Mount Pahia Hiking Trail: Best Hike in Bora Bora

Best Hiking Trail in Bora Bora: Photo from the summit Mount Pahia in Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Come with me on a thrilling hike as we set out to conquer Mount Pahia Hiking Trail – the second-highest peak on the island of Bora Bora, French Polynesia, that will reward you the most picturesque view.

By now, I’ve summoned Mount Pahia’s call of the wild quite a few times. Each time I reach the summit and feast my eyes upon the crystal blue lagoon that caresses the Island, I think to myself okay, no more now. Yet, every time we have a new cruise (I’m currently working on a sailboat in the Pacific), and our new guests want to go, I find myself taking the lead once again.

This hike is a gritty, sweat-inducing ordeal that will push most of you to your limits. With that being said, I’ve witnessed folks of all shapes and sizes, with fitness levels ranging from elite to “I’m not sure I can do this,” conquer this trail.

And if we all can do it? You can too! Just don’t be a fucktard and wear flip flops. I swear, the last I did this hike, I passed a Frenchman on the trail in flip-flops. He must have noticed the mix of wonder and terror in my eyes as they glanced upon his choice of footwear, so he simply said to me, “I had no other choice.” Uhm, how about staying at home and not risking your life, you dumb fuck? I thought to myself.

So yeah, don’t do that, and you’ll be solid.

Mount Pahia Hiking Trail, Best Hike in Bora Bora: Sara Fondo at the summit

Now, enough with this introduction, let’s dive headfirst into the details of conquering Mount Pahia in Bora Bora.

You can use the links below to jump to a certain section of the blog post.

Mount Pahia Hike Details

How to get there

What you need to know

My experience

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Mount Pahia Hiking Trail – Details

Mount Pahia stands tall at 661 meters above sea level, making it the second-highest peak in Bora Bora – only topped by the neighboring Mount Otemanu, which as far as I know, cannot be summited.

Mount Pahia Hiking Trail, Best Hike in Bora Bora - the summit

Hike Distance

The total distance of the hike, starting from Vaitape, is approximately 6.2 kilometers (don’t be fooled by the distance).

Hike Duration

If you’re in good fitness, you can finish the hike in about 3 hours. If not, it really depends on your own level of confidence and speed. The fastest I’ve done it, is 1 hour 20 minutes, one way.

Hike Difficulty

Hard. The first part of the hiking trail is very steep, the middle part you have to be sturdy on your feet, and the last part you have to pull yourself up with ropes. So be prepared.

Mount Pahia Hiking Trail: How to get there

Save the location – this map shows you the beginning of the hiking trail.

The journey commences in Vaitape, Bora Bora’s bustling main town. Before you set out, swing by the Chin Lee supermarket and stock up on your favorite hiking snacks and plenty of water. You’ll thank yourself later.

Make a turn at Hina Pearls and follow the asphalt road. Just keep walking straight for some time – the road will eventually start going uphill. As you venture further, you’ll find yourself immersed in a tight-knit community of local Polynesians, so have your smile and vocabulary ready with “Ia Orana,” (pronounced like “Your Honour” but with an exotic twist) – it goes a long way.

When the road ends, make a left and follow the grassy path. This is where the hiking trail starts. You might spot a few red strings tied to branches in the beginning, letting you know if you’re going in the right direction, but these will eventually stop, the further up you go.

You might spot a few red strings tied to branches initially, guiding your way. However, be aware that these markers tend to disappear the higher you ascend.

As always, I highly recommend downloading the maps.me app and grabbing the French Polynesia map to keep track of where you are and for offline navigation in case you lose connection – it’s been my trusty companion for years.

Mount Pahia Hiking Trail: Photo from the Best Hike in Bora Bora

Mount Pahia: What you need to know

Don’t take this turn!

When you’re heading down again, there’s a particular spot where it’s very easy to take the wrong turn, if you’re not paying attention. It will look like the trail is turning right, leading you down the mountain – don’t take this turn. It will have you scrambling at the side of the mountain for however long it takes you to realize you took the wrong turn. Take a moment to stop and orientate yourself – the right trail is going just slightly upwards over some rocks at this spot. This is the right way.

Don’t pet the dogs

There will be dogs, as you make your turn in Vaitape towards the trail head. I was almost bitten by an otherwise cute and friendly looking little white pooch, who turned vicious. If you don’t have your rabies vaccine, I’d be extra careful on this part.

The hike can be challenging

Mount Pahia Hiking Trail has steep sections and uneven terrain. Take breaks as needed and don’t rush. Also let someone know that you’re going and when you expect to be back.

Wear sturdy shoes

Choose a pair of shoes with a seriously good grip (don’t be a fool and wear flip-flops). Your butt and coccyx will thank you on the way down for wearing shoes that make it less likely for you to slip and hurt yourself.

Check the weather forecast

Take a look at the weather to ensure safe hiking conditions. You don’t want to be doing this hike in rain, and if it’s too cloudy, you won’t be getting the amazing views atop.

Begin your hike early in the morning

Avoid the midday heat and have ample time to complete the hike. I normally start around 8.30.

Bring more water

People generally undermine this hike due to its distance, but it’s tough! Bring more water than you think you need – at the very least 2 liters per person.

Respect the natural environment

Leave no trace. Carry out any trash you generate during the hike.

Respect yourself and your limits

Hiking Mount Pahia can be physically demanding, so it’s essential to be in good health and have a reasonable level of fitness. Always prioritize your safety and well-being (and don’t wear flip-flops).

Mount Pahia Hiking Trail: My experience

Hiking in French Polynesia is one of my all-time favorite activities. The lush vegetation that wraps around me, the Tarzan-like feel as I jump from rock to rock, pull myself up by the help of a vine or cross a river barefoot, and the reward of the breathtaking views at the summits are unbeatable.

Hiking makes me feel small in this mighty world of natural wonders, and it makes me feel grateful for having a healthy body that can carry me to the top. I could do it over and over again, and with Mount Pahia, I have.

I first did this hike in March 23’ and my description below will mostly draw from my memory of that first time – because aren’t there just something special about firsts’?

The Green Giant

It was a sultry morning on the Paradise Island of Bora Bora. While I sat on deck watching the pink and purple shades disperse from the sky, it seemed as if this green giant in front of me grew larger and larger.

We had just sailed from the flat-as-a-pancake Tuamotu atolls to Bora Bora, and for the first time in three months, I laid eyes on a mountain and caught a whiff of adventure. Rising 661 meters above sea level, Mount Pahia lied before me as more than just a mountain; it was a gateway to nature’s untamed wonderland.

Best Hiking Trail in Bora Bora: Photo from the summit Mount Pahia in Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Best Hiking Trail in Bora Bora: Photo of Sara Fondo at the summit of Mount Pahia in Bora Bora, French Polynesia

The Real Bora Bora

By 8 AM, I was geared up with my trusty hiking boots, backpack brimming with water, and grin plastered on my face. I made the turn at the pearl shop in town, strolled a few meters down the asphalt road toward the trailhead, and it felt like crossing into another world entirely. Gone were the fancy tourist shops and hordes of American cruise ship visitors and honeymooners. Instead, I found myself surrounded by the authentic Bora Bora.

To my left and right, houses pieced together by stuff you’d seem to be able to find at the side of the road – a square piece of metal here, bamboo there, and perhaps a section of wood – no windows, just fabric to fend off the weather. I couldn’t help but think of the saying “one man’s trash, another man’s treasure.” Here, it seemed particularly true.

Dogs and hens are to Polynesia what cows are to India – I don’t think they’re actually considered sacred or anything, but they’re everywhere, and they seem to live a totally unbothered, blessed life. The most astonishing part? The dogs don’t kill the hens. As I ambled past their dwellings, some dogs barked to assert their territory, while the hens executed their signature jumpy-walk-run, seemingly unsure which way to dart.

Then came the grass. Ready set go, and the hike had begun.

Sweat, baby

For me, hiking is like suffering from memory loss. Every time, I seem to forget just how strenuous it actually is, and I romanticize the trails in my head – this time was no different.

Best Hiking Trail in Bora Bora: Photo of Sara Fondo, sweating like a pig, on the way to the summit of Mount Pahia in Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Best Hiking Trail in Bora Bora: Photo of the hiking trail to Mount Pahia in Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Within the first half hour, a layer of sweat clung to me like a second skin while I clung to vines and branches, making my way up the first, very steep part of the hiking trail. With each step in the rugged terrain, more and more sweat seemed to emerge, starting from the tip of my head and slowly making its way down my body.

As I caught my breath and tried to wipe away the stinging potion of sunscreen-sweat from my eyes, I questioned my sanity: Remind me again, why do you find this fun, Sara?

Make It Spicy

Just as your body has stopped whining about the climb and accepted the brutality you’ve forced upon it, the trail turns left and transforms into a hike along the mountainside.

On this part, my breathing got more controlled, and I relished the amazing, arduous journey. I let my lungs fill with the crisp mountain air infused with earthy and tropical scents that tingled my nostrils, I took notice of the intricate dance between my muscles and brain as they coordinated every step – where to place my feet, what to grab, when to duck, and when to leap.

Best Hiking Trail in Bora Bora: Photo of the hiking trail to Mount Pahia in Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Best Hiking Trail in Bora Bora: A photo of cairns along the hiking trail to the summit of Mount Pahia in Bora Bora, French Polynesia

At certain points, the trail turned extra spicy, as if Mother Nature said “oh, so you think this is easy? Well, think again.” One misstep, and you could find yourself tumbling down the mountainside. I made sure to lean toward the wall of volcanic rock that constitutes Mount Pahia, clutching onto every root or branch within arm’s reach. One, two, three – I trusted my legs to carry me past the perilous sections.

As I ascended, the vegetation changed like a vibrant kaleidoscope. From thickets of bamboo to groves of towering breadfruit trees. Occasionally, a bewildered butterfly would bask in front of me or one of the thousand tiny, bronze-and-blue striped lizards (the perks of being at the front of the group – you spot all the lizards), that I counted along the way, would pop up into view.

Right before reaching the summit, you will have to climb up a steep part using a rope. I’ve been a tiny Hulk since I was a little girl, but it wasn’t until recent years that I developed a genuine appreciation for my bodybuilder-like physique. So, I glanced up at the rope, thinking, piece of cake.

Best Hiking Trail in Bora Bora: Photo of the hiking trail to Mount Pahia in Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Best Hiking Trail in Bora Bora: A photo from the final climb to the summit of Mount Pahia in Bora Bora, French Polynesia

The Real High

Standing on top of Mount Pahia felt like standing on the roof of the world. I was surrounded by a 360-degree vista of lush, jagged peaks that stretched towards the horizon. Below, Bora Bora’s iconic aquamarine lagoon shimmered, dotted with overwater bungalows that resembled tiny pearls in a vast, azure sea. The neighboring peak, Mount Otemanu, stood proudly in the distance, casting a regal shadow over the landscape.

I gulped some luke warm water and smashed two mashed muesli bars from my bag as I took in this unparalleled natural beauty. Hibiscus flowers sprinkled the surrounding greenery, and suddenly, a swarm of dragonflies appeared, making me feel like I’d stumbled upon a secret portal to paradise.

Best Hiking Trail in Bora Bora. A drone photo from the summit of Mount Pahia in Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Best Hiking Trail in Bora Bora: Photo of resorts from the summit of Mount Pahia in Bora Bora, French Polynesia

The endorphins were tingling in my bloodstream, and finally after years of chasing artificial highs, I understood that this right here – the call of the wild – was the true ecstasy. A high that wouldn’t leave me feeling empty. Sure, the throbbing bassline on the dance floor, the rush of a vodka-redbull and the spell working of drugs held a certain charm and sure, I had loads of fun over the years, but standing on top of a mountain and listening to my heart beat loudly in my chest is a way better feeling than lying in my bed at 6 AM and listening to my heart beat loudly in my chest.

This Is Not The End

As I descended back into the embrace of the Tarzan-esque jungle, I got a little taste of the type of adventure I hold dear. The type of adventure where you know, you’re a little bit fucked but not enough to be truly worried. The type of adventure that makes you feel alive.

I simply took the wrong turn and found myself scrambling on the side of the mountain for some time. I had ventured right when I should’ve veered left, seduced by what appeared to be a path. I didn’t think much about it, until I could see no path no more.

Best Hiking Trail in Bora Bora: Photo of the hiking trail to Mount Pahia in Bora Bora, French Polynesia

At this moment I had two choices. Keep going or turn around. After careful consideration – and the simple fact that I know not to fuck with mountains – I opted to backtrack and find my way to the trail I had strayed from. I thought the trail had been spicy while ascending, but again Mother Nature appeared and said “think again,” because this wrongful descend was way spicier. The terrain was completely moldy, causing everything I touched to crumble in my hand. I basically had to run up the mountain, trusting my thighs to power through because I couldn’t grasp onto anything.

Eventually, I made it back on track and continued my descend, feeling even more content. My soul had been fed with the fuel that keeps it going (real adventure).

If you’re venturing out there yourself, bear this spot in mind and keep left. It’s about ⅓ down the trail after summiting.

Afterthoughts

I like getting dirty, I enjoy sweating, I adore the ache in my muscles from climbing and jumping and walking and running, and I can’t get enough of the flow state I get into as my muscles and mind communicate in their secret language. Then you add lizards and dragonflies, fragrant flowers and lush trees, crystal blue waters and an enchanting view – and that’s the essence of it, isn’t it? You can’t possibly get closer to the wild heart of Bora Bora, where nature reigns supreme. No mettle tested here, just pure fucking enjoyment. I’ll lock this beautiful little adventure away in my mental treasure chest, to be revisited when I’m old and grey.

I hope you enjoyed this hiking guide to Mount Pahia in Bora Bora, French Polynesia! Stay tuned for more unfiltered and honest travel content.

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