Tailor-Made Holiday

Polynesian Cruise with Aranui 5

Cruise the remote Marquesas Islands on board Aranui 5

14 days

from $3,975pp (excluding flights)

Cruise the Marquesan Islands where little has changed in thousands of years and few roads or cars exist. Visitors are rare and joyfully welcomed by the friendly Polynesian people.

  • Explore the little visited Marquesas Island aboard a comfortable working freighter - lifeline to these remote communities
  • Visit mysterious jungle ruins and snorkel in turquoise lagoons
  • Immerse yourself in spectacular scenery, rich culture and history

This exceptional cruise includes 14 stops around French Polynesia and the Marquesan Islands with plenty of time to disembark and explore. See the largest tiki gods outside Easter Island, along with sacred ritual sites and enigmatic petroglyphs of birds, fish and sacred turtles carved on boulders. Retrace the escape route of Herman Melville who jumped his whaling ship here in 1842 a decade before he wrote Moby Dick. 

Why cruise the Marquesas Islands?

One of the most remote groups of islands in the world, a cruise is the only way to experience the best of the Marquesas Islands. Made up of 12 islands, only six are inhabited and Aranui 5 has been their lifeline for over four decades, delivering supplies to remote islands as well as allowing guests the chance to experience the charm and magic of this hidden part of the world.

Guides and specialists onboard Aranui 5

The Polynesian crew onboard Aranui 5 are incredibly knowledgeable on the Marquesas Islands; many have ancestry rooted in the islands and have been the company for over thirty years. They are charming and friendly and introduce guests to their homeland offering access to the islands in a manner that is unique to Aranui 5. Daily presentations are given to guests on the history, wildlife and traditions of the islands.

Unique experiences on and off the ship

Aranui 5 serves as the island's link to the outside world, both in terms of eagerly awaited provisions as well as tourism. As such, the arrival of the ship is met with great enthusiasm and a warm welcome from the locals, both young and old. This unique relationship with the people of the islands allows visitors access to tiny communities and experiences not available to others, from interacting with locals to fishing for your lunch, hiking the wild island interiors and snorkelling in hidden waters. Every day allows time to be as active or relaxed as you wish.

What is given back?

Over the past thirty years, Aranui 5 has helped revitalize the long-forgotten Marquesan culture and contribute to the local economy by introducing the islands to thousands of international visitors.

Pre and post cruise suggestions

  • Stopover in Los Angeles with time to explore the bright lights of the city or venture further afield; learn to surf on the Californian coast, experience the cool vibe of San Francisco or the wilds of Yosemite National Park
  • With direct flights from Auckland to Tahiti, New Zealand marries perfectly with this cruise; Spend time exploring the North Island, home to Maori culture, stunning beaches and geothermal parks
  • Fly via Tokyo and immerse yourself in this fascinating, modern and quirky city before continuing directly to Tahiti

Cruise dates

Cruises to the Marquesas Islands on board Aranui 5 operate throughout the year. 

For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Price Excluding Flights $Flight cost from 
$ 5366.25 $ 1350
  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • 12 nights on board Aranui 5 on a full board basis including house wine for evening meals
  • All excursions as detailed in the itinerary
  • One night in Papeete on a bed and breakfast basis
  • Transfers as detailed

what is excluded

  • Any flights
  • Gratuities
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visas


Itinerary at a glance

Collapse all
Day 1

Day at leisure in Papeete

You will be staying at Hotel Tahiti Nui, bed and breakfast

Day 2

Morning Departure from Papeete to Tahiti
Transfer to the port and board Aranui 5. Set sail for the Tuamotu Archipelago and the island of Fakarava.

You will be staying at Aranui 5, full board

Day 3

Tuamotu Archipelago - Fakarava (Rotoava)
Morning arrival in Fakarava, designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the second largest atoll in French Polynesia. There will be time to discover the small village of Rotoava, its church which is built of coral and the local arts and crafts. Take a refreshing swim and snorkel in the translucent lagoon among the colourful tropical fish.

Optional excursions, such as snorkelling or diving or an outing to an islet for bird watching, are available at an additional cost. Return to boat for lunch.

You will be staying at Aranui 5, full board

Day 4

At Sea
A day at sea today and the chance to unwind and relax on one of the sun decks or in the comfort of the air-conditioned lounge. Alternatively, simply enjoy the views of the endless South Pacific Ocean as Aranui 5 journeys to the Marquesas Islands. Lectures on Marquesan culture and history will offer full insight into this ancient civilization. The spirited Polynesian crew will proudly introduce guests to their way of life, entertaining with Polynesian songs and rhythms on ukuleles, guitars and drums.

Before retiring to bed be sure to set your watch 30 minutes ahead for Marquesan time.

You will be staying at Aranui 5, full board

Day 5

Hiva Oa (Puamau) & Tahuata (Vaitahu)
On arrival in Puamau, travel by 4WD to the most impressive archaeological site 'tikis' (ancient, human like religious stone sculptures) outside of Easter Island. On reaching Mea'e Ipona, the knowledgeable guides will recount stories of these haunting statues. Only a small part of the site has been restored with most of it still buried under massive trees and rocks.

After lunch on board, Aranui will set sail for the small island of Tahuata. On this leaf-shaped island, the air is thick with the fragrant scent of tiare, frangipani and history.

In 1595, Spanish explorers landed in the village of Vaitahu and opened fire on a crowd of curious islanders, killing about 200. Tahuata is also the site of the first French settlement in the Marquesas in 1842. The large church built by the Vatican, is decorated with beautiful Marquesan carvings and a stunning stained-glass window. Tahuata is famous for its exquisite bone and helmet shell carvings.

You will be staying at Aranui 5, full board

Day 6

Nuku Hiva (Taiohae)
As the Aranui unloads, there will be time to explore Taiohae, the tiny administrative capital of the Marquesas. Taiohae Bay is where Herman Melville, then a 23-year-old sailor, and a buddy jumped a whaling ship in 1842.

Following breakfast, disembark to meet the awaiting 4x4 vehicles for the days sightseeing.

Visit the Cathedral of Taihoae before exploring the local market to shop for arts & crafts. Continue to the archaeological Mea'e Kamuihei with its giant banyans and petroglyphs. Hike to the nearby Paeke site, featuring paepae, immense stone platforms, where the Taipi built their houses. This will include a performance of the traditional Marquesan Pig Dance.

An introduction to traditional Marquesan cuisine will be served for lunch; cooked in an Umu, an underground oven where food is cooked for hours.

In the small village of Hatiheu, the local museum displays copies of petroglyphs from unexplored valleys. Continue south to Taiohae with its spectacular bay, a giant volcanic amphitheatre dominated by towering cliffs streaked with waterfalls. Back in the village, there is an internet café, banks and boutiques to explore before returning to the ship on foot or by car.

You will be staying at Aranui 5, full board

Day 7

Ua Pou (Hakahau)
From the decks see the soaring mountain spires unique to Ua Pou.

While the crew unloads supplies including cement, sugar, sacks of copra (dried coconut meat) and fruit, explore the quaint village of Hakahau and its church featuring a hand-carved wooden dais.

Meet the islands talented woodcarvers and artists, hike up the hill to the Cross for breath taking views of the mountains, the lush valleys and the main village.

Another delicious Marquesan lunch will be served: breadfruit, a Marquesan staple, along with curried goat (one of the Marquesas islands specialities), poisson cru (raw fish marinated in lime juice and coconut milk), taro and sweet red bananas. Witness a dance performance including the Bird Dance, traditional to Ua Pou.

You will be staying at Aranui 5, full board

Day 8

Hiva Oa (Atuaona)
Arrive in Hiva Oa this morning, with plenty of time to explore Atuona, the second largest village in he Marquesas. This is where Paul Gauguin lived and created some of his best work. Visit the colonial store where he shopped, as well as a replica of his infamous ' House of Pleasure' and the adjoining museum.

Walk up the hill to the cemetery for sweeping views of the harbour. Beneath a huge frangipani tree is a tombstone with the simple words: Paul Gauguin 1903. Nearby is the grave of another famous European who also was seduced by Hiva Oa: Belgian singer-composer Jacques Brel, who died in 1978.

You will be staying at Aranui 5, full board

Day 9

Fatu Hiva (Omoa - Hanavave)
Fatu Hiva is the most lush and remote of the Marquesan Islands; the only access is by sea, since there is no airport on the island.

In the tranquil village of Omoa, see women pounding mulberry, banyan or breadfruit tree bark on logs. The bark is then dried and used as a canvas where the locals paint ancient Marquesan designs. Fatu Hiva is also well-known for its hand-painted pareos (sarongs) and monoi (infused perfume oil); coconut oil infused with 'Tiare Tahiti' blossoms, vanilla or sandalwood. Meet skilled woodcarvers in the large handicraft centre; another opportunity to purchase Marquesan arts and crafts.

Before lunch, the Aranui will sail to the other side of the island, to the breath-taking Hanavave Bay, also known as the Bay of Virgins. Those feeling energetic can choose to make the trip on foot. On this unforgettable ten-mile hike take in dramatic views of towering cliffs and majestic waterfalls plus a delicious lunch served at the top of the mountain.

Sunset in Hanavave Bay is beautiful followed by a buffet dinner served on deck under the stars

You will be staying at Aranui 5, full board

Day 10

Ua Huka (Vaipaee - Hane - Hokatu)
In the early morning light, the Aranui 5 will arrive in Ua Huka. The manoeuvre entering the small bay and positioning the vessel for departure is truly impressive.

On the dry lands of Ua Huka visit the small museum of Vaipaee located in the islands city hall gardens. The museum features exquisite replicas of Marquesan art and the guides will immerse you in this ancient civilization.

Back onboard the 4WD, explore the island, stopping for stunning views of the Pacific, a visit to the arboretum and botanical garden, before reaching the beautiful village of Hane. Lunch will be served at a local family restaurant.

On Ua Huka where the wild horses (brought from Chile in 1856) outnumber the inhabitants, horseback riding will be available at an additional cost. After lunch, explore the fishing village of Hokatu, or hike up to one of Hanes viewpoints escorted by the ships guides.

Back onboard admire the stunning views as Aranui sails along the coast of Ua Huka.

You will be staying at Aranui 5, full board

Day 11

At Sea
A day at sea today with the chance to relax onboard.

You will be staying at Aranui 5, full board

Day 12

Tuamotu Archipelago - Rangiroa
From the decks, watch as Aranui 5 arrives into French Polynesia's largest atoll and the second largest in the world. Search for dolphins greeting the ship as it enters Tiputa Pass, one of Rangiroa's two channels.

Snorkelling and scuba diving excursions are available at an additional cost. Scuba diving here is rated as some of the best in the world.

The Tuamotu atolls, with their pristine environment and pure waters, offer ideal conditions for pearl farming. Visit a working pearl farm and learn how Tahiti's famed jewel of the sea is produced.

Join an excursion or relax on the white sandy beach with time for a swim in the lagoon. The local 'mamas' will have an excellent display of shell necklaces, key chains and other small souvenirs for sale on the beach.

Aranui 5 will depart in the afternoon and sail to the island of Bora Bora.

You will be staying at Aranui 5, full board

Day 13

Society Islands - Bora Bora
Arrive into the world-famous lagoon in Bora Bora; turquoise waters backed by the jagged peak of Mount Otemanu, the islands tallest peak.

Spend a day at leisure at the beach with a delicious picnic on a private 'motu' (islet) surrounded by crystalline waters.

There are also a variety of excursions to choose from at an additional cost: circlular island tour by boat or bus, helicopter flight or a 4WD off-road tour. Bora Bora was a US military outpost during World War II and remnants from the war such as cannons and bunkers can be seen on the 4WD tour.

Evening departure for Papeete.

You will be staying at Aranui 5, full board

Day 14

Arrive Papeete and disembark
Arrive into Papeete this morning and disembark for your onward travel.


Below you can see some of the wonderful places we recommend you stay on your journey.

Aranui 5

Aranui 5

Aranui 5 is a mixed cargo and passenger vessel which operates between Tahiti and the Marquesas' delivering much needed everyday goods to several islands....

View Accommodation

For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Destination Experts

Our experts have unrivalled firsthand knowledge of Polynesia & South Pacific

Amy Waters, Travel Expert

Read More

Deborah Brock-Doyle, Travel Expert

Read More

For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Enquire about this holiday:
Speak to a Polynesia & South Pacific holiday expert:

Tailor-Made Holiday Ideas

Booking a Tailor-made holiday gives you the flexibility to customise your journey, travelling when and where suits you.

You are unique, so we believe your holiday should be too.

We listen to what you want and create a personalised itinerary tailored around you.

Your holiday. Your experience. Your way.

Can’t find what you’re looking for?

Call our Travel Experts on +01285 880 980
Start Your Journey


  • Established for over 25 years creating journeys across 100 destinations worldwide
  • Exclusive access to the best private guides


  • We negotiate the best rates with hotels and expert guides
  • Be protected from fluctuations in exchange rates


  • Each time you travel with us we donate £5 to a local charity in the UK and £10 to an international charity

Fully Protected

  • Your monies are financially protected
  • 24/7 Emergency UK contact whilst abroad

Featured in the Press

Financial Times
The Telegraph
Sunday Times logo

Our Partners

African Parks
Galapagos Conservation Trsut
Restless Development
Save The Rhino
Tusk Trust
World Land Trsut
Gorilla Doctors

© Steppes Travel, 51 Castle St, Cirencester, GL7 1QD, United Kingdom