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Nuku Hiva

8 Awesome Things to do on Nuku Hiva

June 24, 2024 No Comments

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I’ve never been anywhere quite like Nuku Hiva. It has such a remote wilderness to it, though you still feel mana, the island’s spirit, at every turn. With ancient archeological sites, weaving trails through untouched forests, delightful settlements, and citrus fruits the size of your head, it’s certainly a magical place.

As a guidebook author, I spent months researching the best things things to do in the Marquesas. These are the things you absolutely won’t want to miss on Nuku Hiva.

Discover all the best tips for visiting the Marquesas in the ultimate guidebook, Moon French Polynesia.

1. Wander through the town of Taiohae

Many yachts arrive into Taiohae as their first stop in French Polynesia. The town it tucked between emerald pinnacles that frame Taiohae Bay. By day, the town is quiet with people venturing to the fruit and art market and enjoying snacks near the port. Fishermen clean their catch at the waterfront (where sharks and rays compete for scraps). Huge pomelos hang from the town’s trees. Within the town itself, walk from one end to the other stopping at the Notre Dame Cathedral, the tikis at Temehea Tohua, and the tourism office to arrange upcoming day trips.

Nuku Hiva
Nuku Hiva

2. Trek to Vaipo Waterfall

Hike or take a boat ride to Hakaui Bay, the starting point of your trek to Vaipo Waterfall. The trail is unmarked, so you’ll want to bring a guide. Start at the small settlement on the bay’s waterfront, where you can place a lunch order for your return. Then, venture into the lush wilderness past archeological sites, gigantic chestnut trees, palm trees, and shallow streams until you reach the waterfall. Legend says Marquesan royals were once placed on the surrounding cliff edges once they passed away. Wear your swimsuit underneath your hiking clothes and take a dip at the small swimming hole just beneath the waterfall.

Nuku Hiva
Nuku Hiva

3. Scuba dive with hammerhead sharks

Nuku Hiva’s waters are home to schooling scalloped hammerhead sharks. If you’re lucky, you might spot melon-headed whales, manta rays, and dolphins. The diving here is relatively unknown, with one main dive center, so every dive site is bound to be uncrowded. (Crowds aren’t really a thing anywhere on Nuku Hiva). With no outer reef to calm Nuku Hiva’s waters, conditions can be rough. Book your dive towards the start of your stay on the island to have a buffer just in case there’s bad weather.

4. Lounge the day away at Colette’s Bay

Colette’s Bay is a hilly three-kilometer walk from central Taiohae. Once you’re there, you’ll find a pebble beach surrounded by scrubland. There is a fence on the road leading to the bay and tourists are asked to close it behind them. Pack plenty of snacks and laze the day away. This is a popular place for families to come and picnic. We saved ourself the walk back to town and caught a ride in the back of a pickup truck.

Nuku Hiva
Nuku Hiva

5. Visit Nuku Hiva’s Grand Canyon

Dramatic canyons are etched into Nuku Hiva’s center. If you’ve caught a flight to Nuku Hiva, ask your driver to stop at the Grand Canyon lookout point on your way to Taiohae. While so many of French Polynesia’s islands are small and palm-tree laden, it’s incredible to see a scene where dark cliffs and tall pine trees dominate the landscape.

Nuku Hiva

6. Watch the sunset from Tiki Tuhiva

The Marquesas are known for their ancient tiki, but you’ll find a modern one here, too. Head to Tiki Tuhiva on the edge of Taiohae just before sunset to watch sailboats cruise in and out of port. Many of these boats are coming in after a 20+ day crossing from Panama. Built in 2017, the tiki is made of a male and female, representing strength and wisdom.

Nuku Hiva

7. Visit Nuku Hiva’s art markets

The Marquesas are home to some of the world’s best artisans, creating from wood, stone, seeds, and bone. Visit the Taiohae Art Market for one-of-a-kind souvenirs, and watch artists at work at Tapivai Art Market. One of my favorite creations are jewelry pieces made from crimson seeds. You can’t go wrong with a wooden or stone sculpture, either!

Nuku Hiva

8. Visit Hatiheu Bay

Welcome to the Jurassic era! This bay has pinnacle sentinels guarding its choppy waters. Enjoy a meal at the seaside restaurant, where scraps are fed to eels, and take a peek inside of the local church. Gutsy kids often boogie board at the shore break.

Nuku Hiva
Nuku Hiva

Where to stay on Nuku Hiva

FAQs about visiting Nuku Hiva

Nuku Hiva

When is the best time to visit Nuku Hiva?

The best time to visit Nuku Hiva is during the dry season, from late August to January. The Marquesas have an opposite dry season to the rest of French Polynesia.

How many days should I spend on Nuku Hiva?

I recommend spending at least three days on Nuku Hiva.

Discover more French Polynesia travel tips


Chantae Reden

Chantae is the Coconut in Chief at Tropical Go. She is the author of Moon Bali & Lombok and lives in Suva, Fiji. She is a freediver, scuba diver, and surfer who loves surfing without a wetsuit. Her drink of choice is a margarita.

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