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Rurutu Island

Rurutu Island travel Guide

Rurutu Island travel guide

Image ©Jonathan.burckel, Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0


Rurutu (Polynesian name: Eteroa) is a geological phenomenon that is unique to Polynesia: The elevated atoll has a pre-recorded riff, but no traditional lagune. Makatea, or slivered coral cliffs, dot the island’s coastline, which is peppered with limestone caves.

The Austral Islands, discovered by Europeans in the 18th century, are located 373 miles (600 km) south of Tahiti’s capital city, Papeete. The archipelago consists of seven islands, five of which are inhabited and four of which are air-accessible. An unspoiled and fascinating land where white sand beaches mix with the deep blue lagoons.

Rurutu is one of the Austral Islands, which have a milder temperature than the other archipelagos. Its temperate environment is perfect for growing coffee, lychees, and oranges, which are farmed alongside more traditional crops such as taro.

The island’s first inhabitants were cave dwellers. Long white sandy beaches break up the craggy shoreline, and magnificent blue waters beckon for swimming: Naairoa, Avera, and Arei, for example, have some of the most magnificent sandy beaches in the world.

On the island, there are three towns: Moerai (the main town with a bank, post office, and a few shops), Avera, and Hauti, which have colorful buildings built of coral blocks. The interior is a lush, dense jungle with a high plateau and a few mountain peaks rising in the center.

The elongated, flat atoll has an outer coral reef without a lagoon, little white bathing bays, and rocky volcanic hill formations in the interior, Mont Taatioe is 1276.25 ft (389 meters) high.

The exceptionally fertile soil supports a diverse range of plants, including lychees and pineapples, as well as basil, taro, and coffee. Soft tourism, primarily geared toward nature enthusiasts, has grown in popularity in Rurutu in recent years.

Whale encounters are stunning during the season, which runs from mid-July until the end of October. Off the usual path, the island has a lot to offer on land as well: the island’s indigenous inhabitants, for example, lived in remote limestone caverns that can still be visited today.

The people of Rurutu are known for their artistic abilities: woven hats and mats made of pandanus leaves, or the native tifaifai, traditional patchwork fabrics, can be found all around the island.

How to get to Rurutu?

Rurutu is reached through Tahiti/Papeete. Air Tahiti operates 4-5 weekly flights to Unaa Airport on the island’s northern tip (IATA: RUR), which opened in 1975.

Transfers from the airport should be pre-arranged with your lodging. It is customary for the host to send a car to pick up his visitors for free.

Getting around

On Rurutu, there are no taxis or public transit, thus most visitors travel the 36-kilometer ring road around the island on foot, with their guide, on horseback, or by bicycle. There is also a car rental service and an e-bike rental business in Rurutu’s main town, Moerai.

Where to stay in Rurutu?

Best Things to do in Rurutu

Visit the Limestone caves

The island’s 30 or so limestone caves are one of the primary attractions and can be explored. They are all unique, some with stalagmites and stalactites, some with lush ferns sprouting from mounds of rubble, and still others with natural rock sculptures.

The grotto Ana Aeo, also known as Mitterand Cave, is particularly interesting. The cave, located near Mount Rairiri, was named after a visit by then-French President Francois Mitterand in May 1990. The cave is very large and 50 ft (15 meters) high, with numerous stalactites and stalagmites. The entrance is on the Vitaria Main Road, and a stone with a red inscription marks the route.

The Ana Tane Uapoto Cave is located near Moerai. It provides an excellent view of the reef off Rurutu. The entrance is located near the Arai Point viewpoint at the west end of the village.

The cave was once utilized as a natural refrigerator to keep cured meat fresher for longer. The cave is one of the most photographed subjects in Ruturu from the outside. A trip to the caves should always be accompanied by a local guide.

Marae Ta’aroa in Vitaria

The largest marae in the Austral Islands is Marae Ta’aroa in Vitaria, northwest of the island. Large, finger-like stones rise into the sky from this location. Those who are interested can learn more about the platform’s history and use from the owner of the neighboring Teautamatea hotel. He is in charge of the marae’s upkeep and gives visitors fascinating background information on Polynesian culture.

Marae Pore Opi in Na Airoa

Polynesians’ remains can also be found on the island’s lonely southern tip. Toataratara Point is located near the village of Na Airoa and is well known for its magnificent white sand beach and surrounding hidden bays.

You can go back east on a short road inland to Marae Pore Opi from here (also known as Pareopi). The location is densely forested, yet the towering stones are massive and difficult to miss.

Art & Culture

Hand-woven hats, baskets, and mats, as well as the traditional, colorful patchwork tifaifai, can be purchased directly from the ladies who make them, and you may even be able to see over the shoulders of the artists as they work.

Swimming with Humpback whales in Rurutu

The encounter with humpback whales (Megaptera novaengliae) at Moerai Bay is an unquestionable highlight of a journey to Rurutu – for many, The reason for a trip to this small Austral island. Moorea is also very well known for humpback whale-watching tours.

The gentle giants leave Antarctica every year when their diet, krill, becomes limited in frigid waters. Every year, they embark on a trip of thousands of kilometers to warmer climes. Here they feed on plankton, mate, and give birth to their calves. Moerai Bay off Rurutu is one of the areas where humpback whales return after a trip of up to 3106 miles (5000 kilometers).

From mid-July through the end of October, the gray marine mammals play in the bay’s shallow waters. The whales can already be seen from the land from various viewing platforms projecting right into the sea.

If you wish to get even closer to the majestic animals, there are various fishermen giving whale trips in Moerai’s harbor and Avera’s bay.

The bay has exceptional visibility, and once in the water, you will have an incredible experience as you get up close and personal with the gentle sea animals and their progeny. Calves, in particular, are inquisitive and frequently swim extremely near to observers.

Hiking in the countryside

Rurutu has three big villages, all on the coast: Moerai, the island’s main town, to the north, Hauti to the east, and Avera to the west. A hiking track of roughly 1.8 miles (3 kilometers) extends across the island between Avera and Hauti.

Active travelers will find the island’s unspoiled interior: lush jungle flora, secret waterfalls and natural pools, incredible deep valleys, and gigantic limestone caverns. Take your time on this short stroll through the center of Rurutu.

A second trail climbs to Mount Manureva, the second-highest peak in the islands at 385 meters. The mountain can be approached from two directions: from the northwestern side via the Tatuanui Plateau or directly from the western end via Moerai.

Both trail descriptions are available here. Once at the top, you have a spectacular 360-degree view of the island and the iconic taro plantation.

Riding a horse

The inland of the island can also be explored on horseback, with rides appropriate for both novice and experienced riders. Horseback riding can also be experienced in Hiva Ou and Oa Pou, which are part of the Marquesas Archipelago.

Rurutu Island Facts

Rurutu is a small, remote island located in the Austral Islands archipelago of French Polynesia. It is known for its rugged, mountainous terrain and its rich cultural history. Here are some facts about Rurutu:

  1. Rurutu is the northernmost island in the Austral Islands, and it is located about 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) south of Tahiti.
  2. The island is about 18 kilometers (11 miles) long and 8 kilometers (5 miles) wide, and it has a population of about 2,000 people.
  3. Rurutu is a volcanic island, and it is characterized by steep cliffs, deep valleys, and rugged mountains. The highest peak on the island is Mt. Pahia, which reaches an elevation of 739 meters (2,425 feet).
  4. The island is surrounded by a coral reef, which is home to a diverse array of marine life, including dolphins, whales, and sea turtles.
  5. Rurutu has a rich cultural history, and it is home to several ancient marae (temples) that were built by the early Polynesian settlers. These marae are considered important cultural landmarks, and they are visited by many tourists who come to Rurutu to learn about the island’s history and traditions.
  6. The island is also known for its beautiful beaches, including Anakena Beach, which is considered one of the best beaches in French Polynesia.
  7. The main industry in Rurutu is agriculture, and the island is known for producing copra (dried coconut meat), vanilla, and coffee.
  8. Rurutu is a popular tourist destination, and visitors can enjoy a variety of activities, including snorkeling, diving, hiking, and exploring the island’s cultural sites.

Rurutu image Gallery

Rurutu aerial photo, NASA

Rurutu aerial photo, NASA

Rurutu Island airport

Rurutu Island airport, Image © Just Me, Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-2.0

Old map of Rurutu

Old map of Rurutu

Ile Rurutu, la case du roi et le temple

Ile Rurutu, la case du roi et le temple


Frequently asked Questions

Rurutu Island also boasts lovely beaches. The most magnificent and well-known is in the town of Na’airoa, located in the island’s south. Toataratara beach has a beautiful white sandy beach with a view of four little limestone islets.

With its turquoise blue tones, you will enjoy swimming in this tiny paradise. Swimming down the beach and around the elevated coral islets is a wonderful experience.

Rurutu is also well-known for its basketry, braiding, matting, and Tfaifai, a big blanket made of hand-sewn patchwork, which can be found in every house on the island. Beautiful handcrafted bags or caps made from pandanus leaves can be purchased in the handicraft shop or in the villages of Hauti near the town hall and the Avera shop behind the town hall.

Not sure about souvenirs from Tahiti, read our guide on souvenirs here.

As mentioned earlier, whale watching is one of the island’s most popular activities during the season. A ride, on the other hand, is ideal for embracing nature without exerting too much effort. If you’re feeling particularly energetic, Viriamu, the owner of a lovely guesthouse, will gladly accompany you on a walk along the beach or even into the mountains.

Speaking of mountains, there are numerous hikes available. Reti will be your man once more. He will lead you through the dense forest, as no path is clearly marked. Of course, you can rest in the center of a wild cove while sunbathing on one of the island’s white sand beaches.

In Rurutu, you’ll be spending a lot of time outside, so pack accordingly. See our list of items of what to pack for your vacation in Tahiti.

Rurutu, the Austral Islands’ lost paradise, is a genuine rough diamond. It will entice you with its genuineness while being far from the lively metropolis and the thrill of the most touristic islands.

People frequently prefer to visit more well-known islands such as Bora Bora or Tahiti. This archipelago, on the other hand, contains many treasures, both biological and archaeological. So, if you want to go on vacation and explore French Polynesia, Rurutu is one of those hidden gems that we love to show you.

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