the Faaroa River, or hire a motorized Polynesian outrigger canoe that takes you along the eastern coast, and then upstream the Faaroa River where you will enter into a tropical rainforest with a variety of vegetation – wild hibiscus, bamboo groves and Tahitian chestnut trees.
Find a Beach:
There is a small beach near Uturoa town, about 15 mins walk from the pier. Most of the beaches are found on the motu (small island) inside the lagoon and there are tour operators who offer snorkeling trips. Head to the pier in Uturoa and you might find a water taxi or tour boat who will take you. Our excursion leader on the cruise ship shared some of the most popular motus: Motu Iriu, Motu Miri Mir, Motu Oatara, and Motu Nao Nao.
EXPLORING FRENCH POLYNESIA & ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
ARTICLES AND VIDEOS OF FRENCH POLYNESIA
On this trip, we cruised with Windstar Cruises, and visited 8 islands including coral atolls Fakarava and Rangiroa in the Tuamotus archipelago, as well as Taha’a, Raiatea, Huahine, Bora Bora, Moorea and Tahiti in the Society Islands. Sharing highlights from each of these islands – what to do, where to go, dine, stay…
***Click here to see drone footage Fakarava Blue Lagoon Tour
Global Adventuress thanks Windstar Cruises for partially hosting our cruise through French Polynesia!
We also want to thank L’Excursion Bleue for hosting our excursion to Taha’a.