Capital of the Marquesas Islands, Nuku Hiva, the second biggest island in French Polynesia after Tahiti, is an authentic island with a unique blend of culture and nature. The rugged scenery is absolutely breathtaking, with deep valleys, majestic waterfalls, and lush green mountains that plunge directly into the ocean, where the soft black sand on the beaches adds to a certain austerity that is belied by the friendliness of the local population. The main village, Taiohe, is the ideal starting point for exploring this mystical, magical island.

But Nuku Hiva is far more than a stunningly beautiful island, it is also home to a rich and vibrant culture, where ancient traditions and ceremonies are still celebrated with pride. Visitors are welcome to attend these festivities to admire traditional music and dancing, as well as magnificent local craftsmanship.

What makes it so special

Why visit Nuku Hiva?

The fish-filled waters of Nuku HIva© Frédérique Legrand

Rich waters

There are many excellent dive sites in the waters around Nuku Hiva and a multitude of marine species including melon-headed whales, hammerhead and whitetip sharks, manta rays, stingrays and spotted eagle rays.

There are lots of caves, cavities and fall-offs to explore and the clear waters are also ideal for swimming, snorkeling and kayaking. From july to november you can observe humpback waves which come to give birth and nurture their young.

View from one of Nuku Hiva's plateaus © Tahiti Tourisme

Between culture and hiking

There is also a large choice of land-based activities on the island. It is an exceptional place for hiking, with trails that lead through luxuriant valleys, along steep cliffs and to scenic viewpoints high up on the mountainside.

You can hike to the spectacular waterfalls at Hakaui and Vaipo, the highest in French Polynesia, or to various archeological sites such as Upeke, Taaoa and the paepae at Hatiheu.

There are also several different marae and the vestiges of ancient villages that you can visit. These mysterious archeological remains provide the backdrop for some of the traditional ceremonies and festivities that are still celebrated on the island.

Initiation à la danse avec un groupe de danse à Nuku Hiva © Grégoire Le Bacon

Suggested itinerary

Three days in Nuku Hiva

The biggest of the Marquesas Islands, Nuku Hiva is a rugged, mountainous island with steep cliffs, thick forests and beautiful beaches. It is a place that leaves its mark on visitors, due to its magnificent scenery and thriving ancestral culture. Here is our suggested itinerary for a three day break in Nuku Hiva.


Not to be missed

What to do

The mystical island of Nuku Hiva should certainly be part of any visit to the Marquesas Islands. The magnificent, majestic countryside is filled with the spirit of Marquesan ancestors. This spirit is called the mana and it accounts for the powerful atmosphere that raises the hair on your arms when you visit any of the 700 archeological sites on the island.

Famous for its waterfalls, Nuku Hiva offers incredible hiking trails. In the Hakaui valley in the south-west of the island, the Vaipo waterfall stands over 350m high. Considered one of the highest waterfalls in French Polynesia, the Vaipo waterfall is more than 5 km from the sea.

The Tiki and Paepae of Hatiheu, Nuku Hiva
Tiki, wood sculpture © Tahiti Tourisme
Waterfall in Nuku Hiva © Grégoire Le Bacon

You’ll also enjoy

Activities in Nuku Hiva

Take a tour around the island by car, motor scooter or, the best way, on horseback. Discover the ancient archeological sites, meet the islanders and learn about their culture.

Hiking is a more athletic option, but you’ll see some unique sights, like the waterfall at Vaipo. If you enjoy fishing, then you’re in for a treat in Nuku Hiva, where everbody goes fishing for food and fun.

4x4 safari on the heights of Nuku Hiva © Grégoire Le Bacon
Walking on the white sands of Nuku Hiva © Stéphane Mailion Photography

Be inspired


Nuku Hiva is a unique destination where the rugged scenery is in contrast to the refined traditional culture. The land, its people and its history will make your vacation unforgettable.

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Vacation packages in the Marquesas Islands

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See our selected vacation offers for Nuku Hiva

All vacation packages

11 days

Aranui Cruises

Austral Islands, Bora Bora, Fakarava, Marquesas Islands, Other Tuamotu Islands, Raiatea, Tahiti

From 6912 NZD per person

11 days

Silversea Society Islands, Tuamotus and Marquesas Cruise

Bora Bora, Fakarava, Marquesas Islands, Moorea, Raiatea, Rangiroa, Tahiti

From 14275 NZD per person

10 days

Oceania Tahitian Legends Cruise

Bora Bora, Fakarava, Marquesas Islands, Moorea, Raiatea, Rangiroa, Tahiti

From 5520 NZD per person

15 days

Discover the Marquesas islands by sea

Marquesas Islands, Other Tuamotu Islands, Rangiroa, Tahiti

From 11016 NZD per person
All vacation packages
Sunset on Nuku Hiva, in love © Grégoire Le Bacon

Where to stay in Nuku Hiva

You can stay in an elegant hotel room with views over the ocean. Alternatively, choose a family-run Tahitian Guesthouse where you’ll see how the islanders live and learn about local culture and history. Wherever you decide to stay, you’ll be sure of a warm welcome, for which the islanders are famous, and you’ll be moved by the unique atmosphere and natural beauty of this remote, preserved paradise.

Getting there and getting around

A domestic flight with Air Tahiti takes 3h15 to get from Tahiti-Faa’a to Nuku Hiva, where the airport is in the north of the island, a fair distance from the main village of Taiohe, which is in the south. It takes about 1h30 to get to Taiohe, but you’ll see some magnificent scenery and cross the path pf many cows and horses roaming freely on the way. Alternatively, you can rent a car or scooter to get about on the island at your own pace. As an option, you can visit all six of the inhabited Marquesas Islands on a cruise. Most of the cruise companies include the Marquesas Islands in their program after visiting the Tuamotu Islands.

Getting to and around Nuku Hiva © Bertrand Duquenne
Vue aérienne sur l'atoll de Tetiaroa © Tahiti Tourisme

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