This huge, sparsely populated island (the second largest in French Polynesia after Tahiti) boasts a terrain of razor-edged basaltic cliffs pounded by crashing waves, deep bays blessed with shimmering, Robinson Crusoe–like beaches, dramatically tall waterfalls and lush, green valleys that feel like the end of the world. Timeless little Taiohae, with its bay bobbing with sailboats and tattooed locals trotting through town on horseback, is the marvellous ‘capital’ of the Marquesas.
The island has a fascinating portfolio of archaeological sites, with more tiki (sacred statues) and tohua (open-air gathering places) than you can count, while the ancient, rock-pile ruins of house foundations called pae pae seem to inhabit every stretch of forest. Horse riding is top notch, there’s exceptional hiking and there are some beautiful handicrafts available to help you remember it all.
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.