Hiva Oa, French Polynesia

Photo: Sémhur (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Sémhur (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons
A trip to the South Pacific can only mean one thing, right? It’s time for a beach vacation. You’ll fly all the way to French Polynesia for white-sand beaches, water as warm as your bathtub, and romantic overwater bungalows. The backdrop—volcanic peaks that rise straight out of the ocean—makes it even more amazing. The view from those peaks must be just as spectacular.

Perhaps it’s time see one of the islands from a different perspective. No one is daring to suggest that you give up your beach time—or the view. But you could split your trip between two locations, maybe even two islands, to see another side of the Marquesas Islands.

Though part of French Polynesia, the Marquesas Islands are one of the most remote archipelagos in the world. They’re 850 miles northeast of Tahiti and 3,000 miles from Mexico, the nearest land mass. The 15 islands, usually distinguished between the Northern Marquesas and the Southern Marquesas, were long inhabited by the Polynesians before the Europeans arrived and named the islands in the early 16th century. They have towering volcanoes, steep cliffs, and deep valleys. The Polynesians believed that the gods created the islands as their home. Their home is breathtaking.

Photo: Hanakee Hiva Oa Pearl Lodge via
Photo: Hanakee Hiva Oa Pearl Lodge via

Hiva Oa might be the most beautiful of all the Marquesas Islands. The archipelago’s second-largest island is considered the most fertile. It’s filled with lush greenery, huge palms, and colorful flowers. A collapsed volcano, Temetiu, lies on the southern shore and has created deep Ta’a Oa Bay. The largest tiki sculptures in French Polynesia dot the northeast coast. Chickens and goats roam freely between the small villages, which are connected by boats instead of roads. While a little lodge is practically hidden on a high ridge.

You arrive on Hiva Oa on a flight from Tahiti. The owner of the Hanakee Hiva Oa Pearl Lodge picks you up at the airport and welcomes you with flower leis. Instead of driving along the coast, you immediately head up a steep road into the mountains. The lodge is stunning. A tiki statue and carvings fill the lobby. Bungalows, featuring mountain or ocean views, are spaced for privacy. Each features hand-carved furniture, a spacious sundeck, and a refreshing sea breeze. While the best view—of Atuona (the largest village), Tahuaku Bay, and the surrounding islands—is at the edge of the infinity pool.

See, there was nothing to worry about. You still get to wake up to birds singing, roosters crowing, and the smell of flowers in the air. You still get to learn about the island and its legends from a local guide. You still get to eat homemade yogurt, freshly caught lobster, and homemade sorbet at the thatched-roof restaurant. And you still get to spend hours staring at volcanic peaks and crystal water. The only thing missing is the white sand. But you hadn’t even noticed that yet.


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