How to Travel to the Marquesas Islands: A Complete Guide

Tourism is relatively new to the Marquesas Islands, generating it an ideal put for considerate vacationers to discover.

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Nearly 900 miles west of mainland Tahiti is an archipelago fairly unfamiliar to Western vacationers, at minimum so considerably as South Pacific island locations go. It’s the Marquesas archipelago—one of five island groups in French Polynesia—and incorporates 12 islands, only 6 of which are forever inhabited. All 12 are dramatic, with jagged mountains lined in jungle rising from the water.

The Marquesan individuals have lived on these islands probably because all-around 100 C.E., arriving from Hawai‘i or other Polynesian islands, whilst historic records are couple. For the reason that the islands are so significantly from other archipelagoes and outrigger canoe was the only signifies of vacation, there was very minimal conversation between Marquesans and other islanders. 

The result is a culture additional than 2,000 decades previous, based mostly on but distinct from the relaxation of Polynesia. Tourism is somewhat new to the islands, and most of the key attracts are cultural activities like archeological internet sites and handicraft markets or outside adventures, this sort of as jungle hikes and exploring hidden seashores. If you’ve hardly ever frequented, use this guidebook to system a vacation to the Marquesas Islands.

Lodging in the Marquesas

There are only two founded resorts in the Marquesas: the bungalows at the cliffside Le Nuku Hiva and the Hanakee Lodge on Hiva Oa. There are also a handful of pensions (relaxed guesthouses) on the inhabited islands. The very best way to find just one is to research on Google Maps, then information the operator on Facebook to make a reservation. Most pensions do not have internet websites. 

Guide Le Nuku Hiva now: From $299 for each night, expedia.com

E-book Hanakee Lodge now: hotelhanakee.com

Matters to do in the Marquesas

Discover a lesser-known side to French Polynesia on on Nuku Hiva (left) and Hiva Oa (right).

Investigate Fatu Hiva on foot

Energetic vacationers can just take the 11-mile, 3,000-foot-gain trek across Fatu Hiva to a lookout level with sights of Hanavave Bay. The issue-to-point hike passes volcanic basalt formations, cliffside fields of purple wheat, and into dense jungle on the way to the terminus in Hanavave village. If you are not with the Aranui boat (see under), you will require to organize transportation again to the starting up position in Omoa. 

Find out about the Marquesas and Gauguin on Hiva Oa

Whilst Gauguin’s colorful, avant-garde paintings thrilled the art earth, his effect on the island was more controversial, at greatest. He was accused of quite a few unsavory associations with underage girls and lived out lots of of the hedonistic “sauvage” scenes in his art.  

The Paul Gauguin Cultural Centre pays homage to the fauvist (which loosely translates to “wild men”) artist and sheds gentle on his impression on Hiva Oa. (It doesn’t address his controversial legacy as other, far more modern exhibits have carried out.) Shows are in equally French and English. Gauguin at some point died on Hiva Oa and is buried next to French crooner Jacques Brel in the Calvary Cemetery, an easy 15-minute wander from the museum. Get be aware that all paintings are recreations by Tahitians the tropical temperature would promptly harm the primary works. 

View a standard “pig dance” on Nuku Hiva

Dance is a significant section of Marquesan tradition. Many traditional dances had been nearly dropped to time with the arrival of Christianity due to the fact European missionaries banned just about all non-Christian traditions relating to dance, religion, and art. These days, dance is not just a demonstrate for tourists—it’s a way for Marquesan youth to get back company above a tradition virtually removed by overseas impact.

See the conventional prehunt pig dance at the Tohua Kamuihei Archeological Web site on Nuku Hiva. Go to the website with a guide to master how it was used to maintain mana (religious power) and see the banyan trees used to entice enemy warriors. 

Learn to make tapa fabric on Fatu Hiva

Apart from tattoos, tapa cloth is perhaps the variety of artwork most affiliated with the Marquesan archipelago by international vacationers. Marquesans make it by hand, placing clean bark by a number of cycles of mashing, soaking, and stretching to variety the “cloth.” Historically, Marquesans applied it for cloth to make capes, blankets, and jackets—creating tapa is labor (and time) intense, so the larger sized the piece of fabric, the a lot more wealthy and powerful the wearer. When the classic practice of tatau (from which we get the phrase “tattoo”) was banned in the 1800s, islanders began to record family members symbols on tapa, somewhat than skin. These days, tapa is largely a form of artwork, somewhat than an daily material.  

Most art markets will promote tapa, but stop by the open-air Omoa Village handicraft heart on Fatu Hiva to see how it is designed. 

Go scuba diving on Hiva Oa

The dramatic terrain isn’t just on land. If you’re a accredited scuba diver, you can dive in Hiva Oa, an undeniably remote bucket-checklist internet site for intrepid divers. Marquises Diving is the only operator. Steep rock partitions drop to small reefs all over 70 feet deep, attracting further drinking water species like tiger sharks and large marble rays. Be expecting robust swells and constrained visibility diving listed here is an adventure. 

The best way to reach the islands is the cruise ship “Aranui 5”.

How to get to the Marquesas Islands

The wide the vast majority of tourists to the Marquesas occur by means of the Aranui 5, a half-cargo, half-cruise ship that makes around 15 trips per yr to the islands from Tahiti. The special vessel is divided into two sections, with the front devoted to cargo storage for all the things from horses to cars to circumstances of frozen rooster (supposedly the most-requested product on the islands). The stern carries up to 220 visitors in accommodations ranging from shared bunks to high-class suites with personal balconies. All through the 13-day voyage, friends are encouraged to hook up with the team about 90 per cent of them are Tahitian, most Marquesan. 

“I take pleasure in conversing with [guests] about our traditions and customs. I like to share with them the stories of my time, as opposed to today’s daily life, which is diverse from them. I am native of the island of Ua Pou in the Marquesas, it is my land, my roots, and I’m quite attached to that. Working on board the Aranui will make it feasible for me to always continue to keep get in touch with with my land, my loved ones, and my ancestors,” says Micheline Kohumoetini, head of housekeeping and a Marquesan from Ua Pou.

Aranui arrival working day is akin to a local holiday on each individual island as it brings the islands’ near-only tourists and provides that locals purchased probably months before. It also exports copra (coconut) farmed by the locals, the primary cash flow resource for Marquesans. The government is contractually obligated to buy as much copra as can be created, and Marquesans can even fork out for their orders and transport service fees in copra. The Aranui receives a little cost for transporting it again to Tahiti, the place it is then delivered to oil, food, and fragrance facilities in France. 

Without the need of a ship like the Aranui, Marquesan Islanders would have pretty much no visitors or solutions for delivery copra at scale, which would likely consequence in swaths of the populace permanently transferring to seek out do the job on a lot more populated islands. This will make the Aranui—and the travelers who fund it—essential to preserving the Marquesan culture.

Obtaining all over the Marquesas

Choices for interisland journey are confined except if you’re onboard the Aranui. There are airports on Nuku Hiva, Ua Huka, and Hiva Oa. Air Tahiti is the only airline that providers them and offers a several flights a week to every, even though they are inclined to weather conditions cancellations. The only air connection between islands is among Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa, offered a few moments each thirty day period. Services to Ua Huka varies but can be really infrequent. 

On the islands, just about all vacation is through open-air 4×4 autos. Quite a few Marquesans provide guiding solutions, which are recommended as streets can be steep, rocky, and unmarked. It is most effective to have your resort arrange airport pickups and drivers. You may be in a position to hire a car or truck on the islands of Hiva Oa, Nuku Hiva, or Ua Poa.

Guidelines for viewing French Polynesia’s Marquesas Islands

Be flexible

Preparing from afar can be tough thanks to a absence of trusted online access and the in general nascency of tourism on the islands. Interisland flights are usually delayed by climate or deficiency of passengers, most restaurants and enterprises have no established hours, and vacation by sea is sluggish and choppy. There are no frequent interisland ferries. 

Prepare a extended excursion

Reaching the Marquesas is a multistep excursion, whether or not you vacation with the Aranui or not. Based on flight schedules, you may perhaps have to wait a couple of times to get to the islands the moment arriving on Tahiti, and it could be a lot quicker to sail back again to Tahiti relatively than waiting for one particular of the couple of interisland flights to depart. If the Aranui 5’s interisland travel routine coincides with your excursion, you might be capable to guide an overnight bunk as a strategy for connecting among islands. It’s made use of generally by locals to shift among islands, but it’s open to anybody. Call the Aranui for information. 

Rent a Tahiti Wi-Fi go

If you have to have to continue to be related on vacation, rent a Tahiti Wi-Fi go, which will work on most Marquesan islands (but not at sea). Aside from the larger-close resorts, most firms do not have public Wi-Fi, and these that do will have rather gradual speeds. 

Take gain of your hotel’s skills

There is no general public transportation or formal tour firms in the Marquesas. If you simply cannot stroll wherever you want to go, check with your lodge to prepare a driver or tour information. You won’t discover mobile phone numbers or web-sites for most restaurants or tour guides on line. 

Tours and guides

There are not sufficient non-Aranui people to the islands to warrant official tour firms or on a regular basis scheduled tour offerings. If you’re touring on your individual, you are going to probably have to have to have your lodge or lodge arrange a tour guidebook. Most guides are individuals common with the islands rather than official guiding companies. There are a several operators you can contact in advance online speaking French may well aid with some. 

Have cash

Virtually all enterprises are cash only. There are ATMs on Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa. Bartering at markets is not customary.

>> Next: AFAR’s Guideline to French Polynesia

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