The Society Islands archipelago is a breathtaking cluster of islands which form part of the Islands of Tahiti. Raiatea and its sister Tahaa share the same lagoon, but you get two very different experiences when you visit both. One, Raiatea, is historically significant to Polynesia and the other, Tahaa, is a fertile fruit wonderland.
Take a 45 minute flight from Papeete in Tahiti across the glittering Pacific Ocean to reach the island of Raiatea, the second largest of the Society Islands - once called Havaii. The literal meaning of Raiatea is faraway heaven, and it’s easy to see why as you stroll the sandy shores looking up at the forested mountains.
Culture in Raiatea
Raiatea was once the central cultural and religious hub of the Society Islands and according to some legends is where the great Polynesian migration started; according to many cultures Hawaii and New Zealand were colonised by the people of Raiatea. Hawaiki – the homeland – remains a place sacred to Polynesians and regular pilgrimages are made here.
Its location as the nautical centre of the Islands of Tahiti means that yachting and boating is a key activity in Raiatea. This island has a quaint waterfront village, Uturoa, from which island-hoppers come and go as they please. But it’s not all about the water: Raiatea is overlooked by the towering peak of Mount Temehani, an extinct volcano on the north of the island.
Tahaa - The Vanilla Island
A botanical paradise with fruitful land and rolling hillside, Tahaa is probably most famous for producing almost 80% of the Islands of Tahiti’s vanilla. Expect your food and spa therapies to use plenty of this spice, but there are also lots of watermelon, coconut and banana groves grown here.
From here you can travel across turquoise waters to Vahine Island, a private resort on a secluded motu, or to Le Taha'a, with its spectacular overwater bungalows.
Whatever you decide to do and wherever you opt to stay, the twin islands of Raiatea and Tahaa will leave you feeling refreshed, energised and ready for your onward journey.