Raiatea and Taha’a, about 120 miles northwest of Tahiti, are two islands that are encircled by the same barrier reef.
Raiatea, called “The Sacred Island,” may be the most revered island in all the South Pacific. Historically, kings from the neighboring islands would gather at Marae Taputapuatea for important ceremonies and negotiations. Re-enactments of these ceremonies on the restored marae help visitors discover the Tahitian culture. Raiatea has the only navigable river in the islands, the Fa’aroa, and popular excursions include exploring its cool, green waters in an outrigger canoe. Yachting and sailing enthusiasts gather in Raiatea, Tahiti’s nautical base and home to such charter companies as the Moorings and Stardust Marine. Experienced sailors and novices alike (captains can be provided) can experience world-class sailing in the Leeward Islands. The Pacific breezes and calm lagoons provide ideal conditions year-round for sailing and deep-sea fishing. On the slopes of Mt. Temehani, visitors can discover the Tiare Apetahi, a rare flower that is found only on this particular mountain in Raiatea. Botanists have unsuccessfully tried to grow it elsewhere. Legend says that there was once a lovely Tahitian girl who fell in love with the son of a Tahitian king. She died of a broken heart, because she could never marry him. The five delicate petals of the flower represent her hand. Those who climb the mountain early in the morning will see the Tiare Apetahi open at dawn, with a slight crackling sound – the sound of her heart breaking.