Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands
Author Herman Melville summed up Nuku Hiva as a "country that no description could fit the beauty." Melville deserted his ship, the whaler Acushnet in the Marquesas and for a short time lived among the Typee people. At 329 square km (127 square mi), this is the largest of the Marquesas Islands; it was also the inspiration for two of Melville's novels, Typee and its sequel Omoo.With towering mountains, eight magnificent harbors, and one of the world's highest waterfalls, Nuku Hiva is richly blessed. Few doubt that its 2,400 inhabitants live in paradise.
As restaurants are a rarity, most lodging establishments will supply meals. Look out for the les roulottes, or rolling food trucks that set up by the harbor and at other points usually in the evenings. This is fast food with a twist, as you can get meals such as grilled steak and fish, chicken, plenty of chips and even pizza and omelettes.
Restaurant Hinako Nui
Set in the village of Hatiheu on the north coast, a thatched roof and sea views add a certain charm to this eatery that specializes in local seafood.
Nuku Hiva has only one hotel, but numerous family hotels or pensions to choose from.
In the shadow of towering, 2,834-foot (864 meters) Mt. Muake, this is the island's main town. Located in the center of the southern coast at the foot of deep Taiohae Bay, the town is in the center of an ancient volcanic crater, half of which has collapsed into the ocean, creating a bay. A modern administrative center complete with gendarmerie (police), it has a particularly French feel to it. Taiohae sculptors work in shops behind the village. Most of the island's banks, schools, stores, and shops are in Taiohae. The Cathedral of Notre-Dame of Marquesas is built with various rock from the six islands of the Marquesas. The wood carvings inside combine Marquesan art with religion, including a dramatic wooden pulpit.
Melville based his celebrated novel Typee on his experiences in Nuku Hiva and the time he spent in the valley of Taipivai. The large and fertile valley is around 16 km (10 mi) from Taiohae and can be reached by boat. Taipivai features the best archaeological sites in the Marquesas.
Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson favored Hatiheu Bay, which is on the northern coast. Nearly a thousand feet above the bay, a statue of the Virgin looks down; in the valley is the Naniuhi tohua meeting place used by pre-Christian Marquesans, which includes a dance platform, ceremonial stones, and petroglyphs carved in boulders.
The village of Anaho, with it's small thatched-roofed Catholic church, is located at the head of the bay. It's backed by jagged green mountains—this has to rank among the most beautiful places on earth—and has the only coral shelf in the Marquesas. There's also an expansive white sand beach.
The plateau provides the island with its only flat agricultural area, while a mountain range, dominated by 4,015-foot (1,223-meter) Mt. Tekao, looms above.