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.

Tahiti_4x4_010_09092002 - Vaiharuru Falls in Papenoo Valley
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.

Tahiti_4x4_021_09092002 - Puraha Falls in Papenoo Valley
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.

Tahiti_4x4_076_09092002 - This waterfall towards the end of the 4x4 tour was said to be in some kind of European shampoo commercial
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.

Tahiti_4x4_002_09092002 - Closeup of the Topatari Waterfall
Tahiti_4x4_001_09092002 - Papenoo River Valley with Topatari Waterfall
Tahiti_4x4_009_09092002 - Vaiharuru Waterfall
Tahiti_4x4_018_09092002 - Papenoo River in low flow
Tahiti_4x4_024_09092002 - Closeup of Puraha Waterfall
Tahiti_4x4_026_09092002 - Looking back at the Puraha Waterfall
Tahiti_4x4_027_09092002 - One of the waterfalls we spotted on the way up to the Relais de la Maroto
Tahiti_4x4_030_09092002 - Looking west towards some sharp mountains
Tahiti_4x4_033_09092002 - This was one of the spots where the driver stopped for a swim in the Papenoo River
Tahiti_4x4_035_09092002 - A river crossing
Tahiti_4x4_041_09092002 - Another waterfall spotted on the way up Papenoo Valley
Tahiti_4x4_042_09092002 - Another waterfall spotted on the way up Papenoo Valley
Tahiti_4x4_047_09092002 - Another waterfall spotted on the way up Papenoo Valley
Tahiti_4x4_050_09092002 - Looking back at the Papenoo Valley before we entered a tunnel
Tahiti_4x4_055_09092002 - Looking down towards Lake Vaihiria
Tahiti_4x4_060_09092002 - On the shores of Lake Vaihiria
Tahiti_4x4_069_09092002 - A pretty waterfall on the Vaihiria River Valley side
Tahiti_4x4_071_09092002 - A tall and slender-looking falls near another spot where our driver stopped for a swim
Tahiti_4x4_074_09092002 - The same falls near the swimming spot from a different angle
Tahiti_4x4_075_09092002 - The falls that might have been featured in a European shampoo commercial

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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Cascade Topatari (Tahiti, French Polynesia) August 28, 2020 11:22 am by Jose Luis Sanchez Esteban - This is the 1st. waterfall in the Papenoo Valley. Coordinates: -17.5595, -149.4265 ...Read More
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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