Marquesas Islands “Land of Men”
The Marquesas are a group of high volcanic islands located 1000 miles north east of Tahiti. The islands are said to have formed over 1 million years ago with the oldest at more than 5 million years. Although these islands tropical in climate they are not protected by reefs or lagoons like much or the other island groups in French Polynesia and more rocky coast lines with sheltered coves and small bays. The island is famous for its many black sand beaches and good surf.
The two largest islands are Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa each have a single airport with flights once per day between Tahiti and her islands. You can arrive in Marquesas by boat on the Aranui Freighter or the Seven Seas Paul Gauguin. Both are 14-16 day itineraries where one gets to really see and feel the heart of Polynesian culture. These islands offer some of the most unique ancient ceremonial sites, mountain vistas, lush green tropical forests and wild coastline. Paul Gauguin made his home here and was the inspired to capture the visions of French Polynesian life on canvas.
Nuku Hiva was discovered in 1791 and is the largest island with 127 square miles. The island is truly breathtaking from its peaks to its bays and includes many waterfalls one of which is the second highest cascade in the world Ahuii Waterfall. Taiohae is the main village and administrative center to the Marquesan islands. 2600 Inhabitants live in various villages around Nuka Hiva and villages are connected by dirt roads suited for 4x4 vehicles or horses.
Hiva Oa was the first island in this archipelago to be settled by Polynesians. The island is about 125 square miles and offers incredible mountain peaks and impressive views of the bays. With about 200 inhabitants on this island who reside in the villages of Atuona, Puamau, Hanaiapa, and Taaoa which are all in their own isolated valleys. Paul Gauguin came to Hiva Oa in 1901 and stayed until his death in 1903. He is buried there in Atuano Village and the first Paul Gauguin center is where his original home was built. Villages here are also connected by dirt roads suited best for 4x4 and horses.
There are a number of family houses, pensions or small hotels on these two main islands. The primary hotels are the Keikahanui Nuku Hiva Pearl Lodge which overlooks a bay and village, and Hanakee Hiva Oa Pearl Lodge which has a 200 degree views going from Mount Temetiu, Traitors Bay and a small island, are by far the best places to stay if you want the services and amenities of a hotel or resort. Access to most hotels and villages is by 4x4 and helicopter.
Marquesas Hotels & Resorts
- Keikahanui Nuku Hiva Pearl Lodge
- Hanakee Hiva Oa Pearl Lodge
- Tahauku Maui Ranch Hiva Oa
- Pension Kanahau Hiva Oa
- Relais Moehau Hiva Oa
Marquesas Island Activities
There are several tour companies on Nuku Hiva that provide full or half day excursions. The islands have an abundance or sites including archeological sites, cascading waterfalls, and panoramic view of the bays. Some can be combined with boat trips where you can snorkel and swim in beautiful coral gardens. On Hiva Oa there are sites including famous tikis and the queens grave, archeological sites and petroglyphs.
A place called the Ranch is one of a few equestrian facilities on Nuku Hiva. They can arrange full or half day tours including a picnic lunch. They also are able to arrange overnight trips to visit Hakahui Cascades where you spent the night on a white sand beach. There are also a number of equestrian facilities on Hiva Oa that offer guide escorted treks. There are many trails on each island and hourly horseback riding also available.
The Centre de Plongee is located on Taiohae Quay on the island of Nuku Hiva. The owner is a French Instructor who has resided there for 20 years and has a 33 foot dive boat equipped for 15 divers. With access to more than 20 sites in the immediate area and several remote sites this is the preferred dive operation. Warm water year round make this an amazing dive destination.
There are a number of companies offering fishing charters and excursions out to the coasts of the island. Some will combine their outings with a hiking trip that includes some of the waterfalls.
On Nuku Hiva among the many villages, vistas, and archeological sites this island offers, you will find the second largets waterfall, the Ahuii Waterfall that drops 1148 feet. The waterfall can be reached by horseback or with a hiking guide. Built in 1977 the Notre Dame Cathedral of the Marquesas was constructed using stones from all the inhabited islands.
On Hiva Oat there is the Paul Gauguin Museum, Traditional Arts House, and the sacred site of Tohua Pepeu. You can also visit the grave of Paul Gauguin and others at Calvary Cemetery which is located behind Atuona Village. In the Paumau Valley is the home to the giant tikis at the I’ipona archeological site.
Marquesas Dining & Nightlife
Dining choices are limited to the hotels and villages of both islands.
La Pua Enana at Keikahanui Pearl Lodge
Located on at the hotel on Nuku Hiva, offers some of the best food on the island with sweeping panoramic views. The restaurant has creative French dishes influenced by Marquesan fare. An impressive international wine list and local fish, meats and produce bring together amazing tastes of the island. Le Tiki Bar offers exotic cocktails and a great place to unwind in paradise.
Chez Yvonne ( Hinako Nui)
Located in Hatiheu village on Nuku Hiva and is so popular it requires reservations. Fresh water shrimp and grilled lobster are not to be missed. Chez Yvonne is open for 3 meals a day and does not accept any credit cards.
This restaurant is located on the waterfront street of Taiohae Village on Nuku Hiva and is open daily except Sunday for 3 me3als a day. The restaurant offers a great selection of pizzas as well as local and French cuisine. Credit cards are accepted here.
Hankee Hiva Oa Pearl Lodge Restaurant
Located on Hiva Oa, offers some of the best food on the island with sweeping panoramic views. The restaurant also has creative French dishes influenced by Marquesan fare. Stocked again with an impressive international wine list and local fish, meats and produce bring together amazing tastes of the island.
This restaurant is located in Atuona Village, and is a great place to experience wonderful Marquesan feasts of Lobster, fresh water shrimp, macaroni fritters and other delicious local dishes. Reservations are recommended and the restaurant does not accept credit cards.
Located on Hiva Oa this restaurant serves 3 meals a day where food is served on their terrace which provides amazing views of Tahauku and Taaoa Bays. The offer great local cuisine and their more popular dishes include lobster and shrimp. Reservations are a must at this restaurant. Credit cards are accepted here.