Taha Uku Bay is where many cruisers anchor to enter into the country and check in with Customs & Immigration. It’s not a large bay and therefore at the beginning of cruising season it can get quite crowded. Be prepared to have a bow and stern anchor as it seems everyone does here. The holding in the bay is quite good as the bottom is thick mud. In fact, it’s so good that we know of more than one cruiser who actually lost their anchor in the sludge bottom.
There is another bay just west of Taha Uku known as Atuona Bay or more often Traitor’s Bay. We did see a couple of yachts anchor there. Of course to go ashore you’ll have to leave your tender on the beach and it just didn’t seem nearly as secure as the dinghy dock at the wharf on Taha Uku Bay.
IMPORTANT HARBOR NOTE
On thing you must know about anchoring in Taha Uku is that the Aranui supply ship arrives on Mondays. When they come into the harbor you could be asked to move your boat. There are yellow painted lines on the shore on the east and west sides of the bay. If you are not on the north side of those then you will be asked to move outside of the bay during their visit. Be aware, they arrive pretty early in the morning. They will bang on your boat until you wake up and move.
You can anchor on the southeast side of the anchorage just south of the breakwater but be aware, it can get pretty swelly there. We don’t normally care about a little rolling but the night we spent there was a bit more than even we like.
If you make Hiva Oa your point of entry into French Polynesia then you’ll probably ready to pick up a few provisions after your long journey. There are three small grocery stores in the village of Atuona. Here they call them “magasins”. Be prepared, the stock is usually limited and what you do find will be a bit expensive. Most of the islands have shipments come in once a week so find out when that is and get there early!
Be prepared to find a limited variety of fruits and vegetables. The veggies consist mostly of root vegetables like potatoes, carrots and the like. Tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuces are almost non existent. As for fruit….pamplemousse (don’t miss it), mangoes, bananas and other tropical fruit are plentiful.
We also found that the gas station on the wharf was “the spot” to get some of the freshest tuna around. And it was actually cheap. We paid $10 USD per kilo for it! Oh yes…they also have fresh French baguettes for $1 USD there too but you better get there, or to any store, very early if you want the fresh bread and pastries as they sell out by mid morning.
From the wharf it’s about a forty-five minute walk up a pretty steep, curvy hill to reach the village of Atuona where you’ll find restaurants, groceries etc… You can rent a car once you get there. We did this for a few days so we could explore the island. Of course you probably don’t want to rent a car the entire time you are there so you do what the rest of the cruisers do, you hitchhike. Yes, we said, “Hitchhike”. It’s very safe and we found the locals actually enjoy helping out the cruisers. Trust us, it will likely be very hot and humid when you arrive so even those who love to hike find a ride to be a welcome respite. And you just might meet some nice locals along the way. We know we certainly did.
As a side note, if you are walking into the village on a Sunday you are not likely to find a ride as most of the locals use Sunday for church and family time. In fact, most of the places in town will be closed so it’s a better day to take a hike or just hang out on the hook.
There is one bank in Atuona. It’s the Banc Secredo and they do have an ATM but it didn’t seem to work while we were there so we just went inside. If it’s the first of the month, just like everywhere else in the world, be prepared to wait as the lines are long and no one moves very fast. After all, you’re in the islands. What’s the hurry?
Don’t expect to be wowed by incredible restaurants and food. These are remote islands and therefore the selections are limited and honestly the food is a bit bland. That said, there are a few places you can go to enjoy a meal out and take a break from the galley. And, once you get used to the way the islanders cook you might just find you actually enjoy it.
Snack Make Make
This little spot in the village of Atuona seems to be the cruiser hang out. Maybe it’s because they have free wifi if you are spending a little cash there or maybe it’s because the owner, Marc, is such a great guy who serves up a great fish burger and ice cold Hinano beer. Whatever it is, this place seemed to always be teeming with cruisers and locals. Like most places, they are closed on Sunday.
Roulettes (Roadside Stands)
As it is so often in the islands, you will find roadside food stands everywhere. In French Polynesia they are called “roulettes”. The village of Atuona is no exception. We had some incredible grilled chicken at one of these little stands and because it happened to be a holiday we were treated to some great Marquesan ukulele music too.
Marine Parts & Hardware
Well, all we can say here is “good luck”. There is a small hardware store next to the magasin and Make Make but don’t expect to find anything special here. Make sure you bring as many spare parts and things as you think you’ll need. Shipping to these places is super expensive!
While it’s not something either of us ever thought we’d do, we did get tattoos here in Hiva Oa. They signify and celebrate our amazing journey across the sea. We got ours at the Make Make Tattoo Studio that’s just up the hill behind the magasin in town. Kaha did an amazing job and we were told that he’s the only tattoo artist on the island who has regular health inspections of his studio and equipment. We LOVE our tattoos and highly recommend Kaha!