Want to have a beautiful, mystical, relaxing vacation that’s far away from everyone else in the world? The Marquesas Islands might just be what you’re looking for.
The Marquesas archipelago in French Polynesia is literally the most remote group of islands in the world. It covers 15 islands, of which 6 are inhabited: Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa, Fatu Hiva, Ua Pou, Ua Huka, and Tahuata. They offer fantastic mountains, waterfalls, beaches, ocean activities, and welcoming locals.
From historical sites to natural beauty, there’s a little something for everyone, but not everyone has time to spend on every single island. That’s a problem we’re here to fix. In this post, we will be talking about 6 Captivating Marquesas Islands to Visit, so when you get there, you know exactly which ones you want to spend your time in!
We were fortunate to experience all the islands twice and to get to know their great nature, culture, and people in more detail. They are all so worth a visit.
So, welcome to the lesser-known islands of French Polynesia or, as the locals say, Bienvenue dans la Polynésie Française méconnue! PS: Since the islands are so remote from tourism and many locals do not speak English, it helps to have basic knowledge of French!
1. Nuku Hiva
Nuku Hiva is one of those places that just don’t even seem real. It’s literally known for being the most beautiful island of all six. So it has to be on your list of Marquesas islands to visit.
Although, it’s also one that’s not really that easy to get to. It’s located 870 miles from Tahiti, so a direct flight is the best way to get there. The distance also makes going there reasonably expensive, so that’s something to keep in mind. However, the rest of the trip can be cheaper if you choose suitable accommodation and skip the super expensive exploring trips.
Once you arrive there, you’ll have to take a taxi from the remote airport to the heart of the island. The local community here is relatively tight-knit, as only around 3000 people live on the entire island! This is a diverse island, where you could stay in a family-owned “pension” or a luxury hotel depending on the type of experience you’re after.
While you’re there, you can explore the Grand Canyon, go swimming, scuba diving, hiking, or hunting. That’s not all you can do and even visit the Vaipo Waterfall, which is the highest waterfall in all of French Polynesia! Between all the adventure, you have little villages where you can have local food and even get some handmade art. If you end up visiting around festival season, you can even see their local culture and sports first hand, which makes the whole experience a lot more special!
2. Hiva Oa
While Nuku Hiva may be the “main” island, the other 5 have a lot going for them too! Hiva Oa is usually the island people like to visit alongside Nuku Hiva and to get here. You’d also be best off taking the direct flight from Tahiti. Once you’re there, you can start exploring pretty much right away!
This island has a population of around 2200, which is even smaller than that of Nuku Hiva. But that only adds to how connected the locals are to their culture. Because of that, you get to choose between lots of different types of tours where you can see the archeological ruins, visit the Hakaui Falls, try out the discovery tours and even go exploring underwater.
The Marquesas are considered the origin of tattoo art. The islands’ tattoo artists, especially those of Hiva Oa, enjoy an excellent reputation worldwide for their fine traditional skin art. So if you’ve ever thought about getting a tattoo, this is the place to do it.
One of the top places you need to see on this island is The Cathedral of Notre Dame of Marquesas. And also visit the graves of two famous sons of the Marquesas, Paul Gauguin and Jaques Brel. Both are buried under Frangipani trees on a hill with an incredible view over Ta’aoa Bay.
You can also stay at a locally owned pension or opt for a luxurious stay at the Hanakee Lodge. How much you end up spending would depend on the type of stay you end up going for and the activities you take part in. But since getting there is pretty pricey, you might want to keep a higher budget for the whole trip overall to be on the safer side.
3. Fatu Hiva
Fatu Hiva is around 50 miles away from Hiva Oa, but it’s only accessible by boat, so you’d have to get to either Nuku Hiva or Hiva Oa first and then take a ship to Fatu Hiva. Around 600 people live here, so the experience here becomes even more personal here, which means that staying at a pension here would be a lovely way to immerse yourself in the local culture!
There are several archeologist sites throughout the island with their own histories, which just shouldn’t be missed. Apart from that, the Bay of the Virgins is a popular natural site too. However, everyone should check out the one thing at least once is the traditional tapa cloth-making areas. If you’re lucky enough, you could get one to take home too! Apart from that, you can visit two main villages, Omoa and Hanavave, and see all the natural beauty between them on the way!
This is a slightly cheaper island to visit when compared to the other 2, but there is also less to do here, so that is something to factor in while planning your stay.
4. Ua Pou
Ua Pou is, again, an island that’s only going to be accessible through boats. It’s a must on the list of Marquesas Islands to visit because of the hypnotizingly bizarre landscape. The island currently houses around 2200 people and is one of the more densely populated islands, which also means there are a lot of unique Pensions you could stay in. So accommodation isn’t really a problem there.
This is one of those islands that are so untouched that it is best to explore with a local guide accompanying you. That’s because a lot of the routes are unmarked, and it’s kind of difficult to find your way back if you get lost.
Apart from island tours, hiking excursions take you deep within the island, and when you reach the end of the trail, some views just can’t be explained in words! If you’re an avid lover of birds, the island even has a whole section so densely populated with birds that it’s called “bird island.” For those looking for a unique souvenir, getting a flowered stone of Ho Hoi would be the perfect thing!
Since this island is very remote, expect it to be on the more expensive side. However, you can cut costs by going for un-guided tours and renting a four-wheel drive instead of paying for trips around the island.
Overall, this is the perfect island to go to if you’re looking to enjoy some calm, beautiful views that are unlike any other.
5. Ua Huka
If you like horses, there’s no better place for you to visit than Ua Huka. To get here, you’ll have to get a boat, so it’s going to be a little bit of a journey to get there.
Even though this is a minor island in the archipelago, it is populated by 600 people and heaps of horses! The horses literally outnumber the people, which means that if there’s a horse-related activity you want to try out, this is the place to do it!
Other than the horses and the views, this is a place that’s meant for people that like to dive into a place’s history. That’s because most of the activities on this island are related to museums. Archeological museum of Vaipaee, the Geology Museum, Sea Museum, and the Petroglyph museum, so you could easily spend several days in and still have places to learn about! But while you’re at it, you should also swing by the Vaipee botanical gardens and the cultural center too to see a glimpse of all the wonders the island has to offer.
Since there is very limited accommodation available here, it runs slightly on the pricier side. However, the prices do change up throughout the year, so if you book early enough, you might be able to score a good deal!
Tahuata may be the smallest of all of the Marquesas Islands, with only 600 people living there, but it surely packs a punch when it comes to the beauty of it all. The island is split into four villages, and each of them has its own “special place” that you can visit.
There are bays, beaches, forests, and pathways that date back to the 1500s. Each place you visit will feel like a whole other island of its own. Each of the locations has its history that you can explore! One of the most captivating things about the entire island is the century-old Tamanu trees that hang over the waters—adding that final little touch on an already beautiful landscape! If you look closely, you’ll even see Tikis outside of most homes and establishments that just bring this stark comparison of the old and new, all at once.
What’s crazy is that although the island is about natural beauty and connecting with history, there are several luxury hotels and vacation homes you can choose from. Although, if you’re looking for a more homey experience, there are always local pensions you can try out too!
Captivating Marquesas Islands To Visit: Travel With The Iconic Aranui
If you want to comfortably visit the majority of the Marquesas islands, you could even book a trip on the Aranui5. This is essentially a cargo ship that brings supplies to the islands, but it also has a luxury travel compartment. Staying onboard will allow you to see many of the islands in one trip! Although you may not experience each island fully because it is more of an island-hopping experience, it is an unbelievable once-in-a-lifetime journey.
The View Awaits!
Now that you’re equipped with all the knowledge you might need about the six gorgeous Marquesas Islands to Visit, you can pick the islands that work with your vacationing plans the best! No matter which of these islands you end up picking, you’re going to have an absolute blast on your entire vacation. So what are you waiting for? Pack up your bags and get exploring!
If you are interested in more…
Would you like to learn more about French Polynesia and how it compares to a couple of other South Pacific Islands?
We have more for you in our posts about the Cook Islands vs. French Polynesia, Tahiti Or Rarotonga, or Moorea Or Rarotonga.
And not to forget about the world’s two most beautiful atolls: Bora Bora (French Polynesia) vs. Aitutaki (Cook Islands.)