Isolated and wildly beautiful, Hiva Oa—known as the garden of the Marquesas—was the wild paradise that French artist Paul Gauguin escaped to in 1901 and where he lived out the rest of his days. In Gauguin's day, the island was quite isolated, being some 1,609 km (1,000 mi) from Tahiti, and it was far beyond the influence of the busy world of the early 20th century. Happily, it's still pretty much the same. The 316-square-km (122-square-mi) island, with a population of around 2,000, is dominated by Mt. Temetiu, which is the highest peak in the Marquesas chain at 4,186 feet (1,275 meters). No coral reef shelters Hiva Oa's rugged shoreline, so it's continually pounded by the surf and most of it remains inaccessible. The interior is just as rugged, but lushly forested and covered by a wide variety of trees and flowers.
FODOR'S GO LIST 2016
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