Hiva Oa is the second largest island in the Marquesas Islands, in French Polynesia, an overseas territory of France in the Pacific Ocean. The island is famous as the final home of French painter Paul Gauguin and Belgian singer Jacques Brel, both of whom are buried in Calvary Cemetery, overlooking Atuona. It is also home to the largest tiki sculptures in French Polynesia.
Hiva Oa is the largest and most fertile of the southern Marquesas islands and second only to Nuku Hiva in size. Similar to all the larger Marquesas, Hiva Oa features steep cliffs abruptly rising from the ocean to a rugged interior spine of volcanic mountains, ridges, and deep, isolated valleys. Unlike most other Polynesian islands near the equator, no fringing coral reefs protect Hiva Oa from the pounding of the ocean and only a few sheltered anchorages and sandy beaches are scattered around the coast.
The outstanding geologic characteristic of Hiva Oa is the collapsed volcano Temetiu. Semi-circular Ta'a Oa bay, also called the Bay of Traitors, is in the crater of the volcano whose walls rise sharply 1,000 metres above the bay. Within Ta'a Oa are Atuona Bay and adjacent Taha Uku which are the best anchorages on the island. Taha Uku has a protective seawall built in 1981. Hiva Oa is separated from the nearby island of Tahuata to its south by a 4-kilometre-wide channel called Ha'ava or the Canal de Bordelais.
Temperatures in the Marquesas are stable year around, but precipitation is highly variable. Precipitation is much greater on the north and east (windward) parts of the islands and much less on the western (leeward) parts.
Atuona Airport or Hiva Oa Airport (IATA: AUQ) is located 4.5 kilometres northeast of Atuona. Air Tahiti flies from Tahiti to Hiva Oa daily, on some days directly, on some days you have connected flights via Nuku Hiva, the "main" island of Marquesas Islands. There are also daily flights to Nuku Hiva.
The Aranui III is a mixed passenger/cargo vessel that operates between Tahiti and the Marquesas. In its 14-day voyages once or twice a month it visits atolls of Tuamotus and 6 inhabited islands of Marquesas.
Ask your hosts to collect you from the airport, as there are no taxis or other ways of public transportation on the island
Both 4WD excursions and 4WD rent-a-cars are available.
Travel along the shoreline is by boat as most of the coastal terrain is too rugged for roads. A few dirt roads traverse the interior and link seacoast villages and settlements.
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