Virtually undiscovered for centuries, the remote Marquesas afford a true glimpse of the Polynesia of the old. Paul Gauguin Cruises’ one-of-a-kind, 14-night itinerary charts a course to four of these islands, along with the diving mecca of the Tuamotus archipelago and the majestic beauty of the Society Islands.
The journey begins in Papeete, the capital of Tahiti. The m/s Paul Gauguin bids adieu and sails to Fakarava in the Tuamotus archipelago, 300 miles northeast of Tahiti.
A day at sea allows guests to enjoy the ship’s Polynesian ambiance, the pool, lectures, and other leisurely pursuits. The ship also sets up a coconut bar on the pool deck, where guests can watch a coconut splitting demonstration and select the ingredients for their coconut drink.
In the evenings, stunning sunsets take place over the ocean.
The first port: Fakarava in the Tuamotus. Fakarava’s rectangular reef encloses French Polynesia’s second-largest lagoon, which teems with marine life. Sharks, manta rays, dolphins, turtles, and barracuda are just a few of the fascinating species that draw divers from around the world to this island’s coral reefs and canyon passes.
The ship anchors off Fakarava in crystal blue waters.
Cruise guests board a tender for short boat ride to the wharf.
Fringed by white-sand beaches and sprouting lush green coconut groves, Fakarava is a South Seas paradise. A fun way to explore it is by bike.
Rare birds, flowers, and plants can be found here.
From Fakarava, the ship sails to the southernmost island in the Marquesas archipelago, Fatu Hiva, whose port town is Omoa. This beautiful island with lush jungles is divided by narrow ravines and deep valleys. Much of the island’s allure lies in its wild beauty.
A variety of Tiki statues carved from stone are located along the island’s main road.
Pandanus trees and fragrant flowering shrubs flourish against the backdrop of the lush mountains.
Signs lead to the Centre Artisana where local artists display Marquesan arts and crafts, including carved bowls and platters along with jewelry.
Spectacular views of The Gauguin at anchor and tikis can be seen on the road back to the pier.
In the evening, the ship set sail for Hiva Oa, in the Marquesas, which means “great house” in the Polynesian language.
It was once the paradise that French artist Paul Gauguin escaped to in 1901 and where he lived the rest of his days.
The island is located 1,000 miles from Tahiti, and in Gauguin’s day – which still is true today – Hiva Oa is isolated from the rest of the world. The interior of the island is rugged but lushly forested, and covered by a wide variety of rich flora. The main town on the island is Atuona, which lies at the head of the Bay of Traitors.
A shuttle service operates between the tender pier, the town of Atuona, and the hill where the Calvaire Cemetery is located. In the cemetery is a stone that is engraved PAUL GAUGUIN 1903, which marks his final resting spot.
Belgian singer/songwriter and actor Jacques Brel, who lived in Atuona for several years in the 1970s, is buried in the same cemetry.
The Paul Gauguin Cultural Center along with the Espace Jacques Brel (Jacques Brel Cultural Center) are located in town. A small sundries shop and bank with an ATM machine for local currency can also be found. An outdoor marketplace is nearby with items made by locals including linens, pareos, carved masks, wooden platters, and jewelry.
The next stop is Tahuata, the smallest of the Marquesas archipelago, at only 19 square miles. It is a leaf-shaped volcanic island with sheer cliffs, lush vegetation, twin bays, and a turbulent colonial history.
The Gauguin anchors off the island, and its tender boats take guests to Hapatoni, a charming, seafront village with an ancient paved royal walkway shaded by Tamanu trees.
The rich waters surrounding the island attract an amazing variety of fish. Locals paddle these waters with Polynesian outrigger canoes.
A place to visit is the Catholic church, built by the Vatican and decorated with stunning stained-glass windows and beautiful local carvings. Traditional carvings, jewelry, and pareos can be found at the Arts & Crafts center.
From Tahuata, The Gauguin sails to Nuka Hiva, the largest of French Polynesia’s Marquesas Islands. It is also the political and economic center and the most important island in the Marquesas. The main town, Tiaohae, lies in the shadow of towering 2,834-foot Mount Muake.
The island is stunningly beautiful, with three major bays on the south coast and similarly gorgeous inlets on the north coast. Nuka Hiva was also the site for “Survivor: Marquesas” – the fourth installment of the popular CBS reality television show.
Herman Melville wrote the book Typee based on his experiences in the Tai Pi Vai valley in the eastern part of the island. And Robert Louis Stevenson’s first landfall on his voyage on the Casco was at Hatiheu on the north side of Nuku Hiva, in 1888. The Gauguin’s anchorage off Nuka Hiva offers spectacular views of this volcanic island.
Locals give visitors a warm welcome to the island with performances of traditional Marquesan songs by musicians playing ukuleles and drums.
Close to the pier, shops sell souvenirs, T-shirts, hats, wood carvings, pareos, jewelry, bowls, and tikis.
Tiki statues can be found on the island, including this one placed in a beautiful garden in the center the tourist welcome center.
After days in the Tuamotus and Marquesas, the next two are at sea before arriving in the Society Islands. Time to relax and enjoy the amenities of The Gauguin and some of the Polynesian activities like making your own pandanus bookmarks, tapa painting, pareo tying, and basket weaving led by Les Gauguines and Les Gauguins.
Lying between Moorea and Bora Bora is Huahine, known as the “Garden Island” for its untamed, verdant forests. Huahine is really two islands (Huahine Nui and Huahine Iti) joined by a bridge, and remains relatively untouched by modern development.
In the past, the island was a center for Polynesian culture, which has left it one of the richest in archaeological sites in French Polynesia. Huahine's crystalline lagoon abounds with more than 450 species of fish. Most locals ride bicycles, and agriculture is still the main industry with plantations growing vanilla and melons. Huahine is also famous for its blue-eyed eels, which range in size from 3 to 6 feet long.
Next on the itinerary is Bora Bora—one of the most beautiful islands in the world, set within a wide barrier reef with a lagoon of azure waters.
Captain James Cook was the first Westerner to see Bora Bora in 1769. During World War II, American troops were dispatched to the island to establish a supply base for materials en route to the Solomon Islands.
The Gauguin’s cruise guests enjoy exclusive access to a private beach on a Bora Bora motu—a strip of white sand with palm trees and clear, turquoise waters. Breathtaking views can also be had of the island’s towering Mount Otemanu. An open bar, kayaks, volleyball, and snorkeling are all available.
There is also a tender boat that will take cruise guests to Bora Bora’s Vaitape Wharf. Shops selling black pearls, pareos, T-shirts, and other souvenirs can be found here.
Down the road, one of the world’s best beaches is located at Matira Point next to the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Spa.
After the visit to Bora Bora is Motu Mahana, off the coast of Taha’a. This is Paul Gauguin Cruises’ South Seas paradise.
The private islet features white-sand beaches with swaying palms, crystal-clear waters, and gentle breezes.
Cruise guests can spend a full day exploring this idyllic island and relaxing with a delicious grilled barbecue lunch, activities, snorkeling, kayaking, and the sounds of Polynesian strolling musicians.
A full-service bar is located in the center of the islet and offers handcrafted drinks in coconuts. There is also a floating bar in the lagoon, where cruise guests can enjoy a cool drink without leaving the water.
From Taha’a, The Gauguin sails to Moorea, which lies just 12 miles across the Sea of the Moon from Tahiti.
The 20-mile island is a magical blend of jagged peaks and spires, jungle, lagoon, and sea. Mount Rotui is flanked by Opunohu Bay and Cook’s Bay. Both bays have been used by filmmakers as backdrops for productions.
Perhaps the most famous peak to be found on the island is that of Mouaroa, believed by many to be the inspiration for Michener’s “Bali Hai.” Moorea is breathtaking, and a great way to see it is by visiting Belvedere visa point, which offer panoramic views of the island’s bays, peaks, and valleys.
Capping off this epic journey through the South Pacific is the sunset sail away from Moorea to Papeete, where the cruise ends.
To view the sailing dates for the Marquesas, Tuamotus & Society Islands itinerary, please click here.