Historic site and monument
at Papara

Marae Mahaiatea

Come dive back into ancient times and feel the mana that surrounds these places!
On the coast at Papara, Mahaiatea marae was once a tall pyramid of coral stones, measuring 17 m in height with a base 81 m long by 26,50 m wide. It had 11 terraces, the first at 1,80 m, the others every 1,20 m. The pyramid was filled with all kinds of different stones and at its peak was a fish sculpted out of stone and a bird carved out of wood. At the foot of the marae, a coral path crossed the lagoon so as to facilitate the arival of the Arii (chiefs) in their canoes.

Mahaiatea was famed for being the biggest marae in Tahiti. It was built between 1766 and 1768 by Teriinui o Tahiti with a stone from the marae Tooarai in Papara at its base, at the request of Purea and Amo, the parents of Teri’irere i outu rau na To’oara’i.

But legend has it that it was the god of the ocean, Ruhatu, who had laid the foundation stone of Mahaiatea after having punished Raiatea in anger. When the inhabitants of Papara asked him who he was, he replied « E atua vau i te maha’i atea » (I am a god of lasting peace).

That’s how the marae got its name Mahaiatea (lasting peace).

Captain James Cook was the first to give a written description of this monument in 1769, writing that it was a « magnificent specimen of Indian architecture ». Indeed, the pyramid form does resemble the architecture of Mayan temples. The second person to describe it was Captain Wilson in 1799, writing: « The marae is a huge pile of stones in the form of a pyramid on a rectangular base, made with a series of ten steps (…). It is an astonishing construction and it must have required an immense effort and much time to fetch all these stones(…) ».
We can well imagine how fascinating the two captains must have found this monument.

With the arrival of Europeans in the 18th century and Christian missionaries in the 19th century , Polynesian culture nearly disappeared, and with it most of the knowledge of Polynesian beliefs. The marae were abandoned to the ravages of nature and ill-treatment by man. The stones of Mahaiatea were used for builing roads and a bridge in the 19th century, the coral was used for lime powder, and over the next century or so the walls were washed away by the sea.
We speak : French


  • Historic patrimony
  • Ruins and remains
  • Archeological site

Precise location

  • In the country
  • Beach within 300 m
  • Sea view


Horaires d'ouverture du 01 January au 31 December 2024


On-site activities

  • Children's entertainment


PK 39,100 c/mer Route de Mahaiatea, Servitude privée, Papara
98712 Papara
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