Isle of Pines, New Caledonia
A small island located approximately 50 kilometres southeast of Grand Terre in New Caledonia, Isles of Pines is often referred to as the ‘Jewel of the Pacific’, owing to its enviable natural beauty. Formed by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, it is now surrounded by exotic reefs and marine life.
This tropical paradise made up of white sandy bays and aquamarine waters was named by Captain Cook in 1774 for its native columnar pines, which are prevalent around the coast and beaches.
A popular cruise destination, ships moor out in Kuto Bay – one of the islands most attractive spots – situated on the southwest coast. Passengers are often greeted by local dance performers as they arrive at the mainland.
The main township is Vao, a charming village with a fine church. Other areas of interest include natural limestone grottos, Kanumera Bay and Oro Bay.
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The waterfront at Kuto Bay welcomes cruise passengers with a selection of market stands proffering locally made souvenirs and food stalls selling fresh seafood. This beachfront set up is often complimented by local people performing traditional dance.
Taxis and mini vans usually wait within close proximity of the pier, offering ground transport around the island.
How to Get Around
There is limited public transport on the island aside from a handful of taxis and locally run mini vans.
From Kuto Bay you can enjoy a number of the island’s attractions on foot, but to explore further afield guided tours are available. Cars, bicycles and scooters can also be hired from nearby hotels for self-guided exploration.
- Currency - the local currency in Isles of Pines is the Central Pacific Franc (CFP). Coins come in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 francs. Notes come in denominations of 500, 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 francs. Australian Dollars are widely accepted, though smaller notes are preferred.
- Time Zone - Isles of Pines uses New Caledonia Time (NCT), which is 11 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC+11).
- Weather - Isles of Pines has a temperate tropical climate. January is the hottest month with an average temperature of 26 degrees Celsius. July is the coldest with an average temperature of 20 degrees Celsius. Highest average rainfall is between February and April.
- Piscine Naturelle - a naturally formed saltwater lagoon with a small sea entrance, Piscine Naturelle offers calm turquoise waters that are filled with corals and exotic fish. Situated on the northeast coast, it is only accessible by road and is a popular spot for snorkelling and photos.
- Grotte de ls Reine Hortense - one of New Caledonia’s most impressive and popular sites, this grand cave is reached through a tropical garden. Inside, magnificent stalactites cling to the ceiling. Legend has it the cave was used by the wife of a local chief who took refuge here during a time of intertribal conflict in 1855.
- Kanumera Bay - a stone’s throw to the south, Kanumera Bay is one of the island’s most popular beaches. Its white sands offer plenty of spots for relaxing, while its crystal clear waters are ideal for snorkelling. Jutting out into the ocean is a large limestone rock, which is deemed sacred by the local people.
- Pic N’Ga - at 262 metres, Pic N’Ga is the highest point of the Isles of Pines, and it lies within walking distance of Kuta Bay. From the summit it offers panoramic views of the island and surrounding ocean, whilst the climb itself showcases a variety of native flora and bird life.