Historical Places in Raiatea
The heart of French Polynesia
Today we are going to discover the Marae of Taputapuatea in Raiatea, a new fantastic spot that you can add to your bucket list when visiting the islands of French Polynesia. The place not only provides an excellent sightseeing experience but also tells much of the history of French Polynesia and the whole Polynesian triangle. Lets look together at the former religious center of Eastern Polynesia long before the discovery through European explorers and the colonization.
What is Taputapuatea marae?
When we visited Taputapuatea marae the first time I was rather clueless about all the history this place entails. Sure it is a stunning scenery but once Rika told me a little more about the place and I researched more about it, the experience got even better. So for you to be better prepared than I was, I will give you a brief introduction about this magnificent place.
Taputapuatea marae is a big complex that represented the religious and political center of the ancient Polynesian culture and can be found at the seashore of Raiatea in the small village of Opoa. It’s fair to say Taputapuatea marae signifies the original heart of Polynesian culture. It’s the place where polynesians began to expand across the Pacific. The complex consists of several marae that served different religious and social purposes and can be found all across Polynesia. Marae means cleared and is presented as a cleared, rectangular land bordered with stones or wood called ‘au’ in Tahitian. Taputapuatea marae has the marae Taputapuatea itself as the center which is dedicated to ‘Oro, the god of war and fertility and signifies a portal from the world of the living (Te Ao) to the world of the gods (Te Po). It is also the place where former chiefs and priests of an alliance called Ti’ahuauatea (Including the Cook islands and the Australs) regularly gathered to share their knowledge on matters such as ocean-navigation and to offer human sacrifices to the god ‘Oro. In 2017, Taputapuatea marae got finally inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
View on the Marae Taputapuatea dedicated to god ‘Oro
Multiple marae in the complex
How to get to Taputapuatea Marae
Taputapuatea marae is located on the island of Raiatea which is part of the Society islands. The Society islands represent one of the 5 archipelagos in which French Polynesia is divided and include some of the most famous islands like Tahiti or Bora Bora. Taputapuatea can be found at the south-east side of Raiatea and is reachable by boat or car. From the airport which is next to Uturoa, the capital of Raiatea, it took us approximately 1 hour to go there and it is definitely worth to combine it with a tour around the island. Even though we went there by ourselves it is also possible to book a pickup at the airport or combine it with a stay at the hotel and to go there by boat! For this, it’s best to ask directly at your hotel or visit the information desk at the harbor in Uturoa. Otherwise, feel free to reach out to us if you are unsure or you would like more information 🙂
Rika at the Entrance of Taputapuatea Marae
Entrance of Taputapuatea Marae
What to do at Taputapuatea Marae
The very first thing is of course to absorb the spirit and history this place inhibits and what we can learn about the Maohi (Mā’ohi in Tahitian) culture and their ancestors. As we mentioned before, Taptapuatea Marae is a big complex that allows you to look at different remainings of the traditional temples. The main marae is easily recognizable as the biggest one with a replica of treasures at the center to symbolize the offerings that were made to the god ‘Oro. Also you can find a little Tiki statue at the right of the marae that will tell you that you are at the right spot. One mistake we did when visiting was that we were walking on the stones of the marae with our sandals on >_<. We learned afterwards that if you go on the marae it is respectful to take off your shoes, place them in front of the marae and walk barefoot on the stones. So the next time we went we followed this advice.
Tiki on the Marae in Taputapuatea
Treasury Replica on the Marae in Taputapuatea
In case you are less interested by the historical background and prefer to spend your time differently, Taputapuatea marea offers many possibilities to relax and enjoy. We actually went there several times and always found something new to do or discover. So let’s have a look!
Relax in the Park
Since the complex is surrounded by a beautiful and calm nature we liked to take our pareo and do a picnic or just take a nap under the trees while listening to the pacific and dreaming.
Diving into the ocean is something you can almost do everywhere in French Polynesian. Also Taputapuatea marae offers lot’s of space around to jump into the water or wet your feet a little if you just want to cool down from the heat. The best spot is probably at the just nearby footbridge.
Seaside of the Park
Park and Access to Footbridge
Top View on the Park
Once in Raiatea, you will most likely see many people fishing at the seaside. So if you are into fishing or would like to try it out, Taputapuatea is a great place to do so. But wherever you are in French Polynesia, be careful not to get a ray or shark on your hook! One time we were in Taputapuatea, we saw someone who accidentally hooked a ray and couldn’t get him off anymore. He just wanted to cut the line off. However, since Rika grew up in the Tuamotu, she knew well how to handle crazy kinds of sealife in French Polynesia (ok… from my point of view) and therefore throw herself instinctively into a rescue mission for the poor ray with her little brother Keiichi! I might exaggerate but for me it was really impressive to see how she helped the animal to take off the hook from his mouth. It reminded me of how connected Polynesian people are to nature and what I from the western world can learn from it about the treatment of such animals but particularly the sealife.
However, it’s not without risk since ray, like most animals, can be dangerous when being threatened. So it’s better to get some help or if there is no other way, to cut the line off your rod even though that would leave the animal with the hook in its mouth.
Since 2020, Taputapuatea has its own hiking trail to make the place even more appreciable. We were lucky to be one of its first visitors and what can we say? It’s an amazing hike!
It only takes about 20 to 40 minutes to get to the top and you get rewarded with an incredible view (See our picture at the end of the post!). What makes the hike also very enjoyable is that almost the whole way you’ll walk in the shades of the trees and plants. For us it was really a great experience and the hiking trail is made with a lot of care to immerse it into the nature with wooden steps and railing.
You will find out that the start of the hiking is a little hidden but very close to the marae. It is right in the greenfield across the street where the forest starts. Don’t hesitate to ask the information desk close to the park. When you have a chance to visit Taputapuatea marae then definitely take the time for this hike, we promise it will be worth it 🙂
Start of the Taputapuatea Hike
Taputapuatea hiking trail and way to the top
We hope that in this post we could share with you some of the fascinating history around the beautiful country of French Polynesia and that you might have found the next destination to visit on your list. For us Taputapuatea marae will always remain a special experience and we would be happy if you want to share your thoughts on this place or ideas what else is worth doing there.
As always thank you for reading! Mauruuru & Nana!
Rika & Ben
“A nations culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people!”
View from the Top of the Taputapuatea Hike