The Marquesas are as wild and untamed as the horses roaming freely through their rugged terrain. 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. Flight time to get here from Tahiti is approximately 3.5 hours.
Why go? Known as Te Henua Enata, “The Land of Men,” these primitive islands will call to your innermost savage. 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.
The islands include Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa, Fatu Hiva, Ua Pou, Ua Huka, Tahuata and other small, uninhabited islands. Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa are the only two islands with hotel accommodations, and they are just a handful of pensions and guesthouses. The Marquesas, more than any other island in French Polynesia, beckon a very different type of traveler—one with an innate thirst for adventure. As you ride horseback through these wild and untamed landscapes, you will fall completely captive to their powerful and dreamlike qualities. For more information on the wonderful beaches of French Polynesia and the Marquesas Islands, click here.
Marquesas Islands Weather – When to Visit
The Marquesas Islands are closer to the equator than the rest of French Polynesia, so the climate is a bit different. Temperatures and humidity tend to be slightly higher than in Tahiti. There is no bad time to visit. Usually June to September sees heavier rain while November to March is drier (exactly opposite from the rest of French Polynesia) and they experience calmer seas (better for boat excursions and diving). In odd number years in December, try to catch the Marquesas Festival or mini Marquesas Festival.
Marquesas Islands Attractions
Iipona – Puamau
Iipona is one of the best-preserved archaeological sites in French Polynesia. You’ll be moved by its eeriness and impressed by the five monumental tiki – it pulsates with mana.
Kamuihei, Tahakia & Teiipoka – Nuku Hiva
These three connecting sites make up the largest excavated archaeological area of Nuku Hiva. With its large moss-covered basalt rocks and huge banyans, the largest of which has been estimated to be more than 600 years old, Kamuihei exudes spiritual power. A little higher, on Teiipoka, are two large rocks about 2.5 m high by 3 m wide and decorated with petroglyphs that represent turtles, fish and the eyes of a tiki, along with human figures. It’s estimated that the valley contains more than 500 other petroglyphs like these. On the other side of the track is the restored tohua Tahakia, one of the biggest in the Marquesas, as well as some pae pae.
Tohua Kuhoueva – Taiohae
This is a peaceful spot full of massive banyan trees and flowers. All the stone carvings are contemporary. This massive tohua (open-air gathering place) is just over 1.3k m up the Pakiu Valley on the Taipivai road, and 700 m along a dirt track. Turn east from the main road at the ‘Koueva’ sign.
Hanahevane Bay – Tahuata
This glorious bay is caressed by jade-green waters and is studded with a broad strand of golden sand. It’s a good picnic spot and has shallow, calm waters and a few coral formations, making it suitable for snorkeling. It’s accessible by boat only.
Hikokua – Hatiheu
One of the most powerful archaeological sites in the Marquesas, Hikokua was discovered by the archaeologist Robert Suggs in 1957 and has been restored and maintained by Hatiheu locals since 1987. It dates from around AD 1250 and was in use until the 1800s.
Calvaire Cemetery – Atuona
A must-see for Gauguin and Brel devotees is the Calvaire Cemetery, perched on a hill overlooking Atuona. You will find this frangipani-filled graveyard an appropriately colorful place for Paul Gauguin’s tomb. While most of the tombs are marked with white crosses, Gauguin’s is a simple round stone with his name painted in white. Right behind, a replica of his statue Oviri stands guard.
Tohua Mauia – Hohoi
Situated above the village, the magnificent Tohua Mauia comprises a huge L-shaped stone platform as well as numerous pae pae dotted around the main complex. Even if your interest in ruins is only slight, the enchanting setting and the almost mystical hush are reason enough to come here.
Tehueto Petroglyphs – Atuona
Anyone with an interest in ancient Marquesan civilization shouldn’t leave Atuona without a visit to the Tehueto petroglyphs. You’ll find a massive rock with prolific carvings on two sides, including stylized human figures.
Paeke – Nuku Hiva
Paeke features two well-preserved me’ae (traditional sacred sites) flanked by a set of brick-colored tiki. The me’ae further up the hill has a pit into which human remains were thrown. From the main road, it’s a 20-minute walk uphill on a path.
Meiaute – Ua Huka
High up in the valley of Hane, the site of Meiaute includes three 1m-high, red-tuff tiki that watch over a group of stone structures, pae paeand me’ae, which are partly overgrown. Two of these tiki have projecting ears, one has legs and a phallus, while the other two have only a head and trunk.
Things to Do in the Marquesas Islands
Marquises Excursions Private Tours
Tours in nuku hiva with a boat, 4×4 or on foot. Trip to see the Hakaui waterfall, the valley ( taipivai, hatiheu, anaho …), archaeological sites and Sandy Bay. Small trek over the crest of the small volcano. Telephone: 689 87 73 23 48 Web: Marquises Excursions Private Tours
Pacific Water Sports Nuku Hiva
Paddles and Kayak rental. Kaoha harmed, I propose the rental of water equipment (stand up paddles and kayaks) in the beautiful quiet bays of Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas. For sport or fun, spend a magical moment in the heart of Taiohae Bay heart of an ancient volcano.Excursion possible on Taipivai. Telephone: 689 87 28 82 47 Web: Pacific Water Sports Nuku Hiva
Nuku Hiva Tours
They are an independent tour operator and limit their tour to a maximum of 12 guests in three cars. All drivers speak English. They leave at 9:00 am and are normally back by 4:00 pm. You will see the major sites around the island and stop for lunch at the famous Chez Yvonne’s. Telephone: 689 40 92 07 50 Web: Nuku Hiva Tours
Nuku Hiva Adventures
They offer different activities starting with your pick up from the airport to your hotel. They also do excursions in 4×4 around the island and can also personalized your tour. All you need to do is ask and they will do their best to satisfy your wishes. Telephone: 689 87 26 83 30 Web: Nuku Hiva Adventures
Marquises Diving Hiva Oa
Marquesas Diving invites you to explore the underwater world of the islands of Hiva Oa and Tahuata to observe the many Manta rays that live here. Marquises Diving also offers you to dive into the heart of the Marquesan culture during an excursion, just after the dives, on the island of Tahuata. Telephone: 689 87 24 19 95 Web: Marquises Diving Hiva Oa
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 Hotels
Nuku Hiva Keikahanui Pearl Lodge
Located in a magnificent tropical garden, the Keikahanui Nuku Hiva Pearl Lodge 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.
Pension Mave Mai
The hotel features 6 beautifully appointed guest rooms, many of which include linens, towels, non smoking rooms, air conditioning, wake-up service. Besides, the hotel’s host of recreational offerings ensures you have plenty to do during your stay.
Featuring a garden and a terrace, Chalets Hanakee provides accommodations in Atuona with free WiFi and sea views. The chalet has 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a dining area, a fully equipped kitchen, and a balcony with garden views. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room visit Chalets Hanakee.
Maison Heipua à Hiva Oa
Located on the beachfront, this property features a garden, a shared lounge, barbecue facilities and free WiFi. The vacation home has 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, a flat-screen TV with cable channels, a dining area, a fully equipped kitchen, and a balcony with garden views. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room visit Maison Heipua a Hiva Oa.
Pension Villa Enata
At the guesthouse, every room comes with a balcony with a pool view. With a private bathroom equipped with a shower, rooms at Pension Villa Enata also provide guests with free WiFi, while some rooms here will provide you with a patio. All guest rooms include a closet. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room visit Pension Villa Enata.