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.
In the Marquesas Islands, the month of January is characterized by essentially constant daily high temperatures, with daily highs around 87°F throughout the month, rarely exceeding 89°F or dropping below 83°F. Daily low temperatures are around 76°F, rarely falling below 74°F or exceeding 79°F. For reference, on March 24, the hottest day of the year, temperatures typically range from 77°F to 88°F, while on August 2, the coldest day of the year, they range from 71°F to 83°F.
Below is a list of the airports and where they are located. Travel documents for entry into French Polynesia: Each passenger is solely responsible for obtaining and carrying the correct travel documentation, including a valid passport, Visa (if applicable), sufficient funds to cover length of stay, and medical information (if applicable). Always make sure that the way your name appears on the airline ticket matches your passport. It is also advisable that the other documentation you carry matches your passport name and that you identify yourself by the nationality on your passport. Make sure your passport is valid for the required time beyond your travel dates. Be advised, certain countries require a passport to be valid for six months beyond the date of departure. So it is a good rule of thumb to make sure your passport is valid for 6 months past your departure date from the islands. Here are the airports in the Marquesas Islands:
- Nuku Hiva Airport
- Atuona Airport
- Ua Huka Airport
Renting a car is not cheap. The prices fluctuate, so check out a few websites before you book your rental. I would say the average cost is about $400/week. Check with your insurance company and credit card about Collision Damage Waiver coverage to make sure you are covered in the case of an accident. Bring a hard copy of your reservation. Most of the cars available to rent are tiny and may not be large enough to fit a family of four and their bags. Always try to book the second to smallest car, and it will still have barely enough room for three people and bags (light baggage). If you have a larger family, make sure the car you book is large enough to fit all of you and your bags. Is it worth it to rent a car? It depends on your family. If you plan to take daily excursions on booked tours or you don’t want to leave your resort, you don’t need a car. If you want to explore, stock up on groceries at the supermarket, visit the local food trucks or less expensive restaurants, you should rent a car, at least for a few days. If you crave independence and like to eat dinner outside your resort on most nights, rent a car for your entire stay.
Getting Around the Islands
The most affordable way to visit several islands is with an Air Tahiti Pass. These passes connect islands of the same archipelago, or two different archipelagos, while extensions to the far-flung Marquesas and Austral islands can be added on to the other passes. The cheapest is the Discovery Pass, connecting Moorea with Huahine and Raiatea, but many other combinations are available. Those purchasing a pass must complete their travel within 28 days and only visit each island once; however, not all islands have to be visited. Passes offer good value when compared with multiple point-to-point air tickets.
Restaurants & Bars – Top Picks
$-Inexpensive $$-Moderate $$$-Pricey $$$$-Ultra High End
$$ Restaurant Hoa Nui
This is the only restaurant on the island of Hiva Oa. Great crayfish and nice views. For more information call them at 689 87 77 77 03, or visit them on Facebook at Restaurant Hoa Nui.
$$ Hiva Oa Hanakee Pearl Lodge, Restaurant
Quite a surprise with good food and great people! For more information call them at 689 92 75 87, or visit them on the web at Hiva Oa Pearl Lodge Restaurant.
Snack Make Make
Opposite the post office, this long-standing, very friendly joint serves everything from burgers and chow mein to curried goat and garlic shrimp. Smaller (read: normal-sized) portions are available of many dishes for only 950 CFP. Cash only. For more information call 689 40 92 74 26, or visit them on TripAdvisor at Snack Make Make.
$$ Bella Pizza
Best pizza ever.. they deliver within 30 minutes! Be careful of their margaritas … they are strong! For more information call 689 87 23 29 66, or visit them at Bella Pizza.
$$ – $$$ Yvonne’s
Yvonne is an institution on the island (Nuku Hiva). All the dishes are delicious and the portions are HUGE. The prices are not the cheapest, but great food, good people and humongous portions. For more information call 689 92 02 97, or visit them on TripAdvisor at 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. The service is slow and not quite as friendly as elsewhere on the island, but this mid-range priced restaurant is good value and a nice change from the pure local fare (mostly tuna in various forms, and stews). For more information call 689 92 03 30, or visit them on TripAdvisor at Restaurant Moana Nui.
Things to Do (Nuku Hiva)
Richard Temarama offers various tours in collaboration with local partners, to introduce you to the Marquesan landscape in various ways. Hiking, horseback riding, and 4×4 tours. You can visit the waterfall Vaipo, visit Hakaui Bay, as well as discover archaeological remains. For more information call 689 28 08 36, or visit them on the web at Temarama Tour.
Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral is a 20th-century church that serves as the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Taiohae o Tefenuaenata. It is located in the Meau Valley near the capital city on the island of Nuku Hiva. This striking building is built from wood and stones on a former sacred site venerated by the ancient Marquesans. The stones come from the archipelago’s six inhabited islands. Pop in to see Marquesan carved religious figures or come for Sunday service at 8am for hauntingly beautiful harmonies. For more information visit their Facebook page at Notre Dame Cathedral.
Tours in Nuku Hiva by boat, 4×4 or on foot. Tours to see the Hakaui Waterfall, the valley (Taipivai, Hatiheu, Anaho …), archaeological sites and Sandly bay. Also take a tour over the crest of the small volcano. For more information call 689 73 23 48, or visit them on the web at Marquises Excursionist.
Things to Do (Hiva Oa)
This ancient religious complex is shrouded in mystery and stacked with giant tikistatues. The largest is well over 2.50 meters and one of them even has six fingers! Who made them? How? Why? What do they depict? Nobody really knows to this day but you just have to see it for yourself! For information (tour with Marches Islands Tours) call 39 06 94341079, or visit them on the web at Marches Islands Tours.
Espace Culturel Paul Gauguin Museum
A homage to Gauguin that traces the artist’s life through locally painted reproductions of his art. The main signs are translated into English but the detailed info with tidbits about the individual works, alas, are only in French. The Maison du Jouir (House of Pleasure) is an abandoned-looking replica of Gauguin’s house with a lifelike statue of the artist inside. For more information visit their website at Espace Culturel Paul Gauguin.
Hike To Hanatekuua Beach
This dream of a beach seems to be caressed by the palms of a giant hand. A tough decision needs to now be made… should you savour the aerial views from up top, or start to make your way down to the golden sand? You might have this paradise all to yourself, but you might get lucky and meet a few locals down at the beach. It’s your chance to get to know authentic Marquesan Islanders, and maybe even get a ride back on their tiny boat!
Paul Gauguin Cruises (Tahuata Island For The Day)
Tahuata is the smallest inhabited island in the Marquesas and just happens to be a quick boat ride from Hiva Oa, making it a perfect option for an adventurous day trip. Enjoy the scenic ride to the island, often accompanied by manta rays, and visit the sleepy village of Hapatoni. You’ll walk along the ancient ‘royal road’, meet locals artists and see what it was like to sacrifice humans back in the day. For more information on cruises to Tahuata call 1-800-848-6172 or visit them on the web at Paul Gauguin Cruises.
The Calvary Cemetary
Hiva Oa may be a sleepy little South Pacific island, but it was home to two mega celebrities, believe it or not. Belgian poet/singer/actor Jacques Brel and French painter Paul Gauguin, both spent their final years in paradise. A pilgrimage to their final resting spot is a must for any visitor the island. From ‘downtown’ Atuona, head up the hill to the Calvary Cemetery, where Gauguin and Brel rest among common islanders and former Christian missionaries. The view from up here is superb, as is just about any spot on the island.