Tahuata and Nuku Hiva


Last Updated on November 18, 2019 by Amy

After visiting the islands of Fatu Hiva and Hiva Oa, David and I took a short 7-mile sail over to Tahuata Island, and then onward to Nuku Hiva.  Tahuata and Nuku Hiva are two islands in the Marquesas group of French Polynesia.

Tahuata Island

It was only a 7-mile sail to the bay of Hana Moe Noa on Tahuata island. As we pulled in, we saw Blue Raven, who we’d talked to on our crossing via VHF but hadn’t gotten to meet yet. Brian, Nichole, and their two daughters dinghied over as soon as we were settled in to make introductions and chat.

Hana Moe Noa is one of the most beautiful bays we have ever anchored. The beach and water are beautifully clear. We could see the bottom in 25 feet of water and it was nice sand. There were about 10 boats when we arrived, but when we left four days later, there were only 3.

During that time, we made new friends. Chuck and Linda from s/v Jacaranda stopped by to say hello. They have been cruising the west coast of the Americas and the Pacific for 10 years and have spent the last 10 months in the Marquesas. They have some handy resources on their site.

Our friend from our Hiva Oa road trip, Cartago, also came into the bay, so we once again got to see our friends Jose and Gina. We also met the crew of another boat, Windekind. These five guys in their 20s all met in high school in Santa Barabara and have been cruising together for 2-6 months.


David and I snorkeled the north side of the bay, and I was pleased with the water visibility and the amount of coral and fish we saw. Our highlight was a sea turtle about the size of a backpack who didn’t seem too concerned about us.

At night, we got to enjoy amazing stars. We also turned our underwater lights on. Most nights, we had hundreds of fish join us, including a large school that made a fish tornado under our boat. However, one night we had a manta ray join us, swimming for at least 20 minutes. It was a dream come true for me. We also discovered something weird – when we turned the lights off, the fish FLIPPED OUT!  The water surface became noisy with the sounds of fish flipping around.


We didn’t actually go ashore in this bay, although there are locals who live here and are reputed to be welcoming. We did get in the water and in two sessions cleaned our waterline. The fiberglass just above our bottom paint was truly disgusting. Starry Horizons is much cleaner now.

Taiohae, Nuku Hiva

Our next stop was an overnight sail to the island of Nuku Hiva, and we anchored in Taiohae, the largest port in the Marquesas. Early in Davids shift, our friends on Blue Raven popped up on our AIS. The race was on!

Yoga enjoying the gorgeous view in Nuku Hiva.
Starry Horizons in Nuku Hiva

We arrived very early in the morning and anchored on the far East side of the bay. Taiohae is HUGE, and can easily fit 50 boats. We picked our spot so we could be close to the fuel dock. That night, Blue Raven hailed us and invited us over for a pot luck on their boat. We, fortunately, had leftover pasta salad to bring. The crew of S/V Elas was there as well, who’d we had seen several times in the last few months. Kim, Claudia, and their two daughters (the same age as the girls on Blue Raven) are from Switzerland.

It’s not very often we step foot on a monohull, and man, I had to hold on a lot!

Exploring Town

The next morning, Tuesday the 10th, David and I dinghied ashore to walk through town. The wharf is very easy to find and there are always a ton of dinghied tied up. Immediately off the dock is a “snack shack” with wifi, yacht services, and the market – for artisan crafts and produce. We walked the main road through town and stopped at the two grocery stores, a cathedral, and the festival site. The festival site was built on the site of the former home of the queen of the Marquesas. I believe the festival is every four years and was founded to carry on the Marquesan traditions, which were being eliminated by Tahitian and European influences.

It was 11:30, the grocery stores were closed, and we were starting to get hungry. We stopped at the snack shack for lunch – I had poisson cru (easily becoming a favorite of mine) and David had steak frites all for roughly $18 USD. The portions were huge – we should have shared. The wifi at the snack shack was pretty decent.

Recipe for Poisson Cru.

Poisson cru.

The Market

After lunch, we stopped at the market to buy fruits. Apparently, you have to come pretty early (6 am) to get veggies. I bought 6 enormous bananas, a pamplemousse, a papaya, a bag of limes and sucres bananas (dried sweet bananas) for roughly $18 USD. The bananas are fairly ridiculous – they are about three times wider than a banana in the US and I can’t eat a whole one.

Fruit from the market.

We had a quiet night on the boat and I started up early Wednesday morning (6 am) with a run (from the dinghy dock to the fuel station and back) and grocery shopping. I stopped at the market (around 7:15) and was able to buy three small eggplants, a small cabbage, a bundle of long beans, a bunch of bok choy, and a bag of tomatoes (all for roughly $10.50 USD). Vegetables are a hot commodity through all of French Polynesia, so you have to be quick about it. Fruits are in overabundance, so you can always get fresh tropical fruit.

Vegetables fro the market.

Next, I hit the first supermarket: baguettes, canned veggies, UHT milk, and pasta. You have to strike early on fresh bread too, although the supermarket had baguettes, sandwich rolls, boules, and bread loaves.

Fueling up in Taiohae, Nuku Hiva

Back on the boat, David was finally awake!  Talk about a productive morning for me!  Our next plan was to refuel, which was quite the ordeal!  The fuel dock is a large concrete wall with large rubber fenders. When we had arrived in the bay, there was a cargo/passenger ship at the dock. Apparently, it comes in every week. So, for a boat like ours, we had to med-moor, which means we navigate out from the dock, drop our anchor, and back into the dock.

We’ve watched a few other boats do it. It was utterly nerve-wracking, as the swell was a bit rough and the wind was pushing us perpendicular to the dock. I had to keep the engines on constantly to make sure I could pop our port engine into forward if we got too close to the dock (which is where my blind spot is). After we pumped, David had to leave me to pay and present paperwork. It was rough work to keep Starry Horizons from getting banged up all by myself.

Hakatea Bay, Nuku Hiva

After fueling, we departed for Hakatea Bay. Hakatea is just a few miles west of Taiohae and is extremely sheltered. We anchored in the east lobe of the bay and had no view of the ocean or horizon. The mountains surrounded us. While Fatu Hiva was a beautiful landscape, I think Hakatea’s surrounding view is better. Unfortunately, the water is not very clear. But what attracts people is the third largest waterfall in the world and the manta rays!

Spotting Manta Rays

We spotted manta rays swimming in the bay; watch the surface of the water, the tips of their wings poke out with each stroke. The mantas skim the top of the water so you can track them, and if you get close enough you can make out the head and underside of the wings, which is white. Sometimes, they dive deeper, making them hard to see unless the water is clear. But then they flip and roll, bringing their white bellies to the surface.

Our friends on Blue Raven came in that afternoon (those stalkers…) and we invited them over after dinner in hopes that the underwater lights would provide us a show. At first, we were concerned because we only saw a few fish…but then we spotted our first ray!  We called BR and they came over. Brian brought a hand line and I provided some bait (fresh tuna scraps). The rays multiplied, we played with the line, and eventually, the smell of the bait attracted sharks!  They were only about 2 feet long and six in number, but it was entertaining.

Hiking the Daniel’s Bay Waterfall

Thursday morning, we met BR at the beach to hike to the waterfall. It was gray and nasty, raining pretty heavily sometimes. We debated about canceling but soldiered on. The village here is very small – just a few houses but mostly orchard, and they grow all manner of citrus, bananas, papayas, and coconuts. The walkthrough was fairly straightforward. We had to ford the river several times (Oregon Trail-style) up to our knees. The guidebooks said that once the path becomes unclear we should look for cairns, but we didn’t see all that many. The path was very muddy, and sometimes even flowed with the rainwater.

After about 2 hours we found the ruins of an abandoned village. The stonework distracted us and lost the trail. We decided to follow the river along the banks until we could find the trail again, and thankfully we did. As we approached the waterfall, we started to find plastic red and white flagging tied to trees marking the pathway.

Finding the Waterfall

Finally, we came to a clearing. We were in the valley between steep, volcanic cliffs. It was extremely picturesque, with a grassy knoll and trees along the river. The river opened up into a pool, and at the far side, we could see large boulders blocking the view of the waterfall. We stripped down, swam across the water and climbed over the rocks. The waterfall pounds down into the water, creating strong winds, currents, and mists that make you turn away.

After our swim, we moved just a bit down the river to find some rocks in the sun (now that the clouds and rain were gone). We had a picnic lunch.

Hiking Back

On our hike back, we followed the trail and popped out at the ruins again, where we’d lost the trail before. We built up half a dozen cairns to make sure others didn’t make our mistake.

Due to the rain, we didn’t take any pictures (we brought our phones but we’re glad we had them in a waterproof bag because our backpacks were soaked).  To see pictures of what the hike typically looks like, check out Escape Velocity’s blog post.

Back to Starry Horizons, we took a well-deserved shower and laid our wet clothes out to dry. We had two casualties on the hike – I lost my sunglasses and David hiking boots bit the dust. The boots were crazy old and lost both soles during the hike. It looked like they exploded!!

It rained off and on the rest of the day. Brian and Nichole came over for, as Brian said, the nerdiest happy hour he ever had – we did a digital swap of movies and kindle books.

Friday I ran two loads of laundry and the sun stayed out long enough to air everything out after all the rain yesterday. At about 2:30 we pulled our anchor to head back to Taiohae.

Back to Taiohae

This time, we anchored about mid-bay, in the front row. We were able to get the wifi to work from the boat which has been great. I woke up at 4:30 to go to the 5 am market on Saturday morning. Yes, it was worth it. I bought some fresh baked goods, roti pork (like Asian BBQ), a whole hogfish, and many more veggies than had been at the daily market. I bought squash, eggplants, bok choy, long beans, cabbage, watermelon, and cute fresh bundles of mint!  Saturday I made mojitos.

The Monday was a holiday, so we spent the quiet weekend hanging out in the boat. Tuesday I made sure to go shopping early to pick up some fresh baguettes and provisions to last to Tahiti. I am loving papayas with lime, both of which are plentiful here. I have also found dried whole bananas, which are soft and sweet – an excellent treat.

Wednesday rained all day, which thwarted my attempt to do laundry all day!

Today we leave for the Tuamotus. We only have two weeks until we aim to be in Tahiti, so we are only going to make a couple of stops, but we are excited to explore these stunning atolls!

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  1. What an awesome post! So much information – it really helps to build a picture of your days. You must be very glad to have the underwater lights. Seems that they provide incredible evening entertainment. Love and hugs. . . Jan

    1. They are giving us tons of entertainment! The mantas swimming in the light made all the headache worth it!

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