Hiking in the Vaipahi water garden on Tahiti
It’s been five years now that we have been living on the island of Tahiti, and three years since we started this blog with Mélanie, with passion. While we have written more than thirty articles about French Polynesia, we had not yet had the time to write about this little spot, the Vaipahi Garden, located on the edge of the Tahiti peninsula.
I must admit that the “what to do in Tahiti” article is still on stand-by since a while, even if the essential is already written. And among the things to do and see on the island, such as the Papeete market, a walk at the Vaipahi water garden is, in my opinion, a must. Do not expect anything truly spectacular, but it’s a very nice family outing to do if you’re traveling to Tahiti or even if you’re locals wanting to spend half a day in a lovely place.
Vaipahi's walk - The big loop
My parents were on vacation in Tahiti for a month and we then took the occasion to go on this little Sunday stroll, very much appreciated by all the locals to go for a walk with their children or pets. We decided to start with the hike on the mountain side. Unfortunately, we finally didn’t see much of the sun and we even arrived in the rain. Note that it is the rainy season when I’m writing this article (January 2021) and the weather is quite ordinary, given the time of year. Clouds finally clear up slowly, and we quietly begin this walk in the mountains, hoping not to get a big rain shower on our heads along the trail!
In theory, it is not recommended to go “in the mountains” when it has just rained because everything is quickly slippery, but knowing the place, the trail, and considering how little rain has fallen, I think it is doable. So, we take the first steps of this walk which starts at the botanical garden, at the foot of the mountain. For those thinking about doing it, it is indeed quite possible to come with children and even with a baby carrier. We left Téo with Mélanie for this time, but it can be done without any worries.
In the end, what you need to know is that the only real difficulty of this walk is right at the start. The beginning is indeed quite steep and snakes through bends shaped in the mountain in a lush vegetation, classic of a tropical island like Tahiti. Right from the beginning, a few viewpoints allow you to catch a glimpse of the lagoon and its beautiful turquoise waters. Unfortunately for us, the weather is still quite cloudy for now, and pictures are not great then. We will have the chance at the end of the walk to see other points of view, with beautiful weather!
Approximately twenty minutes after, about ten rather steep zigzags, you quickly reach the first pines, classic vegetation of the site and of all the stroll in height. You can rest and have a drink under a small shelter when you arrive at the small lookout, very practical especially if it’s raining for example.
We keep on walking on this beautiful path created in this pine forest. Here, no or few difficulties. The path (very wide by the way) is well maintained and climbs on a gentle slope up to a pass. You have several possibilities for this hike, and we decide to try the big loop, which is about 5km long. I must admit that the cool breeze is good, and we all enjoy our little walk in the forest. We clearly feel that it must rain quite a lot here when we see some moss on the bark of pines. The environment is nice, and we have quite a good family time!
The only thing we have to take care of is keeping Louis busy as he starts to grumble rather quickly. He is “only five years old” and finally not so much used to walking. You just have to keep his mind busy with everything that comes into mind or in front of your eyes and you’re fine!
For all nature and tropical vegetation lovers, this is a very nice walk where you can also have fun taking a lot of things in pictures: fern, huge leaves, moss on trees, symmetry of pines in the forest, some flowers and lianas here and there. Anyway, it’s been a while since I haven’t taken out my camera and it’s pretty cool!
The way back is by another path (since it’s a loop) and goes down quietly on a gentle slope to the water garden, at the bottom of the mountain. At the end of the hike, you’ll have the possibility to go to a scenic viewpoint. I had never seen it with such a nice weather, and I must say that this view on the turquoise lagoon and the peninsula in the background are really magical. I spend about 15 minutes testing the new polarizing and graduated neutral density filters KASE graciously sent me. Results are very good, please judge for yourselves!
You can then return towards the end of the walk, where you’ll enjoy a panoramic view of the ocean and its turquoise water in some places. With a 5-years-old child, it took us roughly 2 hours to do the entire big loop, taking our time and some breaks. To discover Tahiti’s inland, you can go for a walk in Vaitavere, on the heights of Punaauia.
The Vaipahi Garden
Once the walk is over, we spend half an hour walking around the water garden. If you’re used to tropics and the classic vegetation of this part of the world, you won’t really be surprised, but I still find it nice to do and we’ll never get bored of seeing it. We spend half an hour wandering in this garden, between waterfalls, flowers and tropical plants, geese and ducks! For children, it’s very nice, playful and the perfect occasion to make them run after hens and ducks, haha! Here are some pictures of the place for the occasion.
Small well-deserved break by the sea
If you have started the day early in the morning, for example around 9am on-site, it’s almost time to eat. You have a very nice spot to eat on the premises, on the other side of the road, by the sea. You have access to several tables, mostly in the shade, perfect for eating and relaxing your legs. We enjoy a nice little homemade picnic, with good weather and a splendid view on the west coast of the Tahiti peninsula (towards Teahupoo and its famous wave). Coming quite often to the peninsula for work, it is quite rare to see such nice weather.
We go back to Papeete by car, after this nice little ride.
Useful aspects to remember
I’m not about to hold forth on it because there’s finally not much to know. If you are a local resident, you probably already know this place. As a tourist, you should consider renting a car in Papeete. I often use this site to compare prices from different car rental companies. Please note that there is no public transportation to get there.
Another important thing to know, the site is open from 7am to 5pm and entrance is free, just like the walk in the mountains and the garden below. You’ll find water in the toilets if needed, but nothing more around to buy food actually (sometimes, a few fruit vendors are there anyway). So, you’ll have to consider bringing your own picnic. Another possibility would be to eat in Taravao, in a small snack bar or restaurant. I very often eat at the Island Bowl, in Taravao, which offers good fish dishes for a very good price. The Terre et Mer restaurant, at PK49, also has an excellent reputation (I have to go there, considering how long I’ve been talking about it).
On a practical aspect, count roughly 1 hour by car from Papeete. It will be better to go during the dry season to avoid having a waterlogged trail. I ideally advise to leave early in the morning because the weather often gets overcast in the middle of the morning, and the heat does come quickly! It’s worth knowing that you don’t have to go back to Papeete and you can consider sleeping at the peninsula or in the surroundings. Among the nice places to sleep, I would mention the Manomano Lodge, the Motu Mapeti or the Villa Mitirapa.
That’s it, I’ll stop here. It’s good from time to time to write a small lightweight article, a small discovery stroll! I hope you liked this little story anyway! Don’t hesitate to tell me if you already did this walk and if you enjoyed the place!
If you are in the area, this is also the time to discover the Harrison Smith Botanical Garden.
See you soon, I promise,