The Marquesas Islands group is the sort of place dreams of a tropical island escape are made for. Dreams are one thing, but getting there and experiencing these remote and unspoiled volcanic islands is another. To put the Marquesas’ isolation in context, the largest island Nuku Hiva is just over three hours’ flying north from Tahiti.
A Marquesas holiday is therefore a big trip from anywhere, so it’s absolutely essential to have everything set up for you to enjoy the best vacation experience possible. There’s no better way to undertake your own South Pacific voyage of discovery than aboard a professionally crewed charter yacht on your own free-wheeling itinerary. The sailing adventure of a lifetime that’s easier to achieve than you may think.
Most Tahiti yacht charters occur in the leeward Society Islands, that well-travelled, well-documented destination centred on Bora Bora, Raiatea and Huahine and close to the entry point of Papeete. Then there is the Tuamotu Archipelago, a large collection of primarily low-lying coral atolls lying a distance further north. The Tuamotus are themselves an isolated group, where charters often but not always require relocation of the chartered boat in preparation for your arrival by air.
Chartering in the Marquesas is another step beyond; a journey that requires considerable forward planning due to the remote location that for many is the group’s greatest appeal.
A traditional Marquesas welcome
Anaho Bay, Nuku Hiva
Comprising substantial landforms that are volcanic in origin, the Marquesas Islands stand majestically against the Pacific sky. Here lagoons ae not part of the plan, in contrast to the low lying islets and cays of other tropical island destinations. The Marquesas islands are mountainous; the tallest peak on Ua Pou, third largest island in the group, rises 4,000 feet above sea level.
The main island of Nuku Hiva is second in land area only to Tahiti itself among French Polynesia's vast array of islands. Along with the destination's isolation, it’s in the wild landscape and untamed nature that the Marquesas’ attraction lies; a place where marine and bird life abounds.
On the Marquesas' dozen islands (of which one - Moto One - is in fact an atoll), there are plenty of sheltered anchorages that make exploration and leisurely island-hopping convenient. The welcoming people, less than 10,000 in total, occupy six of the islands, of which Nuku Hiva, Ua Pou and Hiva Oa are the most populated with some 2,000 residents each.
Works by Hiva Oa's best known resident
Anchorage at Hiva Oa
The Marquesas is known by its Polynesian inhabitants as 'The Land of Men', and there's a rich, often tumultuous history from early settlement through Spanish exploration and French colonisation. A typical seven-day Marquesas itinerary takes in the five islands marked in blue on the map below. All these destinations have something unique to offer by way of cultural and natural interest, all covered in easy cruising-mode day sails.
Getting you to the Marquesas, Air Tahiti operates scheduled air services from Papeete to Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa several days a week. Once there, your charter boat will be a larger sailing or motor catamaran, a well-appointed craft with professional crew who know the Marquesas and help plan your course to do as much sailing, secluded anchorage relaxation or island exploration as you wish. A great option that can be arranged is a charter on a Lagoon 630 MY power cat stationed in French Polynesia.
Marquesian people made Polynesia's largest tiki
Marquesas Islands cultural display
Chartering a boat in the Marquesas Islands is an undertaking somewhat more involved than the usual vacation cruise. Planning well ahead is essential, as charters are tailored and boats generally require prior relocation to the point of commencement. That adds a cost, as of course does getting there.
If you and your crew are up for the challenge of sailing a destination relatively few have sailed before you, one that’s as authentically natural as you could wish for, one spectacularly unique in so many ways and one that will give you bragging rights in the years ahead, then yes, a Marquesas boat charter can be done.