The South Pacific has long beckoned romance-seeking travelers with its pristine beaches, unspoiled waters, and laid-back living.By: Joe Yogerst
Marquesas: Sail Away
This far-flung huddle of islets is one of the most remote parts of the South Pacific. It's also one of the wildest, featuring volcanic islands with black sand beaches, towering waterfalls and a rainforest that seems to stretch forever. Imagine Jurassic Park with beaches and sans the dinosaurs and you'll have a pretty clear picture of the Marquesan vibe.
For more than a century, Western travelers have journeyed to the Marquesas to drop out, get away and disappear into the jungle. This is where Gauguin came to live and paint when Tahiti got too crowded (and puritanical), and where the Belgian superstar singer Jacques Brel settled when he tired of the limelight in Europe. The archipelago is still far off the grid and sparsely populated, making it an ideal place for lovers who not only cherish their privacy but also seek an authentic experience.
The Marquesas also offer plenty of adventure. You can snorkel with manta rays and scuba dive with hammerhead sharks in the deep bays around the islands. Hike the lush Hakaui Valley and swim around a cool jungle pool at the bottom of Ahuii Falls, one of the world's highest waterfalls, which plunges 1,148 feet (about the height of the Empire State Building). Visit the Paul Gaugin Cultural Center to see a reproduction of the "House of Pleasure" he built in the Marquesas.
There are only two ways to reach the Marquesas: daily flights from Papeete (Tahiti) to Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa or via a steam ship that makes the two-week passage from Papeete each month. The accommodations are equally limited to modest bed & breakfast inns or two small resorts. Keikahanui Pearl Lounge overlooks a wide bay on the south side of Nuku Hiva Island. Enjoy the view while lounging in the resort's infinity pool or descend 50 steps to a private black sand beach. Fashioned from wood, thatch and other local materials, the 20 bungalows blend ancient Polynesian motifs with a comfy bed and sundeck (room rates start at $300 a night; pearlodge.com).