Above the steady rumble of the Pacific surge, the sharply sculpted mountains of Hiva Oa hide their summits in the mists of rain-filled clouds. The largest and most fertile island in the southern group of the Marquesas, Hiva Oa has deep valleys, lush plateaus and thickly wooded forests. The main town of Atuona is a favorite port of call for yachters, who dock within Traitors Bay. And, Paul Gauguin himself called the town home and is buried on the island.
Its name means “sunrise” in Marquesan, and this tiny, 19-square-mile island in the Marquesas archipelago is just as beautiful as the name suggests. Visitors arrive via the charming seafront village of Hapatoni, with tamanu trees shading an ancient paved royal walkway and the air smelling of tiare and frangipani. The island’s beauty extends to its architecture too, especially its huge Catholic church, which was built by the Vatican and decorated with stunning stained-glass windows and beautiful local carvings.
The southernmost island in the Marquesas, Fatu Hiva may also be the most beautiful. This remote paradise has no airstrip, only one road, and just 500 residents. A century ago, the island was known as a haven for sailors looking to avoid the attention of the authorities. Today, it's known for the production and sale of tapa, beaten bark cloth decorated in ink with traditional Polynesian artwork.
A charming seafront village, Taiohae is the administrative, economic, educational, and health center of the Marquesas Islands and the gateway to the island of Nuku Hiva’s natural beauty. Visitors are enchanted by lush valleys, impossibly blue bays, sky-high waterfalls, and ancient ruins—it’s no wonder Nuku Hiva is called “Mystic Island.”