After Tahiti, Raiatea is the biggest island in the Society archipelago in French Polynesia. The first overwater bungalows were built on this particular island.
Nowadays Raiatea is not as touristy as Bora Bora or Moorea but is still worth a stay!
View on the Bali Hai, the first hotel to offer overwater bungalows in Polynesia (now closed down)
What to do in Raiatea? I made a video suggesting some ideas!
WALK AROUND IN UTUROA
The city center of Uturoa has a covered market where you can find some local artisanal works. You can also admire the streetart pieces made by from the artists Nilko, Inkie and Kalouf during Ono’u festival in October 2016.
CLIMB THE TAPIOI
There are two peaks to climb on the island: Temehani and Tapioi.
For the first one, count 6 to 8 hours of guided trekking (Raiatea Rando – firstname.lastname@example.org) to reach the top at 772 meters and see the beautiful Tiare Apetahi, a protected flower of 5 petals.
The second one, Tapioi, is close to the center of Uturoa and only takes one hour walking, no need for a guide. The last time we went there, we crossed the path of pigs, horses, cows (among them one which had just given birth) and a cat 🙂 At 294 meters, the view on the lagoon and Tahaa island is magnificent. Beware: since a year or so, you cannot climb it during the weekends anymore.
SPEND A DAY ON A MOTU
Experience being Robinson Crusoé for a day!
Located next to Raiatea in the same lagoon, Tahaa is wilder. We went on a tour organized by Edwin and Jacqueline. At 8 in the morning, we took the boat from Uturoa to Tahaa and then we visited the coral gardens, a pearl farm and a family vanilla plant. After a delicious lunch prepared by their daughter Heirava, we were driven along the coast to see its villages. A very good memory.
CHOOSE A PEARL
Vairua Perles is one of the rare shops which also owns its farm in Raiatea. You can drop by and learn more about the farming process of the local pearls and why not get one for yourself. You have the choice between taking a pearl alone or already designed as a jewelry piece. The first time I traveled to Polynesia, I managed to restrain myself from buying. But during our last trip in December 2016, I got a pendant necklace and a matching pair of earrings as gifts.
Every year 4 tourists out of 10 come back home with at least one pearl. The industry employs 10 000 people across Polynesia.
WATCH THE HAWAIKI NUI VA’A
This is a major annual canoe race in Polynesia which takes place during 3 days in October or November. Each day the competitors battle to reach a different island as fast as possible:
- First day: Huahine to Raiatea (44,5 km)
- Second day: Raiatea to Tahaa (22 km)
- Third day: Tahaa to Bora Bora (58 km)
This is impressive to see, especially from a boat on the lagoon.
HAVE A DRINK AND MEAL
For a drink go to La Cubana in the center of Uturoa, for its open-air space and its live music.
For an awesome meal, I recommend the villa Ixora. You’ll need to drive 15 mins from Uturoa. We were pleased by the charming villa and the professional service. But what’s more important, the French cuisine with a twist of Polynesian tastes is simply delicious.
SPEND THE NIGHT
Since my in-laws live in Raiatea, we did not try any hotel ourselves. However we spent good times at the Sunset Beach motel where friends of the family were staying.
Sunset Beach offers 10 bungalows fit for 5 people, right on the lagoon. It’s both for short and long stays. Its location at only 2 km from the airport and 5km from Uturoa makes it very convenient.
Mature fruits are given away to the residents. Kids and adults still kids at heart can also enjoy the zipline diving in the water.
Among other hotel options, you have the Opea Beach Resort or Raiatea Lodge Hotel (5 mins from the airport). The latter has 15 rooms facing Bora Bora and my family says it’s a must for watching the sunset.
A big thank you to Martine and Denis for welcoming us and for their recommendations 🙂