Why We All Love the Isle of Pines in New Caledonia

New Caledonia - Isle of Pines - Upi Bay
Upi Bay

During your research to plan your trip to New Caledonia, you will find one constant: the praises for the Isle of PinesA local woman we met on Lifou, another island of the archipelago (my favourite one!), even told us her dream was to go to the Isle of Pines. I am not going against the flow: the Isle of Pines is a must-do when you visit New Caledonia.

 

We spent three full days (four nights) on the Isle of Pines and loved it. We could have spent two weeks there. On top of many natural stunning spots to explore, there are plenty of fun activities to keep you entertained.

But as for the other destinations in New Caledonia, it is recommended to find out when a cruise would be around to better plan your activities and avoid the crowd.

Let me take you through the highlights of our stay…

 

Planning tips to visit the Isle of Pines

How long should you stay? Do you need a car? What are the must-sees on the Isle of Pines?

New Caledonia - Isle of Pines - Traditional Boat
A traditional boat along the river

Three days did not give us enough time to explore the entire island.

 

We found car rental on the island but it was difficult for us to organise it as we were a group of six travelling during peak season. And we actually realised that in three days, we would only have time for a small selection of activities. The main ones can be organised with transfers from the hotel. So, to avoid renting a car, we booked a hotel between the popular Kanumera and Kuta bays. We could walk to the restaurants and the beaches in both areas and didn’t mind the 15-minute digestive walk!

You will need to rent a car for at least one day if you want to see most of the island .

 

My highlights of the trip were, in order of preference:

  • Upi Bay on a traditional boat
  • Our quality family time on Moro Island
  • Diving around the pretty gorgonians
  • The beautiful Kuto Beach

 

 You may be interested in reading my tips for an easier (and cheaper) trip to New Caledonia.

 

New Caledonia - Isle of PinesViews from the plane before landing on the Isle of Pines

The Isle of Pines shows her best profile before you even set foot on it. Every plane trip we did from one island to another offered stunning bird views of the beautiful lagoons. How could you escape love at first sight?

If you don’t want to fly, you can also catch a ferry from the main island to get there.

 

Best sunset on the Isle of Pines: from Kuto Beach or Kanumera Beach?

We tried both. We loved both. The magic hour is always more magic when you’re next to the ocean, don’t you think? The sun went down on the horizon at Kuto Beach. At Kanumera Beach, it enhanced the pine trees, which is a special feeling considering they gave their name to the island!

 

New Caledonia - Isle of Pines - sunset kuto
Kuto Beach

New Caledonia - Isle of Pines - sunset kanumera
Kanumera Beach

 

 

Atoll of Nok Anhui & Moro Island

As a cruise arrived in the morning, the touristy spots on the island suddenly got crowded. It was a perfect day to book a boat excursion to smaller islands. 

 

The untouched atoll of Nok Anhui was incredible. We were the first boat to reach it, which was the best way to appreciate the beauty of the place. We went there on an overcast day but when the sun rays managed to find their way to the atoll, the colours were stunning.

We spotted some big eagle nests with their owners nearby.

 

New Caledonia - Isle of Pines
Atoll of Nok Anhui

New Caledonia - Isle of Pines
Eagle nest

 

2017 edit: We were told that it is not possible anymore to visit Nok Anhui Atoll.

 

We also saw turtles on the way to Moro Island. It’s always a pleasure to see turtles. But I felt terrible when someone from another boat jumped on it to catch it so tourists could have their photo taken with it. It lasted for a long time, and the turtle was obviously not enjoying it. I’m glad no one from our boat joined the stupid attraction. I don’t think I could have stayed silent. But are the people catching the turtles the ones to blame? Locals would not do it if it weren’t for the tourists’ pleasure.

 

New Caledonia - Isle of Pines
Welcome on Moro Island!

It was the only negative moment of the day. The rest was close to perfect. The reception on Moro Island was unexpected. We booked this tour without really knowing much about it. While driving around the main island, our hosts at La Petite Ferme told us they heard several times praises about this tour. They had noted down the number. It was easy: we just called and booked it! If you want the surprise too, skip the next two paragraphs!

When we arrived on Moro Island, a welcoming cocktail had just been served for us. You cannot see it from the sea but, just behind the vegetation, an enchanting camp awaits. The decoration is lovely and fits well with nature all around. The food was beautiful too. We felt like kings.

 

On the way back, our guide stopped the boat and we had the surprise to be surrounded by sharks in a few minutes. They used to feed them and, although they’ve stopped, the sharks are still attracted by the motor noise and come to check it out. It’s highly recommended not to put your hand in the water at that moment!

 

To book the tour we did, contact Julo at [email protected] or call 77 28 50.

 

Diving near the Isle of Pines

We dived the Garden of Eden with giant and numerous gorgonians. The water was beautiful with excellent visibility, and the coral formations were fantastic. My highlight: we saw seahorses on the gorgonians!

In New Caledonia, we only dived at Poindimié and didn’t have luck with finding a dive shop opened during our stay on Lifou and Ouvea. Although they’re both coral focused dives, the Isle of Pines was different compared to Poindimié. It’s worth doing both.

 

New Caledonia - Isle of Pines - Upi Bay
Upi Bay

Upi Bay on a traditional boat: is a must-do on the Isle of Pines.

It feels like an adventure just to board this small wooden traditional boat – called Pirogue in French. We slowly and calmly went down the breathtaking bay. The colour of the water and the big rocks coming out of it were magical. It reminded me the cruise we did in Zanzibar (Tanzania) a couple of years ago.

No motor needed, we were lucky with the wind. It felt like we escaped from time, and I wish time stopped. I could have stayed there forever.

Don’t worry about booking the tour too much in advance. You can do that once you arrive on the Isle of Pines. Just ask your hotel hosts. They are in touch with the boatman and will organise that quickly for you.

 

The Isle of Pines Natural Pool

New Caledonia - Isle of Pines
Natural Pool

After leaving our “pirogue”, we went for a short forest walk that ended up on a river that we had to cross to find the gorgeous Natural Pool. The rock standing in the middle of the transparent water gives a real charm to the place. A barrier of rocks in the background protects the serenity of the pool. The clown fish are more curious than ever. It’s very close to perfection.

 

What’s missing? Well, the actual question is what is in excess… As it sometimes happens in popular natural places, mass tourism is not helping. If only all the small things to limit our impact could be respected: don’t wear sunscreen in the water, don’t feed the wild animals and – obviously – don’t leave your rubbish there.

If the view was unbeatable, the snorkelling experience was nowhere as good as in Lifou.

 

Pic Nga, the top of the Isle of Pines

We woke up early to reach the summit of Pic Nga for sunrise. The one hour hike to the top is steep, so we were happy to avoid the sun and the heat while climbing. Culminating at 262 metres, it’s the highest peak of the island. The panoramic view up there is worth the efforts. And we did not have many opportunities for hiking during the trip so it was good to exercise a bit!

 

New Caledonia - Isle of Pines
New Caledonia - Isle of Pines

 

Your only opportunity to eat “Bulimes” (snails)!

New Caledonia - Isle of Pines - snailsThe Isle of Pines is the only island of New Caledonia where you are allowed to eat the local snails, the “bulimes”. You can only find this particularly big species in this area of the Pacific. As they are endangered, they limit the collect and no exportation is allowed. Your only chance to try them is at a restaurant on the Isle of Pines.

If you want tasty local food with a touch of good service, the Oure Tera beach resort* has a great menu (the restaurant, not the bar!). Some of us tried the traditional “bougna” while others were seduced by a  dish made of hart meat with foie-gras on top.

If you want more details, be patient. I’ve got a full article on the food we tried in New Caledonia in my draft folder!

 

Where to stay on the Isle of Pines?

Although it is the most developed island for tourism in New Caledonia, you won’t find large resorts dramatically damaging the stunning landscape. It also means most accommodations are basic unless you can afford one of the two luxurious resorts. Locals have managed to keep the place safe from mass tourism, except when a big cruise ships is visiting.

A couple of friends recommended the Gite Nataiwatch*. It was fully booked for our dates so I don’t have a personal experience to share. We went there for dinner and were satisfied whereas we had recent feedback (2017) about a poor service and disappointing food compared to the price level. These travellers had a better experience at the Relais Kuberka*.

It’s funny as we stayed at the Relais Kuberka* and were not impressed. But we found it overpriced (which is often the case in New Caledonia) and the food was not great at all. Overall it had all we needed and the location between Kuto and Kanumera Bays was ideal.

If you want the best in terms of comfort, and you are willing to pay a lot for it, check Le Meridien* and Oure Tera*. Their locations are unbeatable.

 

Have you been to the Isle of Pines? What was the highlight of your trip? Where did you stay? Share your experience in the comments below!

 

Where is the Isle of Pines?

 

The Isle of Pines is a small island in the South of the archipelago of New Caledonia. You can fly from Noumea or come by boat.

 

NEW CALEDONIA - isle of pines
Isle of Pines NEW CALEDONIA

 

*These are affiliate links: I will receive a commission if you make a booking using this link. This will help me maintain this website. 

I am a part-time traveler: I combine a full-time job with a passion for traveling. I love to share my trips and tips to inspire others to explore what's around them. Before moving to Australia, I lived in France, England and Turkey. I've finally found my balance in Brisbane.

20 thoughts on “Why We All Love the Isle of Pines in New Caledonia

  1. Great shot of Upi Bay, it looks like James Bond island. I hadn’t realized the Isle of Pines was so big. It looks so gorgeous and serene. Despite visiting during peak season you got some great photos without a lot of people. I’ll pass on the snails, escargot is not my thing. :)

    1. Hi, Debra. If you don’t end up there when there is a cruise, it does not look too busy even during peak season. But you’d still need to make sure to book accommodation and restaurants in advance, though.

  2. Sounds so awesome! The Isle of Pines Natural Pool sounds incredible. I definitely appreciate how you made sure to include where the best spots to watch the sunset are. I’m a fellow sunset chaser myself. All of these suggestions do really, and you can top it off with some unique cuisines! :)

  3. One thing is for sure – One of the most beautiful islands in the pacific. Thanks for introducing this place to me. Now, I’m wondering how can I fly from this place from the Philippines. I love that it look so untouched, prestige and virgin. How was the underwater view during your dive?

    1. Hi, Carlo. From the Philippines, I guess you’d have to fly to Australia first (Brisbane or Sydney) and then fly to Noumea from there. From Noumea, you can fly (again!) to the Isle of Pines, or take a ferry. It won’t be cheap, unfortunately…
      The underwater view was fantastic. They’re lucky to have amazing diving conditions there, and a great variety of large corals. I wish we had time to dive more!

  4. Each picture and its description here is so enticing. Such prisitine waters and all I can think of is snorkeling and scuba here. I bet it is as beautiful below the water. Thanks for the tips here.

  5. I had not even heard of New Caledonia ever! Glad that I did not die in ignorance and came to know about this gem. The sheer shades of blue and green in these pictures are beyond articulation.

    1. I’m not surprised. Their actions to develop tourism is still quite recent (but booming with the cruises). Before the big advertising campaign a few years ago, many Australians didn’t know about this destination (although it’s amongst their closest neighbours).

  6. Love all the detail here on what is one of our favourite destinations in the Pacific. Every beach, bay and lagoon is prettier than the last and those garlic-infused “bulimes” you mentioned have brought us back twice… I’m salivating just thinking about them

    1. Thank you :) I have to admit I’m salivating too. We do make snails at home sometimes, but it’s rare and they never taste as good as the ones on the Isle of Pines… because everything is better on such a beautiful island :D

  7. I don’t I can pick a single picture to be my favorite, the entire island is so picturesque and your pictures are gorgeous. I don’t understand why tourists want to click pictures with locals or even animals, why torture that turtle..Sad reality of tourism!! The color of water in Atoll of Nok Anhui looks true aqua..is it that really gorgeous, it is such a beauty I can’t put into words!!

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment, Shivani. I’m thinking (and hoping) these tourists don’t realise they’re doing something that’s not right. I know it’s the same result for the turtle, but at least there’d be a chance to educate the tourists so these kinds of behaviours stop…

    1. Yes, French people eat snails! They’re cooked with garlic butter, I find it delicious. It would have been nice to stay longer (because it’s soooo beautiful and peaceful!) but three days was a great length to explore the island and still have time for more islands in New Caledonia ;)

  8. That aerial view is amazing! Love how everything looks so untouched and equally relaxing.. Why was the Nok Anhui Atoll closed, btw? That sandbar looks gorgeous…I’m missing the beach seeing your photos… Love your entire adventure at the Isle of Pines! :)

    1. Thank you, Marvi. I have first read Nok Anhui Atoll was closed because of environmental reasons but I’ve also heard it’s because some jalousies between people who were allowed to organise visits and people who were not. No more access = simple way to solve problems…!

What do you think?