Marquesas Islands

Main attractions

Landscape near Hatiheu Bay, Nuku Hiva
Landscape near Hatiheu Bay, Nuku Hiva / Steve Berardi, CC BY-SA 2.0

Few places in the world can compare to Marquesas Islands regarding the scenery. Marquesas are adorned with incredible cliffs, rock needles, ravines, canyons - for most part covered with a lush tropical forest or dry scrub. More charm is added by the picturesque villages with countless flowers and above all - welcoming and artistic people.

The archaeological heritage of Marquesas is not less charming. Quite a few megalithic monuments here are known tourist landmarks, but unknown number of mysterious stone structures and statues are hiding in the forests. A true fairytale land!

Happily the islands are not flooded by tourists - this place is very remote and the beauty of Marquesas is not much known in the world.

Natural landmarks

Cliffs and canyons

  • Bird Island at Hatutu – Nuku-Hiva, north-east from Eiao Island. Island with pyramidal form and hoodoo at the top. Eiao cliffs – Nuku-Hiva, Eiao island. Up to 440 m tall seaside cliffs.
  • Tapueahu Canyon (Grand Canyon of Nuku Hiva) – Nuku Hiva. Very impressive canyon.
  • Vaipo Canyon - Nuku Hiva. Beautiful, narrow chasm surrounded by almost vertical cliff pinnacles rising more than 550 m high.
Vaipo Falls, Nuku Hiva
Vaipo Falls, Nuku Hiva / Yves Picq, Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0

Other natural landmarks

  • Autera'a tree on Taaoa marae – Hiva Oa. One of the largest trees in Polynesia, this autera’a (Terminalia glabrata) grows on the ancient shrine of Polynesians.
  • Banyan in Hatiheu – Nuku Hiva, Hatiheu. Enormous banyan tree (Ficus prolixa).
  • Flower stones of Hohoi valley – Ua Pou, beach of Hohoi valley. Beautiful, rounded stones with inclusions which resemble light yellow flowers. Beloved by sculptors.
  • Grotte aux pas (Cave of footprints) – south-east coast of Ua Huka. A spooky cave at the beach. The entrance of the cave is covered with fine sand. Every time before the tide here are footprints left by some unknown beings.
  • Vaipo Falls (Falls in Kings Valley, Haka Falls, Ahuii Falls) – Nuku Hiva, Hakaui Valley. Approximately 350 m tall waterfall in dramatic, impressive valley.


Man made landmarks

Marae and me'ae

  • Marae Upeke à Taaoa – Nuku Hiva. Impressive, some 40 m long marae. Discovered in 1925 and reconstructed in 1991. Contains petroglyph and also a gong stone.
  • Me'ae Faepoto – Hiva Oa. A prehistoric meeting place, with three terraces. Area is laid and flanked with stones. Some stones contain intricate carvings.
  • Me´ae Iipona – Hiva Oa. A ceremonial site with the largest prehistoric stone statues (tiki) in French Polynesia, up to 2.6 m high. Restored in 1991.
  • Me'ae Makamea – Hiva Oa. Ancient complex of sacred buildings, now only remnants of these stone structures remain. Contains stones with carved reliefs, including a spiral motiv.
  • Me'ae Pouau, Atuona – Hiva Oa. One of the largest prehistoric meeting places in Hiva Oa. Contains ancient Tevitete burial site with interesting petroglyphs on stones.

Petroglyph sites

  • Eiaone valley rock paintings – Hiva Oa. Six rock shelters with prehistoric rock paintingsm depicting humans, animals and, possibly, birdman.
  • Hakaiki stone carvings – Hiva Oa. 6 m long stone surface covered with interesting petroglyphs.
  • Hanativa Cave – Fatu Hiva, Omoa. A cave with ancient petroglyphs – tiki, heron. Contains skulls and other bones. The location of the cave is secret.
  • Hatuana petroglyphs – Nuku Hiva. Diverse petroglyphs depicting humans and geometric patterns, carved on the cliffs expised at the beach.
  • Tehueto petroglyphs – Hiva Oa. Group of interesting petroglyphs, depicting people and turtles.
  • Vaikivi petroglyphs - Ua Huka. More than 50 petroglyphs on ancient volcanic crater, most likely made between the 15th and 17th century. Ancient people have carved here human faces, octopus, outrigger canoe.
Tiki in Meiaute, Ua Huka
Tiki in Meiaute, Ua Huka / Sémhur, CC BY-SA 3.0

Other man made landmarks

  • Meiaute - Ua Huka, near Hane. The oldest known human settlement in Marquesas Islands, inhabited since 1000 AD (earlier it was considered to be inhabited since 254 - 300 AD.). In the site are found three well made statues of tiki, remnants of me'ae and pae pae.
  • Tohua Mauia - Ua Pou. Archaeological monument - a large L-shaped stone platform suited for dance and cultural performances.

List of described attractions by communes

Marquesas Islands is an administrative subdivision of French Polynesia. Islands are divided into 9 communes:

ArrowMe'ae IiponaAncient shrines, Megaliths, Petroglyphs and cliff art
ArrowVaipo FallsWaterfalls

Map of Marquesas Islands

Featured: Me'ae Iipona

Me'ae Iipona, old stone sculptures
Me'ae Iipona, old stone sculptures / American, Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0

Even the phantasy movies seem to be boring if compared to the reality in Marquesas Islands, especially the amazing archaeological monuments. One of the most surprising ones is Me'ae Iipona - the largest cult site in Marquesas.

Recommended books:

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