Tahitians believe Raiatea to be the sacred birthplace of their gods and their religious and cultural beginnings. The most important and well-preserved religious site in all of Polynesia is here. It is from these shores that ancient Polynesian explorers are said to have ventured to the far off lands of Hawaii and New Zealand. Second only in size to the Island of Tahiti, Raiatea is today the trading center of the leeward islands. Raiatea is unique in that it has the only navigable river in Polynesia – the Faaroa. The rare, white gardenia called Tiare Apetahi only grows on the slopes of Mount Temehani and nowhere else on Earth! Mount Temehani is also the supposed birthplace of Oro, one principal god of Polynesia. There is a large, protected lagoon around Raiatea and its sister island Tahaa, which produces wonderful beaches and the perfect location for sailing, big game fishing, and diving.