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When you've had enough of Paul Gauguin, Jacques Brel, and ancient archaeological sites, you can hit the great outdoors on Hiva Oa.

Diving

With cliffs plunging into the sea and no fringing coral reefs, the waters off Nuku Hiva present a very different diving experience from that found anywhere else in French Polynesia. The cool South Equatorial Current makes these waters rife with plankton, while limiting visibility to 10 to 20m (33-66 ft.). On the other hand, you may well encounter scalloped hammerhead sharks, melon-headed whales, and other creatures not seen elsewhere in the islands. And even novice divers can enter caves, one of which has a sandy floor populated by stingrays.

At this writing, Eric Le Lyonnais' SubAtuona (tel. 92.70.88 or 27.05.24; eric.lelyonnais@wanadoo.fr), is the only dive operator in the Marquesas. Bring you own mask, flipper, full wet suit, underwater flashlight, and diving computer. Book well in advance. He charges about 6,000CFP (US$75/£38) for a one-tank dive.

Fishing

There's some pretty good hunting for tuna, mahimahi, and other deep-sea game fish in these waters. A charter boat can be arranged through your accommodations, or you can contact Gabriel "Gaby" Heitaa, owner of the Pua O Te Tai (tel. 91.70.60; heitaagaby@mail.pf). His is one of the boats that also provides transportation between Hiva Oa and Tahuata.

Hiking

You can hike from Atuona to the Tehueto Petroglyphs and to Taaoa, but I think it's best to go with a guide. The Hanakee Hiva Oa Pearl Lodge (tel. 92.75.87) organizes hiking excursions, or you can contact Bonno Henry of Hiva Oa Rando-Trek (tel. 92.74.44) or Hiva Oa Trek (tel. 20.40.90).

Horseback Riding

Another way to see the Tehueto Petroglyphs or Jacques Brel's intended home site is on the back of a strong Marquesan horse. Up on the plateau near the airport, Maui Ranch Tahauku (tel. 92.47.92) leads excursions to both sites for about 7,000CFP (US$88/£44) and 14,000CFP (US$175/£89), respectively.

Mountain Biking

In addition to horseback rides, the Hanakee Hiva Oa Pearl Lodge (tel. 92.75.87) also organizes mountain-bike excursions to various points in and near Atuona. Contact the hotel for particulars and prices.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.