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.
Mesuring 330 km2 , Nuku Hiva is the biggest island of the Marquesas archipelago, and the second largest island of French polynesia. Its beauty seen from the air or from the sea is breathtaking.The airport is situated on the north west point of the island. Taiohae, the administrative capital of the marquesas is reached by helicopter (10 min flight) or by comfortable 4x4 cars.(1 1/2 hours) In both cases , the trip is spectacular and impressive.
The north coast ,one of the most beautiful of Polynesia, is dominated by spectacular basalt pinnacles.This is where the villages of Hatiheu, Aakapa and the bay of Anaho are found. Also to be seen is the Hakaui waterfall, situated at the end of an ancient royale valley, and the village of Taipivai, where Herman Melville resided.
Getting To and Around the Island of Nuku Hiva
Getting to and around the Marquesas is a unique experience. Operating seven days a week, Air Tahiti provides to Nuku Hiva with a 3-1/2 hour flight from Papeete. Weekly service is also offered to Nuku Hiva from Bora Bora and Rangiroa. Continuing flights and helicopter charters connect Nuku Hiva to Hiva Oa with several weekly 35-minute flights. Several inter-island vessels are in operation, however they are seldom used by visitors.
The Aranui 3, and several inter-island vessels offer service between the primary islands.
Always an adventure, travel to and from the airport should be scheduled by your preferred travel professional or by your hotel. Depending on road conditions and the location of your hotel, airport transfers can either be by boat, horse, 4x4 truck or by helicopter from Héli inter Marquises.
Travel around the islands requires planning as well. Although 4x4 rental vehicles are available, it is advisable to hire a guide to negotiate the steep, rugged, and unfamiliar roads occasionally used by herds of wild horses. Around the islands, motorboat rentals offer an enjoyable way to explore the dramatic bays and shoreline.
Dining on the Island of Nuku Hiva
The best dining is found at the restaurants at the Nuku Hiva Keikahanui Pearl Lodge which features a sweeping panoramic view from every table.
This restaurant have creative French dishes influenced by Marquesan fare. An impressive international wine list compliments the ambience while the views overlooking the mountains and bays.
Traditional Marquesan cuisine can also be enjoyed on Nuku Hiva in the villages of Taiohae, Taipivai, and Hatiheu, and on Hiva Oa in Atuona and Puamau.
For the visitor, Nuku Hiva means a lot of possibilities:
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
Other activities and sites throughout Nuku Hiva:
- 4X4 Safaris into the spectacular valleys and panoramic landscape.
- Ancient and sacred sites with petroglyphs.
- Guided hikes into Hakaui Valley and among giant Tiki.
- Diving in the deep waters with hammerhead, manta rays, and whales.
- Puamau Stone Sculptures & Tiki
Found on the north coast, this was the favourite bay of the writer Louis Stevenson.A statue of the virgin was hoisted up to a height of 300 m to the top of a basalt pinnacle which dominates the bay. Numerous tohuas have been restored , and many traditional homes rebuilt.Some dances are organised to take place on certain occassions.
One of the least visited villages of the island, dominated by basalt peaks which make up some of the most beautiful scenery of Nuku Hiva. Many archeological sites. A road is under construction to tie the village directly to the airport.
PLATEAU DE TOOVII
Woodland (planted pine trees), this high altitude plateau is the only cool area of Nuku Hiva. It is a privileged walking area for the inhabitants of the islands. The mountain Muake is the take off area for the paragliders of Taiohae and the base of the radio relay system. Magnificent views.
One hours walk from Hatiheu, this is one of the most beautiful bays of Polynesia. White sand, coconut trees surrounded by scenery of mountains, and imposing cliffs, which marvel each visitor.
Even if you have seen hundreds of waterfalls, the Hakaui waterfall will seduce you , not only because of its height (350 m) but also by the cliffs that surround it, where many sea birds nest and by the ancient path , bordered by many paepaes decorated by tikis, which merit a detour.
Pretty village next to the sea. Most administrative head offices are found here. The Temehea tohua next to the sea was restored for the second Marquesan arts festival, and Koueva, towards the interior was resored for the 5th Marquesan arts festival in december 1999. The carvings were created by different artists from different archipelagos and traditional habitats were rebuilt. The cathedral must be seen with its many wood carvings, and the stele in memory of Melville , near the Pahaatea cemetery. The town hall library is home to many rare books dedicated to the archipelago. The dive centre is found on the fishermen's dock.
One of the most important and most fertile valleys of all Nuku Hiva. Surrounded by many legends , and the inspiration for Melville's "typee". Home to various waterfalls and one of the most beautiful archeological sites of the island, with many stone tikis.
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