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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
Location Pacific Ocean
Coordinates 16°49′S 151°27′W / 16.817°S 151.450°W / -16.817; -151.450
Latitude and Longitude:

16°49′S 151°27′W / 16.817°S 151.450°W / -16.817; -151.450
Archipelago Society Islands
Major islandsRaiatea
Area167.7 km2 (64.7 sq mi)
Highest elevation1,017 m (3337 ft)
Highest point Mount Tefatua
Overseas collectivity French Polynesia
Capital and largest city Uturoa [1] (pop. 3,778)
Population12,545 [2]
Pop. density72/km2 (186/sq mi)

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 [3] and it is likely that the organised migrations to the Hawaiian Islands, 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. [4] 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. "Ulitea" is an obsolete transcription commonly used in the 19th century.

The extinct Raiatea starling inhabited the 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 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. [4]:214–218,284–291,315–318 He named the island "Ulitea". [5] 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 journeys.

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 also


  1. ^ "Raiatea a unique natural heritage". e-Tahiti Travel. Archived from the original on 2007-12-13. Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  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. ^ Buck, Peter Henry (1964). "7. The Centre of the Triangle". Vikings of the Sunrise (Digitized Edition). Christchurch, New Zealand: Whitcombe and Tombs. pp. 67–86.
  4. ^ a b Salmond, Anne (2010). Aphrodite's Island. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp.  227-228. ISBN  9780520261143.
  5. ^ Ellis, William (1830). Polynesian Researches, During a Residence of Nearly Six Years in the South Sea Islands, including Descriptions of the Natural History and Scenery of the Islands, with Remarks on the History, Mythology, Traditions, Government, Arts, Manners, and Customs of the Inhabitants. II. London: Fisher, Son, & Jackson. p. 6. Retrieved 2020-01-23. Ioretea, the Ulitea of Captain Cook, or, as it is now more frequently called by the natives, Raiatea, is the largest of the Society Islands.
  6. ^ Wilson, Rob (2000). Reimagining the American Pacific: From South Pacific to Bamboo Ridge and Beyond. Durham and London: Duke University Press. p. 87. ISBN  978-0-8223-2523-9.