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

Ua Pou Travel Guide

Ua Pou Travel Guide

Last updated on March 4th, 2022

With its basalt pinnacles racing upwards in the direction of the heavens, bay after bay of tranquility, and hundreds of archeological sites, Ua Pou landscapes are unforgettable. This Ua Pou travel guide takes you to one of the least visited islands in French Polynesia and an off-the-beaten-track option for those heading to the Marquesas Islands. 

About This Guide

It was only on my second visit to the Marquesas Islands that I finally made it to Ua Pou, having previously visited Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa. I spent four nights in Ua Pou on a six-week tour of four archipelagos in French Polynesia, my fifth visit to the South Pacific’s ultimate destination. This Ua Pou travel guide is based on my experience and on extensive research. 

Ua Pou travel guide - marquesas islands french polynesia

Heading off to French Polynesia? In-depth island guides to all 5 archipelagos await you, including sample itineraries and essential travel tips & tricks.

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Why Visit Ua Pou?

The Marquesas Islands are well known for dramatic natural beauty and the locals’ deep connection to their proud history. Ua Pou raises these standards to a higher level and you should visit if you enjoy traveling to destinations where few have gone before. Ua Pou is one of the least visited islands in the chain (together with Ua Huka but not as forgotten as Fatu Hiva). The island’s interior is dominated by towering pinnacles that form a majestic skyline, its coastline hides hundreds of bays and valleys that range from bone-dry to tropical. Ua Pou’s residents live tranquil lives amongst all this beauty, and they’ll be happy to share with you their ancestral culture, whether in impressive archaeological sites or through their exquisite artwork.  

basalt pinnacles pitons of Ua Pou Marquesas Islands French Polynesia
What’s Included In This Ua Pou Travel Guide?
Several sections make up this travel guide:

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).

Ua Pou Travel Guide Map

All points of interest mentioned in this guide can be found on this map. Simply click on the image to open in Google My Maps. 

Ua Pou travel guide map - Marquesas Islands French Polynesia

Facts & Brief History

Ua Pou is the third largest of the Marquesas Islands, the northernmost archipelago in French Polynesia. It is part of the northern group of islands in the chain, together with Ua Huka and Nuku Hiva, just 50 kilometers to its north. The dialect here is slightly different than in the southern group. Like all islands in the chain, Ua Pou does not have a protective barrier reef so waves constantly smash its coastline.

The island’s iconic backdrop is highlighted by four towering basalt pillars or pinnacles (pitons), the highest of which is Mount Oave which rises to a height of 1,230 meters. This is the highest point in the Marquesas Islands. In total, there are 12 pinnacles on the islands, the result of interesting geological history. 

pitons at sunset - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

Ua Pou is the only island in French Polynesia to be formed out of a shield volcano. At some point, its massive caldera collapsed into its boiling interior, giving the lava a chance to escape to the surface under high pressure. Gradually, the lava solidified into basalt while additional liquid continued to rise, covering the fresh rock and creating the pinnacles. When volcanic activity seized, erosion took over and sharpened the pinnacles into what we see today. 

The high interior of the island and the winds create a drier (and windier) east coast and a lush west coast. During the dry season, the two coasts are strikingly different. The island can experience long dry spells on the east coast, requiring authorities to limit the water supply to certain villages. The main village, Hakahau, is spared from this decree thanks to five dams built at a height of 300 meters that keep the river flowing at all times. 

bay of Hakahau - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

Like all Polynesian islands, Ua Pou’s native culture was extremely stratified and war between neighboring tribes fighting for pride and resources was constant. This rich and religious culture is not only known thanks to oral tradition but also thanks to hundreds of ancient stone structures, known as pea pea, that were discovered on the island. 

Ua Pou used to be the most populated island in the chain until a few decades ago but only 2,300 residents live here today. In missionary days, the Marquesas Islands were ravaged by disease imported by visiting ships of whalers and explorers. In Ua Pou, missionaries would quarantine the population inside churches during such visits, thus protecting the natives from much of the death experienced on other islands. 

Ua Pou Travel Tips

This list of travel tips will help you plan your trip to Ua Pou as part of your visit to the Marquesas Islands and other parts of French Polynesia. 

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How Many Days Do You Need In Ua Pou?

Ua Pou is quite difficult to reach so you might as well make the most of your visit. I recommend spending at least four days in Ua Pou if you want to have enough time to see all the major highlights. If hiking isn’t your thing, two days of driving around the island are the minimum but I recommend adding a third day if possible as a buffer in case of bad weather. 

When Is the Best Time To Visit Ua Pou?

In general, you can visit Ua Pou throughout the year but the best time is during the dry season. In the Marquesas Islands, seasons are opposite to the rest of the archipelagos in French Polynesia. This means that the dry season in the Marquesas runs from November to April and the “wetter” season is from May to October. 

wild beach 4 - hiking Hakamoui Loop - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

That said, the wet season in the Marquesas is not as wet as in Tahiti and there is always a distinctly drier side of the island. Besides, your trip to the Marquesas will most likely be part of a greater journey across French Polynesia so it doesn’t make sense to head to the Marquesas when the wet season in the Society Islands is in full swing. 

How To Get To Ua Pou?

The best way to reach Ua Pou is by flight from either Nuku Hiva or Hiva Oa. Landing at Ua Pou’s airport is considered the most challenging in French Polynesia. Its short runway has an upward slope to slow the plane down since it is tucked inside a narrow valley where crossing winds and the mountains leave no room for error (see video below). Pilots must have a special license to fly to Ua Pou and flights are prone to cancellation. 

Air Tahiti used to operate flights to Ua Pou (and Ua Huka) on small Twin Otters but sometime in 2021, Tahiti Air Charter is set to take over. This might mean that you won’t be able to fly to Ua Pou as part of an air pass. You might need to purchase separate tickets.  

flying from hiva oa to ua pou on small plane - Hiva Oa - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia
airport - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

The local community sometimes uses boats to shuttle locals to Nuku Hiva and back. I have read that a sturdier boat is set to arrive at Ua Pou and begin regular service to Nuku Hiva (1.5-2 hours to cross). However, if you are not backpacking with a very flexible schedule, this mode of transport is not recommended and this new initiative might never actually see the light of day. 

You can also reach Ua Pou on a cruise with the regularly scheduled Aranui, a luxury cruise ship that also doubles as a cargo ship. The Aranui visits every inhabited island in the chain and visitors get a few hours to explore the island. Personally, I recommend a land-based visit. 

Aranui Marquesas Islands cuise ship docked in Ua Pou French Polynesia

Getting Around Ua Pou

To/From Airport: Ua Pou’s main village, Hakahau, lies in the neighboring valley to that of the small airport. Your pension hosts will arrange return transfers. Travel time takes about 20-30 minutes. 

Around Ua Pou: it’s best to hire a guide to take you around the island, especially the southeast, where the main archeological sites are located. However, if you are comfortable driving a manual transmission 4WD vehicle, you can rent one in the main village and road trip around the island. Many sections of road are narrow, unpaved, and have sharp turns so drive with care. Inquire with your hosts about renting a car or contact Teuu Location (87-314-4729). Renting a car in Ua Pou costs about 10,000 XPF/day. You can pay an additional 1,500 XPF for gas or fill up at the gas station which closes at 5 pm. 

driving in Ua Pou Marquesas Islands French Polynesia
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Pro Tip

It’s often the case that administration workers carrying out projects for the government rent 4WD vehicles and the supply is not high. So it’s best to reserve your vehicle in advance, at the very least on arrival day.  

Where to Stay in Ua Pou

Look no further than Pension Pukuee for your accommodation in Ua Pou. Nestled on a hill above Hakahau Village, this pension is not only situated within walking distance of “downtown”, but it also commands exceptional views of scenic Hakahau Bay and the island’s signature pinnacles. 

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

Pension Pukuee is owned and operated by Elisa and Jerome Simoneau. Jerome is a retired French military man so this place is run to absolute perfection. Four newly renovated bungalows with their deck are available, together with a dorm room above the couple’s residence in the back. There’s a swimming pool, jacuzzi, well-stocked bar, fast (and free) WiFi, and a restaurant. Guests can stay on a half-board basis with meals enjoyed communal style. The food is plentiful and delicious, though you must inquire in advance if you have any dietary restrictions. The couple also owns a small roulotte (food truck) down the road. 

Pension Pukuee dinner - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia
tuna tartare at pension pukuee Ua Pou Marquesas Islands French Polynesia

The best part of staying here is not only the friendly and comfortable atmosphere but also Jerome’s skills as a guide. He knows Ua Pou inside out and will be happy to take you around the island on guided tours or hikes. Jerome is quite well-known in the Marquesas for his hikes and he often hosts groups of hikers who come to Ua Pou for several days of intense sightseeing. His English is good enough and a rare commodity in Ua Pou. There are also electric bikes that can be rented from the pension. 

Pension Pukuee - Jerome the host - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

Other options include Pension Hakamoui which is located in Hakamoui Bay, Pension Vehine which is located in Hakahau (main village), and Pension Leydj which is located in Hakahetau.  

Money

Surprisingly, credit cards are accepted by most local businesses but in case you need cash, there is an ATM in Hakahau. 

Drinking Water in Ua Pou

It’s most likely that tap water is safe to drink only for residents, whose stomachs are accustomed to the water content. It’s best to inquire with your hosts. Most pensions offer filtered drinking water free of charge. 

Excursions in Ua Pou

You don’t come to Ua Pou to rest. There are three main activities on the island (see next section for detailed information):

  • Island tours: recommended going with a guide who can also provide local insights and explanations but theoretically can be done on your own with a rented 4WD. 
  • Hiking: the most famous hikes are in the interior of the island and must be done with a guide. There are shorter hikes that can be done on your own. 
  • Birdwatching: not as popular as the first two activities but if birdwatching is your thing, you could hire a guide with a boat and venture south to a rock known as “bird island”. 
Jerome at Tohua Mauia - Ua Pou Marquesas Islands French Polynesia

Mobile Reception and WiFi in Ua Pou

Vini is the only mobile network with coverage in Ua Pou (my Vodafone roaming package did not work). WiFi should be available, at least in the main village. I stayed at Pension Pukuee and the connection was excellent. 

Safety Tips for Ua Pou

Here are a few tips for keeping you safe in Ua Pou:

  • Trespassing: about 95% of the land in Ua Pou is privately owned. If you see a “tapu” sign, go no further or first seek permission. This also means that you should refrain in general from picking fruit off trees. 
  • Swimming: planning to visit a beach? Ask your hosts before heading out if it is safe for swimming. Watch out for strong currents and jellyfish. 
  • Nono: the Marquesas are notorious for tiny sand flies that are very hard to detect and that leave a nasty and lasting bite. They are usually found on beaches. I am not aware of any such beaches in Ua Pou but it’s best to ask your hosts. 
  • Driving: many sections of road around the island are unpaved, narrow, and windy. Take extra care if renting a 4WD especially after heavy rain.
  • DIY Hiking: some hikes (not the ones in the interior) can be done on your own. However, the trails are not marked and it’s easy to get lost. Be sure to get a map from your hosts, even a hand-drawn one, before leaving. Don’t forget to wear proper shoes, take more water than you think you’ll need, and protect yourself from the sun. 
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Pro Tip

Never travel without the right travel insurance, especially if you plan on hiking, driving, or visiting remote places where you may need evacuation. Check out the various travel insurance plans offered by World Nomads, specifically designed for independent travelers. 

driving around Ua Pou Marquesas Islands French Polynesia

What to Buy in Ua Pou

The Marquesas Islands are well known for their crafts so, if authentic souvenirs are your thing, be sure to have enough extra space and weight in your luggage. Here are a few Ua Pou specialties.

  • Flower stone tiki statues 
  • Tapa paintings 
  • Local honey 
  • Beaded necklaces 
  • Wooden bowls
  • Traditional weapons carved from animal bone or wood
  • Monoi oil 
  • Vanilla 
  • Penu (pounding tool made from basalt)
stone tiki statues in artist market - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

What to Pack for Ua Pou

You’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors in Ua Pou so keep that in mind when packing. Listed below are a few essential items to pack, specifically for Ua Pou. Check out the X Days In Y Packing List for recommended products. 

  • Mosquito repellent (must), after-bite care (optional)
  • Monoi oil (preferably citronelle) against nono (sandflies)
  • Sun protection 
  • Light sweat-repellent clothing 
  • Light rain gear 
  • Proper hiking shoes
  • Long pants (for hiking)
  • Car charger for mobile phone (if renting)
  • First aid kit for DIY hikes
  • Poster tube if planning to purchase tapa 

Things to Do in Ua Pou

Highlighted in this section are the things you should see and do in Ua Pou. To see how everything fits together, check out a 4 Days in Ua Pou itinerary.

Hakahau Village

Hakahau means “valley of peace” and it is the main village in Ua Pou. It’s a proper village with all the amenities of a small town. You’ll find here grocery shops, a bakery, post office, ATM, restaurants, etc. Here are a few tourist highlights.

Hakahau Village Ua Pou Marquesas Islands French Polynesia

The Beach

Hakahau’s beach is safe for swimming and features a long and curving sandy shore. If you’re lucky, you could spot sea turtles patrolling the waters and maybe even a few coral heads. Locals flock to this beach after school is out and on weekends. 

Crafts Center

Of all the Marquesas Islands which I’ve visited, this was the best place for buying authentic souvenirs. The Centre Artisanal features the work of nearly 50 local artists from around the island, including art sculpted from the flower stone which is unique to Ua Pou. The center is open daily from 8 am to 2 pm (except maybe on Sunday) and credit cards are accepted. Just outside the center, locals often sell food to go and next door is the local library which also sells books about the Marquesas. 

tapa in artist market - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia
Ua Pou crafts center - basalt sculptures - Marquesas Islands art French Polynesia

Catholic Church

Step inside the main church and check out the intricate woodwork. No expense seems to have been spared here. Also, note the opening in the roof, strategically positioned to offer worshippers a view of the pinnacles on a clear day. 

Catholic church Ua Pou Marquesas Islands French Polynesia
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Crucifix in catholic church Ua Pou Marquesas Islands French Polynesia
Wood sculpture in Catholic church Ua Pou Marquesas Islands French Polynesia

Hakahau to Hakamoui Hike

An easy hike that begins in the back of Pension Pukuee. You’ll begin with a short descent to lonely Anahoa Bay where you’ll surely be the only ones there (except maybe for jellyfish). From there, you’ll climb back up to the main path and walk to “the cross”, from where the best views of the village and its surroundings can be enjoyed. 

wild beach 4 - hiking Hakamoui Loop - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia
hiking Hakamoui Loop - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia
view of Hakahau from hiking Hakamoui Loop - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

From the cross, you can either head back to the village or continue to Hakamoui. The trail can be a bit tricky to find at times because of animal tracks that criss-cross it but if you just head in a general direction, you can’t miss it. Hakamoui was the seat of the last chief to rule the island and this valley is therefore known as “the king’s valley”. From here, you’ll need to walk back to the main village along the paved road or hitch a ride from a passing car. On the way, you can stop on the side of the road to see the only tiki statue in Ua Pou (pea pea Ode Heatu). 

wild horse - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia
Smiling Tiki Ua Pou Marquesas Islands French Polynesia

Logistics: it takes about 2-3 hours to hike the 8 km one way from the pension to Hakamoui. Be sure to get directions (Pension Pukuee has a hand-drawn map) and take plenty of water. Also take note of when it gets dark for the return leg. 

Hakahau to Hakatao

The following sites in this section take us southeast from Hakahau to the end of the road in Hakatao. All sites can be seen on a single day either with a rented car or on a guided island tour with Jerome from Pension Pukuee. This is the drier side of the island and the best area to see some of the ancient sites that were discovered. They were used for different purposes such as floors in the home of the noble class, dancing platforms, and temples. Some are overgrown with vegetation and in some cases, locals to this day won’t get near because of the tapu (taboo) that was enforced in the old days. 

King’s Valley

The last stop on the Hakahau to Hakamoui hike, a beautiful bay where the most powerful chiefs in Ua Pou resided. 

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

Belvedere Ua Pou Pata

A beautiful lookout with a stone ledge known as the “divorce rock”, though nobody really knows why. 

view from lookout - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia
Belvedere Ua Pou Pata Marquesas Islands French Polynesia

Flower Stone Beach

A wild and untamed beach where you might find Ua Pou’s famous “flower stone”. This stone is unique to Ua Pou and to specific spots in Brazil but it is here where it is found in its highest quality. Certain minerals within the rock have mixed to create what appear to be miniature flowers. Local artists scour the upper valley where slabs of this rock can be found. Around the beach are a few pea pea that were used by fishermen and even a 100-year-old tiki. This is a good picnic spot

flower stone at flower beach - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia
flower beach 2 - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia
flower beach - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

Hohoi Village

Hohoi is a tranquil village where you can stop for lunch at a local restaurant. The village is also home to the most famous sculpture on the island, Jean Kautai. You can arrange to visit his workshop and see him in action. You can also purchase his sculptures from the crafts center in Hakahau (prices are the same). 

Tohua Mauia

Restored for the 2019 Marquesas Arts Festival, this is the largest and most impressive archeological site in Ua Pou (500 XPF entrance fee). Formerly the home of the Tavaka tribe, up to 1,500 are thought to have once resided in this valley. This was their gathering spot for a multitude of rituals and festivities such as the first tattoo of a boy or a girl (after the first menstrual cycle), funerals, and even public consummation after a marriage ceremony. 

The most impressive feature of this site is the 100-meter long pea pea, all made through thousands of hours of gathering and meticulously piling up basalt rock. On top of some of the platforms, you can see sculptures made by modern-day artists depicting the ancient past. 

Tohua Mauia - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia
tiki stone statues Tohua Mauia - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

Hakatao

The drive to Hakatao is beautiful. In contrast to the desert-like east coast during the dry season, this is a lush section of the island, blessed by a dense blanket of coconut palms that shelter local vegetable gardens. Sleepy Hakatao means “bay of taro” and it is the southernmost village on the island, nestled at the mouth of a picturesque valley. 

Hakatao - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

From the village, you can 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. Look down from the edge of the sea cliff and spot the natural tide pools. Fishermen come here to catch lobsters when the tide is just right.  

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

Bird Island

It’s hard to spot from the viewpoint, but behind Cathedral Rock, there’s an even larger islet called Motu Oa but it’s better known as Ile aux Oiseaux (Bird Island). You can hire a guide with a boat and come here to do some birdwatching. 

Hakahau to Hakamaii

The following sites in this section take us southwest from Hakahau to the end of the road in Hakamaii. All sites can be seen on a single day either with a rented car or on a guided island tour with Jerome from Pension Pukuee. This is the lush side of the island that even includes a short hike to a magical waterfall. It’s one of the most enjoyable scenic drives in the South Pacific, so be prepared for frequent roadside stops

Shark Bay

Don’t be alarmed by its name, Shark Bay (Hakanai Bay) is safe for swimming though you might see a few sharks hanging around. You’ll first notice the bay as you round the corner after the airport and you’ll want to stop to enjoy the views before heading down to the beach. What an incredible sight!  

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

From Shark Bay, head straight to the furthest stop and work your way back. That way, there will be plenty of time for lunch and for the waterfall hike (it’s also better for photography). 

Hakahetau

If you haven’t had lunch yet, stop at Snack Ti’ Piero but don’t plan on doing much sightseeing after. You can order a la carte or go for a tasting menu that includes way more dishes than you can handle (2,000 XPF). The village also has a nice lookout and an ancient archaeological site (Tetahuna). 

Snack Ti’Piero in Hakahetau - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

Hike to Vaiea Waterfall

There’s a dirt road that enters the forest just outside Hakahetau. Park your 4WD at the start of the road if you want to extend your hike or drive until you see a sign to your right and a trail that heads further inland. From here, it’s a short and enchanting walk to Cascade Vaiea. Negotiate your way through the tick ferns and banyan trees, and follow the sound of the water. 

walking to waterfall - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia
piton basalt pinnacle - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia
hike to waterfall in rainforest - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

Cascade Vaiea might not be the highest waterfall you’ve ever seen but the fact that it’s in the heart of the rainforest, in an island that has bone dry sections, and since there’s likely nobody here but you, it will be one of the more memorable experiences on your Marquesas Islands voyage. Now it’s time to get a waterfall massage! 

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

Logistics: bring mosquito repellent for this hike as there might not be any other humans around, but plenty of mosquitos will provide company. I also recommend wearing sandals as brief sections must be crossed in water. If you feel something tickling your feet in the water, not to worry as those are just freshwater shrimp. 

Ua Pou “Chocolate Man”

Ua Pou is the last place you would expect to find a chocolate maker but German ex-pat Manfred Drechsler seems to have figured it out. He lives off-the-grid in a self-sufficient lifestyle with his collection of chickens, cats and dogs in the middle of nowhere, creating for himself a real paradise amid cocoa and fruit trees galore. Manfred produces a variety of chocolate flavors and he’ll be happy to offer you a tasting of each one. Bars go for 500 XPF but must be kept refrigerated as no preservatives are added. Manfred’s chocolates are quite well-known in some parts of French Polynesia and, in Tahiti, they sell for more than triple that price.  

manfred the chocolate man ua pou marquesas islands french Polynesia
cocoa growing in ua pou marquesas islands french Polynesia

Hakamaii

The village at the end of the road, this is another beautiful sleepy stop, where life goes by at a slow pace and where fishermen head out to catch tonight’s dinner. Only 150 residents call this place home. From the village, ask for directions to a path that snakes up to a lovely lookout. 

remote village - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia
fishermen - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

Hakamaii to Hakahetau

This stretch of road is best enjoyed when driving from Hakamaii to Hakahetau. Keep your eyes peeled for wild goats and horses but also for the breathtaking view of the pinnacles rising from the island’s center. You’ll enjoy long stretches of unobstructed views. 

view of basalt pinnacles pitons - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia
road trip - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia
seeing the pinnacles from road trip - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia
pinnacles pitons close up - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia

Sunset Viewing

Just as you rise from the valley that houses the airport, stop on the side of the road from where you can enjoy the best sunset views in Ua Pou. 

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

Poumaka Peak Hike

This is the best hike in Ua Pou and one of the best hikes in French Polynesia. It must be done with a guide. Jerome from Pension Pukuee is your best option and his outing also includes an optional stop for lunch at Snack Ti’ Piero (see above for more info). The hike is essentially a 9 kilometer loop in the Hakatehau Valley. 

The hike begins somewhere in the rainforest outside the village of Hakahetau, where wild tropical vegetation dominated by ferns and banyan trees mixes with vanilla, orange, and coffee. 

Poumaka Peak hike - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia
Poumaka Peak hike - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia - wild vanila
Poumaka Hike with Jerome - Ua Pou Marquesas Islands French Polynesia

You then begin the sharp ascent of 600 meters in altitude to the ridgeline from where the closest views of the magnificent pinnacles can be enjoyed (certain sections are rope-assisted). The view from up here is spectacular even on a bad day. Poumaka is not the highest peak on the island, but being able to get so close to nature’s marvel is a moving experience. 

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

From the ridgeline, Jerome can fit your hiking shoe with metal spikes to help going down. The descent takes you through a maze of massive pandanus trees before connecting with the “chocolate man’s” estate and the path that heads to Cascade Vaiea. After a refreshing dip in the waterfall, you’ll either head back to your pension or stop for lunch in the village (highly recommended). 

Poumaka Peak hike - Ua Pou - Marquesas Islands - French Polynesia - [andanus forest

Logistics: it takes about 4 hours to complete the loop and then another hour of relaxing in the waterfall. You must hike here with a guide as the trail is hard to find on your own and certain sections are rope-assisted. Be prepared for windy, wet and chilly weather at the ridgeline.  

“The Crossing” Hike

A slightly easier version of the Poumaka hike basically takes you from one valley to the next, from Hakahau to Hakatehau. It’s only slightly shorter and you still gain as much elevation, but the grade is easier so the hike is not as challenging. This hike should also be done with a guide. 

What’s Next?

This Ua Pou Travel Guide should give you a pretty good idea on what to expect on a visit to Ua Pou. To further explore your options, I recommend going over the following resources to see how to put the puzzle together on your visit to Ua Pou and the Marquesas Islands. 


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