Hiva Oa Main


It's never been all that easy to get to Hiva Oa - and that was part of the attraction for the likes of Paul Gauguin (who came here to escape the "Western influences" in the Tahiti of 1901), and Thor Heyerdahl (who, a decade before sailing Kon Tiki across the Pacific, came here with his young bride to live the "simple life. " And some things haven't changed - particularly the drop-dead natural beauty of the Marquesas Islands.

The most northern island group in French Polynesia, (nearly a thousand miles from Tahiti), the Marquesas are rugged volcanic islands: There is no barrier reef here, so the surf crashes against a rocky shoreline punctuated by stunning, fjord-like bays. In the valleys of the mountainous interiors, wild horses (and cattle and goats) run free, and the relatively small number of visitors has forestalled development of any major resort.

On the two largest islands in the chain, Nuku Hiva (the most populous, with only about 2,000 residents) and Hiva Oa, ways to pass the time include horseback riding (the unofficial national pastime), hiking (to archaeological sites and waterfalls), fishing, and diving (lots of underwater caves, and sizable manta ray and shark populations). These are not islands for serious shoppers (although the wood carvings, with intricate ancestral designs, are among the finest in Oceania) or party animals (nightlife is centered around the hotel bars), but for someone looking for a French Polynesia that hasn't met the digital age, the Marquesas are waiting...