The isolation of the Marquesas Islands has created an immense pride among the people and a fascinating culture. The islands are about a three hour flight from the Society Islands or the Tuamotu Atolls and are home to natural wonders such as 1000-foot waterfalls and towering mountains.

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About the Marquesas Islands

General Information About the Marquesas Islands

About a three hour flight from the Society Islands and the Tuamotu Atolls, the Marquesas, or Henua Enata meaning "Land of Men", are seemingly lost at the end of the earth.

Even now, some of the islands are virtually untouched since the era of European exploration. Their isolation has created an immense pride among the people and a fascinating culture. The language is unique to Tahiti, as the lilting Marquesan dialect is traced directly to the ancient Polynesian tongue of Maohi.

Natural wonders abound as 1000-foot waterfalls cascade down sheer volcanic cliffs, and towering mountains disappear into the clouds.

The primary islands with lodging are:

Nuku Hiva (Mystic Island) – The largest island in the Marquesas is known for towering spire-like peaks; secluded, lush valleys; ancient religious sites; fjord-like bays; and waterfalls so high that most of the falling water evaporates as it descends.

Hiva Oa (Paul Gauguin's Island) – This majestic and historic island is known for its wild, untamed landscape, giant stone tiki, endless and unearthly vistas, and as the final resting place of poet Jacques Brel and artist Paul Gauguin.

Things to do on the Marquesas Islands

  • Exploration of the high mountains, remote beaches, hidden waterfalls, and deep forests by a 4x4 safari truck, sailboat, or even on horseback.
  • Discovery of the archaeological sites of stone Tiki, ancient dwellings, and petroglyphs.
  • Enchantment from the simple and warm Marquesan people with a history unique among any civilization on earth.
  • Enjoyment of shopping for sculptures in tiny studios and craft centers.
  • Relaxation with the peaceful ambience and delicious cuisine found at the simple, yet elegant lodges set on the hillsides overlooking the bays.
  • 4X4 Safaris into the spectacular valleys and panoramic landscape.
  • Tomb of Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel.
  • Guided hikes into Hakaui Valley and among giant Tiki.
  • Diving in the deep waters with hammerhead, manta rays, and whales.
  • Taaoa Valley Archeological Sites.
  • Puamau Stone Sculptures and Tiki

Cultural Center – The Paul Gauguin Cultural Center opened in 2003 on the 100th anniversary of Gauguin's death. Located on land bought by Gauguin, the center's exhibition of reproductions leads the visitor through three sections themed around quotes attributed to the artist: "escaping to reach art", "the right to dare anything in art", and "becoming part of a primitive culture."

Archaeological Discovery Safaris – Hidden in the theatre of mountains of the Marquesas is a mother lode of ancient sacred sites including ceremonial complexes, stone temples, and tiki statues. On Nuku Hiva, Taipivai Valley is home to temples and large tiki, while the village of Hatiheu is home to the famous Kamuihei and Hikoku sites known for their petroglyphs and ruins. On Hiva Oa, an immense ceremonial complex in Taaoa Valley has been restored and offers a unique view of the fierce and proud Marquesan heritage.

Woodcarving – Famous for intricate woodcarvings, Marquesans apply ancestral designs seen nowhere else on earth. Carved from precious native woods such as rosewood and purplewood, Marquesan bowls, plates, and statues are highly prized the world over. These treasures can be bought throughout the islands directly from the artists at their studios.

Adventure Cruising – As if living out a classic South Seas seafaring novel, the most unique way to see the Marquesas is aboard the new Aranui 3 freighter/passenger ship. This working cargo ship is the lifeline to the outside world for the inhabitants of these remote islands. Passengers observe the exchange of supplies, copra, dried coconut, and fruit in addition to exploring each of the islands on guided excursions. The 16-day voyage begins in Papeete and includes 17 ports-of-call in the Marquesas and Tuamotu Islands.

For more information on where to stay and what to do, visit our Marquesas Islands directory.

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Pacific Tourism Guide and NZTG.