10 things not to miss in Isle of Pines
Known as ‘the Jewel of the Pacific’, the Isle of Pines is one of the most spectacular islands in the Pacific. Fringed with white sands, turquoise lagoons and its signature Araucaria soaring pine trees, it is an evocative and exotic landscape of ancient botany and raw beauty.
To truly escape, book a few nights on the Isle of Pines, which is a short twenty-minute flight or a two and a half hour ferry ride from Nouméa. Such is its beauty that photos won’t do it justice.
Whilst you are visiting the Island, be sure to:
1. Swim or snorkel in the crystal clear waters of Oro natural pool
Take the most beautiful and heavenly postcard you will ever find, jump into it, and you will find yourself in the middle Of Oro’s natural swimming pool.
No words will ever be able to describe how beautiful this place is. Surrounded by tall pine trees, separated from the ocean thanks to a coral reef, this place is magical. The Natural Swimming Pool of the Isle of Pines is an enclosed lagoon where time stops.
Located in Oro Bay, on the northeast side of the Isles of Pines, this piece of paradise marvels each person lucky enough to discover it.
2. Visit Queen Hortense's cave
No visit to the Isle of Pines would be complete without a trip to the Queen Hortense’s Cave. A short walk through a thriving rainforest will bring you to the wide entrance and stunning gardens of these caves. The site’s caretaker will delight in sharing the tale of this natural wonder, named after a local Queen, who according to legend hid in the caves for several months during an intertribal conflict.
3. Sail on an outrigger over the wondrous Upi Bay
What better way to discover the stunning lagoon and bays that surround the Isle of Pines, by cruising in a traditional outrigger sailing boat.
Board your boat at St. Josephs Bay and drift amid the peaceful bays, guided by a local boatman and learn about the island’s culture while you enjoy the stunning sea views.
Upon disembarking at Oro Bay you can take a stroll through the tropical forest to the famous natural swimming pool.
4. Climb N'Ga peak
Climb the highest peak (262 metres) on this low-lying island to take in the spectacular 360 views of the surrounding landscape and lagoon. It’s an easy hour’s walking time and possible for most fitness levels, just don’t forget your camera!
The hike starts in Kuto. Remember to wear sturdy walking shoes, and take lots of water and sunscreen.
5. Explore ruins and cemetery belonging to the original french penal colony
In the 1870s the Kuto Peninsula was home to a French Penal Colony (‘bagne’) which housed Communards deported from the Paris Commnune. The tender jetty in use today is in exactly the same place as the penal colony’s pier was, making it easy to imagine arriving at the island as a déporté. The colony was finally closed in 1880, when the Communards were granted total amnesty, and the survivors sailed back to France. If you wander 20 minutes inland from Kuto to Ouru, you can still see some ruins of the penal colony, and the cemetery for the prisoners who died on the island.
6. Discover the cultural slide of the island
Immerse yourself in the history of the Isle of Pines by taking a guided tour to various traditional sites on the island. You will visit the small town of Vao, with the pretty Mission Church at its centre and the Statue de St Maurice commemorating the arrival of the first missionaries.
7. Relax at Kanumera and Kuto Bay
A narrow peninsula separates Kanumera Bay and Kuto Bay. Both of which feature stunning white sand beaches and turquoise waters ideal for swimming and snorkelling. The coral reef just off the shore of Kanumera Bay is home to a range of intriguing marine life.
Kanumera and Kuto Bay are one of the locals best kept secrets!
8. Discover the underwater world of the island
The Isle of Pines is recognised as on of the best diving location in New Caledonia for beginners and experienced divers alike.
Diving is particularly interesting at Isle of Pines because of its diversity. There are numerous diving locations along the reef offering a constantly changing panorama of drop-offs, corridors, passages and sea grottos. There are over 15 dive sites, all around the breathtaking Bay of Gadji. The more experienced divers can venture down to the mysterious freshwater underground caves known as “Grotte de la Troisième”, reachable only by a narrow underwater corridor. Night dives in Isle of Pines are renowned for its mysterious atmosphere, with the sea snakes and loggerhead turtles.
All diving is arranged through Kunie Scuba Centre.
9. Eat the Isle of Pines's famous snails
Yes, snails. The “bulimes” or “Escargots de l’Ile des Pins” are endemic to the Isle of Pines and live in the forest. They are farmed by the locals and are a delicatessen you can find in most of the restaurants on the island.
If you are not a fan of snails try the freshly caught grilled lobster at KouGny Restaurant in Oro Bay, or indulge yourself at Le Meridien.
Video: Say hello to Isle of Pines!
10. Explore the main islets
Jump on a boat to discover the lagoon of Ile des Pins and head towards the stunning islets of Ilot Brosse and Moro, stopping on the way to swim with turtles, manta rays and admire the coral reef. Don’t forget your fins, mask and snorkel!
And for the complete experience, enjoy a cray fish on the beach for lunch, feet in the sand.