Raiatea is the largest island in the French Poly­ne­sian Lee­ward Group. Recently the port and water­front areas have enjoyed incred­i­ble rebuild­ing, and the wharf is now a beau­ti­ful des­ti­na­tion that is a plea­sure to visit.

Raiatea’s size is sec­ond only to Tahiti — but don’t let its size fool you into think­ing there are a lot of tourists who visit.  Actu­ally, it is a secret find for most.  Out­side of the main port town, Uturoa, the 105-square-mile island is quiet and lightly pop­u­lated, yet there’s much to do and see along the coast and within its untamed, rugged interior.

Raiatea is known as “the sacred isle” because it was the cen­ter of reli­gion and cul­ture in the olden days of Poly­ne­sia — and there is cer­tainly an entic­ing mys­tique about it. Mem­bers of var­i­ous Poly­ne­sian king­doms once jour­neyed here by canoe for tribal meet­ings, cer­e­monies and even human sac­ri­fices at Marae Taputa­pu­atea in Opoa to the south­east. Today, you can visit the out­door ancient wor­ship tem­ple and glimpse pet­ro­glyphs carved in basaltic stones found along the coast.

One thing that sets Raiatea apart from all of the other islands in French Poly­ne­sia is that there are no real sandy beaches.  How­ever, beach bums can take a trip to one of the motus or islets that dot the lagoons that cir­cle the island (you have to rent or hire a boat to get to them).  Among those are Motu Nao Nao, a stretch of gor­geous white sand, and Opeha Point, known for good snorkeling.

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