Planning your Holiday to the Isle of Pines
The Isle of Pines (Isle des Pins) is a low lying island, almost circular in size and roughly 10-km in diameter, with lots of tiny uninhabited islets within a huge encircling lagoon. The island lies just 20-km off the southern tip of Grand Terre, a 20-minute flight from Noumea and has a population of just 2000, a mix of indigenous kanaks and French expatriates living the dream.
Isle of Pines Holidays Overview
When Captain James Cook discovered the island whilst on voyage to New Zealand in 1774, he was overwhelmed by the dense evergreen forest filled with pine trees, hence how the island got its name. The Isle of Pines is almost the perfect South Pacific holiday destination. With stunning white sand beaches, excellent snorkelling lagoons, a compact environment for exploring, plenty of day cruises around the lagoon and only minor tourist development, the Isle of Pines is the most popular destination in New Caledonia for a romantic beach holiday. Fortunately it remains a very peaceful island to visit and has not been overwhelmed by high rise buildings and hotels.
If any of the islands in New Caledonia are archetypal "South Pacific", the Isle of Pines is it. A low lying island, scarcely populated, blessed with beautiful white sandy beaches along its coast and a shimmering turquoise lagoon offshore, and a myriad of tiny coral islands dotted around an extended coral reef. The only thing unusual here is that instead of swaying coconut trees, you have towering pine trees, hence the islands name. With its beautiful beaches and being easily accessible, from Noumea the Isle of Pines has become the face of New Caledonia tourism., although still it is yet to become overly commercialised with just a handful of resorts around the island. It doesn't really matter where you stay as the island is small - it takes under an hour to travel around by car and all sights are easily accessible with car hire, which is the only way to get around unless you're prepared to hitchhike.
What to See
The Isle of Pines has many limestone caves with the most famous being Queen Hortense's Cave, said to be the hiding place of Queen Hortense before she was abdicated in 1883. Other caves like Paradise Cave have lakes where you are able to swim and enjoy the water whilst exploring. Bagne ruins, is a must see, old stone church ruins said to belong to the French Penal Colony during the 1800.
The most populated region is the south coast with a couple of large coastal villages and the twin bays of Kuto and Kanumera which boast beautiful beaches and the islands passenger ferry wharf. However, there are no towns, and only the main village of Vao has a bank and small supermarket so it is best bring everything you need with you from Noumea. One of the most popular tours on the island is a day cruise by motorised outrigger canoe to visit the uninhabited islands and to snorkel amongst beautiful coral reefs.
The west coast has great diving and is more secluded and there are several collections of offshore islands to explore by kayak along the north coast.
The east coast has no villages and is virtually cut off except for a road leading down to Ora Bay where you'll find two accommodations and islands most visited scenic attraction: The Natural Swimming Pool and River of Sands. Here you can walk along a meandering lagoon river amongst towering pine trees, sunbathe on the blinding white sandy riverbanks and snorkel amongst colourful reef fish in a deep natural pool.
Isle of Pines Travel Information
There are three daily flights from Noumea to Isle of Pines taking 20-minutes or there's a daily fast passenger ferry from Noumea to Kuto Bay (2-hrs). Once on island, there's limited public transport with car hire recommended for sightseeing. There is no town on the island, but the main village of Vao on the south coast has a bank and small supermarket for provisions.