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Marquesas Islands

Marquesas Islands

When Tahiti is just too traveled.

?The South Pacific isn?t all about bungalows and screensaver-worthy snaps of Bora Bora. Gay-friendly Tahiti, anchor of the Society Islands, offers a rugged, tropical buffet of stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking; hiking, biking, and mountaineering up dormant volcanoes; archaeological spoils; indigenous lore; and five-star spas. But increasingly, it also offers crowds.

Sure, congestion is relative when you consider Tahiti gets as many visitors in a year as Hawaii gets in a week. But it?s becoming harder to find a Gauguin-esque escape -- that is, until you travel 850 miles northeast to the Marquesas, a low-maintenance throwback to French Polynesia?s tiki-lacquered prime. Coincidentally, it?s also where the French painter is buried.

As the most remote island group on the planet, part of the adventure is getting there: While flights from Tahiti are available, many visitors take the two-week cruise aboard the Aranui 3 (from $3,675), a cargo vessel that practically pumps life into the six inhabited islands, arriving three days after disembarkation. A swimming pool, three sundecks, a gym, and a campy tiki-themed bar-lounge with live music by the (often gay) staff helps stave off cabin fever. It?s like any inter-island cruise, with mostly overnight port stops, but with Aranui, you can immerse yourself in the culture of the Marquesan people (pop. 8,000), like that of the rae rae, male-born children raised as female, a well-respected tradition dating back to pre-colonial Polynesia.

Don?t expect to find a scene, gay or otherwise? or a Starbucks? or a fax machine. It?s still the Marquesas it was 50 years ago, and the allure is the thrill of experiencing a destination that doesn?t receive heavy foot traffic. Travelers can trace the footsteps of Herman Melville, who jumped a whaling ship in 1842 and was held prisoner by the Taipa tribe in Nuku Hiva island, inspiring his novel, Typee. Visitors can also hike the trails and swim the same seas as Belgian singer Jacques Brel, who lived and worked in the island of Hiva Oa. Looking for a permanent souvenir? Tribal tattooing is said to have originated in the Marquesas thousands of years ago.

>BEST BEACH On the bay of Hiva Oa, Puama?u Beach is one of the most photogenic, with sublime sands and calm waters.

  

  

  

  

  
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