The Tahaa Traverse is a very scenic trail with an abundance of colorful wildflowers, plants, and trees that gradually climbs from Patio to Vaitoetoe Pass and a spectacular overlook point above Haamene Bay before descending rapidly into Haamene. Difficulties encountered on the hike include correctly determining the starting and ending points, arranging for transportation (as this is a one-way hike), avoiding hiking during times of rainy weather, dealing with heat and humidity, getting past any vicious dogs, and using good route-finding during the hike when passing by junctions. Google Earth maps of the hiking route (with the second map turned to the west for better viewing) can be found by clicking on the buttons above. GPS coordinates for the starting point of the hike in Patio are -16.587774, -151.485008. GPS coordinates for the mid-point of the hike are -16.611945, -151.488765. GPS coordinates for the end of the hike in Haamene are -16.633879, -151.489868.
Tahaa became the seventh island which I have visited in French Polynesia. Prior to visiting Tahaa, I had been to (in order) Tahiti, Maupiti, Bora Bora, Moorea, Huahine, and Raiatea. If I had to choose favorites, Tahaa would probably be my third favorite island out of that group after (1) Maupiti and (2) Bora Bora. Tahaa appeals to me because it is a place of lush green mountains and winding coastal scenery with only limited infrastructure and people. It is a peaceful and quiet place where the busy streets of Uturoa, Raiatea are long forgotten. Practically the only tourists that we saw were at a vanilla plantation we toured prior to the hike. Tahaa is widely known as the Vanilla Island. I've read that around 75% of French Polynesia's vanilla is cultivated on Tahaa. Touring the plantation was interesting, but I was most excited about carrying out the hike which I am calling the Tahaa Traverse. The only major hike on the island, the Tahaa Traverse crosses half of the island as it connects the village of Patio in the north to the village of Haamene in the center. While the hike gets very brief mentions in guidebooks and online, it is not widely known or promoted. In fact, there were no signs marking the beginning and end of the trail, no signs along the trail, and it was hard to find locals who could help me figure out where to go. Thus, I was unsure if I was going to be able to carry out the hike and figured that I might end up getting lost while trying. However, this particular hike was very important to me because I really wanted to see Tahaa's interior and get a sense for what the island was truly like. And because this was the only day that our group would be spending on the mainland of Tahaa (we spent another day sailing around the island and snorkeling the Coral Garden adjacent Motu Tautau), we tried really hard to figure out all of the logistics for the hike so that it could be done.
Our morning started by catching a boat from Raiatea to Tahaa. The crossing took about 30 minutes. After arriving at the dock, we picked up our rental car and began exploring the island. After spending some time in Haamene, we figured out that the hike ends about 400 feet east of the main supermarket. There is a dirt road that climbs up a small hill from the coastal road, with one fork going left to a house and the other fork going right to a fence with a sign on it that says Private Property (Propriété privée in French). This would be the spot where I would come down from later in the day. While the hike can be started from either end, I had decided to start it in Patio. My reasoning was that it made more sense to gradually climb to Vaitoetoe Pass rather than to start out with an extremely steep climb right away. We next continued driving along the coastal road, stopped for a tour of a vanilla plantation, and arrived in Patio some time later. There were zero options for lunch, so we stopped at the supermarket in Patio and bought some snacks, as well as water and hydration drinks for the hike. After talking with several locals, I finally thought I had figured out where to start the hike. The starting point is a little east of the town center. There is a paved road that turns off to the south and heads into the interior. The road passed a couple forks and we stopped our vehicle across from what looked like a city corporation yard. I picked up a large stick near here to use as a hiking stick, but mainly as a defense against any vicious dogs that might be encountered along the way. I then began my hike while the rest of the group drove off to enjoy the lagoon water for a while. Because this is a one-way hike, they would have to pick me up a few hours later in Haamene. The hike begins by following a dirt road into the interior. Being that I was in French Polynesia during January, which is part of the wet season, the 4WD road was damp and sometimes muddy right from the start. Houses are passed by once in a while, but mostly you are just walking through incredibly lush and beautiful scenery. Fruit trees, coconut trees, flowers, and plants of all colors are passed. The River Vaiharuru can often be heard (and sometimes seen) off to the left. About 2 miles into the hike, the last house is passed and a major creek is crossed. There is a junction here, but it's fairly obvious that one needs to continue climbing uphill past the large Breadfruit tree. The road now turns into a trail. It doesn't appear that 4WD vehicles drive beyond this point any longer, because I found multiple places where trees have fallen across the trail and created obstacles. The trail becomes a lot steeper at this point and the scenery more grand. Off to the west, there is a towering mountain summit with tree-covered slopes dropping all the way down into a valley below the trail. Mount Ohiri (1,936 feet) is the highest peak on Tahaa. And the peak which is visible to the west during this portion of the hike is part of the same summit ridgeline, being about one mile northeast of Mount Ohiri. The trail soon climbs up to the high point at Vaitoetoe Pass (or Cold Water Pass) and then follows along the Vaitoetoe Ridge where there are sweeping views all around the island. The best views can be found at the overlook point reached a short time later, which is more like a small park with a bench, grassy flat area, and coconut trees (watch out for falling coconuts). This is a spot to truly spend some time taking in the panoramic views of Haamene Bay and all the majestic peaks and mountains of Tahaa. One of the most distinct peaks is Mount Fareura (1,503 feet) located to the southeast. After enjoying the overlook point, the hike then steeply descends toward Haamene. A couple of small waterfalls are passed and a creek is followed which contains Tahitian chestnut trees. Near the end, a gate is passed through which leads onto the private property referenced earlier. No people were around, but there were some friendly cows. At the end of the trail, I passed through the gate I had seen earlier and met back up with my group in Haamene. The Tahaa Traverse had been an incredible journey of 5 3/4 miles with at least 700 feet of elevation gain which took me 3 hours to complete. (Note that some sources claim that the mileage is 7 km or 4.3 miles but this is incorrect according to my tracker.) In addition to many pictures of the hike, I have also included a few bonus pictures taken while snorkeling in the Coral Garden. My hike took place on January 8, 2018.
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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