Lifou, New Caledonia
The largest of New Caledonia’s Loyalty Islands, Lifou is an ancient coral atoll characterised by dense tropical forest, dramatic cliffs, hidden caves and beautiful beaches. Unspoilt and alive in customs and traditions, it is a popular destination on cruise itineraries.
The island is 1,207 square kilometres in size and is home to a population of more than 10,000 people. Points of interest around the island include churches, marine reserves, vanilla plantations and traditional villages.
Whalers in the 1860 and 1870s were the first Westerners to visit the island. Hauling their catch ashore, they would light fires to melt down the whale blubber. In fact, Easo, where they were located and where cruise ships now visit, means ‘smoking fire’ in the native language.
A range of amenities near the main jetty, including markets selling local handicrafts, welcome passengers onto the island.
How to Get Around
- Currency - the local currency in Lifou 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 - Lifou uses New Caledonia Time (NCT), which is 11 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC+11).
- Weather - Lifou has a tropical climate, moderated by southeast trade winds. Average temperatures range between 26 degrees Celsius in January and 20 degrees in July. The water can feel cool in winter making it less appealing for swimming.
- Notre Dame de Lourdes - situated on the promontory overlooking Santel and Jinek Bays, Notre Dame de Lourdes is a small chapel built in 1858 by Catholic missionaries who came to Lifou to spread the gospel. On the roof stands a cast iron statue of the Notre Dame who looks out across the island, enjoying a dramatic view of the Baie du Santal and your cruise ship far below.
- Jokin - just a short distance from Easo, on the rugged north coast, is the small village of Jokin. The main attractions here are the spectacular Cliffs of Jokin. Made from layers of coral stone compressed over millions of years, the cliffs are steep, craggy and surrounded by azure waters for great photo opportunities.
- Grand Hut of the Chief of Hnathalo - one of the finest traditional huts in New Caledonia, this impressive thatched roof hut with bamboo walls measures 12 metres in diameter. Set in a garden behind the chief’s house, it is a place for elders to gather around the open fireplace to make collective decisions. Being a sacred space, visitors need permission to enter.
- Jinek Bay Marine Reserve - situated west of Easo’s tribal village, Jinek Bay Marine Reserve offers one of the most unspoiled marine ecologies in the Pacific Islands, making it a remarkable snorkelling site. Boasting crystal-clear waters with excellent visibility, it is home to a diverse variety of corals and more than 2,000 species of exotic fish. Passes are required to help reduce the impact on the environment.