Visit New Caledonia: 20 Reasons Why You Should Stay at the Isle of Pines
Hot off the press from New Caledonia, Isle of Pines
Tucked into the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by deep shades of blue, green and turquoise, are dozens of islands that make up New Caledonia. You may have heard of the popular capital city of Nouméa- home to the world’s largest lagoon. Instead, go ahead and travel Southeast of the main island. You’ll find towering pine trees amid the white-sand beaches of an appropriately named island, Isle of Pines. If you visit New Caledonia, this island is an absolute must.
Here are 20 Reasons Why You Should Visit New Caledonia, Isle of Pines:
1. Travel by helicopter to the island
What better way to start a luxurious visit to New Caledonia than by soaring over the vibrant turquoise waters in a helicopter!? Make sure you have your camera ready, because these views are something you will remember forever. It’s a simple, yet opulent, 45-minute flight from New Caledonia’s main island. Before you know it, you’ll be dropped on the sandy beaches of a stunning island paradise.
2. It’s like you’ve stepped inside a postcard
Just imagine your toes dipped into the white sand with crystal clear water lapping at the shore. Looking out, you see twelve shades of blue peppered with vibrant colored fish. Surrounding the shore there are towering pine trees and rough graphite rock. The contrast, textures and colors are something from a dream. Where else on earth can you see alpine looking scenery in a tropical place? Not even a postcard can match!
3. Not Your Average Tropical Climate
There are not many destinations that offer comfortable temperatures all-year-round. This rare climate is yet another reason why you should visit New Caledonia. November to March the temperature is in the balmy 80’s, while April to October it’s a cool 60-70. No matter what time of year, this cool summer breeze and low humidity will keep all your frizzy-hair worries away! Most importantly, this year-long pleasant weather means you can always take a dip in the glistening lagoon waters.
4. It will feel like your own private island
There are not many island destinations that offer comfortable temperatures all-year-round. This rare climate is yet another reason why you should visit New Caledonia as soon as possible! November to March the temperature is in the balmy 80’s, while April to October it’s a cool 60-70. No matter what time of year, this cool summer breeze and zero humidity will keep all your frizzy-hair worries away! Most importantly, this year-long weather means you can always take a dip in the glistening lagoon waters.
5. Your own private swimming lagoon
The Piscine Natural also known as the “Natural Pool” is like something from another planet! This seawater pool is enclosed from the neighboring Oro Bay by a simple barrier of rocks. Here, you have an intimate view of the vibrant marine life that calls these waters home. Snorkeling in the enchanting blue waters is a must when you visit New Caledonia. As you are snorkeling, be careful not to step on the abundant corals. The magnificence of this island needs to be protected!
6. Stay in 5-star Luxury
There is only one 5-star property on the Isle of Pine and it’s just a hop, skip and jump away from the natural swimming lagoon. Le Meridien offers some incredible ocean and waterfront bungalows for one of the most luxurious experiences on the planet. Not only can your morning swim be in the (walkable-distance) natural lagoon pool, but access to sea turtles and a plethora of other marine life will be right at your doorstep. One of my favorite features of this property is the rounded infinity pool with the florescent Oro Bay posing as it’s backdrop.
7. Uncover the island’s rich history
Unlike the other islands in New Caledonia – or anywhere else in the world- the Isle of Pines is known for its columnar pine trees. The shocking beauty and uniqueness of this island is what made James Cook, an English Admiral, anchor here in the 18th century. Each spot you venture to on this island has so much rich history. Whether it’s the wood totem poles near Saint Maurice beach or the Penal Colony Ruins, you’ll be inspired to explore the natural museum that is this island.
8. Find the sand islet with 360 degree beaches
When you visit New Caledonia, Isle of Pines, your trip can’t be complete without setting foot on Nokanhui Atoll. This magnificent sliver of white sand is seemingly lost in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean. Charter a private yacht and place your feet in the sandy 200-meter-long isle. Here, the blue skies melt into turquoise waters with 360 degree beach views. It’s definitely a sight to see!
9. Swim with the turtles
There aren’t many things that can make this island more incredible, but turtle sightings might be one of them! Known as Turtle Bay, you are almost guaranteed to swim with turtles. These turtles aren’t shy, however make sure to avoid physical contact. The beauty of this island and its surrounding wildlife is because it has been left untouched by the masses. Let’s keep these animals healthy and safe for many years to come!
10. Drift away in a canoe at the calm Upi Bay
Emerging from the water’s surface, in Upi Bay, are splendid rocky formations. It almost feels like these rocks are floating along the turquoise waves like the outrigger canoes that surround you. This bay in the Isle of Pines is the perfect place for a quiet canoe ride. Make this your choice of water transportation along the bay’s waters, as yachts are forbidden through Opi. However, even in a tiny canoe, you won’t be disappointed. These calm waters make for the perfect, slow ride to admire the rocky surroundings.
11. Explore the symbolic wood carved totem poles
When you visit New Caledonia, one of the first things you’ll want to do is uncover some of the regions ancient secrets. The Isle of Pines has no physical museum, yet there is so much to discover by just simply hiking its terrain. Near Saint Maurice Beach you’ll find intricate hand carved totems. These fascinating structures are known as Kanak Art and when grouped together they create a larger symbolic sculpture. Each one is a gift from different families and tribes around the island. It commemorates an alliance between the locals and missionaries in 1848.
12. Experience the underwater nightlife
This nautical safari is a water-explorer’s fantasy. As amazing as the above water surroundings are, the underwater world easily matches its pristine beauty. Steep drop-offs, hidden passages and sea grottos are constant sights along the ever-changing ocean floor. If you are feeling extra adventurous, try a night dive in the Isle of Pines. Its mysterious waters come alive with sea snakes and loggerhead turtles.
13. You may find yourself surrounded by dolphins
While chartering outside the bays, don’t be surprised if you suddenly find yourself surrounded by a pod of dolphins. The clear blue waters paint the perfect canvas for dolphin sightings. It’s one of the many reasons why snorkeling these shores is at the top of the must-do list.
14. Reveal some of the island’s hidden ruins
In the Southwest corner of the island sits a penitentiary colony created by the French. In 1877, a shocking two-thirds of New Caledonia inhabitants were convicts. (Not such a bad place to be exiled to!) Today these ruins are overrun with vegetation, just awaiting your arrival. Hike a little bit further and you’ll find a cemetery dedicated to the deportees. One of my favorite parts of this trip was learning about the regions past and way of life.
15. Make a wish inside a cave
In the Northern part of the island you’ll uncover the Oumagne Grotto. It’s also known as Queen Hortense’s cave. This destination is one you won’t want to miss… even if it is a bit touristy. Like I mentioned before, it’s rather rare to find other vacationers on this island, yet this might be the one exception. Here, the cave is surrounded by nature with tropical plant life and a running stream. As you are traveling through this serene environment, make sure to keep an eye out for the flagstone. According to legend, this is the young queens bed. Keep traditions alive and make yourself a wish. It’ll probably be to spend more days living this serene island life.
16. Take an island road trip
Rent a car and skip the worry of missing any of these incredible destinations. Compared to other Pacific Islands, the roads in New Caledonia are a joy to drive. Maybe instead you prefer the wind in your hair? Go ahead and rent a scooter to get you to some of those adventures closer to your hotel.
17. Relax, you’re on “island time”
The moment your feet hit the white sand you’ll understand what island time is all about. When you visit New Caledonia you’ll notice the relaxed and laid-back ambiance of the local cultures. Here five minutes could mean twenty. There is no rush, just relaxing mornings that slowly roll into the sunset.
18. Hike to the highest peak
For incredible 360 degree views of the lagoon venture to the island’s highest peak, N’ga Peak. It’s an easy hike for all skill levels. If you’d like another layer of privacy make it a morning hike. Once you arrive at the top, you will enjoy the views with only your thoughts on how incredibly beautiful this planet truly is. Don’t forget your camera!
19. Hop on a private yacht
If you have the luxury of time, experience the best of both worlds. Charter to some other New Caledonia island destinations. Somme Bay is a great spot on the main island. Here, there is a natural hot spring and amazing hiking by Cap N’Dua lighthouse. Or instead venture to the smaller Ouen Island, to find more turtles and old jade mines. However you structure your itinerary just remember that It is forbidden for yachts to sail through St Joseph, Upi and Koroxu bays.
20. Eat Snails
Yes, I said snails. On the menu you may see something called “bulimes”, these are endemic to the Isle of Pines. Farmed by locals, you know these delicacies are fresh. If you are willing to give them a try you won’t have a hard time finding them on the menu. If snails aren’t your thing, like me, don’t worry! You can also find a traditional Melanesian dish called Bougna. It’s made with a combination of chicken, lobster and fish combined with yams, bananas, sweet potatoes and coconut milk. I had a vegetarian version that was deliciously mouthwatering.
21. Bonus Tip
Make sure to use reef-friendly sunscreen and UV protective swimwear. Just remember that whatever you put on your body will directly impact the health of the surrounding marine life and coral reef.
When you visit New Caledonia, specifically the Isle of Pines, you’ll find the perfect mix of a relaxing beach with island adventure. You’ll have enough itinerary items to keep you busy for weeks. Simply staring in awe at the stunning landscape can wash away all your worries. I can’t wait to travel back to this island paradise- who’s with me?!
This is a sponsored post on behalf of Materia Bikes, but the opinions expressed in this article are, as always, my own.