Atuona is a village in the southwest corner of Hiva Oa Island in the Marquises of French Polynesia. It is a commonly used port of entry for French Polynesia for boats arriving from North and Central America, particularly those originating from the Galapagos1. The village is fronted by two bays: Baie Atuona and Baie Tahuku. The small eastern Baie Atuona is protected by a short breakwater behind which boats can take shelter from the prevailing swell.
While commonly considered one of the less interesting and comfortable of Marquesan anchorages, it has the advantage of being a port of entry and well-situated within the chain. The village includes several markets, a bank, and many people willing to provide services such as laundry, provisions, and food. You can also purchase gasoline and take on fresh, potable water. Cruisers who would like to legally visit islands south of Hiva Oa can check in, restock on fresh foods, and head the short distance south to the renown Fatu Hiva before island hopping up the chain to the northernmost large port on Nuka Hiva.
Atuona is the largest town on Hiva Oa with a population of approximately 1,500. It includes the administrative center for the southern Marquises as well as a radio station, bank, several markets and shops where you can purchase hardware and household goods, a medical clinic, a church, and two restaurants. The walk into town is 2 miles, and while it is beautiful, it is a bit of a hike. A nearby airstrip services the island with flights to Tahiti.
A. GPS 09 49'S 139 02'W
B. Political - Hiva Oa is an island in the Marquesan chain of French Polynesia. Atuona is the largest village on the island and the administrative center for the South Marquises. This is a French Polynesian port of entry.
C. Approach - The Baie of Atuona is on the southern coast of Hiva Oa. It can be identified during the day by a large rock on the western edge of Baie Tahuku and at night be a large light on the point which divides the two bays. The approach is deep and unobstructed. Avoid the island and the two prominent points.
San Jose del Cabo - 2670 NM
Baie Hananoemoe, Tahuata - 8 NM
Baie Hanamenu, Hiva Oa - 17 NM
A. Anchorage - You can anchor either in front of or behind the small breakwater in Baie Atuona. The entire bay is exposed to prevailing winter trade winds. However, the swell is reduced somewhat if you can tuck in behind the breakwater. Though very shallow, Baie Atuona remains at roughly 8' to 10' for a considerable distance behind the breakwater. As a courtesy to accommodate large numbers of vessels during peak season, most boats use a bow and stern anchor.
B. Dinghy - A concrete quay on the southeast side of the bay is used to land dinghies. It is prone to strong swell bashing boats up against the pier. Use a stern tie to pull the dinghies off the dock. There is a fresh water spigot and shower stall just up from the quay.
III Goods and Services
A. Food - There are three options for purchasing food: small markets, local truck market, and appealing to the neighbors.
- Magazin - In the town of Atuona, there are four small stores which sell a variety of packaged foods as well as a limited supply of frozen meats and fresh vegetables. The variety of fresh foods is extremely limited, and all the prices are high. Two of the stores also sell beer, wine, and hard alcohol, again in limited variety and at very high cost. Most of these stores are open the following hours: M-F 7:30 to 18:50, Sat 7:00 to 11:30 and closed Sunday. Stores often close in the middle of the day for a few hours near the lunch hour.
- Truck Market (09 48.188'S 139 02.565'W) In the parking lot in front of the Police Municipale, there is a small truck market which meets from approximately Mon-Sat 9:00 to noon. The number of vendors and the variety of goods presented varies daily. Get there early to get the best selection. The prices are considered high by island standards but are considerably lower than those offered by the stores. The quality and variety is also greater than available in the stores. This is where locals sell the excess from their own yards, and it is a good place to purchase fresh seasonal produce and seafood.
- Neighbors - Many cruisers report being able to walk up to homes along the road to purchase or harvest produce.
B. Water - The water of Baie Atuona is too dirty to make water. Make sure you go in with full tanks or be prepared to shuttle water from the spigot on shore. Above the dinghy dock is a small concrete building with an open shower and three spigots. The water is gathered uphill in a cistern from rain run off. Many cruisers use this for drinking water, though it is advisable to filter the water prior to drinking. There is only one temperature nicely cool. You can fill up your water jugs, do laundry on the shelf, and take showers at this building.
C. Fuel - The station near the dinghy quay sells both diesel and gasoline. However, they limit the quantity sold, and it is not uncommon for the supply to run out. This is particularly true during the height of the cruising season.
- Diesel - Station near the dinghy quay in Baie Atuona.
- Gasoline - Station near the dingy quay in Baie Atuona.
- Propane/Butane - You can not get a small boat propane tank refilled anywhere on Hiva Oa. It is possible to purchase a 10 liter pre-filled tank from a store in Atuona (09 48.145'S 139 02.585'W) and transfer the gas via gravity into smaller tanks. This is illegal, somewhat dangerous, and really expensive. You probabaly will not have the proper fittings to make the transfer.
- Police (09 48.186'S 139 02.568'W) The municipal police station located in the village of Atuona.
- Gendarmarie (09 48.162'S 139 02.446'W) The French gendarmarie is located in the village of Atuona. This is where you can complete your visa paperwork for entry into French Polynesia.
- Pharmacy (09 48.177'S 139 02.411'W) There is a small pharmacy located in the village of Atuona. The selection is very limited. You must have a doctor's prescription for most of the goods offered. Hours are also limited to mornings on weekdays.
E. Hardware - There are 4 stores in Atuona which sell hardware or household items. The range of goods is surprisingly broad and includes electrical fittings, appliances, and fishing tackle. You can also purchase fabric, kitchen supplies, and clothes. The vendors are very helpful, so ask if you do not see what you need.
F. Laundry - You can wash your laundry at the water spigot near the dinghy. There are also several locals who advertise laundry services. The price is steep, but after a long passage, many cruisers feel the expense is worthwhile.
- Sandra Wallarert (2011) Sandra is the CMA Agent who handles the paperwork for many Puddle Jump cruisers. She also has a laundry business. She will pick up her laundry from the dinghy quay and deliver it washed, dried and folded within a day. She monitors VHF 11. Her phone number is 927.985.232247. If you'd like, you can go with her to her house while she is doing your laundry and take advantage of her offer for free Internet while you wait.
- Sandra's House See Laundry > Sandra Wallarert
- Anchorage - You can purchase time from HDG-HotSpot while on the hook in Baie Atuona. The connection in the anchorage is strong and clear. However, once past the local router, you run into the slow speeds common to all the islands. You can purchase time in 1 hr, 10 hr, 50 hr, and 100 hr increments.
- Banque Socredo (09 48.215'S 139 02.545'W) You can not exchange money at this bank. You can use your Visa, MasterCard, or other ATM card to withdraw French Polynesian francs using the cash machine outside the bank.
- Airport Flights daily to Tahiti.
- Postal (09 48.185' 139 02.374'W) Agence Fare Fenua, Atuona
- Hair (09 48.178' 139 02.402'W) Vero Coiffure
- Tourist Information (09 48.176' 139 02.468'W) Centre du Tourisme, Atuona
IV. To Do
- Relais Moehau (09 48.293'S 139 02.217'W) Located on the road into town, the Relais Moehau is a beautiful restaurant overlooking Baie Tahuka. The speciality is wood-fire pizza. However, the restaurant also serves a variety of local dishes as well as meat, seafood, and poultry. The prices are reasonable given you are in the islands ranging from USD$15-$30 for entrees. In addition to the restaurant, there is a small shop selling local arts and manufactured goods, an ice cream bar, and hotel. You can call in advance, and the restaurant will provide free, round-trip transportation between the dock and the restaurant. Open every day.
- Snack Make Make (09 48.181' 139 02.350'W) Almost all the way into town is a small bar / snack stop. The cuisine is typical of a French fast food stand with croques monsieur and other sandwiches. There is both interior and exterior seating.
- Centre Culturel Paul Gaughin (09 48.201' 139 02.466'W) A small museum dedicated to the French painter Paul Gaughin is located in the middle of Atuona. Admission is FP600 for adults and FP300 for children. Open Mon-Fri 8:00 to 11:00 and 14:00 to 17:00, Sat 7:30 to 14:30.
V. Reporting Boats
* s/v Don Quixote, Toast Conger, 2011