Most visitors head to Bora Bora for a blissful, tropical island vacation that centers around relaxing in an overwater bungalow on the sparkling lagoon. Therefore, you may be surprised to learn that it’s possible to hike on Bora Bora.

Given its small size and jungle-like mountainous interior, you really don’t have to hike too far to feel like you’re miles away from civilization. The payoff to the sweaty incline? Being surprised at just how many different shades of blue can be seen in one of the most beautiful lagoons in the world from your new viewpoint.

Here are seven of the best and most scenic hikes on Bora Bora.

Faanui Cannons: easiest hike to find

Less than 300m (a quarter of a mile), 10 minutes, moderate

Bora Bora was chosen as a strategic military supply base during WWII and much like in Vanuatu, the USA decided not to take the big stuff home when they left. Spread over four locations, eight giant cannons were installed high on the hills in Bora Bora and they're still there today. Some are difficult to find but others are waiting to be discovered if you are willing to explore.

Hikers who find these cannons will be rewarded with spectacular views of Bora Bora’s iconic lagoon. Once you leave the sealed circle island road, it will take around 10 minutes of uphill walking but the views of the motus (little islands) in the lagoon will distract you from your burning calves. As will the fun of actually finding the cannons, even if one of the barrels has gone missing.

Trailheads are notoriously hard to find in Bora Bora due to a lack of signage but this one is not too bad as the cannon can be found on Google Maps near Tereia Point in the northwest of the main island. Heading clockwise on the circle island road, make your way to the Pearl Beach Resort ferry departure (lagoon side of the road) a few kilometers past Faanui. Once you spot the sign to the ferry, the track to the cannon site is only around 30 meters (98ft) further up the road on the right.

Valley of The Kings: most popular hike on Bora Bora

Around 3 hours, easy to moderate

It's said that the giant banyan tree featured on this hike was the inspiration for the "Tree of Souls” in the blockbuster Avatar movie. While I’m not sure if this is fact or fiction, there's no doubt the tree has great cultural significance, given that it reportedly served as the final resting place for the ancient kings of Bora Bora.

The Valley of The Kings hike is best taken with a guide, not just because hikes on Bora Bora are rarely signed and in the words of Randy Newman, “It’s a jungle out there”, but because this particular trail traverses over relics of the island’s early history.

Hikers can explore remnants of ancient villages and Marae (Polynesian temples) and it would be a shame to unknowingly pass these relics.

Of course, there are plenty of opportunities to eat the island's bounty straight from the tree and take in those iconic views of the turquoise and blue lagoon.

A World War II Cannon on a hilltop on the island of Bora Bora with beautiful views of the lagoon beyond
It may be a scramble to reach some of the cannons on Bora Bora but the views are worth the effort © MaFelipe / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Point Fitiuu Cannons

Around 1.2 km return from the road (¾ mile), easy

Hikers seeking the well preserved Point Fitiuu Cannons in Anau on the eastern side of the main island will be treated to stunning views of both Mt Otemanu and Bora Bora’s magnificent lagoon. Partway along this walk is an interestingly shaped geological feature jutting dramatically out of the ground. It’s known as Hiro’s Finger (or another part of his anatomy depending on who you ask).  

Take a picnic and make a morning or afternoon out of it, making use of the simple bench seats at the cannons. While snacking, you'll notice that one of the cannons faces The Four Seasons Resort and the other faces Mt Otemanu.

The trailhead can be a little tricky to find. The easiest way is to head towards Point Fitiuu on the main circle island road where you'll soon find yourself heading up a small hill as you near it on Google maps. At the sharp bend in the road, views of Mount Otemanu will come into sight and you'll see a track leading out onto the peninsula. The trail starts behind a cement building on private land so if the owners are about, you will need to ask their permission to cross their land.

Mount Otemanu: best for bragging rights

Around 6 hours return, difficult

Can you hike Mount Otemanu? It’s the question on every hiker's lips when they first see it. As the highest feature on Bora Bora, Mount Otemanu dominates the landscape and given prominence on both travel brochures and the feed of nearly every social media influencer that visits, it’s possibly one of the most recognized geological features in French Polynesia. Who wouldn’t want to brag about conquering it?

Hikers can’t physically get to the very top of the mountain's 727 meters (2385ft) as the towering peaks are both crumbly and vertical. However, it’s still a hard slog just to get to the “shoulders” of the mountain with a few sections requiring the ability to heave yourself up via strategically placed ropes.

The Cave of Mount Otemanu on the northeastern side of the mountain is not to be missed. Said to be the final resting place for royalty in times long gone, the views from this cave are nothing short of breathtaking. Hikers can see all the way over to the islands of Taha’a and Ra’iatea across the deep blue sea.

Although it’s possible to do this hike without a guide, it’s not recommended. People can and do, get lost and injured due to the difficult terrain and lack of signage.

A local woman standing on a jetty wearing a colorful sarong, Bora Bora lagoon
The beautiful views from the mountains and hills in Bora Bora are not to be missed © Matteo Colombo / Getty Images

Mount Pahia: best views of the island

Around 6 - 8 hours return, difficult

Mount Pahia is Mount Otemanu’s twin-peaked and shorter sibling, topping out at 658 m (2159ft). Hikers will experience incredible panoramic views not only across Bora Bora but out into the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean. Pahia is no walk in the park either and unlike Otemanu, you can actually reach the peak.

Don’t feel bad if before you reach the top your body says, “What on earth were you thinking?” The views are amazing from even halfway up so you’re still in for a treat.

A local guide is recommended due to the dangerous hiking conditions, which involve climbing, ropes and forging through an unmaintained track.

The track can be found near Hine Pearls, just south of the pretty Protestant Church with the red spire in the town of Vaitape. However, it’s best to ask around when you get there as nothing is signposted.

Farepiti Cannons

Approx 2.4km return from the road (1.5 miles), 20min one way, easy to moderate

Listen out for the island's 4x4 and quad bike tours, which can be heard rumbling up the narrow track behind you if you happen to be hiking it. The upside to being on the tour route is that this track is really obvious and it’s hard to get lost.

Perched on the mountainside above Point Pahua on the western point of the island, the views from the cannons are superb. One cannon looks out towards the main town of Vaitape and Teavanui Pass and the other looks out over the expanse of the lagoon towards Pearl Beach Resort.

The initial section will give your calves a workout and make you sweat in the tropical humidity. However, don’t despair, it eases off a little after around 450 meters (1476ft) when you reach a plateau with nice views over to Motu Ahuna in the lagoon. From here, it's an easier hike to the cannons.

The track can be found by heading clockwise around the island on the main road. Around 350 meters (1148ft) past the cargo vessel quay in Farepiti, you will see a dirt road to the cannons snaking up the hill to your right.

The Bora Bora Loop

20 mile (32km), easy to moderate

For those who have a few days up their sleeve and are comfortable with the concept of multi-day hiking, this 32-km loop (19.8mi) could very well be the stuff that dreams are made of. The Bora Bora Loop follows the coastal road all the way around the entirety of the main island. This is the only hike that's all-weather accessible as the road is paved and not too mountainous.

The highlight of this hike is, well ... everything. It’s the opportunity to not miss a single stunning stretch of coastline, view of the lagoon, village, and fabulous eatery. The best part? You get to choose where you stay each night and how far you walk each day.

Top tips for hiking in Bora Bora

  • A guide is recommended for hiking Bora Bora’s interior tracks. This is due to the lack of signage, overgrown tracks, and the mountainous nature of the trails. Polynesia Island Tours has an excellent reputation.
  • Never hike the off-road tracks during or after rain. The track will be too slippery and downright dangerous.
  • Many tours only operate during the dry season (winter).
  • The hikes to Mount Otemanu and Mount Pahia are not for the faint-hearted. You will need to have a reasonable level of fitness and know your body’s limits.
  • Do not attempt to hike Mount Otemanu and Mount Pahia if you can’t deal with heights or suffer from vertigo.

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