Horse Rider on the Beach in Hiva OaHorse Rider on the Beach in Hiva Oa
©Horse Rider on the Beach in Hiva Oa|Tahiti Tourisme

Four days in Hiva Oa

Hiva Oa, the garden of the Marquesas Islands

The third biggest island in French Polynesia after Tahiti and Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa is known as the garden of the Marquesas Islands. Bordered by steep cliffs and beaches of black sand, with 320 km² of lush green mountains and magnificent valleys, Hiva Oa is an island steeped in the past and the not so distant past. From the graves of Jacques Brel and Paul Gauguin, to the archeological marvels of its paepae, me’ae and impressive tiki, there is more than enough history to keep you busy during your stay. Here are a few suggestions for your four-day break.

Mountain, Hiva Oa © Tahiti TourismeMountain, Hiva Oa Tahiti Tourisme
©Mountain, Hiva Oa Tahiti Tourisme|Tahiti Tourisme

Day 1

Take the time to stroll around the main village, Atuona. You’ll discover the wealth of Marquesan craftsmanship: stone tiki sculptures and wood carvings, tapa, pareu decorated with Marquesan designs, penu (pestle), Marquesan honey, local jams as well as jewelry made from carved bone and seeds. The local craftsmen and women will be delighted to explain the significance of the designs and the traditional methods employed in creating their art.

It would be impossible to visit Hiva Oa without paying homage to the two world-famous figures who chose the island was their last home. Begin with a visit to the Paul Gauguin cultural center in Atuona. The museum has a permanent exhibition of the artist’s works and a reconstruction of the ”Maison du Jouir” where he lived and painted. Then go to the Espace Jacques Brel, a vast hangar where you’ll hear some of his best-known songs and see a selection of his personal photographs. In the middle of the hangar is his private airplane, Jojo.

Practical information:

The Paul Gauguin Museum and the Espace Jacques Brel are open Monday to Friday from 8h00 to 11h00 and from 14h00 to 17h00. Both are closed on weekends.

Jacques Brel and Paul Gauguin are both buried in the Calvaire cemetery in Atuona. The graves are easily accessible for those wishing to pay their last respects.

Day 2

You should certainly spend a day visiting the cultural sites on the island. A good idea is to take an ATV tour with a guide – not only will he show you the sights, but he’ll also share with you a lot of interesting information about the island and its history. Start at the village of Puamau and the Pekekea archeological site which houses the tomb of Queen Vahinetitoiani, protected by two imposing tiki. A little higher up the valley is one of the most important archeological sites in the Marquesas Islands, Lipona, where the tiki Takai’i, named after the chief of the bay, magisterially holds court. You can then go on to explore the valley of Taaoa, a place of great importance in Marquesan mythology where you’ll find the ceremonial center Upeke with it’s tohua, a large paved quadrangle dedicated to dancing and ceremonies.

Day 3

Nature lovers will certainly enjoy the island’s many hiking trails. Waterfalls, luxuriantvegetation, endemic plants, natural basins, petroglyphs, scenic viewpoints… there really is a lot to see and you’ll need a whole day to see it. Go with a guide to make sure you don’t miss anything !

Day 4

Perhaps not quite the Tuamotu Islands, but the waters around Hiva Oa still have a lot to offer, including hammerhead sharks and manta rays. In fact, the island is something of a marine sanctuary. There are several dive sites where you can observe the marine fauna and flora, some of which are endemic to the archipelago. Other sites have a historical significance and a strange, mystical atmosphere all of their own. Diving in the Marquesas Islands is like nowhere else under the sea! Don’t wait and book your dive with Marquises Diving, the only diving center on the island.

If you prefer to stay on dry land, then try one of the most popular activities in the Marquesas Islands, horseback riding. Depending on your ability, you have a choice of fifteen circuits, all of which will enable you to discover the magnificent countryside of Hiva Oa. You can opt for a gentle stroll which will take you into the fields and undergrowth or a more exhilarating circuit that takes you along the island’s ridges and peaks.