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Hiking

Just north of downtown Uturoa, the street to the left as you face the gendarmerie leads to a four-wheel-drive track ascending to the television towers atop 291m (970-ft.) Papioi Hill. (Be sure to close the gates, which keep the cows out of the station.) From the top, you can see Uturoa, the reef, and the islands Tahaa, Bora Bora, and Huahine.

Serious hikers can take another trail leading to the plateau atop Mount Temehani. The route begins with a four-wheel-drive track about 183m (600 ft.) south of the bridge at the head of Pufau Bay on the northwest coast. It is not marked, so a guide is advisable. Contact the local visitor information office about hiring one.

Sailing

The Moorings (tel. 800/535-7289 or 727/535-1446; www.moorings.com) and Sunsail Yacht Charters (tel. 800/327-2276 or 207/253-5400 in the U.S., or 60.04.85 on Raiatea; fax 66.23.19; www.sunsail.com) are based on Raiatea. Both charter sailboats with or without crew. If a boat is available, it can be chartered on a daily basis. Arrangements for longer charters ordinarily should be made before leaving home.

The Moorings keeps its boats at Apooti Marina on the north shore, which is more convenient to the popular cruising grounds around Tahaa. Sunsail is based on the north shore of Faaroa Bay.

Scuba Diving & Snorkeling

Raiatea may not have beaches, but the reef and large, clear lagoon are excellent for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Scuba Diving -- The best wreck dive site in all of French Polynesia is a descent of 15 to 27m (50-90 ft.) above the S.S. Norby, a three-masted Danish schooner that sunk off Uturoa in 1900. Its main deck has collapsed, so even novice divers can explore its topside. Intermediate divers can swim through the 150-foot-long hull and see a multitude of sea life, including black coral. Although the lagoon can be murky here, the Norby makes for good night diving. Nearby, novices can drift dive at Teavapiti Pass, where a coral wall just outside the reef attracts fish, rays, and gray, whitetip, and blacktip sharks. Other sites here, such as the Little Caves and the Mounts of Céran, both off Tahaa's eastern coast, are known for spectacular underwater scenery.

With bases at the Raiatea Hawaiki Nui Hotel and at Apooti Marina, Hubert Clot's Hémisphère Sub Raiatea (tel. 66.12.49; fax 66.28.63; www.multimania.com/diveraiatea) takes divers on one-tank excursions for 6,500CFP (US$81/£41).

Snorkeling -- You'll have to take a lagoon excursion to experience the best snorkeling near the offshore islands, especially over the coral gardens off Le Taha'a Private Island & Spa on Tahaa's northwestern coast. Or you can don mask, snorkel, and fins at the Raiatea Hawaiki Nui Hotel, where the overwater bungalows are perched atop a clifflike reef face.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.