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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[citation needed] and it is likely that the organised migrations to Hawai'i, New Zealand and other parts of East Polynesia started at Raiatea.

Native name:
Borabora Tahaa Raiatea.jpg
The islands of Bora Bora (top) Tahaa (middle) and Raiatea (bottom). Tahaa and Raiatea share the same lagoon.
Karta FP Societe isl.PNG
LocationPacific Ocean
Coordinates16°49′S 151°27′W / 16.817°S 151.450°W / -16.817; -151.450Coordinates: 16°49′S 151°27′W / 16.817°S 151.450°W / -16.817; -151.450
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)

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.


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).[citation needed]

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 populationEdit

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.


See alsoEdit


  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 readingEdit