The Islands of Tahiti can feel like the edge of the earth. Now imagine flying three hours farther than the main international airport, and you’ll get a sense of the remote beauty and ancient roots of Hiva Oa and Nuku Hiva, two of the 12 islands of The Marquesas. Much remains unchanged here, from the culture and language to the drama of the landscapes, which—because of their position closer to the equator—were born of a drier, more temperate climate. You’ll be wowed again and again as you come upon thousand-foot waterfalls, jagged volcanic cliffs, and mountains that seem to spiral up into the clouds. One great way to explore The Marquesas is via a small-ship cruise. The Aranui, for instance, connects passengers to the mana (life force) of the archipelago with activities like 4x4 drives up steep roads to visit the Kamuihei archeological site; hikes through the Taipivai Valley past stone tikis and sacred ritual sites; and visits with local artists and craftsmen, including expert wood, bone and helmet shell carvers.