Raiatea: land of the gods
45 minute flight from Tahiti
Tahiti is your introduction to modern island life, but on Raiatea, you’ll take a step back in time to the cradle of Polynesian culture. Raiatea’s most sacred site is Marae Taputapuatea – a rocky clearing where ancient Polynesians worshipped the gods before voyaging to new islands.
It’s said that navigators took a stone from the marae to forge a spiritual link between their home island and the ones they were yet to discover. To this day, Taputapuatea remains a place of pilgrimage for indigenous peoples of New Zealand, Hawaii and the Cook Islands.
Before you go, discover the stories of trickster god Maui and his powerful goddess wife, Hina. They add a touch of myth to an already magical landscape. Of course, it’s not hard to be swept up in the wonder of nature on Raiatea. Hike up Mount Tapioi for soaring views across the lagoon to Taha’a. If you have more time, take an all-day guided trek to the Temehani Plateau to spot tiare apetahi – one of the world’s rarest flowers.
Top tip: Raiatea’s one main road circles the shore and public transport is almost non-existent. To explore, either rent a car or base yourself in the main town, Uturoa and book onto island tours. Tahiti Tourisme is a good place to look for local tour operators.