Most first-time visitors to French Polynesia end up on one of the three best-known Society Islands: Tahiti, Moorea and Bora-Bora. And repeat visitors often head to the Tuamotu Archipelago or the Marquesas Islands, to scuba dive, seek out traditional Polynesian culture or learn about the cultivation of Tahitian black pearls. One of the sleepier Society Islands, Raiatea—located adjacent to Tahaa and within viewing distance of Bora-Bora—offers travelers all those things and more.
Cruise lines have discovered the quiet allure of Raiatea, French Polynesia’s second-largest island, home to a flower so rare it grows nowhere else on Earth. Its landscape is dramatic and mountainous—its tallest peak tops 1,000 meters (3,330 feet)—fitting for a place whose name means "faraway heaven." Tahitians consider this their sacred island, and a journey here will take you to sites associated with legends and lore. But adventure seekers will also find plenty of outdoor activities, including hiking, kayaking, diving and exploring by horseback, while shoppers can browse a handful of shops and the daily market in the port of Uturoa.