written in collaboration with LisaTahiti (1 spots)
The spot is located within Punaauina township, on the West Coast of Tahiti Nui, about 4mi/7km south of Papeete. The lagoon fringing the coast can be explored from Kilometric Point (PK) 17 to PK18.5. There are two beaches in here, Vaiva (PK18) and Papehue (PK18.5) where the marine preserve begins. Park your car at Mahana Park (parking is free but the lot fills up quickly during weekends, consider arriving early). From there, walking to the beach takes a few minutes.
Enter the water anywhere you like from the salt-and-pepper beach.
You will explore the internal lagoon area, covering 300 to 450 meters from beach to reef. Shortly after PK18.5, a small pass has appeared on the lagoon (see map above). Avoid this area: currents can be strong there.
The closest areas to the beach (↕3-6ft/1-2m) are covered with sand, rocks and seaweed patches. Coral is poor here. You will have to swim to mid-distance for a coral-covered seabed. Coral grows denser as you swim away from the shore (↕6-12ft/2-4m).
Coral quality is uneven on this spot, but the aquatic life is exceptionally varied and settles until a dozen of meters from the shore. Juvenile black tip sharks and spotted eagle rays like this lagoon, as well as small stingrays that often rest over sandy areas. Many reef fish species can be seen on the coral reef area, such as angelfishes (royal angelfish and bright yellow lemonpeel angelfish can be seen here), about a dozen of different butterflyfish species, parrotfishes and rather intriguing sixbar wrasses. Look into sea anemones for orange-fin anemonefish, the most common clown fish in Polynesia.
Like many lagoons in Polynesia, this one is perfect for snorkeling with its calm, shallow waters. However, never try to swim past the coral reef into the open sea: strong waves and currents make the external area very dangerous.
This spot is part of a marine preserve and attracts few snorkelers, hence it is very preserved. Take part in this preservation and don’t damage corals nor leave anything behind you.
Restaurants and accommodation
Snacks and food carts are set on the beach. If you’re looking for accommodation close to the spot, several family pensions are located inland.
Snorkeling Report gives the most precise tips possible about the snorkeling spots and potential dangers, but each one of us is responsible for our own safety in the water. For more information, take a look at the snorkeling safety page. If you want to add extra information or make any corrections to the spot descriptions, please contact us.
Type of spot
Level of difficultyTous niveaux
Maximum depth14ft (4m)
Water entranceEasy, from a sandy beach
Potential DangersSwell, currents, stonefish, fire coral
Public toilets & showersYes