A convenient way to see the sights is to start in Fare and complete a 60km circuit around the larger island in a clockwise direction.
Hana Iti Beach
Here’s a secret spot (shhh): the beach of the former Hana Iti Hotel. This dreamlike cove lapped by lapis-lazuli waters offers a nice patch of sand backed by lush hills, with a row of palm trees leaning over the shore. There’s no access road; get there by kayak or hire a dinghy.
This walk up Matairea Hill is a high point for anyone interested in archaeology. A signpost on the Fare side of Maeva, about 200m west from the Fare Potee, points to the start of the hiking trail. You’ll go past a fortification wall, which was built during the pre-European era, probably as protection against the warlike Bora Bora tribes, before reaching Marae Tefano, draped upon the hillside. There’s a massive banyan tree overwhelming one end of the ahu (altar).
Further on, a trail branches off to the left and runs slightly downhill to Marae Matairea Rahi. Once the principal marae at Maeva, where the most important island chief sat on his throne at major ceremonies, it was superseded by Marae Manunu, on the motu below. Also surviving are the foundations of a fare atua (god house), where images of gods were guarded day and night. Retrace your steps to the main trail and continue to the turn-off to Marae Paepae Ofata, a steep climb above the main trail but worth the effort. The marae is like a large platform perched on the edge of the hill, with fine views down the hillside and across Motu Papiti to the outer lagoon, and down to the mouth of Lake Fauna Nui. Return to the main path, which drops steeply down to the road.
Given the lack of signboards and proper waymarks, it makes sense to hire a guide. Contact American anthropologist Paul Atallah, from Island Ecotours – a more knowledgeable person you’d be hard-pressed to find. Count on 5000 CFP for the tour (about three hours). Take some drinking water as well as strong insect repellent.