Vaiharuru Falls (not to be confused with the one in Papenoo Valley) was one of those look-but-don't-touch waterfalls as it plunged dramatically at a distance from the main road. I'd have to say this is probably more for waterfall collectors or if you're looking for a place to stretch and take a short break from driving.
However, with that said, it could've easily been a more touted attraction as it was supposed to be one of the filming locations of John Huston's remake of Herman Melville's Typee in 1957. Instead, when his remake of Melville's more famous work, Moby Dick, flopped, he chose not to pursue the Typee project.
The falls looked like it fell in two main tiers with a large section between the tiers unseen from our vantage point. It was definitely no slouch as far as major waterfalls were concerned, but I'd have to say that this was one of the more obscure waterfalls as we really had to know where to look in order to spot it. If it wasn't for reading through our 2007 Moon book, we wouldn't even have known to look for it. Otherwise, we easily could've continued driving past this guy without even noticing it or passing it off as just another miscellaneous waterfall!
With such an impressively tall and pretty waterfall, it made us wonder if there was a way to get closer to the falls without trespassing and without worrying about getting the rental car stuck or having to bushwhack our way there as there was no infrastructure in the form of signs or an obvious trail that would've taken us closer. Unfortunately with a fussy baby in tow, we weren't in position to try.
Instead, the photo you see at the top of this page was taken near the bridge over the Faatautia River (see directions below). You'd probably need to have a pretty decent zoom on the camera in order to capture the falls satisfactorily. Otherwise, it'd look pretty small from such a distance. Plus, there were some trees blocking our ability to see if the falls was even taller than what we could tell. So I'm sure there was more to this waterfall than meets the eye!
I couldn't tell if we happened to see this waterfall in a swollen state or if it could go dry in the Dry Season. Because we spotted this waterfall in the midst of Tahiti's Wet Season (in what seemed to be a particularly active cyclone season), we weren't in a position to make that evaluation. So it's entirely possible that you might spot this waterfall later in the year and wonder what the fuss is all about.
Vaiharuru Falls sits on the eastern side of Tahiti Nui between the villages of Hitiaa and Faaone. The bridge over the Faatautia River was between the PK17 and PK18 posts (just 0.2km north of the PK18 post).
By the way, the PK stands for "pointe kilometre" and they look like small white pillars topped with red paint. On one face, they write down how much further to go to get to the stated destination. On the adjacent face, they put down the distance marker from the starting point and direction.
They're quite easy to miss until you start to notice them (though some seemed to be put in more obscure spots like the one photographed here which was taken next to the Notre Dame Cathedral in downtown Papeete). Most of the markers on the northeast side of the island were pretty well-marked and reliable. However, on the south side of Tahiti Nui, they seemed to be harder to come by or the paint wore off. Whatever the case, they stopped being reliable on that region of Tahiti Nui as far as we were concerned during our 2012 visit.
Finally, for some context and drive times, this waterfall was said to be 55km (about 90 minutes drive) east of Punaauia and 42km (an hour drive) east of downtown Papeete.
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