12 Days In the Marquesas Islands Itinerary

March 7, 2021

Part II: 4 Days In Ua Pou

Pinnacles of Ua Pou - pitons - Ua Pou Marquesas Islands French Polynesia

The second part of this Marquesas Islands itinerary takes us to Ua Pou. Ua Pou is one of the least visited stops in the Marquesas Islands, together with Ua Huka but not as forgotten as Fatu Hiva. The island is known for its towering basalt pinnacles that rise like missiles from its center. Visitors will enjoy hiking in its interior, road tripping to remote hamlets, and getting to know Marquesan culture through impressive archeological sites and local crafts. 

Pro tip: for an in-depth look at Ua Pou, check out the Ua Pou Travel Guide and detailed itinerary.

Ua Pou Travel Guide Video

Watch this video to see what’s expecting you in Ua Pou (you might need to disable your ad blocker).

Where to Stay in Ua Pou 

There are no resorts or lodges in Ua Pou so pensions are the way to go. If there’s space at Pension Pukuee, do not hesitate and book. This is the best pension on the island, ideally located on a hillside overlooking the main village of Hakahau, its bay, and the famous pinnacles (pitons). Other options include Pension Hakamoui, Pension Vehine, and Pension Leydj.  

Pension Pukuee - pool and view - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

Day 5: Hakahau Village and/or Hike

The short flight from Hiva Oa might require a brief stop in Ua Huka so consider yourself lucky if that’s the case. Landing in Ua Pou is an experience on its own, well-known throughout French Polynesia not only for the scenery but also for the challenge. 

Use the first day in Ua Pou to either explore the main village, Hakahau, or embark on an easy DIY hike. You’ll have time on other days to explore the village as well. 

Hakahau Village Ua Pou Marquesas Islands French Polynesia

In Hakahau, do some souvenir shopping at the local crafts center. I found it to be the best place in the Marquesas for souvenir shopping. Further up the hill is the main Catholic church with its beautiful woodwork. When the sun begins to set, head with the locals to the beach and catch up on the day’s gossip. 

stone tiki statues in artist market - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

Wood sculpture in Catholic church Ua Pou Marquesas Islands French Polynesia

If you’re up for some hiking, catch the trail from the back of Pension Pukuee and head towards Hakamoui. You can turn around whenever you like or go all the way and either walk or hitchhike back to the main village. En route, you’ll visit deserted Anahoa Bay, be treated to the best panoramic view on this side of the island at “the cross”, and say hello to wild horses and cattle as you head to “the king’s valley” in Hakamoui

wild beach - hiking Hakamoui Loop - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

view of Hakahau from hiking Hakamoui Loop - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

wild horse - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

Day 6: Hakahau to Hakatao 

On your second day in Ua Pou join a guided tour and explore the south of the island. You can also rent a 4WD and sightsee on your own if you’re comfortable with the rough drive and don’t mind missing the local perspective and know-how of a guide. 

Leaving Hakahau, stop on the side of the road or head to the beach at the bottom of “the king’s valley” in Hakamoui. This was the site of the last chief to rule Ua Pou. Continue to Belvedere Ua Pou Pata, a beautiful lookout with a stone ledge. 

valley of kings daytime - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

Belvedere Ua Pou Pata Marquesas Islands French Polynesia

The next stop is Hohoi Village and its beach. You can stop for lunch in the village and also see if Jean Kautai is busy working in his shop. Jean is the most famous sculpture on the island. If you’ve prepared a picnic lunch, Hohoi beach is the best option on this day. Better known as “flower stone beach”, see if you can find the famous rock that is unique to Ua Pou from which the island’s legendary flower stone statues are made. 

flower stone at flower beach - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

flower beach - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

From Hohoi, it’s a short drive to Tohua Mauia, the grandest archeological site in Ua Pou. Its most impressive feature is its 100-meter long pea pea (stone platform). Continue the drive, transitioning from the arid east coast to the lusher southern coast. The road ends in the village of Hakatao. From its beach, take a short path up the ridge to a special viewpoint from where you can see Cathedral Rock (Motu Takaae), a pinnacle rising 240 meters straight out of the water. 

Tohua Mauia - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

Hakatao - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

distant view of Cathedral Motu - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

Day 7: Hakahau to Hakamaii

Back in your rented 4WD or your guide’s vehicle, explore the west coast of Ua Pou on this day. After passing the airport, radiating Shark Bay should come into view. Admire the stunning scenery from the dirt road before going for a stroll or a swim at this prettiest beach in Ua Pou.

shark beach view - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

To optimize the day’s itinerary, drive all the way to the end of the road in Hakamaii. Don’t be tempted to stop except when there’s a nice view since we’ll work our way back on this very same path. In sleepy Hakamaii, ask for directions to a trail that leads to a panoramic lookout or simply stretch your legs before beginning the drive back.

The stretch of road from Hakamaii to Hakahetau offers the best scenic stops, especially for unobstructed views of Ua Pou’s iconic basalt chimneys. In Hakahetau, you can stop for lunch at Snack Ti’ Piero, or hike amid giant ferns and banyan trees to secluded Vaiea Waterfall (Cascade Vaiea) for the highlight of the day. If there’s more time, drive or continue the hike and meet Manfred Drechsler’s, better known as “the chocolate man”. In the unlikeliest of spots, this self-sufficient German ex-pat produces chocolates from cocoa grown in his backyard. 

seeing the pinnacles from road trip - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

road trip - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

hike to waterfall in rainforest - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

dricia in Cascade Vaiea waterfall - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

To wrap up this magical road trip, pause on the roadside to admire the sunset just after rising out of the valley that houses the airport. This is one of the best spots in Ua Pou for sunset viewing. 

sunset on road trip - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

Day 8: Poumaka Peak Hike

On the last day in Ua Pou, it’s time to see the famous pitons (basalt pinnacles) from up close. Under the guidance of Jerome Simmoneau from Pension Pukuee, set out on either the easier “crossing” or the more challenging yet rewarding “poumaka loop”. On the way back, you can stop for lunch at Snack Ti’ Piero in Hakahetau and get another chance for a refreshing dip at Cascade Vaiea. 

Poumaka Peak hike - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

Poumaka Peak hike - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia - view from top

Poumaka Peak hike - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia - <span data-mce-type=[andanus forest” width=”850″ height=”567″>

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