Raiatea is an island rich with history and ancient legends. Once the cultural, religious and royal heart of Polynesia, it was – according to legend – the birthplace of the gods. This fascinating heritage gives Raiatea her unique charm and an intriguing sense of place.
Considered to be the birthplace of Polynesia, Raiatea was once known as Havai'i ("the homeland"). Many cultures believe that the great Polynesian migration began from Raiatea – from which canoes set out to colonize new shores and entire tribes sailed to Hawaii and New Zealand. It was also believed to be the final resting place, where the spirits of these ancestors would live on after death. For these reasons, Raiatea is still a place of pilgrimage today, maintaining many traces from its earlier past. It is home to the largest outdoor marae in Polynesia called the Taputapuatea Marae, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And only here, on the slopes of the sacred Mount Temehani, can one get a glimpse of the rare Tiare Apetahi, a flower found nowhere else on earth.
Raiatea shares her lagoon and expansive coral reef with sister island Taha'a. Their waters are rich with a variety of marine life, caverns, drop-offs and famous shipwrecks. For visitors that wish to relish in this underwater paradise, diving and snorkeling are among some of the most popular activities available.
Serving as the nautical center of the region, Raiatea also features many world-class sailboat and yacht charter companies. It's the perfect place to begin any seagoing voyage, including a relaxing sailing getaway on a luxurious floating catamaran. Whatever your journey, Raiatea offers a variety of chartered vessels for a multitude of adventures. Beyond the open water, Raiatea is the only island in Tahiti with a navigable river. The Faaroa River winds through its lush rainforest and serves as a great way to explore the island via powered outrigger canoe, kayak or motorboat.
To discover the island's inner jungles and uncover hidden historic sites, or to explore her calm waters – both on and under the surface – is to appreciate the true uniqueness that gives Raiatea her charming appeal.
Raiatea's sacred flower, the Tiare Apetahi, amazingly cannot be grown anywhere else in the world. Legend says that a beautiful Tahitian girl named Apetahi had fallen in love with the son of a king. Devastated that she could not marry him, she fled to Mount Temehani and died of a broken heart. Soon after, the Tiare Apetahi flower sprouted from the ground in the place where she had died. The five delicate petals of the Tiare Apetahi are said to represent her lovely fingers, while the soft cracking sound that can be heard as the flower opens each morning is the sound of her heart breaking.