The Best of the Marquesas Islands – Imagine seeing rays of sunshine filter through the clouds over sharp mountain peaks, creating a scene you’ve only experienced in a photo or painting. Luscious islands emerge from the Pacific Ocean, a land of history and legends, each one more fascinating and unforgettable than the last. Welcome to the magnificent Marquesas Islands. The Marquesas are an archipelago located 932 miles northeast of Tahiti and spread out over 12 islands, of which only six are inhabited. Unlike the other islands in French Polynesia, there are no lagoons or protected coral reefs surrounding these landscapes. Instead, steep volcanic mountains plunge straight into the pounding Pacific Ocean, while jagged ridges lay interspersed between deep valleys and thriving jungles. The Marquesas Archipelago is one of the most remote island groups in the world. These distant volcanic islands are located farther away from a continental landmass than any other island in existence. They are so isolated they even have their own time zone.
Why go? You can explore their rugged terrain and discover a land that few people have seen before you. Throughout the islands, there are many archaeological and ceremonial sites including houses, shrines, stone statues, agricultural terraces and burial grounds that testify to the existence of an ancient civilization. For more information on the wonderful beaches of French Polynesia and the Marquesas Islands, click here, or visit us on Pinterest.
Marquesas Islands Weather – When to Visit
The archipelago of the Marquesas is much closer to the Equator than the rest of French Polynesia; hence its climate slightly differs from Tahiti and the other islands, it tends to be hotter. Generally speaking, the northern Marquesas Islands (including Nuku Hiva) are drier, and the southern Marquesas Islands (Hiva Oa & Tahuata) are wetter.
The rainy season is from January to the beginning of March, which is also when the temperatures are at the hottest with an average of 28°C. The common recommendation is to visit the Marquesas Islands between September and December.
In my case, at the end of September:
- in Hiva Oa, I had one full day of rain for two with an average temperature of 25 C.
- In Nuku Hiva, I only saw the sun, but due to the altitude, the temperature varied from 30°C at the sea level to 18°C at 1,200 m.
Water temperatures remain stable between 27 and 29°C all year long. From a marine life point of view, you might want to consider these migratory seasons:
- From July to September, it is the hammerhead shark season. Indeed, I saw one at Kui Point.
- From October to December, it is the humpback whale season. Indeed, I heard a male singing on my 2nd dive.
- From November to April, it is the melon-headed whale season. For this, I will need to come back!
The Islands of the Marquesas
On Nuku Hiva, excursions include trips to Hakaui, where a hike can be undertaken to visit a waterfall, or to Taipivai, the “Typee” of Melville’s writings. Taiohae is also a pleasant village for strolling, where one is just as likely to encounter a wayward horse nibbling grass at the bus stop as a local resident stopping into a local shop or pizza joint.
Near the pier, there’s an artisanal center where local craftsmen sell their wares, with a focus on Marquesan wood carvings—a skill for which the islands’ master carvers are renowned throughout the Pacific. There are also produce stalls and a snack bar.
Four-wheel drive excursions are also popular on rugged Nuku Hiva, to various points on the island to visit archaeological sites and enjoy the vistas from scenic overlooks at many points on this mountainous island.
Any and all excursions are arranged through hotels or pensions, and it’s customary to book them upon arrival in Nuku Hiva as availability and conditions can vary.
On Hiva Oa, a popular excursion is a day trip by boat to the neighboring island of Tahuata. As you explore the town of Vaitahu (which features an impressive stone church) and the hamlet of Hapatoni (renowned for its wood carvers and local crafts), your guide will share aspects of Marquesan culture. The tours typically include a stop at a beach for lunch and snorkeling before returning to Hiva Oa.
Another popular excursion is a quick trip through the village of Atuona to see sights pertaining to its two most famous denizens: the painter Paul Gauguin and singer Jacques Brel, both of whom are buried in the island’s small cemetery. The Paul Gauguin Cultural Center in Atuona sits on the site of the painter’s house, and includes an air-conditioned gallery of replica works by the artist. The grounds feature a replica of his house (the original wood entrance arch—carved by Gauguin himself—is at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris). A nearby hangar houses JoJo, the private aircraft of Jacques Brel, alongside historic displays (in French) of the singer’s career.
Best Maquesas Islands Restaurants
Ti Piero – Hakahetau
This family-run eatery does a wonderful job of preparing well-executed international specialties with a true Marquesan touch. Go the chèvre de sept heures (goat cooked for seven hours) and breadfruit rolls. A good place to recharge the batteries after the Hakahau–Hakahetau walk. Telephone: 689 40 92 55 82
Snack Kaupe – Chez Kahu
Blink and you’ll miss this discreet venture conveniently positioned across from Espace Culturel Paul Gauguin. No culinary extravaganza here, just a few classics faultlessly prepared (grilled sirloin, grilled fish, shrimps with tomato sauce). Kahu himself is something of a star in the Marquesas – he’s one of the best Haka Manu (Bird’s Dance) dancers. Telephone: 689 40 92 71 61
Hotel Hanakéé Pearl Lodge Restaurant Hiva Oa
Probably the number-one spot for fine dining in Hiva Oa, and certainly the most suitable place for a romantic soirée. The sweeping views from the terrace are impressive enough, but the excellent French-influenced cuisine is better still, and makes imaginative use of the island’s rich produce. Telephone: 689 40 92 75 87 Web: Hotel Hanakee Pearl Lodge Restaurant.
Bella Pizza – Taiohae
Best pizza ever.. they deliver within 30 minutes! Be careful of their margaritas … they are strong! Telephone: 689 87 23 29 66 Web: Bella Pizza.
Chez Yvonne’s Nuku Hiva
Yvonne is an institution on the island. All the dishes are delicious and the portions are HUGE. The prices are not the cheapest, but great food, good people and humongous portions. Telephone: 689 92 02 97 Web: Yvonne’s.
Restaurant Moana Nui
Located on the piece of road that faces the shore, this small restaurant has the advantage of being one of only 5 eating places in Taiohae. Pizzas and rather good French food is served either inside or on the large terrace fronting the sea. Telephone: 689 92 03 30 Web: Restaurant Moana Nui.
Best Marquesas Islands Accommodations
Hanakee Lodge – Hiva Oa
If you’re looking for a family-friendly hotel in Hiva Oa, look no further than Hanakee Lodge Hiva Oa. Wifi is offered to guests, and rooms at Hanakee Lodge Hiva Oa offer air conditioning and a minibar. During your stay, take advantage of some of the amenities offered, including a concierge, currency exchange, and baggage storage. Guests of Hanakee Lodge Hiva Oa are also welcome to enjoy a pool and a lounge, located on site. For travelers arriving by car, free parking is available. Hiva Oa is also home to Gauguin Museum, a popular history museum that is not too far from Hanakee Lodge Hiva Oa. The staff at Hanakee Lodge Hiva Oa looks forward to serving you during your upcoming visit. More Hanakee Lodge Hiva Oa Information Here.
Pension Villa Enata – Hiva Oa
Kaoha Nui! Welcome to the “Villa Enata” guesthouse. Ideally situated 3-min drive away from the village of Atuona and 10-min drive from the airport, located in calm and fresh surroundings, on the heights of Tahauku, Villa Enata provides you with a stunning panoramic view of the mountains and the sea. With us, the ambiance is laid back. You will be welcomed warmly and our only concern will be to make your stay pleasurable thanks to a quality accommodation including on request catering. Two luminous rooms with private bathrooms are available in the main house and can accommodate respectively 5 and 2 guests. Two independent bungalows (room and bathroom) are also available next to the pool and can accommodate 4 and 2 guests. You will surely appreciate our lounge too, next to the pool, where you will be able to have a drink or simply relax with a good book. More Pension Villa Enata Hiva Oa Information Here.
Pension Areke Chez Kayser – Hiva Oa
Get your trip off to a great start with a stay at this property, which offers car park free of charge. Conveniently situated in the Hiva Oa part of Marquesas Islands, this property puts you close to attractions and interesting dining options. Don’t leave before paying a visit to the famous Ua Huka Airport. Restaurant and outdoor pool are among the special facilities that will enhance your stay with on-site convenience. More Pension Areke Chez Kayser Information Here.
Le Nuku Hiva by Pearl Resorts – Nuka Hiva
The value of time is the first and foremost gift that the Marquesas offers to travelers. Located in a magnificent tropical garden, Le Nuku Hiva by Pearl Resorts overlooks the bay and village of Taiohae and the black sandy beach lying 50 steps below. Each bungalow are built with local materials and each of them have carvings by a different artist from the Marquesas Islands. Appreciate this typical atmosphere found in the Marquesas with modern comforts. More Le Nuka Hiva by Pearl Resorts Information Here.