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Sailing Into Paradise at Hiva Oa

With its towering backdrop of forested mountains, peppered with palm trees, flowering shrubs and houses, the anchorage at Atuona on Hiva Oa is a stunning place to make landfall after a few weeks at sea. 

If you’ve just sailed across the Pacific Ocean, you’ll be itching to get off the boat to explore this incredible 122-square-mile island, but you’ll be spoilt for choice as to what to do first! Will it be a guided tour, a hike to see the Tiki monuments, possibly a trek through lush valleys on horseback, or simply the chance chill out at one of the remote beaches, such as at Hanatekuua?  

A good idea is to hire a 4x4 jeep and explore the beautiful island at leisure.  After being at sea for so long, it’s a thrill to swap the wheel of the boat for that of a car and navigate around Hiva Oa’s striking mountainous terrain, comprising sharp ridges, deep canyons and steep cliffs.  


Down at sea level, a rugged coastline awaits with pretty Marquesan hamlets interspersed with occasional beaches dotted with palm trees.  If you arrived in search of paradise, this is everything you might have conjured up when you dreamt of being in the South Pacific.   


Hiva Oa is famous for its world-class restored archaeological sites.  Some, like the ‘Smiling Tiki’ are hidden away in the undergrowth, others such as the tiki of Taaoa and the mystical Upeke archaeological site are easier to find. The tiki are symbols of power, loyalty and protection and are admired for the precision of their designs.

The tiki of Taaoa are stone statues, sculpted by Polynesians nearly a thousand years ago. Takaii, at 2,57 metres, is the tallest tiki in French Polynesia, and can be found on the Lipona archaeological site close to the village of Puamau on the northeast coast.


If you choose not to venture far from the anchorage, then there’s plenty to see in the main village of Atuona.  Take a visit to the local craft studio or to the Paul Gauguin cultural centre, which pays homage to the artist who passed the last years of his life on the island and is buried in the local cemetery. Or perhaps enjoy time out on Atuona Beach, which is also popular for surfing.

Keep your camera handy as one thing you will be sure to find in abundance during your stay on Hiva Oa are incredible vistas of mountains, volcanic peaks, palm trees and breathtaking views out across the ocean. 



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