Hatiheu is a graceful little village dominated by a crescent of black sand, soaring peaks and immaculate, colourful gardens; it’s no wonder that Robert Louis Stevenson succumbed to its charms when he passed through in 1888. On one of the peaks to the west, at a height of 300m, is a white statue of the Virgin Mary, erected in 1872. From Taipivai, follow the main road 7.
Of all the marvels that Nuku Hiva offers, few equal the awe-inspiring majesty of the Hakaui Valley, which slices through the basaltic landmass, west of the island. On either side of the canyon, vertical walls rise to nearly 800m and Vaipo Waterfall, the highest in French Polynesia at 350m, plummets into a natural swimming pool at the end of the valley.
‘Where am I?’ is probably what you’ll be wondering on reaching Toovii Plateau, which spreads out at an average altitude of 800m at the heart of the island. With its conifer forests and vast pastures where cattle graze, it seems straight out of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. The mountain setting and cooler climate can be a very welcome change from the muggy coastal areas.