A Self-Drive Day Tour of Mangaia
Have a day to spend on Mangaia and don’t know what to do with it? This one-day itinerary of Mangaia will ensure you make the most of it! Rent a car or scooter and hit the quiet coastal roads of the coral atoll as you explore glorious lookouts, secluded beaches, quaint villages, coral rock formations and more. You don’t need to hire a guide, as this self-guided day trip around Mangaia lays out the top sights and attractions on an easy-to-follow route complete with maps.
How to Get Around Mangaia Using This Self-Guided Itinerary
This self-guided one-day itinerary of Mangaia has you exploring the island independently. To get around, you will either need to rent a car or scooter from your accommodation provider – see The Best Mangaia Accommodations. Cars tend to be more comfortable than scooters, as the roads on the island vary in quality. For more transport options, check out our Mangaia Transport Guide: 6 Ways to Get to (& Around) Mangaia.
Note that our itinerary starts in Oneroa, as this is where most of the island’s accommodations are located.
Oneroa to Lake Tiriara
Distance: 8.6km (5.3 miles), Drive time: 12-15 minutes
Starting from Babe’s Store in the centre of Oneroa, make your way on the main road south to your first must-see attraction, the Tuaati Rockpools approximately 1.6km (1 mile) away. There’s a picturesque beach here, while the reef has amazing snorkelling pools filled with coral and fish.
You have a couple of excellent viewpoints on the drive between Tuaati Rockpools and Vai Nato, one about 2.7km (1.7 miles) from the rockpools at Te Papa and another a further 1.6km (1 mile) away indicated by a small path inland to a jagged coral field. Approximately 200m (656ft) from this second viewpoint, you’ll reach Vai Nato, a raised plateau and fish feeding area where locals often come to toss fish food over the side.
Continue on the coastal road until you reach the Tamarua village sign where you’ll also find a coastal access point for more views of the rugged coast. Then take the inland road to the village and turn left, heading back toward Oneroa. Stay on this inland road for approximately 1.1km (0.7 miles) until you reach the roadside picnic area and viewpoint for Lake Tiriara. This makes for a tranquil lunch stop.
The Tuatini Caves are also in the area, but it is not recommended to go without a guide – see the 5 Best Caves on Mangaia for details.
Lake Tiriato to Ivirua
Distance: 7.8km (4.8 miles), Drive time: 12-15 minutes
Snap up a photo of the picturesque Tamarua CICC Church on your way back through Tamarua village then stop at the turnoff to the coast at the eastern end of the village. This coastal road leads down to the Saragossa Shipwreck, which is well worth checking out at low tide. However, the road is not suitable for rental vehicles, so we suggest walking the 2km (1.2 miles) to get to the coast. See more details of the walk in the 5 Best Walks on Mangaia.
Back on the main road, approximately 200m (656ft) from the Saragossa Shipwreck turnoff is the beautiful vantage point of the Maumaukura Lookout with views across the makatea and taro plantations.
From the lookout, follow the road winding through palm, pine and eucalyptus forests until you reach the village of Ivirua. If you don’t mind exploring a bit more on foot, there’s a series of gorgeous secluded beaches backed by makatea from the end of Aramoana Road (leading to the abandoned Aramoana Bungalows accommodation). Follow our route in the 5 Best Walks on Mangaia for details.
Ivirua to Oneroa (via the Coast)
Distance: 10km (6 miles), Drive time: 11-15 minutes
In Ivirua, there’s another stunning CICC Church to snap up, then you can either continue on the coast road or take a scenic detour through the makatea cutting.
Detour: Makatea Cutting
Distance: 4-4.6km (2.5-2.9 miles), Drive time: 10 minutes (taking it slow)
Just after the Ivirua CICC Church, take the Taumatini Marae – Ivirua Taro Swamp Road inland. The dirt road takes you south first, then branches north through towering jungle-clad canyons that cut through the makatea. You’ll come out into a valley awash in taro and pineapple plantations. There are further rock walls and cave entrances lining the valley until you reach the Cross Island Road. Follow the Cross Island Road right (east) toward the coast and back onto the main road.
Back on the Main Road
Back in Ivirua village, continue north where it’s just a few hundred metres to Karanga Nui Beach. This beautiful stretch of sand just before the airstrip is easy to access and is a stunning secluded place to relax.
Back on the road, you’ll pass the airport and, in about 2km (1.2 miles), you’ll reach Mangaia’s most scenic beach, Ara’oa Beach. Take the trail then ladder down the makatea cliffs onto the sandy beach with huge makatea boulders and caves to explore.
On your final stint to Oneroa, about 1.9km (1.2 miles) from Ara’oa Beach, stop by the Atua-O-Koro fish feeding site. This sea-level plateau has all sorts of fish to feed, as well as good snorkelling at high tide.
On the outskirts of Oneroa is Avarua Landing, an ideal place to watch the sunset or look out for whales during the whale season. Then, it’s back to Oneroa village.
More About Planning a Self-Guided Day Trip Around Mangaia
That’s it for our self-guided day trip around Mangaia. If the sights visited on this one-day itinerary of Mangaia weren’t enough, these other articles should give you more ideas!
Finally, don’t miss a thing on the atoll with The Complete Travel Guide to Mangaia.