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If you are in Tahiti and looking for an exhilarating adventure, consider visiting one of the most incredible waterfalls, Fautaua Waterfall. This hike will take you through island’s flourishing interior and was one of my favorite excursions while visiting Tahiti! Here is everything you should know before embarking on the Fautaua Waterfall Hike in Fautaua Valley.

What Is the Tallest Waterfall in Tahiti?

French Polynesia’s largest island, Tahiti, offers an array of activities to visitors. Everything from amazing surf to snorkeling over deserted wrecks in the ocean.

And while you likely think of the pristine blue waters and overwater bungalows when you envision Tahiti and her islands, Tahiti is also home to several waterfalls.

Standing at about 443 ft in Fautaua Valley is Tahiti’s tallest and most impressive waterfall. Amongst locals, the waterfall is more commonly referred to as Cascade de Fachoda. But, for the purposes of this post, I’ll be referring to with the translate name, Fautaua Waterfall.

A picture of Fautaua waterfall from the base of the waterfall. You can see the green vegetation that surrounds this mystical waterfall,
The view as you approach the bottom of the waterfall! (See my friend in the bottom right ) | Credit: Sol G.

Fautaua Waterfall Hike: What to Do Prior

Prior to starting the hike, you will need to get a permit that authorizes you to be on the trail.
Don’t fret though, you can easily obtain the permit on the day of your hike as long as you’re not planning to do the hike on the weekend.

The permit costs 600 francs (~$6) per person, so it’s a great, affordable activity that keeps costs down for your Tahiti trip!

All you need to do is head to city hall, commonly referred to as, “Mairie de Papeete.” It is located in the center of Papeete. If you are driving yourself there, you’ll have to park on a nearby side street as there is no designated visitor parking.

The building is a gorgeous yellow and resembles a plantation mansion with its wrap-around porches. If you have a few minutes to spare, it is definitely worth spending some time exploring around.

A picture of
The exterior of the Mairie de Papeete.

Walk up the stairs, enter the building, and the office you are looking for will be on the right-hand side. Just mention Fautaua Waterfall, and the office people will know what you are asking for.

The permit is fairly easy to fill out. You just need to say what date you intend to do the hike, who is going on the hike, the duration of time you expect to be on the trail, and your signature.

In case you’re wondering what to put as the duration, my friends and I put 10 am to 5 pm. We didn’t know how long it would take us, but we figured it was best to leave some wiggle room in case we *screw up*.

NOTE: City Hall is closed on Saturday and Sunday, so make sure you visit during their hours of operation:
Monday – Thursday: 7:30 am – 3:30 pm & Friday: 7:30 am – 2:30 pm

Fautaua Waterfall Hike: What to Pack

Since the hike is a bit longer, you will definitely want to carry a small backpack. Here are some of my recommendations for what to pack:

Lots of Water – This hike is pretty rigorous, so pack at least two big bottles of water. Furthermore, you’ll likely sweat a lot because it’s super humid on the trail, so try to drink water every half hour!

Snacks – Pack some food to snack on along the way as well as for when you make it to the waterfall. There are big rocks at the bottom and the head of the waterfall that you can lean against while you eat.

Bug Spray – Unfortunately, with the lush vegetation and flora comes persistent mosquitoes, spiders, and other insects. Put strong bug spray on any exposed skin.

Light Jacket – Even if you’re hiking during the warmer months, the temperature near the waterfall is much colder. Plus, the ambient temperature drops quickly once the sun dips.

A picture of Kristin with her backpack and wearing Birkenstocks while hiking through Fautaua Valley.
Me not knowing what was about to hit my feet in 5 hours. *cries* | Credit: Sol G.

Lastly, wear good hiking shoes, or beware of the painful blisters that will ensue!! My friends comfortably completed the hike in Chacos sandals. Meanwhile, I was dumb and wore Birkenstocks the entire hike.

You might be wondering why you should take advice from someone who would wear Birkenstocks on an arduous hike. I would like to defend myself by saying my best friend, an avid hiker who suggested the trail, told me we would be doing an easy 45-minute trek. I should’ve known better, but at least it makes for a fun travel story with gory pictures!

Grab My Packing List!

Want to avoid nasty blisters or emergency runs to the local stores? Consider looking at my useful packing list for Tahiti to find out everything that you should bring. I explain all the essentials and include tons of tips for making your trip run smoother!

You can even have a handy checklist sent directly to your inbox by filling out the form below.

Picture of free packing checklist

How to Get to Fautaua Valley

To access the Fautaua Waterfall hike, you will have to enter Fautaua Valley. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to passby and see some of the more traditional villages. From Papeete, the start of the trailhead in Fautaua Valley is about 5km away.

If you don’t have a rental car, you may be tempted to walk there, thinking it is only an extra 3.1 miles. However, I would recommend against this and suggest taking a taxi instead. This is because the hike itself is quite intensive, and you don’t want to expend all your energy just getting yourself to the trailhead.

Once at the gate, there will be a tent with a few security guards. You’ll hand them your permit and then you can begin the hike!

A picture of the verdant vegetation along the hike to Fautaua Waterfall.
The amount of vegetation is almost unbelievable | Credit: Sol G.

Fautaua Waterfall Hike: What to Expect

Once you pass through the gate, you’ll travel across a fairly large dirt road that has a slight incline.

After a good 30 – 40 minutes, depending on how fast you hike, you’ll reach the true beginning of the hike. This is marked by a beautiful green bridge that passes over the river and almost blends in with the surrounding plants.

The bridge marks the starting location of the two hikes that lead to Fautaua Waterfall. One hike goes to the head of the waterfall and the other goes to the base of the waterfall.

The gorgeous green bridge in Fautaua Valley marks the official trailhead for hiking to Fautaua Waterfall.
The beautiful bridge on the trail. | Credit: Sol G.

Upper Trail: Head of Fautaua Waterfall

If you want to visit the head of the waterfall, you need to cross the bridge. The trail is fairly pleasant, but it does require a bit of climbing. Some of the climbing is steep, but there are ropes to support your ascent or descent.

Close to the head of the waterfall, there are three incredible rock pools that you can swim in! The second rock pool area is nothing short of magical as it resembles a hidden grotto carefully nestled into the mountainside!

Furthermore, you’ll find a few smaller cascades connect the three rock pool areas. There is even a mini natural chute connecting the middle and lower pools that you can slide down into the water.

Beware though, the water temperature there is freezing and not for the faint of heart.

Some of the beautiful flora that we saw on the Fautaua Hike through Fautaua Valley.

Not far from the rock pool area is the head of the waterfall. The top of the waterfall offers a stunning view of Fautaua Valley that’s simply awe-inspiring!

Therefore, if you have the stamina and are not afraid of getting a little dirty, I would highly recommend checking out the head of the waterfall.

Lower Trail: Base of Fautaua Waterfall

The other hike will take you to the base of the waterfall. If you choose to hike to the base of the waterfall, continue along the dirt path and do not cross the bridge.

While the other trail requires more vertical ascent, this trail requires you to do river fording (traversing the river) a couple of times. They are not always easy and can be a slippery affair, so bear that in mind if you aren’t an agile person when you select shoes to wear.

Furthermore, it’s worth nothing that while the trail is well-defined initially, it does narrow as you progress through. If you’re traveling with more than one person, you’ll have to hike in a single file. Beyond the first river fording, it becomes a little bit more difficult to follow the trail.

A picture of the Fautaua River that we had to ford several times while doing the Fautaua Waterfall Hike.

Try to follow the little cairns (stack of 3-5 rocks) that people have left to mark the trail. If it has been over an hour since you have seen a cairn…turn back!

When in doubt, follow the river as it will lead you back to the bridge and from there you can reach the gate you originally passed through.

One notable landmark along the hike is a rock staircase. The staircase is very steep, but there is a rope to assist you in climbing up and down.

A picture of the memorable rock staircase in Fautaua Valley that you will have to ascend to reach the base of Fautaua Waterfall.

The waterfall will be on the left side of the river when you are hiking the lower trail. There is a cairn that indicates where you need to cross the river to reach the waterfall that lies about 800m ahead.

Time to Complete Hike

As someone who is pretty active, the lower hike took me and my friends six hours to complete round-trip. During that time, we spent about an hour admiring the view of Fautaua Waterfall and eating some snacks.

For avid hikers, it is possible to complete both trails in one day. I would recommend heading to the top of the waterfall first and then doing the hike to the base of the waterfall.

But if you’re short on time, I recommend the lower trail just so you can appreciate the height of the waterfall from the base.

A picture of the upper half of Fautaua Waterfall in Fautaua Valley.
Looking up at Fautaua Waterfall from the base. | Credit: Sol G.

General Expectations

Throughout the hike, we only ran into two other people, so the trail was by no means crowded. This means if you get lost, it’s likely going to be impossible to ask for help…

The bright side is that you won’t have to compete with other visitors to catch the perfect picture! Speaking of which, if you want that group shot, you’ll either have to selfie it or want to bring a little travel tripod for your phone!

People and pictures aside, seeing the pure unspoiled beauty of Fautaua Valley is one of the reasons everyone should visit Tahiti. Everywhere you look, there’s beautiful and lush vegetation and flora. You truly feel as if you have been transported into some enchanted forest.

You’ll even have a chance to get a good look at Mount ‘Orohena. A fun fact about the island is that Mount ‘Orohena is over 7300+ feet above sea level.

A picture of one of the soaring mountains visible from Fautaua Valley.
Mount ‘Orohena | Credit: Sol G.

All this said, both trails are physically challenging, so expect to sweat a lot due to the humidity and warmer temperatures in the jungle.

Also, I want to mention that when you ford the river for the last time before reaching the waterfall, you climb up a steep bit and then you climb down another steep part. When my friends went, it was very slippery and muddy…

I nearly destroyed my shorts while sliding on my butt because the little path before the waterfall was so slippery. But in the end, I made it by aggressively holding onto all the vines and tree roots.

Once again, please wear good hiking shoes! And know that you may get pretty dirty… If you look carefully in the pictures, you can see at all the mud caked onto my legs.

Hiring a Guide to Fautaua Waterfall

Although my friends and I completed the Fautaua Waterfall hike in Fautaua Valley without a guide, we didn’t intially notice the cairn that indicated where to cross the river to reach the waterfall. As a result, we ended up making a short unscheduled 30-minute detour.

If you don’t want to run the risk of getting lost, you can always join a tour group. Several of the hotels in Tahiti offer various tour packages that include different excursions, including hiking to Fautaua Waterfall.

Oh and while tipping culture is different in French Polynesia, I’d consider carrying small bills in the local currency. It’s always nice to reward your guide (or any other local workers) if they give you phenomenal service!

A picture of the pool at the base of the Fautaua waterfall.
The base of Fautaua Waterfall

Alternatively, you can hire a personal guide to lead you. Prices tend to get quite expensive quickly, but the tours are comprehensive, provide transportation, and are full-day excursions.

NOTE: If you aren’t comfortable doing the Fautaua Waterfall hike, check out these amazing tours of Tahiti. You can do everything from snorkeling amongst the diverse aquatic life and whale watching to exhilarating ATV tours and guided island tours.

Where to Stay in Tahiti

In case you’re looking for housing options…feel free to use this interactive map that displays up-to-date prices for various housing accommodations around the island.

Fautaua Waterfall Hike: FAQ

To make sure all you have all the information you need, here are answers to commonly asked questions!

Can You Swim at Fautaua Waterfall?

If you don’t mind freezing water temperatures, you can swim at Fautaua waterfall. We saw no signs that suggested otherwise. Just know it’s pretty gusty at the bottom and pack a bag to store any wet items separate from the rest of your stuff!

What Is the Best Time of the Year to Visit Tahiti?

While Tahiti experiences year-round tropical weather, there are still better times to plan your trip to Tahiti. For example, the dry season, which runs from May to October, experiences cooler temperatures and fewer rainy days.

When planning your Fautaua Waterfall hike, avoid going during or immediately after heavy rains. Fautaua River becomes dangerous to cross and sometimes even floods, making the trail impossible to complete.

Are There Other Hikes in French Polynesia?

If you’re looking for some other hikes to check out, I recommend visiting to Moorea from Tahiti. Moorea is only a 45 minute boat ride away and has a variety of hikes that let you admire picturesque panoramic views of the coastline and surrounding islands.

Plus, there are tons of other epic excursions to embark on. My personal favorite is the 4×4 ATV adventure!

What Other Waterfalls in Tahiti Are Worth Visiting?

The Three Waterfalls of Faarumai are the most popular waterfalls to visit, and most guided island tours stop by here!

The first waterfall, Vaimahutu, has a short 5-minute approach on a well-marked path from the parking lot. Meanwhile, the second and third waterfalls are about a 20-minute hike from the first. These two waterfalls, Haamarere Iti and Haamarere Rahi, are located next to each other!

Two pictures of Vaimahutu waterfall. The left picture is of Kristin standing in front of the waterfall and the right picture is of just the waterfall.
Obligatory picture in front of the Vaimahutu!

Wrap-Up: Fautaua Waterfall Hike in Fautaua Valley

If you are looking for a thrilling adventure that won’t make your trip to French Polynesia costs skyrocket but will also leave you feeling an immense sense of accomplishment, I cannot recommend the Fautaua Waterfall Hike in Fautaua Valley enough.

This booming waterfall is a spectacular sight to see and will take your breath away, literally and figuratively! Not to mention, the hike will not only let you explore Tahiti’s local villages but also take you through the heart of the island’s interior!

So, with this guide in hand, I wish you the best of luck on your hike! And, if you need other recommendations for other adventurous activities to do around Tahiti, I recommend looking into surfing in Tahiti, paying a visit to the famous wave, Teahupoo, and looking into the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to swim with whales!

If you have any questions at all, feel free to contact me

Appreciation Note: You’ll notice that a few of the pictures in this post were taken by my friend good friend Sol! You can see more of his amazing photography here!

A picture of my friends at I at one of the most iconic viewpoints in Fautaua Valley. You can see this view along the lower hike to Fautaua Waterfall.
Say Cheese! In the background, you can see Mount ‘Orohena!

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