Gone to Paradise: Your Isle of Pines Vacation Checklist
In New Caledonia, you don’t have to die to go to heaven — you just have to take a 20-minute flight to the Isle of Pines, an island south of Noumea. Although Ouvéa in the north claims the title of “the closest island to paradise,” the Isle of Pines, or l'Île des Pins, is so arresting in its beauty it became known as “the other island closest to paradise”.
Famous for its tall native pines, dazzling deserted beaches and relaxed island life that will lure you to unwind and take in its idyllic beauty, a trip to the Isle of Pines is both a relaxing holiday and an exciting adventure. Here’s a rundown of eight must-do activities you might want to tick off when you visit the Isle of Pines.
Relax at Kanumera and Kuto Bay
A thin strip of land separates Kanumera and Kuto bays, making one of the most iconic sights and the best destinations for a relaxing day in the Isle of Pines. Both feature stunning white sand beaches and calm, clear waters perfect for swimming and snorkelling, but Kanumera gets more attention with Rocher de Kaa Nuë Méra, or Sacred Rock, rising just a few meters off the beach. You’ll encounter a wide range of fascinating marine life between the bay and the Rock, as well as several spots that make perfect backdrops for vacation pictures. You can swim all the way around the rock or walk on the narrow sandbank that connects it to the mainland, but don’t climb it! The Rock is closely tied to the island’s culture and beliefs, and going there without prior authorization is forbidden.
Snorkel in La Piscine Naturelle
Bordered by majestic columnar pines and sheltered from the ocean’s crashing waves by mighty coral reefs, La Piscine Naturelle, literally the Natural Pool, is a spectacular sight. The landscape though is not what only draws people to this place. The pool’s underwater world is a snorkeler’s dream come true! Wade into its warm, shallow waters and you’ll see colourful fish congregating in the middle of corals. Rays and turtles also frequent the pool so keep an eye out!
Eat the famous Escargots de l'Île des Pins
Eat list alert! Don’t miss the famous bulimes or Isle of Pines snails. These large snails are endemic to the Isle of Pines and cannot be exported to the main land. They live amidst the island’s pine forests and are farmed by the locals. The snails are often cooked in traditional French fashion — simmered in garlic and wine — and visitors love them so much getting a taste has become a must! It’s also easy enough to find a place to try the delicacy since most restaurants on the island serve it, but you might want to head to La Piroge Restaurant at Le Meridien for dinner where the tasty escargots are stuffed with parsley and garlic butter.
Sail on an outrigger over the Upi Bay
Nothing makes for a more authentic sailing experience in the Isle of Pines than a traditional outrigger sailing boat. Located north of the little island of Kotomo southeast of the Isle of Pines, breathtaking Upi Bay is where the outrigger canoes are an everyday sight. Get on one of these little wooden boats, traverse the bay’s calm waters and discover the stunning lagoon and peaceful bays that surround the isle. Dolphins and turtles might also join you in your outrigger canoe trip if you’re lucky!
Boat trip to Nokanhui and Moro Islets
No Isle of Pines trip is complete without setting foot in Nokanhui. With its powdery white sand and dazzling waters coloured with all shades of blue, the little sandbar set in the heart of the lagoon will leave you speechless. Spend a few peaceful hours on the islet or explore the surroundings with your snorkelling gear, then hop to Moro Islet for a delightful seafood lunch of grilled lobsters and fish! The Nokanhui-Moro boat trip also passes by the pine-studded Brosse Islet so be ready to snap some pictures.
Learn the history and culture of the island
Take a mini bus round trip of the Isle of Pines and immerse yourself in the island’s history. The trip includes various traditional sites, including the Mission Church and the Statue of St. Maurice in the town of Vao which commemorates the arrival of the first missionaries, and the so-called grotto of Queen Hortense, a large cave with remarkable stalagmites where the queen, then a young princess, hid out to avoid harm when tribal wars broke out in 1855. For those who seek a brush with the sinister, there’s the convict prison ruins near Wero village which once held around 3,000 French deportees from the Paris Commune, as well as the Cemetery of the Deported which is a short walk from the ruins. The crumbling 1870s stone prison and the cemetery are not often presented as tourist attractions but are worth the detour for any history lover.
Dive into the island’s underwater world
The Isle of Pines is perhaps the best location for diving in New Caledonia, with a diverse range of corridors, drop-offs, sea grottos and passages for both beginners and experienced divers. Beginners will enjoy the high seabed of Kasmira Reef which is full of fish and leopard shark, or the Gorgon Valley with its numerous rifts and abundant fauna. For experienced divers, the mysterious freshwater underground caves of Grotte de la Troisième await at the end of a narrow corridor, the highlight being the forest of stalactites and stalagmites in the third cave. There’s also the Garden of Eden with its rift succession ranging from 5 to 50 metres, featuring gorgons, alcyonnaires, sponges and soft corals.
Climb N’Ga Peak
Take on the island’s highest point and you’ll be rewarded with magnificent 360° views of the surrounding landscape and lagoon. The turquoise waters, verdant pines and low-lying clouds all combine to make a spectacular scenery. Not a hiker? One great thing about the peak is you don’t have to be a hardcore hiker to reach it. Rising at merely 262 metres, N’Ga Peak is an easy hour’s walking time and possible for most fitness levels.
For more amazing activities in the Isle of Pines and special deals, check out our Isle of Pines holiday packages. Alternatively, you can also enquire or call our New Caledonia travel specialists at 1300 108 625 for expert advice on what to do and where to go, eat or stay in your trip to New Caledonia.