Ua Pou Island travel Guide
Image ©Sardon, Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0
Ua Pou can only be reached by plane, boat or helicopter. Don’t miss the impressive volcanic pillars and the lovely “flower stone,” which together define the island’s singularity.
The name of the third largest island of the Marquesan archipelago, Ua Pou, translates as Two Pillars. The name is more than appropriate, because the silhouette of the relatively dry island is characterized by 12 steeply rising basalt peaks, reminiscent of church steeples.
The island owes its name to the two highest mountains. The Belgian chansonnier Jacques Brel was so impressed by the sight of the island, whose profile reminds many of Moorea or Bora Bora, that he dedicated the song La Cathédrale to it.
Like its sister island, Hiva Oa, which lies 25 miles (40 kilometers) to the south, Ua Pou is divided by a rugged mountain range whose highest point is Mont Oave at 4041 ft (1232 meters). The rise winds from the northwest to southeast, with deep valleys and numerous river courses at its heart.
The mountainous interior is difficult to access and hardly populated, the few villages on the islands are found exclusively on the flat areas toward the coast. Small, uninhabited side islands, some of them bird sanctuaries, are located mainly off the southern tip of Ua Pou.
The shore of the island is not secured by a reef so the surf reaches the coast partly unchecked. Bathing is therefore only possible on some more protected sections of the beach.
The economic and social center of the island is the main town of Hakahau, located on the northeast coast, with its busy harbor. The Aranui ship also stops here at the pier on its Marquesas round trip.
There is a simple infrastructure in Hakahau with a health center, post office, schools, two banks as well as some small stores and restaurants. Also, practically all tourist accommodations – small guesthouses and private accommodations are located here.
In the other villages of the island, there are no official accommodations, but here a self-organized homestay with locals is usually possible.
Air Tahiti, offers up to six flights per week, mostly from Nuku Hiva, to Ua Pou. The most convenient way to travel to Ua Pou is by plane from either Hiva Oa or Nuku Hiva. The airport in Ua Pou is thought to have the most difficult landings in French Polynesia.
Its short runway features an upward slope to slow the plane down because it is hidden inside a small valley where there is little room for error due to prevailing winds and mountains. To fly to Ua Pou, pilots need a special license, and weather-related cancellations are common.
Since there is no public transit on the island, most people move around by watercraft or off-road vehicles. The greatest way to see Ua Pou and the other Marquesas is from the water.
Hakahau tour guides are happy to accompany tourists on day tours by boat to the island’s most picturesque bays and regions. The majority of the roads on Ua Pou are badly paved, and several are only usable during the dry season.
The Ua Pou Location in Hakahau rents out off-road vehicles. They are highly pricey, costing about 110 euros per day to rent, as is the case throughout the Marquesas. As an alternative, your lodging may arrange for a driver to transport you to the greatest locations along the west coast.
Three-quarters of Ua Pou’s population, approximately 1600 people, reside in the village of Hakahau in the northwest of the island. It serves as the principal settlement and the social and economic hub of Ua Pou.
Additionally, it is where the majority of visitors stay because only in Hakahau can you find a basic tourism infrastructure with family-run inns, eateries, and shops. You can visit many of the island’s sights on foot from your lodging.
On Ua Pou, a Catholic church was first constructed in the Marquesas in 1859. Sadly, the stone church of Saint-Etienne has taken this church’s place as it was long gone. The church, which was finished in 1981 and is situated in the center of Hakahau, is constructed in a typical Polynesian design.
It is not only outstanding due to its setting in front of the stunning panorama of basalt peaks, but it also demonstrates the excellent caliber of craftsmanship used in the Marquesas. One may see an elaborate pulpit within the church, for instance, that was carved from a single piece of a huge tropical tree and is designed like a ship’s hull.
The Eglise St. Etienne also houses numerous holy and saint figures that different Marquesan painters have meticulously handcrafted. A renowned master of Polynesian woodcarving created the wooden crucifix in the church.
The South Haka House is home to the little Musée de Ua Pou, which was constructed in honor of the 1995 Marquesas Festival. A small collection of artwork and cultural artifacts from the islands is displayed here. It is also possible to see the nearby tenai paepae, a reconstruction of a traditional Marquesan residence.
All around the islands, particularly in the valleys like the Hakamoui Valley and the Paaumea Valley, are the original remnants of these ancient homes. Very few of them have been rehabilitated; most of them are covered in thick foliage.
From the harbor, you can already see it looking inland. a huge white wooden cross situated close to the antenna site in the hill above Hakahau. Here is a vantage point from which tourists can get a distinctive perspective of the town and the entire bay.
Starting at the village’s tiny beach with volcanic black sand, the strenuous trek from there takes around 45 minutes and involves climbing a few meters of elevation. An asphalt road travels from here to the mountains. You continue down this road past the inn Pukuée until you come to a tiny bifurcation. In order to get to the white cross, you must turn right onto an unpaved road and climb steeply for another ten minutes.
The most stunning beach in Ua Pou is often referred to as Anahoa Beach. The same route that leads to the viewing platform can be used to get to Anahoa Beach; however, at the split, take the left path to stay on the main, paved road.
You will reach the stunning Anahoa Bay after a 30-minute walk to the east. A rock made of black basalt encircles the fine, golden sand beach. The bay is swimmable, the shore gently descends into the water, and the area is largely empty.
Ua Pou is a small island located in the Marquesas Islands archipelago of French Polynesia. It is known for its rugged, mountainous terrain and its rich cultural history. Here are some facts about Ua Pou:
Hakahau village coast line, Image ©Sémhur, Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-4.0
Bay view Hakahau, Image ©American, Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0
Traditional Marquesan House, Image ©American, Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0
Wild horse Ua Pou, Image ©Remi Jouan, Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-2.5
What souvenirs to take home from Ua Pou?
The handicraft center next to the town hall has what you’re searching for if you want to take a little piece of the island home with you. Sculptures on floral stone or wood, various tiki figurines, pearl necklaces, pearls, or seeds are among the items on the agenda.
If you like stones, you can get some truly lovely items created from the renowned Ho Hoi floral stones.
How long to stay in Ua Pou Island?
Given how challenging it is to get to Ua Pou, you should take advantage of your time there. If you want enough time to explore all the major highlights, means staying at least four days in Ua Pou. If driving around the island is more your style than hiking, three days is the very least.
What is the best time to visit Ua Pou?
Ua Pou can be visited year-round, however, the dry season is the ideal time to go. In contrast to the other French Polynesian archipelagos, the seasons are reversed in the Marquesas Islands. Accordingly, the rainy season in the Marquesas spans from May to October, and the dry season lasts from November to April.
What to pack for Ua Pou?
In Ua Pou, you’ll be spending a lot of time outside, so pack accordingly. See our list of items of what to pack for your vacation in Tahiti.