Exploring the Fenua Aihere

This coast from the end of the road at Teahupoo, which is accessible only by boat or on foot, is called the Fenua Aihere, which literally means ‘the bush country’. Locals have asked walkers to stop walking this trail where there are houses, and the aggressive unchained dogs along the way will talk you out of it even more. Best is to take a boat excursion, which will often take in the dark, legend-rich Vaipoiri Cave and all the good snorkelling spots along the way before reaching the the end of the reef at the Te Pari Cliffs.

Once the reef ends, the coastline becomes steep and gets pounded by waves when there’s swell. It’s possible to hike the entire 8km of this precarious coast dotted with archaeological treasures, wild passion fruit, waterfalls and caves, but no current human habitation. You can only do it in good weather and if the swell isn’t too big. Near the Vaiote River are some interesting petroglyphs inscribed on coastal boulders and a series of marae inland in the valley.

On the northern half of Tahiti Iti towards Tautira, the coastline continues along from the Te Pari Cliffs another 10km or so through a second Fenua Aihere, till the paved road begins once again at Tautira village. You can walk past people's homes all the way to the village along this section without too many bad dogs.

A guide is highly recommended both for safety and to help you discover all the very hidden gems found mostly off the trail. It takes two days to hike from Teahupoo to Tautira and camp is usually made in an airy and open beachside cave. Most guides also offer one-day hikes on a section of the coast, in combination with a boat transfer. It’s an unforgettable experience.

Hiking & Canyoning on Tahiti

Hiking

Tahiti’s interior is home to some of the most exquisite – and challenging – hikes in French Polynesia. Bring plenty of water.

Fautaua Valley Trail One of the most beautiful and accessible walks on Tahiti, on the east coast. The easy 4km walk to the Fachoda (Tearape) Bridge takes about an hour. Then there's a rather steep climb, and after about 45 minutes you reach a superb viewpoint over Fautaua Waterfall. Another half an hour takes you to the summit of the waterfall, a prime swimming spot. In theory, the Fautaua Valley trail doesn’t require a guide, but we suggest hiring one. You’ll need an access permit (adult/child 600/150 CFP), available from Pape'ete Town Hall.

Mt Aorai The third-highest peak on Tahiti (2066m), Mt Aorai's ascent is one of the island’s classic climbs. The path, starting at O Belvédère restaurant, is clearly visible and well maintained, so you don’t need a guide, but we suggest hiring one for safety reasons. It takes at least 4½ hours of steady walking to reach the top. It’s possible to summit the peak and return in a day, but start at dawn because the summit tends to be covered in cloud after 11am. A better option is to spend the night in one of two simple shelters (free of charge) on the route. Each accommodates about 20 walkers, has electricity and is equipped with aluminium cisterns that are usually filled with drinkable rain water.

Lava tubes At Hitiaa on the east coast, these lava tubes are elongated tunnels formed by the cooling and rapid hardening of lava. A river runs through the giant, wormlike caves so that hiking through them actually means lots of swimming in cold water. The hike can only be attempted when there’s little or no chance of rain (you wouldn’t want to be here during a flash flood) and it’s imperative to have a guide. You’ll need a good torch (flashlight) and waterproof shoes for the three-hour hike/swim. Wetsuits are provided by guides. It’s less than 15 minutes’ walk from the parking area to the first tube, at 750m, which is around 100m long. The second tube is 300m long with two waterfalls. The third tube is the longest and darkest, and, at about 100m in, it divides: the left fork continues about 300m to an exit, while the right fork leads to a large cave, complete with lake and waterfall.

Other Hikes & Guides

There are also plenty of other hikes on the island. Most trails require a guide as they aren't marked and it’s easy to get lost. For a DIY hike, consider the trail from the Vaipahi Spring Gardens. Guides charge around 6000 CFP per day for two to three hikers.

We recommend the following guides:

Aito Rando Very dynamic guides who have made some new routes. Best contact is via Facebook.

Tahiti Reva Trek Run by a female guide who has lots of experience and offers a wide range of hikes for all levels.

Tahiti Evasion Very reputable operators.

Canyoning

Canyoning (rappelling down waterfalls) is an even more exhilarating way to explore the interior. Tahiti’s canyoning hot spots are found in various valleys. All are atmospheric; you can expect various jumps, leaps in natural pools and jaw-dropping rappelling. Plan on 10,000 CFP to 12,000 CFP per person, including gear and transfers. All canyoning outings are led by a qualified instructor. Contact Rando Pacific and Mato Nui Excursions.

Surfing on Tahiti

Polynesia is the birthplace of surfing, and Tahiti offers some fabulous beginner breaks, particularly at Papenoo and other beach breaks along the east coast. More advanced surfers can head to the Papara shore break and the reef breaks at Sapinus and Taapuna along the west coast and the big and small Vairao passes at Tahiti Iti. Tahiti’s most famous and radical wave is at Hava’e Pass in Teahupoo on Tahiti Iti where there’s a big international surf contest held each August. In general the west-coast waves break the biggest between May and October, while the east coast is best from November to April – waves are fickle, so this isn’t set in stone.

To paddle out for your first time or hone your skills, contact the following outfits:

Aloha Surf School Tahiti Beginner classes on the beaches of Mahina, Papenoo and more advanced sessions at Papara.

Tama He'e Private and group surfing or bodyboarding classes with Michel Demont, world longboard champion in 1994. Prices vary.

Tura’i Mataare Surf School Courses are run by a qualified instructor and include equipment, transport to the different surfing spots and insurance.