Teahupo’o (commonly pronounced Cho-po or ‘Chopes as it is sometimes called) is a deadly reef break.
World renowned for the consistent number of barrels it delivers and with the heaviest waves combined with a shallow shoreline, it is considered the Mother of all surf spots of all big waves.
However, only thrill seeking enthusiastic and experienced surfers in peak physical condition should even attempt surfing Teahupo’o. From November through March is cyclone season and at times during these months the winds and rain are more frequent, but the months of April through October provide the most and best surf days.
Mainly a left break, line and survival stance is imperative to speed down these powerful 12-15 foot walls of water and avoid the razor sharp reef which sits waiting right in front of the wave. Caution is always on high alert here with the surfers because the outer reef also creates right hand breaks that occasionally can come out of nowhere. Standing upright in a very, very, very vertical take-off position is the only way to cut a reef pass even after you’ve survived the wrath of the Teahupo’o tube.
The Pass as it is known is located at the end of the town’s road giving it locally in earlier days the name “The End of the Road” which today is known as Passe Havae. Once there, it is a 15-20 minute paddle out to the reef or by boat. Weekends can get crowded but the line-up is slim.
Teahupo’o Pass is most famous on the Tahiti Iti peninsula – some other well-known breaks are at Papara Black Sand Beach, Paea, Papenoo, Punaauia, and Taapuna Pass.
Teahupo’o hosts the annual Billabong Pro Tahiti Surf Competition which is part of the World Championship Tour (WCT) of the ASP World Tour Professional surfing circuit and the champions that have won the titles and/or established their professional reputations around the world are as follows:
2012 – Mick Fanning (AUS)
2011 – Kelly Slater (USA)
2010 – Andy Irons (HAW)
2009 – Bobby Martinez (USA)
2008 – Bruno Santos (Brazil)
2007 – Damien Hobgood (USA)
2006 – Bobby Martinez (USA)
2005 – Kelly Slater (USA)
2004 – CJ Hobgood (USA)
2003 – Kelly Slater (USA)
2002 – Andy Irons (Hawaii)
2001 – Cory Lopez (USA)
2000 – Kelly Slater (USA)
1999 – Mark Occhilupo (Australia)
Few professionals rode Teahupo’o in the 1990’s. This world renowned surfing destination is southeast of the Island of Tahiti, French Polynesia in the Southern Pacific Ocean and has retained its native culture despite the global attention it has received in recent years from the sport of surfing.
This destination is not exactly the glorified glamorous version of Tahiti that they show tourists in that glossy brochure like we usually see, but rather it remains a magnificent region that has its roots still tied to its simple authenticity.
Tahiti Gotcha Pro Surf contests arrive annually each May and when the competitions are in town Tahiti turns into a booked solid tourist and locales must-see packed event. The Billabong Pro is also a big ticket draw here each year. Sweet.
It was only in 1998 that Teahupo’o became widely recognized with its powerful swells hurling fast, furious, heavy and wild waves that deliver with such velocity that a split second decision can only spare your life.
Teahupo’o’s severe ½ moon shape produce a lip that is thick, wide and tall, mixed in with the mechanics of this treacherous wave it can launch a surfer straight into the razor-sharp jagged reef. In 2000 a local surfer named Briece Taerea met a tragic death when he hit the reef and spent two days in a coma before succumbing to his massive injuries.
Laird Hamilton rose to possibly the best surfer to have ever lived status when in August of 2000 he was credited with surfing the heaviest wave ever ridden on, the Milennium Wave odyssey that was documented in the movie “Riding Giants”.
Keala Kennelly has been credited as the first women to ever tow-surf a 10 foot Teahupo’o barrel during the Billabong Tahiti Pro contest in May of 2005.
The jet skis usually start cruising out through the Teahupo’o reef pass in the early dawn with their surfer in tow. Sitting poised and ready to speed out of the impact zone of the rolling monstrous waves, they wait for a signal from the surfer to determine if the next wave is “the one”.
Sometimes they must wait for hours for the tide to come in at a somewhat predictable level as they read the waves- each wave, not too low or high so the surfer can take off swiftly, strategically and safely to then execute their skills and these massive volume amounts of water that can cause dredging on the reef and warp a wave in an instant.
A split second decision can be the difference between life and death.
Raimana Van Bastoloer lived to tell his story when in 2005 his upon his take off his jet ski driver Reef Macintosh (Haw) got caught in the wave lip catapulting the abandoned jet ski directly over the pitching lip into the barreling wave that Bastoloer was already riding in. He said he saw something odd out of the corner of his eye and a reflex in just a split second saved his life. Bastoloer ducked not really knowing what had missed his head and saw the Jet Ski careening out of control spearing straight ahead into the shallow reef.
Riding giant big waves worldwide is one thing but Teahupo’o can only be attempted by and left to the top experts; it can be lethal for even the most seasoned pro. Here is where you will find the most dangerous, monstrous and famous waves in the world – this is Teahupo’o, or better known as “Jaws”.
Visit ‘em All
Tahiti ~ Moorea ~ Raiatea & Taha’a ~ Bora Bora ~ Huahine ~ Rangiroa ~ Manihi ~ Tikehau ~ Fakarava ~ Marquesas ~ and, Tetiaroa.
This magnificent region of Tahiti and all her islands boasts gorgeous scenery with black sand beaches, clear waters, beautiful mountains, waterfalls, rainforests, archeological sites, caves and lava tubes that will simply astound you with beauty and simple authentic French Polynesia culture that still remains untouched.
Very little development has come to the area but the locals are extremely warm, friendly and welcoming with a bountiful array of Polynesian handmade crafts that are always available. The Tahitian philosophy, `aita pea pea’ (not to worry) is a way of life here and shines through with their warm and hospitable friendly culture.
Tahiti is an island that was created by a volcano during the volcanic period that left behind this unique land formation, your trip here would not be complete without visiting the Blow Hole in the Trou de Souffleur. The Blow Hole is a lava tunnel next to the sea cliff and explodes pockets of air and violent streams of water pressure with unpredictable eruptions for some intense sight-seeing. Cooling lava and continuing erosion has left geological formation that has made this one of the most popular tourism adventures on Tahiti to explore.
Marlon Brando’s Island of Bird’s Sanctuary is only 3o minutes north of the main island of Tahiti. Guided tours are available to the island’s breathtaking waterfalls tucked in the lush greenery. With each of the islands boasting their differences you can take in the abundant lagoons that are everywhere in a relaxing paradise for awhile, or check out the abundant vanilla plantations, coconut groves, museums, pearl farms that will show you everything you ever wanted to know, or should know, or need to know about pearls – and islands that there are some great places to take in the marine life and swim with dolphins, rays – and sharks. Ancient archaeological Polynesian ruins can be toured on Huahine.
Tahiti is breathtaking, its like no other place in the world.
Her group of islands total 12 in all with Tahiti being the largest, each offers a unique island experience and distinct attractions.
Teahupo’o in Tahiti, although off the beaten path of the of the Tahitian’s tourism industry path, is considered a “landmark” and has become a place where every surfer or visitor wants to see at least once.
Get Home Safe
Tahiti and her islands are some of the most beautiful in the South Pacific so it is hard to imagine any crime while in such a gorgeous paradise. Probably the worst that you will find here and should be astutely aware of is, if you spot any is a sign that reads “Danger – Cliff Edge!” While most major roads are paved many secondary roads are not, very poorly lit and will not always be posted with a danger sign warning of the terrain ahead.
Most signs are written in French, not Tahitian.
Tahiti has one of the lowest crime rates within France, although petty crime such as pick pocketing or purse snatching does occur, but for the most part there is not much to be concerned with.
As a precaution always stay alert whenever traveling, especially at night.
Check out MD Travel Health prior to going on your trip for the latest complete travel health information. Updated daily for physicians and travelers.
Hazards and Health
Moray eels. Although the people are friendly some of the region’s sea life is not. Be careful if you go snorkeling or diving near the coral reef. You may be so captivated by the beauty that a close-up ‘and’ a close-encounter with the moray eel, that love to hide deep in the coral – could lunge out and bite.
They can cause serious injury.
*Many do not realize the moray eel has a built-in mechanism in their jaws. One set of teeth is in the front used to grab prey, with a second jaw of teeth that ejects from behind and releases forward to lock on. A complete novel transport of prey.
All scrapes or cuts should be immediately cleaned and tended to especially from coral scrapes, infection sets in quickly. Make sure to wear solid waterproof thick-soled beach sandals when walking on the beaches and in the water.
Stone fish are quite common in these waters and are of various colors – another hazard to steer clear of, although they are stunningly beautiful and spell-binding to look at.
Stone fish lie on the bottom of the sea beds and are perfectly camouflaged. The name suits them well as they appear as rocks exposed in the sand and mud and are considered to be the deadliest fish in the world.
If stepped on, their lightning fast sting injects poisonous venom that is excruciatingly painful, causes rapid and tremendous swelling, weakened muscles, temporary paralysis and shock.
If not treated, it can cause death.
The Crown of the Thorns is a poisonous starfish that preys on coral reef and when stepped on causes severe pain, nausea and vomiting. They love to eat the reefs so they are really a danger to all. This year in Tahiti there was such an outbreak of the reef eaters that the Teahupo’o Surf Club pulled off a “crown of the thorns clean-up” on the reef out at ‘Chopes. This starfish is a voracious coral eater.
Dengue Fever is caused by insect-borne disease, rarely outbreak but will usually occur during rainy season when they do. Mosquito nets are common in the lodging areas and a good insect repellent is highly recommended just to be safe.
Sharks and Stingrays are frequently encountered in the tropical lagoon, although snorkelers and divers claim they are totally unoffensive underwater company that are more or less just present, and will not bother you. Even the sharks and rays are tranquil here.
Medical treatment is generally very good and Tahiti’s largest hospital is in Papeete providing 24 hour service. Clinics and private medical doctors are scattered throughout Tahiti.
Mamao General Hospital –
689-46-62-62 or Emergency 689-42-01-01
24 hour service.
Clinic Cardella – Papeete – Open 24 hours a day.
Clinic Paofai – Papeete – 24 hour service.
Faa’a International Airport is the closest airport to Teahupo’o and Papeete (Papy-et-tay) is the capitol city and the administrative center, only about a one hour drive to Teahupo’o. Traffic is heavy and populated in Papeete so the surrounding areas will provide a more relaxing and peaceful experience.
All international carriers land in Tahiti and then fly separate carriers to the other islands. Tahiti is located half way between California and Australia, an 8 hour flight from Los Angeles or a 12-13 hour flight from New York.
Transportation around the island is easy and cheap. Le Truck is the local transport around Tahiti and usually costs about $2.00 USD per person or so. They are public rickety open air passenger buses that stop off frequently to take you to your destinations. Island boats and ferries run frequently between the islands and this scenic route is a great way to travel about. You can also rent bikes, scooters, or cars (around $90 USD per day), a good idea since everything is mostly closed on Sundays and you can explore on your own all over the islands.
Stop By and See
Some may opt for quieter attractions other than shark feeding for the day and there is plenty to do to amuse anyone in this perfect tropical climate.
Summer is from November to April brimming with warmer and more humid temperatures averaging about 84 degrees, while the cooler and drier winter blows in with average temps at 80 degrees during the months of May to October.
Hard to go wrong here, the climate is just perfect!
Activities include surfing, snorkeling, stingray and shark feedings, scuba diving (most resorts will provide you with the equipment for free,) kite surfing, golf, 4WD safari sight-seeing, canyon hiking, every water sport imaginable, and deep sea fishing – which has been curtailed since August 2008.
Most of the surf breaks are accessible to all levels and abilities.
Papeete being the capitol city is bustling with a harbor busy with luxury liners, yachts and cargo freighters, sidewalk café restaurants serving Tahitian, French and Asian cuisine, sidewalks full of French fashion, and Tahitian children who are hip to hip-hop, rap music, and love to perform for all and practice openly in the public squares.
Some of the attractions are;
`Le Marche’ –
Papeete’s main market place centrally located where you can buy almost anything, souvenirs, clothing, postcards, fresh ripe fruits and vegetables, and be sure to pick up some “Monoi” while you’re there, the local tahitian tanning and moisturizing oil with an alluring strong scent and well worth it.
The Blow Hole –
Located on the North side of Tahiti Nui, the Blow Hole is a favorite.
Daily displays of uncontrollable eruptions exploding fierce volcanic streams of air pressure and water next to a sea cliff that has over time created unique lava land formations.
The Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands –
This museum ranks as one of the best museums in the South Pacific.
Closed on Mondays. Open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30- 5:30. Spend an interesting day seeing the various authentic displays of Tahitian culture with a rich collection of very old pieces, sea life and re-constructed historical scenes.
PK 14, 700 Pointe des Pecheurs, Punaauia, Tahiti
The Pearl Museum –
Open Monday – Saturday 8am-7pm and Sundays 9am-7pm.
A fun day learning all about the fantastic beautiful pearls of the region. This is museum is unique in the world and traces the history of pearls all the way back to the days of Cleopatra.
Rue Jeanne d`Are, Vaima Center
Downtown Papeete, Tahiti
The Gauguin Museum –
Open daily from 9am-5pm.
On display here and can be viewed nowhere else in the world is a place dedicated to the life of a famous French artist named Paul Gauguin, displays of his various works and sculptures in this Japanese-styled art museum.
PK 51, 2 Papeari, Tahiti
The Botanical Gardens –
Luscious gardens of tropical flowers and plants created by Harrison W. Smith in 1919.
Open daily from 9am-5pm.
PK 51 (right next to the Gauguin Museum)
The Tomb of King Pomare the Fifth –
When France was a monarchy this is the tomb of the only King of Tahiti dating back to 1891. The Royal Tomb is built on solid coral from Tahitian waters.
At PK 4, 7 (down a road to a point of land on the lagoon)
Les Trois Cascades –
A trio of beautiful waterfalls inside the island of Tahiti Nui is a sight to see. When you reach the town of Taravao the two portions of the island meet, both choices lead to a dead end “at the end of the road”. One way along the north coast leads to Tautira, and the other along the south coast leads to Teahupo’o. A little past the Blow Hole is the turn-off for Les Trois Cascades.
Point Venus –
On the outskirts of Tahiti you will find Montavai Bay which is enclosed by a point that Captain Cook built a fort on during his first visit to the island. The black sand beach near the point is a popular destination.
*Note: The information links we provide may change at any time. Please research and confirm your itinerary with all third party services and individual establishments prior to scheduling any trips or utilizing their services.
Good Eats, Restaurants & Pubs
Restaurant tipping in Tahiti is not customary or expected when dining out, most of the time the tip has been included in the final price of the meal that is treated more like an experience rather than just a dinner. There are few bargains when it comes to dining out and many restaurants can be found in Papeete and are quite pricey, but worth the splurge. Since they are close, about 10 miles from Teahupo’o, we want to give you the harder to find reasonably priced good-eats around town right in Teahupo’o.
The street food and local cuisine found here is some of the best in the world.
Snack Hinerava – right at the end of the road in Teahupo’o is the place to go, just bring a big appetite, dishes are huge.
Snack Eric – at the first left on the road to Teahupo’o is by far the best restaurant here that serves local take-out dishes – prices, very reasonable.
Roulottes are mini diners on wheels and are very commonly found pulling into various parking lots and driveways all around town, and are the best food bargains to be found. Many of the locals at dinnertime go to Roulottes for their take out Tahitian meals.
Surf Shops ~ so what’s nearby?
Not so much…except exceptional, surfing.
There are no surf shops actually listed in Teahupo’o. Since it is off the beaten path you can find an array of listings in bustling Papeete to choose from so have some fun and shop around. Here’s a good one we like…
Kelly Surf Shop
Any surfer would want to stop and shop here, plus Kelly’s sells trendy island surf clothing.
Fare Tony Center
98. 173 Papeete, Tahiti
Tura’ I Mata’ Are Surf School
Based out of the Kelly Surf Shop
Introductory surfing courses: 9am-12noon and 1:30pm-5pm
Fare Tony Center
98.173 Papeete, Tahiti
Where To Stay
B & B Choices & Tahitian Bungalows in Teahupo’o
Note * Ahh, and the sunsets are primo…
Vanira Lodge –
Upon awaking, surfers can assess the waves in each of the 3 Teahupo’o surf spots eyeing an amazing 180 degree view over the lagoon from their bungalow nestled up on a plateau at 50 metres above sea level.
– Continental breakfasts, all amenities, and special authentic daily meals are available upon request.
– Accommodations for 1-4 people costs about $140 per night.
– Bungalows sleep 6 maximum for an additional $10 per person per day.
BP 8458 Taravao
PK 15, 6 – Teahupo’o
French Polynesia, 98719
689- (0) 57-70-18
Teahupo’o Blackwater Lodge –
The Blackwater layout provides full amenities including internet is set on the hill overlooking Teahupo’o. The Deluxe Lodge Rental includes all meals and boat transfers to surf breaks.
– Accommodations for 1-4 people runs about $80 a night per person.
– Book early reservations online.
Toll free # 1-877-681-8147
Pension Bonjouir – Enjoy ocean front or jungle views in a bungalow hidden in the lush jungle of Tahiti’s untouched, unspoiled and magical coast of Tahiti. It is accessible only by boat or hike only! No TV, no telephones in your bungalow, just the best local fresh foods, fish dishes and presentations fit for kings and queens, offering exotic mountain views and extreme surfing. This family ran beautiful remotely located resort hotel is one of the best, and affordable.
– Accommodations for a maximum of 4 people will run 37.5 and private rooms are extra.
– Book availability early online, see below.
Tahiti Cruise & Vacation – Tahiti’s travel specialists can help you tailor make your vacation based on the best applicable hotel specials during your dates of travel & selected Islands – Papeete, Tahiti – Toll Free: +1-800-704-2952 – Telephone: +689 50 57 94
Pension Chayan – Catering to mostly surfers, Pension Chayan is set in what is called a ‘garden paradise’ with a natural waterfall at the back of the property and small pool to cool off in. This spotless, bright and comfortable hotel offers warm Polynesian hospitality, is reasonably priced, and all bungalows are equipped with kitchenettes or guest meals can be made for you. Boat taxi rides out to the surf are included, only 4km from Teahupo’o. It’s no wonder why this spot has become one of the favorite main surf resorts in the area.
PK 14, Vairoo, Tahiti Iti
*It is worth mentioning that these are the places in the world that are seriously threatened by global warming. There is no commercial fishing permitted in this magnificent region of Tahiti, leaving the abundant sea life in place.
Nightlife after Dark
Not so much. Tahiti is sleeping by 9pm every night, even on Saturday nights. Every night is quiet while the days around here in these south sea isles are pumping with spectacular views, supreme surfing, activities, giant massive curls of turquoise water breaking onto colorful reefs, gorgeous warm water lagoons with abundant sea life to swim in along with beautiful miles of tropical black sand and white sand coral beaches. There is so much history and warmth on the island to explore, and a legendary surfing wave that most come to confront or at the least see once when visiting Teahupo’o.
Considered an expensive trip by some, depending on where you go, where you stay, and how much green is on hand or in the budget, with all of this you might be tempted stay forever and never leave.
Just an idea.
It’s all about the tropical relaxation here in Tahiti.
But a short car ride of only a little over an hour will take you to Papeete’s urban club scene, or better yet, after all that surfing and relaxing and lounging around the isles, wake up! The nights come alive when you book a hotel room for a few days in the city right on the waterfront strip, just steps away from the active night scene.
– Check out Le Royal Kikiriri for the hottest live bands when you’re in town, highly recommended.
The vibrant throbbing capitol city of Papeete is where the action is to all the late night French Polynesian dancing that is among the best in the South Pacific!
An inviting tropical spot where you can find all night pubs, nightclubs, discos, casinos, bars, and it is packed with numerous restaurants and cultural arts performances to choose from all along the waterfront street of Boulevard Pomare.
Busy with traffic jams and noisy like usual for a city, Papeete is relatively a safe, clean, and efficient city with many boutique shops and is one of the few spots in French Polynesia to even have any significant nightlife entertainment.
With a nightlife that is just too good, unfortunately it is restricted to Papeete only and just a couple of other spots in west Tahiti. Along the north coast of Moorea you will find some hot spots around there too. On all the outer islands nightlife is limited to individual resort entertainment. There are several fine restaurants above the Papeete Market with fresh sushi bars and many great cafés to eat along the streets.
Please be sure to contact each individual country’s current Travel Advisory prior to your visit for more information.