We spent a few weeks anchored in Fatu Hiva, French Polynesia, exploring, meeting locals, hanging with other cruisers, and enjoying the marine life. It’s a beautiful island, like all the Marquesas, which is why we plan to return during cyclone season.
Also known as Fatu Iva, it’s the southernmost island of The Marquesas archipelago. It’s a great place to start your entry to French Polynesia after the Pacific crossing, although you can’t check in there. Because we had to check into Nuku Hiva, we made it our final stop before The Tuamotus.
Anchored in Fatu Hiva
Fatu Hiva has two anchorages, only a few miles apart on the leeward side. We stayed in the main anchorage by the town of Hana Vave, Bay de Vierges.
There’s a funny story behind the bay’s name. According to a cruiser guidebook, it was named after the penis-like cliffs facing the harbor until religious folk got involved and changed the name from Bay of Verge to Bay of Virgins.
The only negative about this bay is the terrible internet connection. We had Edge the entire time we were there. We copied a few other buddy boats by moving an hour away just for a day to get the LTE service in Bay Omoa. That anchorage was too rolly to spend the night, so once we caught up with world news and family and friends, we moved back to the better bay.
Fatu Hiva Village Life
We could find very little information about Fatu Hiva before we arrived, but once there, we found a lot to see, do, and provision. While there, we stocked up on grapefruit, limes, and bananas, bought delicious homemade bread, got laundry done, watched dance practice, and visited the local post office and church. We also checked out the general store where only 2 customers may enter at a time, and you have to take off your shoes before entering the room.
Maybe we got more comfortable with Marquesan customs or people are chattier here because of the island’s remoteness, but we met more residents of Fatu Huva than anywhere else in the archipelago. We felt welcomed there and really enjoyed our time anchored in Fatu Hiva thanks to the friendly locals.
The Marquesas is known for its citrus fruit, especially pamplemousse. In Fatu Hiva, many locals offered us the pamplemousse from their trees, and it was abundant! You could buy a large bag for $5, which we did, and also trade batteries or a headlamp, which we also did. Other cruisers traded rope for their pamplemousse. This is not like the grapefruit we get at home. Freshly picked, it is sweet and juicy. It’s a treat!
Much village activity centers at the pètanque court on the waterfront. Locals played and wagered on the games all day and into the evening.
The Marine Life
The Marquesas is an amazing place for interactions with sea animals and Fatu Hiva did not disappoint in that area. Dolphins and manta rays are plentiful in the bays. In fact, as we approached the island, a huge pod of spinner dolphins surrounded Sava, jumping and playing around our boat before we got to the anchorage. I don’t know what beats that welcome to an island!
Mantas live in the bay, swimming around our boat and flipping over to expose their white underbellies. They are not shy so jumping in and swimming with them, or dinghy-ing alongside, was a common activity in the waters outside Fatu Hiva!
When in Fatu Hiva, we did the two popular hikes: the waterfall and the cross/tower hike. Both are worthwhile, although we didn’t find the waterfall good for swimming like in Ua Pou.
The walk to the waterfall is an easy hike, mostly on road and then on a trail. It took us less than an hour each way, and we went with friends and a dog who snooped around a bit.
The tower hike is straight uphill, with an elevation of 466 meters. The over 10k roundtrip hike from the anchorage is challenging and a good workout. We tried to go early in the morning minus the common interruptions to chit chat with whoever we saw on the way: cruisers and locals. In The Marquesas, not much gets in the way of exchanging pleasantries. And it didn’t keep us from the arduous hike. We brought our drone for this one because the views of the sea, the village and the anchorage are all incredibly beautiful.
Fatu Hiva is gorgeous, the people are lovely, and the water full of marine life. It’s a great place to drop anchor, and we hope to return.
What do you think about Fatu Hiva and what would you want to do there?