Passing through impressive natural scenery, the three- to four-hour hike from the north to south coasts via the 413m Te Rua Manga (Needle) is Rarotonga's most popular walk. Don't do the walk in a south–north direction, as the chances of taking a wrong turn are much greater. Wear adequate shoes, take plenty of drinking water, and use mosquito repellent.
Parts of the walk get extremely slippery in wet weather and the upper section is quite rugged and overgrown.
The tourist office recommends walkers join a guided tour, but it’s possible to do the walk on your own. Follow the orange track markers carefully, and leave your name and details in the intentions book at the start of the hike. The road to the starting point is south of Avatiu Harbour. Continue on the road up the valley by Avatiu Stream until you reach a sign announcing the beginning of the walk. A private vehicle road continues for about 1km.
From the end of the vehicle road a footpath leads off and after 10 minutes drops down and crosses a small stream. Don’t follow the white plastic power-cable track up the valley, but instead pick up the track beside the massive boulder on the ridge to your left, after the stream crossing.
From here, the track climbs steeply up to the Needle (about 45 minutes). At the first sight of the Needle there’s a boulder in the middle of the path – a nice place for a rest. A little further on is a T-junction; the Needle is a 10-minute walk to the right. Don’t try to climb up to the Needle itself, as there have been several rockfalls and landslides, and there’s a long and probably fatal drop on either side of the trail. Follow the track round to the left instead and you’ll begin the long, slippery descent towards the south coast.
After 30 minutes the track meets the Papua Stream and follows it downhill, zigzagging back and forth across the stream. After about 45 minutes the track emerges into fernland. Be sure to stick to the main track, as there are several places where minor tracks seem to take off towards the stream but these end at dangerous spots upstream from the waterfall. Another 15 minutes further on, the main track turns back towards the stream, bringing you to the bottom of Wigmore’s Waterfall. A dirt road leads from the south coast up to the waterfall. It’s about a 15-minute walk to the coast road, where you can flag down the circle-island bus or cool off in the nearby lagoon. You’re likely to get muddy and sweaty, so don’t make plans for a flash lunch immediately afterwards.