The Isle of Pines or “Ile des Pins” is a small island situated in the Pacific Ocean. It is part of New Caledonia, a French colony.
It takes around thirty minutes by plane to get there from Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia. The plane ride is quite stunning as you get to see all of the surrounding islands along the way and the amazing shades of blues of the sea. If you are luckier than me and don’t get travel sickness you can also get there by boat. It takes around two and a half hours and by all accounts it is equally amazing and much cheaper!
Unlike many of the other Pacific islands, the Isle of Pins is covered in very tall Columnar Pine trees instead of Coconut trees; hence it’s name. The other striking feature of this island is the colour of its lagoon, a magical turquoise blue that will leave you speechless. If you are a keen diver or snorkeler, the isle of pines is definitely for you. Its lagoon houses many species of colourful fish and coral. We love snorkelling and the isle of Pines did not disappoint.
Our favourite snorkelling spot was the Piscine Naturelle of the Baie D’Oro. A natural pool, it provided us with some of the best snorkelling we have ever experienced. It was full of beautiful coloured fish and coral and it feels like swimming inside an aquarium. The pool is also very easy and safe to snorkel, even for the little ones. It was an easy ten minute walk from our gorgeous hotel Le Meridien. You need to follow the path along the river until you get to the pool; don’t go inland. There are a few signs along the way but we still managed to get lost the first time!
Another great snorkelling spot on the island is Kanumera Bay. Dominated by a sacred rock, there is lots of snorkelling to do around this rock, just a few meters from the beach. The water is also crystal clear and we had an amazing time swimming with the fish. They were not scared of us at all, swimming right up to us. Amazing!
One activity not to miss on the island is to take a boat trip on a pirogue outrigger from St Joseph Bay into the immense Baie d’Upi where many coral rocks stand up out of the water. It is a very relaxing way to enjoy your surroundings. You may be lucky and see some turtles coming up for air. There are also a few other boat tours that you can take to the nearby atolls of Nokanhui, ilot Brosse or Moro island. All are a great day out where you can discover deserted islands with beautiful beaches and do even more snorkelling.
If you like hiking, climbing to the top of Pig N’ Ga is a great walk. Start early in the morning before it gets too hot and before everyone else so you can get to the top and enjoy the views by yourself. The hike is a little challenging with some loose rocks and some unclear tracks but once you reach the top you get a 360 degree view of the whole island. It is totally worse the effort!
If your idea of a holiday is just to relax by the beach then you can still really enjoy the Isle of Pines. There are so many stunning beaches that are perfect for swimming and relaxing. With beautiful white sand and stunning turquoise waters, the hardest task is to decide which beach to go to? Kuto Bay, Oro Bay, Kanumera Bay, Baie des Rouleaux, they are all as gorgeous as each other.
New Caledonia as I said is a French colony, so there is a huge French influence to a lot of the island’s cuisine. All the food (and wine!) we had on the Ile of Pines was amazing whether it was breakfast, lunch or dinner. The seafood was so fresh and beautiful! One of the speciality of the island is the Bougna. The Bougna is a traditional Melanesian dish. They make it with chicken, lobster, fish or a combination of the three. The meat is combined with yams, bananas, sweet potatoes and coconut milk and wrapped in banana leaves. Then it is steamed in an earth oven heated by hot stones. It is totally delicious, very filling and definitely worth a try.
Being an island you will need to learn to relax once you get there. The locals are much more relaxed than we are and everything gets done in their own time. It might take a while to adjust for some of us but if you order something don’t expect it in the next five minutes. Five minutes in New Caledonia is more like twenty minutes for us if not more. The locals have a saying “A quoi bon compter le temps, il ne s’arretera jamais” meaning “why measure the time; it will never end”. That’s true I guess. Unfortunately our time there did end, but we took home some great memories and we can’t wait to go back one day.
The Isle of Pines has been nicknamed “the island the closest to paradise” and after five days there I know exactly why.
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