Papenoo Valley Waterfalls

Papenoo Valley / Vaihiria River Valley, Tahiti Island, French Polynesia

About Papenoo Valley Waterfalls

Hiking Distance: tour
Suggested Time: 6-7 hours

Date first visited: 2002-09-09
Date last visited: 2002-09-09

Waterfall Latitude: -17.57693
Waterfall Longitude: -149.42539

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense


The Papenoo Valley Waterfalls page is where I’m placing the handful of waterfalls we managed to see while on a 4×4 tour through the heart of Tahiti Nui.

The three named waterfalls (or at least named by our 2002 version of LP) used to be on separate pages, but I figured it now makes more sense to just lump them onto this page.

The three named waterfalls I speak of are the Topatari Falls, Vaiharuru Falls, and Puraha Falls, respectively.

All three of these falls were on the Papenoo Valley part of the 4×4 tour, which comprised much of the morning.

Vaiharuru Falls in Papenoo Valley

There were more waterfalls in the afternoon though technically that was in Vaihiria River Valley, whose main river drained the only freshwater lake in Tahiti – Lake Vaihiria.

Topatari Falls (or the Topatari Waterfall), which was the first major waterfall we saw as we went from north to south in Papenoo Valley, was mostly in shadow on the morning we were here back in September 2002. That was probably because it was a west-facing waterfall.

I recalled that the driver didn’t stop for this falls so I had to get what photos that I could while standing in the back of the rugged tour truck. And getting a decent shot wasn’t easy as the vehicle rocked back and forth over the rough 4×4 road.

Vaiharuru Falls (not to be confused with the one near the Faatautia River) was the second major waterfall we saw during our 4wd excursion through Papenoo Valley.

And since this was an east facing waterfall, the morning light was pretty good so the driver actually stopped the 4wd vehicle so we could get out of the truck and take photos in front of it for a few minutes. This one sat a few minutes south of Topatari Falls.

Puraha Falls in Papenoo Valley

Puraha Falls was the third major waterfall that we saw in Papenoo Valley. This one sat behind a green yet clear manmade lake. In fact, the falls spilled right into the lake.

I had seen photos of this waterfall with fuller flow, but considering that we were here towards the latter part of the Dry Season in 2002, we were content that it was flowing as well as it did.

Since this falls was a west-facing waterfall, we had to look against the sun in order to photograph it, which didn’t produce the best lighting.

But at least with the open space and road being less bumpy as we crossed before the falls, it wasn’t as difficult to photograph as say Topatari Falls was.

The rest of the waterfalls we noticed on both the Papenoo Valley side and the Vaihiria River Valley side seemed to be of the temporary ephemeral variety.

I recalled the driver stopped at a couple of these for a swim to cool off from the tropical heat. See how many you can spot before you start to get waterfall fatigue.

This waterfall towards the end of the 4×4 tour was said to be in some kind of European shampoo commercial

There was also one small but pretty waterfall we noticed towards the end of the trip that the driver said was in some kind of European shampoo commercial.

Flanked by pretty flowers and tropical plants, it looked like a real inviting place for a swim though we only stopped to take photos for that waterfall and not swim there.


The Papenoo Valley Waterfalls are on Tahiti Island in Tahiti (or more formally French Polynesia). For information or inquiries about this area as well as current conditions, visit the Tahiti Tourism website or their Facebook page.



We arranged for a tour on the free day we had on Tahiti Island in 2002 after leaving from Bora Bora on a very early flight (the international flight wasn’t until late in the evening). We were able to catch the tour around 7:30am I think, which lasted the whole day until about 4pm. They picked us up from the Faaa international airport near Papeete.

The northern approach to Papenoo Valley is about 17km east of Papeete. I understand that it’s possible to drive part way into Papenoo Valley, but we didn’t try it. I also understand that it’s possible to drive up towards Lake Vaihiria, but again, we didn’t try that either.

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Tagged with: papenoo, tahiti nui, tahiiti, french polynesia, papeete, south pacific, waterfall, vaihiria, mataeia

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Another Papenoo Waterfall! August 25, 2013 1:23 pm by Jose Luis Sanchez Esteban - Checking my pictures I found a waterfall located between the Topatari and Vaiharuru ones of which I've got no information. Firstly I though it was Vaiharuru itself, but look at the pictures and will see they're different. Any idea? Thanks in advance. ...Read More
Papenoo Valley Waterfall (Tahiti) August 24, 2013 7:20 pm by Jose Luis Sanchez Esteban - This is a waterfall I found along the Papenoo Valley which doesn't seem to be neither Topatari, Vahiraruru nor Puraha, and neither seems to be a seasonal one. Does anybody know if it has a name? Both pictures are of the same waterfall. ...Read More

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