How to get to the Marquesas Islands? This is a question that I have been asked many times, and that I have seen often on the French Polynesia forums. Among all the Polynesian islands, the name of the Marquesas is well known to most people, especially thanks to Jacques Brel and Paul Gauguin. These two french celebrities (painter and a singer) are buried on the island of Hiva Oa. Some people even plan to live on the Marquesas Islands. However, very few know where the islands are located on a map, yet they still dream of a trip to the archipelago.
For most people who are planning a trip to French Polynesia, the priority is often given to classic itineraries : the Society islands : Bora Bora (for its beautiful fine sandy beaches on the motus and 1/2 nights in a bungalow on stilts), Moorea islands (with its lagoon, 2 perfects bays) a few days on a Tuamotu atolls (Rangiroa and Fakarava mainly for scuba diving, snorkel and enjoys amazing lagoons) and finally a few days in the Leeward Islands (Raiatea, Huahine, etc.). Nevertheless, the Marquesas are islands at the end of the world, which remain to me a paradisiacal area to discover that is still considered as off the beaten track.
The main island and the largest of the Marquesas Archipelago is called Nuku Hiva, the big island, with its capital, Taiohae. Six islands are now populated on the archipelago. Four of them have a local airport (there is no International airport). It is common to distinguish the Northern Marquesas Islands (Ua Pou, Ua Huka and Nuku Hiva) and the Southern Marquesas Islands (Hiva Oa, Tahuata, Fatu Hiva). The island of Eiao is now uninhabited, as are the islands and islets of Hatutaa, Motu One, Moho Tani, Hatu Iti and Motu Nao.
These islands are on the classic stopover passage of the sailors on a round-the-world trip. The article on travel between the islands of French Polynesia may also provide you with information on your transfers from island to island in other Polynesian archipelagos.
The Marquesas Islands are actually an archipelago belonging to French Polynesia (and thus to France), located about 1500 Km north of Tahiti Island, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, in Oceania. It is one of the five archipelagos of the Polynesian territory, one of my favorites with the Gambier (Mangareva) and Australes. This tropical archipelago is particularly well known for being part of the origin of the settlement of Easter Island. These volcanic islands have lush vegetation and can be considered paradise on earth for hikers.
In this article, I explain to you in a synthetic way, how to go to the Marquesas Islands but also how to travel from one island to another in the archipelago.
There are two main possibilities: by plane, the most popular, and by boat.
This is obviously the simplest and the solution that most people choose to go to the Marquesas by. It is important to know that the Marquesas archipelago is connected only by flights from Tahiti Island. There are no international flights to the Marquesas Islands directly. Tahiti Island is the only gateway to these Pacific islands. From Tahiti Island, the two main islands of the archipelago (Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa) are served daily. Find the cheapest flights to go to French Polynesia using this flight compataror. As of today, you can mainly travel with Air Tahiti Nui, Frenchbee or Air France on an international flight.
To reach the other islands, it is first necessary to land in Nuku Hiva or Hiva Oa. A flight from Tahiti to Marquesas lasts 3 hours and 30 minutes to 4 hours. You can download the complete updated flight schedule on this Air Tahiti page. The airfare is around 70,000 to 80,000 Pacific francs (about 600$) for a flight to the archipelago.
If you are wondering how to go to the Marquesas Islands, it is likely that you have considered the idea of going by boat. This is indeed a possibility, even though you will need more time.
In theory, it is possible to go to the Marquesas by boat from all over French Polynesia. All you have to do is find a service provider who wants to transport you to the archipelago. Several possibilities exist and you will have to check with them directly for prices and availability. I know of Poe Charter and of Tahiti Voile et Lagon who can offer this type of trip.
For information, a one-week cruise on a catamaran in the Tuamotu archipelago will cost you between 100 000 and 120 000 xpf (800 to 1000€). The Marquesas are still much further away….
It is also possible to travel from international waters with your own boat. Moreover, during the best period, many are the sailors that go out into the Marquesas Islands and take shelter on the Bay of Virgins (Baie des Vierges) on Fatu Hiva Island (Southern Marquesas) and even in the famous Tahuku Bay, on Hiva Oa Island.
Sailors often come from South America, for example from the Galapagos Archipelago (Ecuador), or the Cook Island, from Rarotonga. The first island encountered is Fatu Hiva, very famous in the world of Pacific sailors. I have to say that the arrival by boat on the famous Baie des Vierges in Fatu Hiva is still grandiose (for having experienced it). After months at sea, the feeling must be even stronger.
As if you are travelling from French Polynesia, ask the local authorities for information on administrative and customs clearance when you arrive in the Marquesas Islands.
People wishing to go to the Marquesas often choose to visit several islands in the archipelago. Here, I give you the information to travel between the islands.
As for Marquesas airports, four of the six inhabited islands have them.
In the Southern Marquesas Archipelago, only one airport is present on the island of Hiva Oa. All the populated islands of the Northern Marquesas Archipelago have an airport (Nuku Hiva, Ua Pou and Ua Huka).
Between the two main islands, Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa, there are at least 1 or even 2 planes per day. Things will get more complicated as soon as you go to the other islands. Be sure to check with Air Tahiti before you leave, through their flight schedule, or by calling the agency.
The islands of Ua Pou and Ua Huka are not necessarily connected every day. The island of Ua Pou is a little special, because of a very short runway, only a Twin Otter (19 seats) can land there. The plane has been out of service quite frequently since I got here. Be sure to check carefully before leaving if the flight is being maintained. I spent a week on the island in 2019 and I must say that the arrival is impressive, landing in the mountains, on a climbing runway (no, i’m not joking!).
For those who wish to go to the Marquesas Islands and visit the whole archipelago, do not hesitate to use a Marquesas Pass with Air Tahiti. You’re going to save a lot of money here. I have written a full article on the subject.
Feel free to come and read the article!
The Marquesas Pass costs between 85,000 and 90,000 xp (700 to 750€) and allows you to visit the entire archipelago. It will then be necessary to organize with Air Tahiti to see the availability of flights between the different islands. If you also want to travel to the two islands that do not have airports (Fatu Hiva and Tahuata – which I recommend 100%), you will have to use the local shuttle boar at your own expense (see paragraph below).
It is of course possible to travel throughout the Marquesas archipelago with your own boat. You can also usually, if necessary, ask locally and rent a local boat to do the transfer. Prices are to be negotiated with the direct service provider. It should be noted that you are not the only one to do a boat trip between two islands. The ideal is therefore, either to join a boat with locals, or to find people who want to do the crossing with you. This way you share the price of the boat with everyone.
Concerning the archipelago of the Southern Marquesas, you have the possibility to use the new communal shuttle boat to go to the island of Tahuata and Fatu Hiva. I personally remember the arrival on Tahuata Island which was very nice. I went there twice and I thought it was great. You even have a small craft market in the main village that sells woodcarving or whale bones. The remoteness and the change of scenery are there. The island of Fatu Hiva is even more distant, isolated and preserved in my opinion. There’s even an endemic bird on the island, that’s to say! It’s green here, it’s clear that the island is well watered. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to stay there too long. If you can go there, take your free time to explore the interior of the island which is superb from what I have seen. Depending on the season, a lot of sailboats and ships stop here! The softness of life really seems to be on the agenda between us.
Here are the details of the communal shuttle rotations (time and price) below.
Count 8000 xpf (65€) for a return trip from Hiva Oa Island to Tahuata, which is really cheap considering the trip (about 5h) and the fact that all transport is usually much more expensive in French Polynesia.
If you have the opportunity to take a trip to the Marquesas Islands, I recommend that you spend a few days on Tahuata and Fatu Hiva Island, which are superb. I had the opportunity to go there one day on each of the islands and from what I saw, it was worth the trip. A good bath of authenticity as I like them, far from the tourists of Bora Bora…
I allow myself in this article to make a small aside on the things to do and see in the Marquesas Islands. I will not write I think a detailed article on the matter, but rather articles by islands. So why discover this idyllic setting? I could find lots of reasons to come and visit the Marquesas on a trip to Tahiti, as well as to discover the island of Rapa, lost deep in the Australes archipelago.
- I have seen people coming on honeymoon trips to the islands several times. So I reassure you that we forget the Intercontinental or Pearl Beach Hotel, white sand beaches, coconut palms, turquoise waters (although…), coral reef, overwater bungalows on stilts, etc. That’s not why people come to the Marquesas islands. Nevertheless, these islands are exceptional for their authenticity,
- The “land of men”, as we often call the Marquesas, is also famous for its culture and you will have the opportunity to discover an archaeological site (or more) on each of the islands, sheltering petroglyph, tiki, rock sculpture, ancient cemetery, etc. It is also an opportunity to get a closer look at the copra culture (dried coconut), which is very interesting and taste breadfruit,
- But we also come to these small remote islands in the South Pacific for their breathtaking natural beauty. On the program: steep basalt cliffs, exceptional views of the sea and the island’s peaks, spectacular routes to the mountainous heights, waterfalls, crystal clear waters in some places, black sand beaches, etc.. Lovers of the underwater world will also be delighted: manta rays, tropical fish, coral reefs, etc
Are you looking for more information about the Marquesas Islands?