Wigmore's Waterfall (Papua)

Sheraton Resort, Rarotonga Island, Cook Islands

About Wigmore’s Waterfall (Papua)

Hiking Distance: roadside
Suggested Time:

Date first visited: 2010-01-12
Date last visited: 2010-01-12

Waterfall Latitude: -21.25365
Waterfall Longitude: -159.78809

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Wigmore’s Waterfall (also known as Papua in the Cook Island’s Maori tongue [or Papua Waterfall]) is the lone waterfall attraction that we’re aware of throughout the Cook Islands.

Actually, as you can see from the photo above (or immediately below), it might even be a stretch to say this is a legitimate waterfall given how temporary it is.

Rarotonga_027_01112010 - The Wigmore's Waterfall or Papua Waterfall in the heart of Rarotonga
The Wigmore’s Waterfall or Papua Waterfall in the heart of Rarotonga

When we arrived at the falls, it was mid-January (their Wet Season), but it was also an El Nino year (which was later confirmed when we got home and got bombarded on with relentless precipitation and even a waterspout or two off the coast).

Typically, the South Pacific has been known to experience less total rainfall during El Ninos, but also be more prone to typically rare yet destructive Cyclones.

Maybe that might have something to do with the lack of significant rainfall in the Cooks during our visit.

In any case, we did hear some running water from somewhere above the falls, but hardly any (if at all) flowed over the precipice and into the plunge pool below.

Rarotonga_054_01112010 - Context of the never-completed Sheraton adjacent to the road leading to the Papua Waterfall (or Wigmore's Waterfall)
Context of the never-completed Sheraton adjacent to the road leading to the Papua Waterfall (or Wigmore’s Waterfall)

Given that there was a pipe running across the top of the Wigmore’s Waterfall as part of the Papua Intake, perhaps there might be a bit of manmade intervention further restraining this waterfall’s performance.

So given our observations, I’d argue that this waterfall only flows after sustained heavy downpours (like several consecutive days worth of rain).

Otherwise, there’ll be nothing but ponds, mud, wet rocks, and tons of mosquitoes.

Timing A Visit to Wigmore’s Waterfall

Perhaps if you were to plan your trip, this waterfall may only be worth a bother in the February or March timeframe when the Cook Islands would be well into the latter stages of the Wet Season.

Rarotonga_028_01112010 - Sign talking about the Papua Intake, which might have an effect on the longevity of the Papua Waterfall
Sign talking about the Papua Intake, which might have an effect on the longevity of the Papua Waterfall

That timing ought to give the Wigmore’s Waterfall’s drainage a chance to saturate.

Yet even with that said, it’s hard to ascertain exactly how reliably this waterfall can be seen based on our disappointing sample of one.

So I guess the bottom line is you’ll have to see for yourself how you’d want to time your visit to see the waterfall perform.

Then again, Rarotonga is a very small island so making the self-drive or even walking or bicycling your way up to the Wigmore’s Waterfall still won’t take more than a day or less depending on where your resort is located.


The Wigmore’s Waterfall (or Papua Waterfall) resides in the island of Rarotonga, Cook Islands. To my knowledge, there doesn’t appear to be an official government authority administering this waterfall. Thus, the next best resource to inquire about information about the area as well as current conditions may want to visit the Cook Islands Government website.

Rarotonga_029_01112010 - The ghostly remains of the failed Sheraton Resort on the south side of Rarotonga near the turnoff leading to the Wigmore's Waterfall
Rarotonga_037_01112010 - Another look back at the ghostly remains of the failed Sheraton Resort en route to the Wigmore's Waterfall
Rarotonga_034_01112010 - The road to the Papua Waterfall or Wigmore's Waterfall
Rarotonga_025_01112010 - Direct look at the Wigmore's Waterfall at the end of the road
Rarotonga_042_01112010 - Looking towards some kind of public transportation stop as well as some unsealed road next to it near the turnoff for the Wigmore's Waterfall
Rarotonga_056_01112010 - Although it was possible to drive right to the Papua Waterfall or Wigmore's Waterfall, it was also possible to do the Rarotonga's popular Cross Island Walk instead, which meant you'd walk from one side of the island to the other on the same road
Rarotonga_062_01112010 - Looking inland towards what appeared to be the highest point of Rarotonga Island

As for logistics, the easy-to-miss turnoff for the falls is near the failed Sheraton Resort just west of the bridge by the Vaima Restaurant on the south side of Rarotonga Island.

The potholed access road forks inland from the main circle-island road and starts off unsealed before going sealed again (still with plenty of potholes though).

Rarotonga_040_01112010 - The main road going around Rarotonga as seen near the turnoff leading inland to the Papua Waterfall or Wigmore's Waterfall
The main road going around Rarotonga as seen near the turnoff leading inland to the Papua Waterfall or Wigmore’s Waterfall

Rental cars and even scooters should have no problems getting to the end of the road and the picnic area right at the Wigmore’s Waterfall itself.

Moreover, this road is also [the last] part of the roughly 4-hr Cross-Island Track that cuts right through the mountainous interior of Rarotonga passing by Te Rua Manga (the Needle) as well as the Wigmore’s Waterfall itself.

That failed Sheraton, by the way, was a result of a massive investment undertaken by the government and stakeholders overseas that ended up going awry due to some of those overseas stakeholders squandering (perhaps stealing?) the money.

Rarotonga_029_01112010 - The failed Sheraton
The failed Sheraton

The end result was a big scar on the southern side of Rarotonga as well as a large part of the country’s national debt.

On the flip side, perhaps the fact that the Cook Islands doesn’t have multinational mega resorts like this (at least when we were there in early 2010) might be a blessing in disguise.

After all, the country was allowed to maintain its laid back and largely non-commercialized identity; thereby coming closer to embodying that tropical paradise that overseas visitors seek, and which some of the other South Pacific islands have lost or are losing to commercialism.

Find A Place To Stay

Related Top 10 Lists

No Posts Found

Tagged with: takitumu, rarotonga, cook islands, papua, intake, cross-island track, waterfall

Visitor Comments:

Got something you'd like to share or say to keep the conversation going? Feel free to leave a comment below...

Wigmore’s Waterfall after moderate walk January 23, 2011 10:41 pm by Jeff - Take the circle bus from downtown Rarotonga and get off near the waterfall. Walk up the road to the interior and it is a modest sized waterfall where visitors can swim below it. We have seen horses walking on this road and banana fields. If humid weather, can be lots of mosquitos. Worth the visit. ...Read More

Share your thoughts about what you've read on this page

You must be logged in to submit content. Refresh this page after you have logged in.

Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

If you have a waterfall story or write-up that you'd like to share, feel free to click the button below and fill out the form...

No users have submitted a write-up/review of this waterfall

Have you been to a waterfall? Submit a write-up/review and share your experiences or impressions

Review A Waterfall

Nearest Waterfalls

The Waterfaller Newsletter

The Waterfaller Newsletter is where we curate the wealth of information on the World of Waterfalls website and deliver it to you in bite-sized chunks in your email inbox. You'll also get exclusive content like...

  • Waterfall Wednesdays
  • Insider Tips
  • User-submitted Waterfall Write-up of the Month
  • and the latest news and updates both within the website as well as around the wonderful world of waterfalls

How To Build A Profitable Travel Blog In 4 Steps

Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.