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Introducing Nuku Hiva

The wow factor kicks in fast when you land on the airstrip at Terre Déserte (Desert Land) at Nuku Hiva’s northwestern tip and head for Taiohae, the ‘capital’ of the Marquesas. The 4WD transfer along innumerable twists and turns offers drama, seemingly around every other bend, with stunning landscapes and explosive vistas. This huge, sparsely populated island (the second largest in French Polynesia after Tahiti) boasts a fantastic terrain, with razor-edged basaltic cliffs pounded by crashing waves, deep bays blessed with Robinson Crusoe–like beaches, dramatic waterfalls and timeless valleys that feel like the end of the world.

Horse riding is top notch and there’s exceptional hiking, too. Diving is also available and if you want to watch a pod of melon-headed whales, Nuku Hiva is your answer. And culture? The island has a gobsmacking portfolio of archaeological sites, with more tiki (sacred statues) and tohua (open-air gathering places) than you can count, and there are some beautiful handicrafts available.

With daily flights from Pape’ete and good connections to other islands in the archipelago, there’s no excuse not to spend at least three (preferably four) days here to do the island justice.