Tiki statue on the bay of Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia

Taiohae, Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia

The dramatic landscape of the Marquesas is like nowhere else in French Polynesia. Formed by volcanoes, islands like Nuku Hiva—home to the charming port town of Taiohae—don't have a barrier reef or lagoon to protect them. As such, the sea crashes directly up onto the shore, creating wild scenery that has inspired artists and writers from Paul Gauguin to Herman Melville. 

At the base of craggy, soaring peaks, Taiohae may be the main "city" in this far-flung island group, but don't expect tall buildings or massive resorts. Instead, Taiohae has a peaceful village vibe with an air of tropical languor. There's not much to do other than wander and shop. And shop you should, as the Marquesans are known for their excellent handicrafts. On Nuku Hiva you'll find skilled carvers working in wood, bone and volcanic stone to create true pieces of art. 

Beyond Taiohae are opportunities to explore Nuku Hiva's wild interior—replete with sharp basalt pinnacles and lush, green river valleys—by either horseback or on foot.