Tahuata Island: A New Favorite

After six weeks in The Marquesas, it’s now one of our favorite places, in no small part due to lovely Tahuata island. For two weeks we bounced between a few different bays, snorkeling and diving with marine life, exploring the villages, and eating at local restaurants. Add to that marveling at the beauty around us, which is unavoidable in French Polynesia!

Location and Getting There

Tahuata Island is located just south of bigger Hiva Oa, which makes it ideal for anchoring. It’s the smallest occupied Marquesan island, with a village and a few communities with churches. The benefit of its proximity to Hiva Oa is we can stay “away from it all” at quieter Tahuata with the convenience of town a few hours sail, or motor, away.

Tahuata in the Marquesas
Tahuata in The Marquesas Islands

When I said everything would be easy after our Pacific passage, I spoke too soon. Our trip to Tahuata from Ua Pou was terrible. What should have been a 60nm half-day trip turned into almost 24 hours with no sleep for both of us. The wind kept shifting from side to front, from 12 knots to over 20 to next to nothing. We had to be on guard to change the sail trim and position, which we had to do at least once an hour if not more. What was supposed to be 60 miles became almost 120 with all the tacking we had to do!

The good news is we got a lot of time to recover from the trip in a beautiful place with fun adventures.

Sailing track to Tahuata
Our sail to Tahuata

Marine Life

The water in The Marquesas is a little chillier than the Caribbean and cloudy. This may seem bad for swimming but it’s great for seeing marine life, which we did!

The leeward side of Tahuata has multiple bays for anchoring. Some of the bays are known for dolphins or manta rays, and they are also full of turtles and new (to us) Pacific fish.

We did our first South Pacific dives in Tahuata and we won’t forget them! The lack of visibility is more than recouped by the quality of the fish.


We finally got to snorkel and dive with mantas in Tahuata! We started calling one of the bays Manta Bay because they were everywhere.

Mantas swam alongside our boat in Tahuata

One of the best experience of our lives was our night dive with manta rays in Tahuata. This was simple as we geared up on our friends’ catamaran, which was lit up from below, and stepped into the water and watched from the bottom. The mantas surrounded us, putting on a show by swimming towards us, flipping over and flying away. Wow. If that was all we did in Tahuata it would be a remarkable place and one of our favorite experiences in life. But that epic dive is only one of the fun things we enjoyed in Tahuata.

Quick clip of our Tahuata night dive with mantas


We had our first dinghy encounter with dolphins while traveling between bays at Tahuata. The dolphins appeared at the bow and moved off when Brian slowed down for them. They wanted him to go fast! And when he did they came back and played, leaping in front of the dinghy. I didn’t have the gopro because I didn’t expect that at all! A dolphin day is a happy one though with or without photos.

turtles and more

Our first encounters with sea turtles in the South Pacific was also in Manta Bay. It may have been the same turtle, or a different one, but we saw a turtle twice, both while snorkeling in different areas of the bay. We usually either swam to or dinghied to a friend’s boat and swam from there to snorkel along the walls at the sides of the bay. Not only mantas seem to like the plankton filled Marquesas waters!

turtle in Tahuata
A turtle we spotted snorkeling Tahuata

It’s also been really fun discovering a whole new world of fish here in the South Pacific, with new creatures we never saw diving in Bonaire and other parts of the Caribbean. Would have been smarter if we’d bought ourselves a guidebook for Pacific fish, but we’re making do by asking people and doing google searches when we have internet, which isn’t often.

Pacific fish diving Tahuata Marquesas
A fish spotting in Tahuata: we think it’s a guineafowl puffer

Exploring Tahuata Island by Land

We went to shore in Tahuata at both Hopatoni, on the southwest, and in the town of Vaitahu, which has a terrible dinghy dock and a great restaurant. More on that later.

Vaitahu anchorage in Tahuata
A view of the Vaitahu anchorage in Tahuata

church in Hopatoni

Hopatoni is an outpost with a charming church, which we visited with friends when we were there on a Sunday. The service was in Marquesan, which we couldn’t follow, but we were there for the music, which was great! Drums, guitar and a lot of singing. An added benefit of going to Sunday mass was meeting Tahina and reserving a spot at her home/restaurant for Sunday lunch.

church in Hopatoni Tahuata
The church in Hopatoni, Tahuata

lunch at tahina’s

There were 11 cruisers in total at lunch at Tahinas in Hopatoni and she prepared a feast for us! Tuna 3 ways: sashimi, poisson cru, and grilled. Tuna is plentiful here and so fresh and delicious and the Marquesans prepare it well. If you’re ever in Tahuata, go to the blue house in Hopatoni and ask for Tahina. That’s where we ate our Sunday lunch. Yum.

Cruisers lunch Hopatoni
Lunch at Tahina’s in Hopatoni Tahuata

Dinner at Chez jimmy

There are so many reasons Chez Jimmy is a must-visit on Tahuata: the amazing food, the excellent wifi, and last but not least, Jimmy’s musical performance and stories! Jimmy mainly plays ukelele and he has a few of those, plus a guitar which he happily loaned Brian.

Chez Jimmys Tahuata
Don’t pass by Jimmy’s in Vaitahu

We liked Jimmy so much we ate at Chez Jimmy twice.

Both times we ate at Jimmy’s we went with a group of cruisers for the buffet. The buffet included poisson cru (I think it’s the national dish of The Marquesas), a curry meat (we had goat), breadfruit chips, and rice. Jimmy grows his own rice and his cousin catches the fish. All the food was good and plentiful. We ordered ahead for the buffet, but Jimmy also serves an a la carte menu with choices like steak frites.

Buffet dinner at Chez Jimmys Tahuata
The Buffet at Chez Jimmys

Dining at Jimmy’s is a great experience. The first time we went with people who play ukelele, so after Jimmy shared his repertoire of Marquesan songs, they traded ukelele duties with Jimmy and Brian played guitar. Brian happily joined Jimmy on guitar on our second visit. It’s one of the few jam sessions we’ve had since leaving Bocas del Toro, and it was so much fun. Jimmy is a wonderful host and chef, plus he’s a blast and has a great laugh. A highlight of amazing Tahuata island!

jamming at Chez Jimmy
Jimmy and Brian jamming at Chez Jimmy, Tahuata

We are so glad we came to French Polynesia. Everyplace we go is different from the last, and we keep meeting the nicest locals and more fun and intrepid cruisers. It’s a journey to get here, but places like beautiful Tahuata Island make it worth the trek!

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Author: Mel

Living aboard a sailboat, scuba diver, cat parent, cyclist, blogger, love the water and exploring new places.

5 thoughts on “Tahuata Island: A New Favorite”

  1. Wow – I have never heard of this place but it sounds amazing. We’d love swimming with the sea creatures. Thanks for sharing. I can’t wait to read some more of your other South Pacific articles.

  2. Tahuata Island looks like paradise on earth! I love the lush landscape and the crystal clear water where you have the chance to see tropical fish! Obviously, it’s also fantastic to meet mantas, dolphins, and turtles in their natural habitat! I wish I could see with my own eyes someday! Thanks for sharing

  3. Wow, this looks like an amazing experience! I would love eat at Tahinas in Hopatoni. All the food you described sounds delicious. Tahuata Island will be saved as somewhere I must check out!

  4. I can just imagine how amazing it would be to travel around The Marquesas for six weeks. Great to be able to enjoy Tahuata Island. And all the amazing sea life. A night dive with mantas would be a highlight for us too!

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