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WorldSouth PacificFrench PolynesiaAustralsRaivavae

Raivavae Cruising Guide

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23°52.1′S, 147°39.8′W
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Local chartlet

Raivavae is one of the Austral Islands in French Polynesia. It has a reputation as being one of the most attractive islands in the South Pacific, ahead of the better known Bora Bora.

Cruising the region


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I found that the Navionics (electronic) charts of Raivavae were inaccurate as to the position -- the entire chart being offset to the north east by about 200 metres. The C-Map charts were correct.


See French Polynesia Weather




There are a number of motu including Motu Piscene dotted around the fringing reef.


There are no Radio Nets specific to Raivavae.

Also see World Cruiser's Nets.


The approach to the navigable pass in the reef is easy, even in darkness or near darkness. Noting the issue above about the Navionics chart data being incorrect, make sure that your chart data is accurate and follow the main route plan found in most cruising guides. The entrance leads are well lit, although only one of the two beacons marking the entrance lead could be seen. If you have this lead beacon between the red/green lit entrance bouys you should be fine. The entrance channel is wide and deep.

Navigating from the entrance channel to the anchorage off Rairua is relatively simple, there is only one danger with a lit beacon on it, otherwise there are many other leading marks and there is plenty of depth. Once you're at the anchorage just pick a spot and drop the anchor, there should be about 10 metres or more of depth. There is plenty of anchoring space.


There is a gendarmerie on Raivavae, at the main village of Rairua, and this can be used as check in to French Polynesia. Customs formalities will need to be completed at Papeete. The gendarmerie was equipped with the necessary forms and once completing them they need to be taken to the post office which is just a short walk away, and a small fee needs to be paid (the post office will collect the form and pass it up to Papeete). Reasonably good English was spoken both by one of the gendarmes and the staff at the post office.

See also French Polynesia Arrival & Departure Procedures.



options are limited to the anchorage only.


The main anchorage for Raivavae is in the lagoon off the main village of Rairua. This is where the post office and gendarmerie are located. Anchor anywhere further than about 100 metres from the wharf, holding is quite good in sand and mud.

You can bring your boat to the wharf and tie up for short periods to load water and any other heavy items (e.g. bicycle). Water as noted elsewhere has to be carried to the boat by jerry can.

There are further anchorages in the lagoon around the north side of the island. The passes on the east and west sides of the island to the southern half of the lagoon looked untenable to me in any vessel with a decent keel, perhaps local knowledge and/or a good lookout might help. The southern side of the island contains the more attractive motus, and so anchoring at the far eastern end of the northern half of the lagoon would give good access to those in a dinghy.

Fuel, Water, & Electricity

Diesel or Petrol (Gas) can be obtained in the store on the southern side of the island, between Vairu and the airport. Check first because the store that sells fuel has changed recently and is likely to change again.
Despite the information in several of the cruising guides, no water is available on the wharf at Raivavae. Instead, non-potable water (which can be drunk after boiling) can be carried in jerry cans from the Mairie, refill from a tap on the wharf road side of the Mairie. Drinking water is available for sale at stores on the north side of the island, one 19 litre bottle cost around $US20 in 2014.
No electricity for yachts is available.

Things to do Ashore

There are 4 small villages ashore on the island. Clockwise, from Riaria (closest to the main anchorage), these are:

  • Rairua
  • Mahanatoa
  • Anatonu
  • Vaiuru


The island is quite small and a full circuit of the island can be walked in a day. In addition to the main island and villages there are several motu around the fringing reef, incluing Motu Vaiamaru, better known to the locals as Motu Piscene. Several of the island Pensions offer day trips to Motu Piscene and it's an easy trip in a dinghy from the main anchorage. The scenery at Motu Piscene is worth seeing.

Near the Mairie at the main village of Rairua there is a small museum displaying (and selling) local artifacts. Over the course of a week I found the museum open only on one afternoon, but it's worth visiting if you see people around it indicating that it is open.

Grocery & Supply Stores

As of 2014 there were 4 or 5 small "magasins" or stores around the island. They were located:

  • In Rairua, between the post office and the gendermerie. This store closed at midday.
  • A larger store, run by the same person who ran the Rairua store, most of the way along the ring road to Mahanatoa.
  • Magasin Angelique, in Anatonu, which seemed to carry a larger range of hardware and household items than the other stores.
  • Another larger store on the south coast, about half way between the airport and the village of Vairu. This store also sold both Diesel and Petrol (gasoline).


A few of the pensions will offer to cook non-guests a meal.


Wifi access is available at the post office in Rairua. Connection hours can be purchased inside the post office and are useable from the seats outside the post office when the post office is closed. Speed is quite slow.

3G coverage is available inside the lagoon, but SIM cards for the 3G provider (Vini) are not sold on the island. They can however be ordered via the post office, and take about 3 days to arrive from Papeete.

See also Internet Access in French Polynesia.


One pension agreed to do a load of laundry for us but it wasn't cheap.

Motorbike & Car Rentals


Garbage Disposal

Garbage can be disposed of in the large sack bins near the wharf.


There is an airport on Raivavae with flights approximately 3 times per week to Papeete.


Contact details of "Cruiser's Friends" that can be contacted for local information or assistance.


List links to discussion threads on partnering forums. (see link for requirements)



  • Michael Pocock/Ros Hogbin, The Pacific Crossing Guide, Second Edition, RCC Pilotage Foundation, London, ISBN 0713661828
  • Warwick Clay, South Pacific Anchorages 2nd edition, Imray, ISBN 0852884826


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Names: Delatbabel

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