With a total area of 997 km2, they constitute one of the most extensive archipelagos of French Polynesia. They are located south of the equator, at a distance between 975 km (from Nuku Hiva) and 1 159 km (from Fatu Hiva). The islands are also about 1,000 km north-northeast of the Tuamotu Islands. From Nuku Hiva, where the administrative centre of the archipelago is located, a 1,398 km course is required to reach Tahiti, in the Society’s islands.
The islands are divided into two distinct groups: the northern group, centred around the large island of Nuku Hiva, the two smaller islands of Ua Pou to the south, and Ua Huka to the east, and to the north the small islands located on the same coral massif of Eiao, Hatutaa and Motu One; the southern group, centred around the main island of Hiva Oa, and the smallest islands very close to Tahuata and Moho Tani (or Molopu), and further south the island of Fatu Hiva and the rock Motu Nao.