Don't Miss in Raiatea
Uturoa: Just beyond Gare Maritime lies Uturoa, an easily walkable town with shops, boutiques, cafes and markets. It may seem sleepy, but believe it or not it is the second largest town in French Polynesia after Tahiti's Papeete. The Protestant church on the northern side of the town's center has a memorial stone dedicated to pioneer missionary John Williams, who set up a mission on the island in 1817. Unfortunately he came to a rather unsavoury end in 1839 when killed and eaten by cannibals in the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu).
Motu trips and diving: Even though there are no beaches, swimming, diving and snorkeling are still top options either from a boat or a motu. Ship shore excursions are likely to offer some of these trips and tour operators can be found at the pier. One operator offering morning and afternoon dives and private snorkel trips is Hemisphere Sub, located at the Apooiti Marina, about 2.5 miles (4 km) west of Uturoa town. (40-66-12-49; mobile 87-72-19-52)
Vanilla plantation: Tahaa, Raiatea's neighboring island, is called the Vanilla Island as some three-quarters of French Polynesia's precious crop is grown on the tiny isle. If your ship doesn't offer an excursion, you can go with L'excursion Bleue, who also offers motu lunch trips. (689-40-66-10-90)
Taputapuatea Archeological Site: Located about 40 km south of Uturoa on the east coast, via a road that winds around the Faaroa Bay, this is one of the most sacred places in French Polynesia and a UNESCO Heritage site since 2017. The huge area by the ocean comprises 19 marae (temples) including Matahiraterai, Valley of the Night, Oro's Shrine and the Sacrifice Stone. Most ship tours will visit here, while those seeking independent tours should check with the tourist office at the Gare Maritime Pier. If doing a self-driving trip, it's about a 50-minute drive with a few twists and bends.