Three Coconuts Pass is the most popular hiking trail on Moorea and the pass area contains sweeping views of Opunohu Valley, Opunohu Bay, Cook's Bay, Mount Tohivea, Mount Rotui, as well as other major island summits. Difficulties encountered on the hike include dealing with heat and humidity, understanding the unique route markers, and being cautious around the exposed pass area. A zoomed section of the official trail map showing the hiking route (in dark blue coloring) can be found by clicking on the button above. GPS coordinates for the starting point of the hike at the Belvedere are 17° 32.437'S, 149° 49.602'W. GPS coordinates near to the main pass area are 17° 32.841'S, 149° 50.519'W.
The island of Moorea is the best destination for hiking within the Society Islands of French Polynesia. No other island in the archipelago has as many official hikes with routes clearly marked out on trail maps and on the actual trails. Some of Moorea's best hiking routes can be found within Opunohu Valley, where a large network of nine established trails has been built crossing the valley, passing through pineapple fields, and heading up toward passes. Many of these trails can be combined in various ways to form loop hikes that can last an entire day. There is even a way to carry out an Opunohu Valley Loop, which circles around the entire valley. In addition to these more well-maintained trails, there are also more primitive trails of greater difficulty leading up to majestic island peaks such as the summit of Mount Rotui. However, for our first visit to Moorea, we decided to hike two of the less challenging hikes on different days -- Three Coconuts Pass and Three Pines Pass. The hike to Three Coconuts Pass is 5 1/3 miles round-trip with an elevation gain of 650 feet. Although there are other potential starting points to increase the length of this hike, most people start the hike at the Belvedere Lookout, which is a very popular stop for tourists because of the outstanding views. While at the parking lot, it is important to take the time to look over the trail map on the sign so that you will understand the symbols used to mark junction turns along the trail. During our visit, I noted that there was an English language sign at a different turn-out earlier down the road. If you can't find the English sign, just keep in mind that Three Coconuts is written as Trois Cocotiers (or Col des 3 Cocotiers) on the French sign. Once you have memorized the identifying color and the meaning of trail symbols, it is time to head out onto the trail at the back right (southwestern) corner of the parking lot. We began our hike in the afternoon, which was great because there were very few people on the trail. And there was nobody else just starting out on the hike, since the trails are open to the public only during the hours of 6:00am to 6:00pm. The first thing we took note of as we began hiking was that the trail was in excellent condition. It was fairly wide with plenty of space for walking. A short distance into the hike, there is a spur trail which goes up to an overlook. I did not feel this overlook point was as nice as the Belvedere Lookout, because there were more trees here crowding out part of the view. But it was still interesting to check out. Returning to the main trail, we began a downhill portion which headed toward a couple of creeks which had to be crossed. During the next portion of the hike, the plant life and native trees really captured our attention. We were regularly stopping to take pictures of the Tahitian chestnut trees, Banyan trees, overgrown jungle vines, towering bamboo, and pretty African tulip trees, among others. While hiking through upper Opunohu Valley, there are not a lot of views of the surrounding area. But that's fine because the scenery within the jungle keeps you fully occupied. This hike is all about the trees. The trail eventually turns at a junction and heads steeply up the mountainside by means of lengthy switchbacks. This is the hard part of the hike, especially if it is a hot day outside. But conquering the switchbacks is well worth the effort because upon reaching the saddle, the views are absolutely incredible. You can now see out to the South Pacific Ocean in both directions. A short distance up the ridgeline from here is the location of Three Coconuts Pass at 1,171 feet (357 meters) in elevation. You'll recognize that you are at the pass because of the sign, not the namesake three coconut trees, which blew over in storms years ago. However, I recommend continuing up the trail until you reach the next marked lookout point at 1,374 feet (419 meters) in elevation. It is at this second lookout spot along the ridge where you can see Opunohu Valley in its entirety. A vast blanket of greenery stretches far and wide across the valley while being encircled by towering peaks. The breathtaking views include the sheer face of Mount Tohivea (also spelled Tohiea) directly to the east, which is Moorea's highest peak at 3,960 feet. Mount Tohivea (left mountain on the third sample photo below) is very distinct because it looks like it has lines running down the mountain. The lines are caused by landslides which take place on the mountain slopes. The brush on the mountain does not take root very well due to having very little soil depth on nearly vertical slopes. So when heavy rains hit, both small and large landslides can take place, leaving lines of bare soil afterwards. Circling around from east to north to west, the other major peaks visible include Mount Mouaputa (2,723 feet), Mount Rotui (2,949 feet), and Mount Mouaroa (2,887 feet). Just be sure to show caution around the pass area and lookout spots because it is easy to get distracted by the views and forget that you are also standing close to sheer cliffs. Stay far away from the edge while checking out this area. After taking numerous photographs, we headed back down to our vehicle and returned to our lodging in the Cook's Bay area. A couple of days later, we hiked nearby Three Pines Pass. Our hike took place on September 16, 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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