"Vaioro Falls"

Afareaitu, Moorea Island, French Polynesia

About “Vaioro Falls”

Hiking Distance: 2km round trip
Suggested Time: 30-60 minutes

Date first visited: 2012-12-19
Date last visited: 2012-12-19

Waterfall Latitude: -17.53733
Waterfall Longitude: -149.79448

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“Vaioro Falls” is the other of two notable waterfalls decorating the mountains backing the town of Afareaitu on the southeast coast of Moorea Island.

Like the “Putoa Falls”, I put quotes around the name of this waterfall because I really have no idea what this waterfall is supposed to be named. According to our 2007 version of the Moon Tahiti book, it dubbed this waterfall the “Atiraa Falls” though I wondered why this one would get a name unique from its stream when the other one was much bigger and more prominent. So until I get definitive word on its real name, I chose to name this falls after the stream it’s on (which our 2002 LP book called the Vaioro Stream).

This waterfall could also be seen from town, but I had to look a little closer given its slender stature. To get right up to the falls itself, I had to drive the rental car on an even rougher unsigned access road (see directions below) before I had to hike to the waterfall’s base (which you see pictured at the top of this page). The hike was mostly uphill with some mild scrambling over fallen trees while I also had to deal with some overgrowth.

Most of the hike was closed in by dense jungle vegetation. So there were very limited opportunities to get a look at the “Vaioro Falls.” It was also hard to get a sense of the surrounding mountains once I got into the jungle canopy as well.

It wasn’t until I caught sight of part of the falls through the dense foliage when the trail was adjacent to the Vaioro Stream did I finally realize that I was very close to the falls. After a few more minutes of ascending, I was before the tall and slender falls, which had to be at least over 100ft or more.

And like the “Putoa Waterfall,” it was hard to photograph this entire waterfall in one go from this close to it. There was a small plunge pool at its base, which I’d imagine some locals and intrepid visitors have gone here for a swim before, and there was enough mist from the falls to force me to wipe the lens every now and then when I was busy photographing it.

The time it took for me to walk from the car and back (somewhere around half-way or so on that access road) was about a half-hour round trip. However, I could easily envision this being a much longer walk (roughly 30 minutes to an hour or so each way) if the car was left by the main road and the entirety of the access road was done by foot.

Afareaitu_Waterfalls_069_20121219 - The access road as I started to walk
Afareaitu_Waterfalls_072_20121219 - Pretty colorful plants lining the 4x4 road
Afareaitu_Waterfalls_073_20121219 - At this point, the access road was pretty much a trail
Afareaitu_Waterfalls_074_20121219 - The narrow trail as I started to enter the thick jungle canopy
Afareaitu_Waterfalls_075_20121219 - Context of the Vaioro Falls from the partially overgrown trail
Afareaitu_Waterfalls_076_20121219 - A fallen tree obstacle I had to traverse
Afareaitu_Waterfalls_092_20121219 - first look up at the Vaioro Falls
Afareaitu_Waterfalls_094_20121219 - The plunge pool at the base of the falls
Afareaitu_Waterfalls_101_20121219 - Looking back towards a partial view of Tahiti Island and part of Moorea's lagoon
Afareaitu_Waterfalls_102_20121219 - At this point, I was just out of the thick jungle canopy and almost back at the rental car
Moorea_023_20121219 - Looking back towards the falls from the main road
Moorea_018_20121219 - Looking back towards the mountains backing the town of Afareaitu


The access road to the “Vaioro Falls” was also unmarked. The clue, which the Moon book provided, was that I had to take the first road inland north of the Afareaitu Health Center or hospital (there’s a sign indicating this building as such, but don’t expect the high-rise medical buildings we’ve come to know and love back in the Westernized world). When I went north past the bridge next to the sign saying “Afareaitu” (which was readable when heading south), then I knew I went too far.

Finding this access road was a little tricky because there were numerous “roads” that turned inland between the hospital and bridge. However, most of those roads were actually driveways. As of my 2012 visit, there was actually a white handwritten sign next to the road’s turnoff (saying something about something for rent or louer) that helped me identify the correct turnoff.

Once on this unpaved road, I could tell right away that it had deeper trenches, some sections that looked like driving on grass, and some rocks conspiring to pierce the underside of the car. The Moon book recommended stopping at a stone bridge deep into this road, but I had trouble finding a legitimate parking spot by this bridge. So I actually kept going for a few more minutes until I found a grassy clearing where the road sloped upwards.

Afareaitu_Waterfalls_071_20121219 - Looking back down the access road I had taken to get here
Looking back down the access road I had taken to get here

I figured I was at about the half-way point before I started walking.

And as mentioned earlier, if this adventure to reduce the amount of walking sounds a bit too risky for the rental car, then the whole road can be walked while leaving the vehicle parked at a pullout or shoulder on the main road (I know for sure there were some pullouts or shoulders just north of the bridge with an Afareaitu sign by it).

Finally, I did notice some signage in French indicating restricted access. I wasn’t sure if they were referring to specific driveways or to this access road itself. If that’s the case, then it could very well be that permission (from whom, though?) would be required to traverse the parts that might be private property. Even as I walked to the falls and back, I saw some locals or residents who warily but politely greeted me as it seemed they weren’t used to seeing visitors in these parts.

As for geographical context of the island, the town of Afareaitu was about 30km counterclockwise or 32km clockwise (both ways taking about 45-60 minutes) from the village of Papetoai (where we were staying) or 15km (under 30 minutes drive) south of Maharepa.

View of the falls from the trail leading to its base.

Left to right sweep of the waterfall on the Vaioro Stream starting with the narrow trail then panning over for a bottom up sweep of the falls

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Tagged with: afareaitu, tahiti, french polynesia, moorea, waterfall, south pacific

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