Published: June 16th 2012May 6th 2012
Nuku Hiva is the main island of the Marquesas Islands, and contains the capital in the settlement of Taiohae. This is the only island that we visited of the 15 islands in the Marquesas, which is part of French Polynesia, and it was mainly just a place for us to refuel and have a few days off.
This island once had a population of somewhere between 50,000 to 150,000 people, depending on who you ask, but the population is now down to around 3,000 inhabitants. The Marquesas were extremely hard hit by diseases introduced by the European and American sailors that 'discovered' the islands, which had really been settled for thousands of years.
The first thing that I noticed about Nuku Hiva is how rugged the terrain is. There are many steep cliffs around the island, and you are rarely out of sight of one. The second thing that I noticed is how few people are here for such a big island. We drove around the island for a couple of days, spending hours on the roads, and didn't really encounter many other trucks.
There is really not a whole lot going on in Nuku Hiva. It does
receive its fair share of pleasure-boat traffic from smaller cruiser yachts all the way up through bigger 180ft+ superyachts who use it as a place to refuel and provision. The location of the island makes it a great pit-stop for boats traveling from anywhere in the Americas to anywhere in the South Pacific, or vice versa. It's just over 800 miles to Tahiti, and about 3000 miles to Mexico, and there aren't really any other options in between, save the Galapagos, which is also used as a pit-stop for boats heading to/from the Panama Canal.
One thing that I noticed on the island is that there are no cars, at all. Everyone has 4WD trucks. Literally, everyone. The roads here are pretty trecherous, and a car just wouldn't be able to handle it. You still have to drive on a gravel/dirt road for nearly an hour just to get to the airport, and there are many steep sections cutting through the mountains. There are few main roads, but every once in awhile, you will get to a certain vantage point and see other roads or trails down below you, but have no idea how to get to them. There
Ua Poa in the distance
are many places on this island that are well off the beaten path, and probably only known to the locals themselves.
There are not many beaches on the island, but of the ones that are available, they are mostly comprised of black sand, which is pretty cool. The island still has a pretty 'raw' feel to it, even if there is one little 'resort' on the island, and that sometimes smaller cruise ships do pass through. We were sitting on the beach in Daniel's Bay, and the only other company we had was a small group of wild horses that were wandering around.
The interior of the island, to me, was the most interesting thing to see. The center of the island is a large plateau with big forests and wide open fields, and there are many horses and cattle roaming freely through the fields and even on the roads. The temperature drops quite a bit on the plateau, and was refreshing, but it also made it seem like you could have been somewhere in Europe, just by the way that it felt. It reminded me of Germany or England at times, driving through lonely country roads.
If you happened to be passing through this neck of the woods, like on a boat as we were, it is definitely worth checking out for a couple days. Otherwise, the disadvantages of how far you have to actually travel to get there far outweigh the experience you would receive upon arrival.....that's just my opinion. You can judge for yourself, but I'd say save your pennies and just peruse my pictures!
There are more photos below