Comprised of the Windward and Leeward Islands, the Society Islands are a major Polynesian destination. Strikingly rich with varied landscapes, this archipelago charms thousands of visitors every year.
Bougainville once called this island group the Bourbon Archipelago; however, the great explorer Captain Cook renamed it the Society Islands in 1769 since his expedition (on an astronomy mission) was funded by the Royal Society of London.Tahiti, the largest and most populated of all the islands in French Polynesia, was visited by English Captain Samuel Wallis on board The Dolphin in June 1767. He baptized Tahiti King George’s Island. Bougainville arrived in Tahiti in 1768 and named it New Cythera.
Ever since, Tahiti has been at the root of many idyllic myths and legends and has recently experienced unprecedented cultural and demographic growth—to the point that today, it is one of the major economic players in the South Pacific. At the heart of the Leeward Islands, Raiatea the Sacred Island is also an important place to visit. According to traditional Polynesian origination stories, it was the first island created by the gods, “the place of the birth of lands and humans.”
From its history as a cultural and religious center to its mountain peaks reaching over 1000m/3280ft, its rich underwater depths and motu edged with white sand beaches, Raiatea has infinite treasures to explore. Botanists interested in this fascinating island have found rare endemic species at high altitudes. Mount Temehani ’Ute ’Ute holds treasures all to itself of which the most striking is the famous tiare apetahi. This shrub grows strange white flowers with five petals that only grow on one side.
• Heiva i Tahiti—June and July
• Chinese New Year (January 21-February 20)
• Hawaiki nui va’a (outrigger canoe race from Huahine-Raiatea-Tahaa-Bora Bora:beginning of November)
of the Society Archipelago
A unique atoll located in the Leeward Islands, Tetiaroa is about 50 km north of Tahiti (31 mi). The island is spread over a surface area of 6 km2 (3.8 sq. mi), or 1445 acres. This atoll has the distinction of being “closed,” which means it does not have passes that transfer water back and forth between the lagoon and the ocean. More
Tahiti is the largest island of French Polynesia. She is the economic, cultural and political centre of French Polynesia. The island is divided into two parts: The bigger, northwestern part «Tahiti Nui» and the smaller, southeastern part «Tahiti Iti». Like its sister islands throughout French Polynesia, Tahiti was created by dramatic geological events of his volcanic past. More
East Coast, West Coast, Peninsula
This island, discovered by Wallis in 1767, is located a mere 17km/10 mi. to the northwest of Tahiti. Easily and rapidly accessible by boat or plane, the island boasts a luxurious vegetation whose deep greens contrast intensely against the azure blue of the lagoons. The discovery of archeological sites in Opunohu Valley will delight Polynesian history and culture buffs who can then refresh themselves with delicious pineapple juice from the Rotui fruit factory.
Situated approximately 190km to the northwest of Tahiti, Raiatea is part of the Leeward Islands group. Its 238 square kilometer surface area makes it the largest island of the group.Like most of French Polynesia’s high islands, Raiatea is the leftover, eroded cone of a now extinct volcano. More
Maupiti, a land of legends and an unexpectedly rich culture, is a tiny island located at the extreme west of the Society Islands (about 300 km from Tahiti and 40 km from Bora Bora). With a surface area of only 9 square km, the island was once named Maurua and was “discovered” on June 6th 1722 by the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen. More