Located somewhere in the middle of the South Pacific, off the coast of New Caledonia and far from the most popular tourist routes, lie three hidden pearls of pristine beauty, three islands of legend and tradition. The islands of Lifou, Maré and Ouvéa (Indigenous names: Drehu, Nengone and Iaaï) make up the Loyalty Islands, a trio of islands situated roughly 190km to the east of Grand Terre, the largest of New Caledonia’s islands.
Discover the top things to do in the Loyalty Islands by island:Voir plus
Top 3 things to do in Lifou:
1. Go diving in the crystal-clear waters surrounding the island
Home to diverse and colourful marine life, including rays, starfish, reef sharks and more, Lifou is a little slice of paradise for diving and snorkelling enthusiasts alike. From beginners to experienced divers, there are so many ways to explore the best diving and snorkelling spots scattered across Lifou, from tours with local guides and professional instructors to self-guided adventures.
2. Discover the island’s architecture
As early as the 1840s, Lifou was visited by French missionaries. Some relics of their time on the island remain to this day, including several 19th century Catholic church buildings. If you love fascinating architecture or consider yourself a bit of a history-buff, you should definitely plan a stop at the Notre Dame de Lourdes. Built during the 19th century, the chapel and its stark white exterior sit high on a hill overlooking the sea.
3. Feast your eyes on vanilla, Lifou’s gold
Vanilla cultivation was introduced to Lifou in 1860 from Madagascar. Today, over 120 producers and many planters grow 100% natural vanilla, becoming what has come to be known as Lifou's brown gold. There’s even a festival dedicated to this gift of nature: the Vanilla Festival, which celebrates the industry annually. During this time, the tribes of Mou celebrate the harvest of vanilla with traditional songs and dances, organising visits to the vanilla plantations, as well as tastings and food stalls. The tribes also welcome visitors to their villages, opening their homes and happily explaining their traditional customs.
Top 3 things to do in Maré:
1. Explore Le Bone de la Léproserie
Filled with crystalline waters, Maré’s incredible limestone caves are a worthy addition to any island itinerary. The most famous is perhaps Le Bone de la Léproserie, a deep limestone pool that has to be seen to be believed. This enormous hole, carved naturally from limestone rock and hidden by thick vegetation, drops vertically to a pool of still water. It’s one of the largest of its kind in the world.
2. Learn more about Kanak culture and art
Kanak culture is on show at the Centre Culturel Yeiwene Yeiwene. The centre features a number of exhibitions showcasing interesting Kanak artefacts and murals. Behind the centre, you’ll find stone ruins, known as the Hnaenedr wall, which are said to date as far back as 250AD. Craft workshops and traditional performances are sometimes also hosted at the centre.
3. Savour local produce during the Avocado Festival
Showcasing the fruit of the local farmers' labour, Maré’s Avocado Festival was founded to build the reputation of the island’s prized crop with those who live beyond the Loyalty Island group. During the festival, avocados aren’t the only produce on show, with a variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables, including pawpaws, bananas, passionfruit, taro, yams, and more, stocked in the exhibitors’ stalls.
Top 3 things to do in Ouvea:
1. Take part in the Lagoon Festival
The people of Ouvea join together to celebrate the beauty of their island during the local Lagoon Festival. The idea of the festival is to promote the region’s sea produce, while also raising awareness within the general public about environmental conservation, particularly of the lagoon. A great program of entertainment is scheduled during the festival, including performances by musical groups and dance troops, fishing competitions, water sport activities and much, much more.
2. Stop by the coconut oil production plant
Home to a coconut grove estimated to cover an area larger than 3,000 ha, Ouvéa’s coconut oil production industry is extremely important to the livelihood of its islanders. After grinding and pressing, the coconuts are transformed into oil which is then used as both biofuel by the island's electric power plant and as raw material for the production of soap. Learn more about this amazing process and many uses of coconut oil during a free visit to the production plant.
3. Hike along the Lekiny Cliffs
Situated at the southern end of the island, these accessible cliffs are peppered with beautiful caves. Hike along the scenic cliffs during a guided tour of the area before enjoying some great snorkelling in the waters below.
Last, but certainly not least, the Loyalty Islands offer visitors the ultimate luxury - kilometres of beaches with spotless sand and perfect curves. The Loyalty Islands are indeed surrounded by crystal clear waters, with beaches such as Luengoni Beach and Easo Beach (Lifou), Yejele Beach (Maré) and Mouli Beach (Ouvea) showcasing the island group’s incredible beauty.
Now, the big question, how do you get to the Loyalty Islands? It is actually pretty easy. Air Calédonie, New Caledonia’s domestic airline flies from Nouméa to Lifou, Maré, Ouvéa and Tiga every day. If you’d prefer to get there by boat, the Betico 2 fast ferry operates in a triangular route between Nouméa, Lifou and Maré. There are no more excuses to skip this incredible corner of the archipelago!