Mount Pahia is the second-highest summit on Bora Bora and the challenging hike leading up to it features steep jungle climbs on faint trails with spectacular views all around the island and lagoon. Difficulties encountered on the hike include arranging for a hiking guide, avoiding hiking during times of rainy weather (because the trail will become muddy, slippery, and dangerous), dealing with heat and humidity, watching out for rockfall while passing along the base of cliffs, and using ropes and safety gear during areas of exposure if passing beyond the summit of Mount Ohue. Route maps and GPS coordinates are not provided because we recommend hiring a local guide when doing this hike.
Mount Otemanu (left peak on logo image above), Mount Pahia (sharp peak at right-center), and lesser-known Mount Ohue (sharp peak at far right) are the three prominent mountain peaks of Bora Bora. Many published photographs of Bora Bora taken from high-end resorts with overwater bungalows feature these mountain peaks in the background behind the beautiful lagoon. Most visitors to Bora Bora only enjoy these mountains from such vantage points, either while relaxing on motu beaches, cruising the lagoon on a boat tour, or exploring the coastal road by tour group or rental car. Not many people head to Bora Bora with the intention of going hiking. But for our group, hiking was near the top of our priorities list for our five days here. Mount Pahia (2,169 feet in elevation) is the best hiking destination on Bora Bora, and perhaps in all of the South Pacific. Sadly, due to lack of hiking interest, sometimes dangerous trail conditions due to weather and terrain, and occasional hiker injuries (as well as fatalities), the trail to the top of Mount Pahia is not maintained and can be quite rugged and challenging. There are no trailhead signs, the route is not clearly marked, and assistance ropes are only occasionally checked or replaced by hiking guides. With these factors in mind, and with routes sometimes crossing areas of private property, hiring a hiking guide (average cost $100 per person as of 2016) is highly recommended for anyone who wishes to summit Mount Pahia. Granted, some people reading this will be initially opposed to the idea of following a hiking guide up the mountain. I know I was. But trust me, it is in your best interest to do so. One week before our trip, a hiker from France attempted to do this trail on his own. On the hike back, he ended up missing a turn and following a gully too far down the mountain. This led to his tragic death when he slipped and fell over a cliff. There are a few other things to keep in mind about this hike. First, the hike cannot be safely completed during rainy weather. In fact, guides will refuse to do the hike if it has been raining recently. It's just not safe. Second, clouds and fog can greatly impact the hike. While we enjoyed clear views of the summit during our hike (and most of our trip), at other times all three summits can get fogged in for days at a time. The hike is not worth doing unless you can enjoy the views at the top. That being said, I did notice that sometimes clouds would cover the summits and then clear off during various parts of the day. Third, it requires climbing experience, your own ropes, and safety gear in order to reach the actual summit of Mount Pahia. Within the last couple of years, a fire burned across the upper portions of Mount Pahia and burned some of the landscape. With the exception of some burnt trees, most of the greenery has already grown back. But a side effect of this fire was that a soil "bridge" which used to help hikers get past a major obstacle on the final path to the summit collapsed, leaving behind several exposed rock slabs. When this happened, regular hikers could no longer reach the actual summit of Mount Pahia without climbing gear. Hiking guides then went ahead and removed their previously installed assistance ropes from the portion of the hike in between Mount Ohue and Mount Pahia. The end result of all of this is that for most hikers, the hike ends on top of the summit of Mount Ohue (2,031 feet in elevation). And that's just fine. The views from Mount Ohue are absolutely incredible all the way around.
For our visit to Bora Bora, we were able to make arrangements with a local to be our hiking guide for two days. On the first day, he would be taking us on the Mount Pahia hike. On the second day, he would be taking us to the Cave of Mount Otemanu (see that hiking report for more information). Because of heat and humidity, our guide asked us to start the hike at 6:00am. After parking near the main dock in downtown Vaitape, we began following one of the narrow streets back toward the base of the mountain. When facing the mountain in this direction, Mount Ohue is the peak on the left and Mount Pahia is the peak on the right. Looking up at those two peaks towering over 2,000 feet above you is quite impressive. After walking down the narrow road and checking out how some of the locals live, we encountered a dirt path which seemed to follow along the base of the mountain. We turned right and shortly began climbing steeply up the mountainside. This trail has not been designed for a gradual ascent. Rather than switchbacks going back and forth up the mountain, the trail simply blazes a path as directly as possible straight uphill. Because of this, assistance ropes show up on the trail fairly early and make appearances on a regular basis. Highlights of this lower portion of the hike include passing by a Banyan tree and a 100-year-old mango tree. After 2 hours of continuous steep climbing (and taking breaks due to humidity and excessive sweating), the trail abruptly reached the base of a vertical headwall. I had been looking up at this headwall area for the past couple of days while in Vaitape and wondering how the trail would get past it. I now had my answer. The trail turned to the left and followed the base of the vertical rock wall for the next 45 minutes or so as it wrapped around the mountain. We started this next portion of the trail high above Vaitape and by the time we were done, we were now overlooking Faanui (the next main village to the north). The views were fairly wide open along this stretch of mostly flat trail. Caution is definitely in order while hiking this section due to the danger of rockfall from above. The trail next transitions into a narrow gully which must be climbed. This gully cuts through the headwall and is mostly a steep rope climb that is slow-going. At the top of the gully, there are sweeping views looking to the east and southeast for the first time. Mount Otemanu (left side) and Mount Pahia (right side) are now fully visible as mountain peaks. There is a distinct pine tree in this area which looks out of place. Past the pine tree, a narrow path cut through grasses leads hikers up a very steep portion. Ropes are installed once again to help out, but if it has been raining recently, it would be hard to climb this part without taking a lot of falls. At the top of the final rope climb, we finally reached the main ridgeline. The summit of Mount Ohue was just a few minutes beyond. The views from the summit of Mount Ohue are the highlight of the entire hike. There is a full 360 degree panoramic of Bora Bora visible, with only the peaks of Mount Otemanu and Mount Pahia breaking that up. Several nearby islands can also be seen. Tahaa is visible in between the peaks of Otemanu and Pahia looking 18 miles to the east, Maupiti can be faintly seen 35 miles to the west, and the romantic heart-shaped island of Tupai can be seen 18 miles to the north. To get better views, you would need to be on a helicopter flight. Beautiful wildflowers, colorful plants, and playful dragonflies add to the charm of the summit. Beyond the summit of Mount Ohue, a narrow ridgeline with exposure continues down to the saddle between Ohue and Pahia. Just before reaching the saddle, there is a climb-down section which really needs assistance ropes in order to be safe. As explained in the previous paragraph, the summit of Mount Pahia cannot be reached without climbing gear anyway, so there is no need to continue any farther. In fact, an ideal stopping point is the summit of Mount Ohue. I enjoyed spending a full hour on the summit taking in the views and just appreciating the moment. Bora Bora is the most beautiful place I've ever visited in my life and having such an amazing overview of the entire island, lagoon, motus, and reef left an impression that I will never forget. Click here to see a short panoramic video which I took from the summit of Mount Ohue. Also, a special thank you to Stephan Duplan of Bora Bora Photo & Video (who does wedding, honeymoon, and underwater photography) for helping to arrange our guide and sending him with a professional camera which took several of our included photographs. Our hike took place on September 13, 2016.
Many more photographs taken during our visit are available for viewing for this destination. To see all of them, choose one of the two options presented below. The two options are Slideshow viewing and Trip Report viewing. The Slideshow option allows for viewing larger images with an autoplay option and a full screen option (available on most browsers). This option works very well for large computer screens and tablets. The Trip Report option allows for viewing smaller pictures in a standard scroll-down format and enlarging of any panoramic photos taken during our visit. Click on the option of your choice to view all of our photos from this destination. The Slideshow format opens in a new browser window and the Trip Report format uses the same browser window for viewing.
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