Ra’iatea is the second largest of the Society Islands after Tahiti and also the second most important economic centre, but its lack of beaches has left it relatively off the tourist radar. What dominates here are the high, steep mountains and the vast, reef-fringed lagoon – the combination of the two are quite awe-striking and tend to override any disappointment that there’s no beach. The capital, Uturoa, is the only real town; explore the rest of the island and you’ll find an intensely calm, back-to-nature reality.
Ra’iatea is home to Marae Taputapuatea, once the most important traditional temple in Polynesia, which many believe still exudes power today. What is undeniable is that the island emanates a hard-to-pinpoint, mysterious energy that you won’t feel anywhere else in French Polynesia.