Taioha’e, French Polynesia

Photo: Pearl Lodge Marquises

Tonight’s sunset cocktail was well earned. You get to sip swirls of icy pink fruit juice, topped with a matching flower, as the colors in the blue sky, the green volcanic peaks, and the turquoise water start to fade for the evening. Your feet are dangling in the pool that the sun warmed all day. Its surrounding torches are just starting to flicker. The smell of seafood is beginning to float out of the restaurant behind you. While you giddily recount the day’s adventure.

It began with a ride down to Taioha’e, whose half-moon bay was created when a volcanic crater collapsed into the ocean. Nuku Hiva’s main town is home to the elaborately carved Notre Dame Cathedral, tattoo artists, and a handful of tour guides. One of them was heading to Taioa, another bay on the southern coast. From there, you passed small fruit farms, rushing streams, and steep cliffs as you hiked through the Hakaui Valley. Thundering water could be heard in the distance. It was Vaipo Waterfall.

Vaipo Waterfall is the tallest waterfall in Polynesia outside of New Zealand or Hawaii. The horsetail waterfall—whose water maintains nearly constant contact with the basalt rock behind it—drops more than 1,000 feet after emerging from a gouge in the rocks. The water vaporizes as it falls. The remaining mist leaves a glossy coat on the surrounding canyon’s walls.

After taking more than enough photos, climbing rocks to reach the deep pools, and going for a refreshing-bordering-on-chilly swim, you headed back to meet your return boat. With time to spare, you stopped in the village to buy bananas and mangoes. The fruit you eat at home shouldn’t be allowed to have the same names. Then you sped off to Taioha’e Bay and headed back into the jagged mountains.

Keikahanui Nuku Hiva Pearl Lodge lies at the end of Taioha’e’s main road. The little lodge is surrounded by lush gardens and sits 50 steps above a black-sand beach. The traditional building was carved by local artists. It’s home to Le Pua Enana restaurant and Le Tiki Bar. Twenty thatched bungalows extend south from the lodge. Though your bed and bathroom are always covered with fresh flowers, the panoramic terrace is your favorite spot. Nothing beats the view from the infinity pool, though. It’s the perfect place to dream about the other secrets that you’re hoping to uncover in the Marquesas Islands.

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