Raiatea (Tahitian: Ra'iātea), is the second largest of the Society Islands, after Tahiti, in French Polynesia. The island is widely regarded as the 'centre' of the eastern islands in ancient Polynesia and it is likely that the organised migrations to Hawai'i, New Zealand and other parts of East Polynesia started at Raiatea.

A traditional name for the island is Havai'i, homeland of the Māori people.[3]

Situated on the southeast coast is the historical Taputapuatea marae which was established by 1000  AD.

The main township on Raiatea is Uturoa, the administrative centre for the Leeward Islands (French Îles Sous-le-vent). There are also colleges which serve as the main educational location for secondary schools for students from the regional islands of Bora Bora, Tahaa, Huahine and Maupiti.

Native name:
Borabora Tahaa Raiatea
The islands of Bora Bora (top) Tahaa (middle) and Raiatea (bottom). Tahaa and Raiatea share the same lagoon.
Karta FP Societe isl
LocationPacific Ocean
Coordinates16°49′S 151°27′W / 16.817°S 151.450°WCoordinates: 16°49′S 151°27′W / 16.817°S 151.450°W
ArchipelagoSociety Islands
Major islandsRaiatea
Area167.7 km2 (64.7 sq mi)
Highest elevation1,017 m (3,337 ft)
Highest pointMount Tefatua
Overseas collectivityFrench Polynesia
Capital and largest cityUturoa [1] (pop. 3,778)
Pop. density72 /km2 (186 /sq mi)


Marae Taputapuatea
Taputapuatea marae, an ancient marae mentioned in the traditions of Polynesian peoples, including, for example, the Māori of Aotearoa, who regard this place as a sacred marae of their ancestors. This is where the Hawaiian voyaging canoe Hōkūle'a landed on her first voyage in 1976.

The Tahitian language name Ra'iātea means bright sky; Ulieta is an obsolete transcription commonly used in the 19th century. The term recurs elsewhere in East Polynesia as a local place name - on Rarotonga (Rangiatea), New Zealand (Rangiātea), Hawai'i and O'ahu (Laniākea).

The extinct Raiatea starling lived this island; there is only one drawing of it in the world - in the Natural History Museum, London.

Geography and population

The islands of Raiatea and Tahaa are enclosed by a single coral reef, and may once have been a single island. Raiatea is both the largest and most populated island in the Leeward Islands, with a land area of 167.7 km2 (64.7 sq mi) and a total population of 12,024 inhabitants at the August 2007 census. The population density is 72 inhabitants per km². The largest commune of Raiatea is Uturoa on the north side of Raiatea and has a population of nearly 10,000.


The first European to record sighting Raiatea was Pedro Fernandes de Queirós in 1606; it was charted as La Fugitiva.[4] The Polynesian navigator, Tupaia, who sailed with explorer James Cook, was born in Raiatea around 1725.

Cook visited Raiatea in 1769 and again in 1773-1774.[3]:214-218,284-291,315-318 Omai (c.1751-1780), another young man from Raiatea, travelled with European explorers to London in 1774 and also served as an interpreter to Captain Cook on his second and third journey.

King Tamatoa VI was the last monarch, reigning from 1884-1888.


Raiatea has a small road that runs around the entire island. Raiatea Airport is an airport in Uturoa.


The island is divided into three administration communes (municipalities):

These three communes are inside the administrative subdivision of the Leeward Islands.


The island economy is mainly agricultural with exports of vanilla, pineapple and coconut. The plant Nono (or noni) (Morinda citrifolia) is also grown. Fa'aroa Valley is a large and important agricultural region with the rural economy and the cultivation of vanilla supported by a local research facility. Pearl farming is also an important industry while farming cattle, sheep and pigs has recently decreased. There is less tourism compared to the other islands in the archipelago. The local tourist infrastructure comprises boarding houses, two marinas, a four star hotel, The Hawaiki Nui and a port for visiting cruise ships. There is also a fledgling local industry in the maintenance of yachts and shipbuilding. The main source of employment is the island's public service and the consumer market.


A view from the AR 72 airplane (Over Society Islands - French Polynesia)

View of Raiatea island from a plane.


Uturoa, seen from Tapioi

Raiatea Motu

An island south of Raiatea with Huahine island in the background

Raiatea 2008ville

Looking down at the town of Uturoa and ocean.

Hanse Explorer - Raiatea

Ship at Raiatea.

Marae, Raiatea 1

Another view of Taputapuatea marae.

Bora-Bora vue de Raiatea

View of Pora Pora from Raiatea.

Raiatea - Sechage vanille (1)

Vanilla pods drying in the sun.

Joshua Reynolds - Portrait of Omai

Portrait of Omai, oil on canvas, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1776

Flag of Raiatea

Flag of the Kingdom of Raiatea from 1847 to 1880

See also


  1. ^ "Vacation guide to Raiatea". eTahititravel. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  2. ^ Institut Statistique de Polynésie Française (ISPF). "Recensement de la population 2007" (PDF) (in French). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-12-03. Retrieved 2007-12-02.
  3. ^ a b Salmond, Anne (2010). Aphrodite's Island. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 227–228. ISBN 9780520261143.
  4. ^ Burney, James A chronological history of the discoveries in the South Sea or the Pacific Ocean London, 1803, vII, p.326.

Further reading

House of Teururai

The House of Teururai was the reigning family of the kingdom of Huahine and Maia'o between Ari'imate's coronation in 1852 and Teha'apapa III's cession of the kingdom to France in 1895. Teururai kings first ruled Huahine in the middle of the 19th century. By the end 19th century, a member of the Teururai dynasty also held thrones in Raiatea.

Teururai monarchs ruled Huahine and Maia'o (from 1852) and Raiatea (from 1885) until the 1895 abdication of the each monarch during the French Third Republic annexation. The cadet line, the elected monarch of Raiatea, of the Teururai was deposed in 1888 whereas the senior line, for 7 years more, ruled until their Queen was deposed by French in 1895.

Ari'imate was the first Teururai ruler of Huahine and Maia'o, from 1852. The Teururai is closely related to the other Tahitian royal dynasty as the Royal family of Tahiti, then to the Royal family of Raiatea. From this Huahinean line comes the last royal line of Raiatea and Tahaa.

Kingdom of Bora Bora

The Kingdom of Bora Bora was established during the early 19th century with the unification of the island of Bora Bora and official recognition by France and the United Kingdom in 1847 through the Jarnac Convention. It was one of a number of independent Polynesian states in the Society Islands, alongside Tahiti, Huahine and Raiatea in the 19th century, which all shared a similar language and culture and whose rulers were interrelated by marriage. Besides Bora Bora, the Kingdom encompassed the islands of Tupai, Maupiti, Maupihaa, Motu One, and Manuae. The Kingdom was finally annexed to France in 1888 and its last queen Teriimaevarua III was forced to abdicate in 1895.

Kingdom of Tahiti

The Kingdom of Tahiti was a monarchy founded by paramount chief Pōmare I, who, with the aid of English missionaries and traders, and European weaponry, unified the islands of Tahiti, Moʻorea, Tetiaroa, Mehetia and at its peak included the Tuamotus, Tubuai, Raivavae and other islands of eastern Polynesia. Its leaders were Christian following the baptism of Pomare II. Its progressive rise and recognition by Europeans allowed Tahiti to remain free from a planned Spanish colonization as well as English and earlier French claims to the islands. The Kingdom was one of a number of independent Polynesian states in Oceania, alongside Raiatea, Huahine, Bora Bora, Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga, Rarotonga and Niue in the 19th century. The Kingdom is known for bringing a period of peace and cultural and economic prosperity to the islands over the reign of the five Tahitian monarchs.

Tahiti and its dependencies were made a French protectorate in 1842 and largely annexed as a colony of France in 1880. The monarchy was abolished by France shortly thereafter, though there are still pretenders.

Lana Tetuanui

Lana Tetuanui (born February 23, 1970) is the 1st vice-president of the Assembly of French Polynesia. She is also a senator of France.

Leeward Islands (Society Islands)

The Leeward Islands (French: Îles Sous-le-vent; Tahitian: Fenua Raro Mata’i, literally "Islands Under-the-Wind") are the western part of the Society Islands in French Polynesia, an overseas collectivity of France in the South Pacific. They lie south of the Line Islands (part of Kiribati), east of the Cooks and north of the Austral Islands (also part of French Polynesia). Their area is 395 km² with a population of over 33,000. The islands to the west comprise a three atoll group: Manuae (also known as Scilly Atoll), Motu One atoll (also known as Bellinghausen), lying most northerly of the Leeward Islands, and to the southeast Maupihaa atoll (also known as Mopelia). More to the east lies a mainly high island cluster consisting of Maupiti (Tahitian name: Maurua), Tupai atoll, Bora Bora (Tahitian name: Vava'u), the most known of the Leeward Islands in the western world due to its World War II United States naval base and subsequent tourism industry, Tahaa (Tahitian name: Uporu), lying just north of the largest island of the group, Raiatea (Tahitian names: Hava'i, Ioretea) which possesses the largest city and local capital of the Leeward Islands, namely Uturoa, as well as the highest elevation, the just over 1,000 m mount Tefatua, and finally the easternmost island of the group, Huahine (Tahitian name: Mata'irea) which at high tide is divided into two: Huahine Nui ("big Huahine") to the north and Huahine Iti ("small Huahine") to the south.

List of monarchs of Huahine

This is a list of monarchs of Huahine, during the Teurura'i dynasty. They carried the title Ariʻi rahi, which was translated as "King".

List of monarchs of Raiatea

The Polynesian island of Raiatea, in the Society Islands, was a kingdom from the 18th century until its annexation by France in 1888. After Tamatoa VI's abdication, a rebel government was set up by chief Teraupoo with Queen Tuarii as its figurehead until French colonial forces ended the native resistance and exiled the leaders in 1897. The island is now a part of French Polynesia.

Raiatea Airport

Raiatea Airport (also known as Uturoa Airport) is an airport on Raiatea, French Polynesia. It is in the village of Uturoa. The airport was inaugurated in 1962, but did not see service in 1964. A backfilling was built on the north part of the island, as no appropriate site could be found on the coast. Many people use this airport to access the nearby island of Taha'a.

In 2014, 207 722 passengers have used the airport.

Raiatea starling

The Raiatea starling, formerly known as the bay thrush, bay starling, or the mysterious bird of Ulieta, is an extinct bird species of uncertain taxonomic relationships that once lived on the island of Raiatea (formerly known as Ulietea, hence the specific epithet ulietensis), the second largest of the Society Islands in French Polynesia.

Society parakeet

The Society parakeet (Cyanoramphus ulietanus), also known as the Society kakariki or brown-headed parakeet, is an extinct parakeet of the genus Cyanoramphus.


Taha’a (sometimes spelled as "Tahaa") is an island located among the western group, the Leeward Islands, of the Society Islands in French Polynesia, an overseas territory of France in the Pacific Ocean. The islands of Taha’a and neighboring Raiatea to the immediate south are enclosed by the same coral reef, and they may once have been a single island. At the 2017 census it had a population of 5,234. The island has an area of 90 square kilometres (35 square miles), and reaches a maximum height of 590 metres (1,940 ft). It is also known as the "Vanilla Island" and produces pearls of exceptional quality.

Tahiti and Society Islands mythology

Tahiti and Society Islands mythology comprises the legends, historical tales, and sayings of the ancient people of the Society Islands, consisting of Tahiti, Bora Bora, Raiatea, Huahine, Moorea and other islands. It is considered a variant of a more general Polynesian mythology, developing its own unique character for several centuries. The religion was officially suppressed in the 19th century, and ultimately abandoned by the natives in favor of Christianity.

Tamatoa III

Tamatoa III (c. 1757 – 1831) was the King of Raiatea from 1820 to 1831.U'uru, or Vetea-ra'i-'u'uru, was the son of Tamatoa II by his third wife. He was the ari'i maro 'ura, high chief, at 'Opoa on Raiatea, during Captain Cook's visit in 1773.

Tamatoa IV

Tamatoa IV (1797–1857) was the king of Raiatea from 1831 to 1857.

Tamatoa V

Tamatoa V, born Tamatoa-a-tu Pōmare, (23 September 1842, Moorea – 30 September 1881, Pape'ete), King of Raiatea and Taha'a, was a son of Queen Pōmare IV of Tahiti.


Taputapuatea is a commune of French Polynesia, an overseas territory of France in the Pacific Ocean. The commune of Taputapuatea is located on the island of Raiatea, in the administrative subdivision of the Leeward Islands, themselves part of the Society Islands. At the 2017 census it had a population of 4,792. In 2017 Taputapuatea along with Taputapuatea marae were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.Taputapuatea consists of the following associated communes:



PuohineThe administrative centre of the commune is the settlement of Avera.

The commune was named after a large marae complex which was once considered the religious center of eastern Polynesia. The archaeological site of Taputapuatea marae is still today the most famous landmark of Raiatea.

Tehaapapa II

Maerehia of Raiatea and Tahaa (1824 – 28 May 1893), was a princess of Raiatea and Tahaa from the Tamatoa dynasty family, a Polynesian royal family. She was wife of Ari'imate of Huahine, founder of the Teururai dynasty which reigned on the Tahitian island of Huahiné and Maia'o during the 19th century. She was Queen of Huahine and Maia'o and later Queen regnant in her own right. Comteporary sources seems to call her Tehaapapa I instead, disregarding the ruling queen by the same name at the time Captain Cook visited the island.

Se was installed as Queen of Huahine in 1868 until her death in 1893.


Rere-ao Te-hau-roa-ari'i, also given as Teri'i-hau-roa (c. 1830 – 18 March 1884), was the Queen of Raiatea and Tahaa. In the Tahitian language, her name means "flying-in-the-world" and "perpetual peace" or "long governments of kings". She was the only reigning Queen of Raiatea.


Uturoa is a commune located in Raiatea, the smallest island of the Îles Sous le Vent (Leeward Islands) in French Polynesia. Uturoa is the administrative center of the administrative subdivision of the Leeward Islands and is the main port of the island of Raiatea.

According to the 2017 census, Uturoa had a population of 3,736. Uturoa is approximately 120 miles (193 km) northwest of Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia.


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