Exploring Nuku Hiva Marquesas

Tiki in Nuku Hiva

Our first stop after crossing The Pacific was Marquesas’ biggest island: Nuku Hiva. While exploring Nuku Hiva, we anchored in two different spots and drove around on a day tour. Two weeks in Nuku Hiva gave us a great introduction to French Polynesia.

The Marquesas are impressive! The islands rise up straight out of the sea into majestic mountains. Lush green rolling hills are full of fruit trees with some of juiciest citrus we have tasted. The hiking is great and the water is warm and full of amazing sea life like mantas and dolphins. Add to that lovely people with a great culture and I love it here.

About Nuku Hiva

Nuku Hiva is the largest island in The Marquesas, which are a group of islands in French Polynesia. Nuku Hiva is located in the northwest of this island group.

exploring Nuku Hiva Marquesas Map
You can see Nuku Hiva in the northwest of the Marquesas

Maybe because of Nuku Hiva’s size, the government designated it as the only port to clear in since the pandemic began. So, even though it is further west and thus farther away than other ports of The Marquesas, we had to stop there first from Panama.

Main Anchorage Taiohae Bay

Our first stop was Taiohae Bay, site of the biggest town on Nuku Hiva, and the gendarmerie, where we checked in.

The huge harbor was full of sailboats. As the only port of entry, most of the tourists in town were cruisers. We counted at least sixty sailboats in the bay. Who knew so many sailors would cross The Pacific like us?

Other cruisers took to calling this anchorage Manhattan because it was so busy but I prefer another nickname I overheard – T Bay. I am having a hard time remember these Marquesan names, so nicknames help!

Taiohae Bay exploring Nuku Hiva
Lots of sailboats in Nuku Hiva’s main harbor, Taiohae Bay

Checking in was pretty easy and took only a few minutes after we waited in line behind other cruisers. The office is only open Monday – Friday mornings so it gets a little jammed up but it’s not the worst check-in process.

I was happy to get to shore. Brian felt a little wobbly and said it felt like everything was moving, but he adjusted to land quickly.

We provisioned pretty well in town, stocking up on French baguettes, wine, and cheeses and as much fresh produce as we could find. I also happily took a break from cooking – and cleaning the galley- at the three restaurants in town.

Exploring Nuku Hiva: Hikes

I was so excited to hike after our 30 days of sluggishness, and in our week exploring Nuku Hiva we did three hikes and a lot of walking around town. I had to visit each of the three grocery stores and the farmers market to make sure we were provisioning properly, and Brian needed stops at the hardware and marine supply store. For that, T-Bay served us well

Tehaatiki viewpoint hike

Our first hike on Marquesan soil was in the main harbor of Taiohae Bay, straight uphill to a lookout over the sea. We started early on a Sunday, dinghied to shore and started walking uphill. 7am was early for us, but clearly not for the Marquesans! They are up before the sun. The bakery closes by 9am and bread is usually sold out by 10am in the supermarkets in T Bay.

This hike, while short, was straight uphill, so we got a good leg workout and had gorgeous views. It was our first hike, so we took it slow and were tired afterward! We thought we might do the hike again but time got away from us and the anchorage was rough and bouncy, so not worth staying too long. Brian even joked that one night in that anchorage was worse than parts of our passage!

Hiking exploring Nuku Hiva
A view from our hike in T Bay Nuku Hiva

waterfall hike daniels bay

The other bay we visited in Nuku Hiva, Daniels Bay, gave us more opportunities to hike. We hiked to a waterfall which was dry, but the hike was mostly in shade and ended with an amazing lunch at a farm with some cute and hungry cats!

waterfall hike Nuku Hiva
The path from the farm to the waterfall near Daniels Bay
Farm restaurant Nuku Hiva
The farm/restaurant at Daniels Bay where they served us delicious food
cute cat restaurant
This cat really wanted Brian’s meal

viewpoint trail hike daniels bay

Another hike in Daniels Bay led us uphill from the beach to some amazing viewpoints of our bay and the one to the east of us.

Daniels Bay
View of the anchorage on our hike in Daniels Bay

It was a pretty decent trail for much of the way, although in some spots more suited to goats, which are everywhere on the islands! We can hear them baa-ing from our boats in most anchorages.

Goats in Nuku Hiva

Football Game

When we heard that Nuku Hiva was playing football against another island, we had to go! The whole town was at the stadium on a Saturday afternoon and we had a great time watching with them.

football match in Nuku Hiva
Watching the football in Nuku HIva

We brought a few cold beers from the grocery store, sat on the hill and cheered on the local team. They played well and won. It’s always fun when you’re a guest and the home team wins. Marquesans are family-oriented and fans of all ages watched from bleachers, the grass, and their pickups parked on the hill overlooking the stadium, located a few blocks up from the bay.

Football Marquesas
Football in paradise

Island Tour

We had a fun day exploring Nuku Hiva on an island tour. Our tour guide Maté piled nine cruisers into a truck and took us through the hills and valleys, stopping along the way to share history, culture, and views of the island.

Tour bus in Nuku Hiva
Mate’s tour bus

We saw ancient petroglyphs and new tikis that have been built in the 21st century for various culture festivals. The Marquesans travel to a different island every two years to celebrate and exchange their songs and stories, tattoos and dances, and food. We hope to go to a mini one while we’re here!

petroglyph exploring Nuku Hiva
A petroglyph on Nuku Hiva

The tour included stops in a fishing village and a beautiful waterfront town and got us out of the anchorage. You can also rent a car, but Brian and I like the local input and we wouldn’t have known where to stop and what to look at once we did!

church Hatiheu bay
The islands are full of pretty churches Hatiheu Bay

It was a great way of exploring Nuku Hiva. You can sign up for a tour at the tourist information centre near the dock at T Bay.

Moving Around the Marquesa

About a week after we arrived, more convenient and closer ports opened which would have saved us at least a day and all the upwind sailing to the rest of the Marquesas. Nuku Hiva was worth a visit and a great introduction to these islands. We’ve already been in The Marquesas for a month and it may be our favorite place we’ve visited on our boat. There’s still so much of French Polynesia to see which makes us glad we’ve done the long-stay visa and can explore to our hearts’ content.

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Author: Mel

Living aboard a sailboat, blogging about the places we visit and the adventures we have. Love hiking, cycling, scuba, animals and adventure.

7 thoughts on “Exploring Nuku Hiva Marquesas”

  1. Wow I love hearing about what you got up to in Nuku Hiva. I have always wanted to go to French Polynesia, so maybe I’ll make it there one day!

  2. This place looks amazing! I love those little and colourful churches, so charming. And the bay where you stay, wow. You are really living a great life!

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