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Vaiava Beach (Plage Vaiava, commonly called “PK18”) is the most famous beach on Tahiti’s west coast. Very popular with both tourists and locals for its white sand and calm waters, it is very busy, especially on weekends. Opposite the beach is a superb lagoon dotted with coral patches around which you can see many colorful fish, such as parrotfish, butterflyfish and damselfish.

Shoal of convict surgeonfish at PK18
Large shoals of convict tang can be seen in the shallow lagoon.

How to go snorkeling at PK18/Plage Vaiava

Plage Vaiava is located in Punaauia, a small coastal town in the west of the island of Tahiti. It is also called “PK18”, because it is located just in front of the milestone 18 (its distance in kilometers from Papeete).

From the center of Papeete, follow the direction of Punaauia then Paea/Taravao for about 18km. The beach is well signposted on the right. Free parking is available near the beach.

Plage Vaiava/PK18 snorkeling map

Water entrance for snorkeling PK18/Plage Vaiava

Gear up and get into the water from the sandy beach.

Plage Vaiava snorkeling exploration tips

The lagoon facing Plage Vaiava is nearly 500m wide. However, we advise you to stay within a 200m long strip along the beach, which allows very beautiful underwater observations without getting too far away from shore.

Cushion starfish in PK18 lagoon
The Pacific cushion starfish is a common sight in PK18 lagoon.

In the lagoon, the seabed is sandy, dotted with many coral patches and coral bommies (↕3-6ft/1-2m). The main coral types found in the lagoon are massive coral and finger coral, in varying conditions.

PK18 lagoon allows snorkelers to observe a wide variety of reef fish. Butterflyfish (ornate butterflyfish, speckled butterflyfish, threadfin butterflyfish, double-saddle butterflyfish), sixbar wrasse, damselfish and convict tang (often seen in large shoals) are some of the most common here.

During your snorkeling, you may also encounter trumpetfish, pufferfish, parrotfish and goatfish. If you take a look around the coral, you may also find some pretty cushion starfish.

Coral and reef fish at Vaiava Beach, Tahiti
Vaiava Beach is a great spot to snorkel with colorful reef fish.

Restaurants and accommodation nearby

There are often trailers near the beach. Several pensions are found nearby.


  • Level required Beginner
  • Maximum depth6ft/2m
  • Water entranceFrom a sandy beach
  • Visitor numbersHigh
  • Access costsFree
  • Restaurants nearbyYes

MAP Spot

These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.