A little Background…
Ile Des Pins (meaning Isle of Pines) is a small Island off the Coast of New Caledonia named in the 1800s for its pine looking trees. The island is 15km by 13km and despite its beauty is home to a mere 2000 people. Most Island inhabitants will speak French as well as their native tongue, not many people speak English. Upon arriving at the island you may be thrown by the lack of directions, road signs and general amenities you would have in modern towns but this is soon forgotten as you take in the white sand, clear blue water and beautiful forest.
How to get there?
Getting to the island is done in primarily and most affordably one of two ways, by boat or plane. That said, if your budget can stretch it is also possible to reach it by chartering a helicopter or boat.
To travel by plane you will depart from the Noumea airport, there are roughly 4 flights per day between locations. Tickets cost about $245 return depending on the season.
Alternatively, if you are on a budget or are more flexible with dates going by ferry could be a good option for you at $165 per person. The ferry takes about 2hours and departing from Noumea at 7am and Ile Des Pins at 4pm on 3 days per week. This was the option my family chose to take as my mother is not a great flier and approaching the Island by boat really gives you a sense of the landscape.
Where to Stay?
Ile Des Pins is doable as a day trip but to make the most of the Island I would recommend staying at least two nights. Due to the concern of preserving the island there are very few hotels on the Island and one Camp ground so I would certainly advise booking in advance. Your hotel will also be able to make the transfer for you from the ferry or airport if booked in advance, other wise this can be hard to organise
Hotels – Probably the most luxurious hotel available yet not the most expensive is Le Meridien. Located a 20 minute walk from the natural pool and boasting its own private beach, the Meridien is in the perfect location. They also are able to provide snorkels, paddle boards, kayaks and pedal boats to rent for the day at no extra cost. This was our choice for pure convenience and was also. Other hotels on the Island are Oure Tera Resort and Hotel Kou-Bugny Expect to pay minimum $450/£210 for a double or twin room in one of the two resorts and $300/£140 for the hotel.
Camping – Despite being home to expensive accommodation, Ile Des Pins actually had a variety of very affordable camp grounds, mainly on B&B sites. One place I would recommend where I ate lunch one day was Nataiwatch, the staff were very friendly and accommodating to my vegan meal. As well as having camping ($10/£5pp) they also offer various bungalows which start at about $140. The only resource I could find listing other campgrounds was this website which lists all the accommodation in Isle of Pines. Unfortunately this website is entirely in french but thankfully most web browsers can translate this for you.
B&B’s – There are various B&B’s dotted around the island but most do not have websites and none have the option to book online. I would recommend looking at TripAdvisor for this website for contact details on each hotel as they will need to be booked via email.
What to do and see?
The easiest way by far to get around the island is by booking a private tour. If you are on a budget you could also rent a scooter or group tour. Our tour was done by the wonderful Jeankris whose passions included painting, managing his vanilla plantation and death metal music, no kidding. Check out his website to book a tour for a full or half day in English, French or even Japanese.
Kuto Bay – This bay is just a 5 minute walk from the Ferry jetty and features soft white sand and the opportunity to spot a sea turtle or two. We actually managed to see several sea turtles pop their heads out as well as a few dolphins.
Kanumera Bay – Just a 1 minute across the road from Kuto Bay, Kanumera Bay is the perfect spot for snorkelling. It takes about 30 minutes to snorkel round the large rock in the centre and you see so many bright and colourful fish.
Natural Pool – This naturally occurring pool is full of crystal clear turquoise water and is the perfect spot for hassle free snorkelling with many varieties of fish, starfish and coral. It is currently voted the number one spot in Ile des Pins and I would have to agree.
Upi Bay – Another beach with beautiful sand and waters yet here you also get to catch a glimpse of the local fishing boats along with hundreds of crabs running across the sand.
Grotte de Hortense (Caves) – This cave gets its name from Queen Hortense who hid in these caves for 6 months whilst being hunted at the age of 16. Nowadays for a small entrance fee you can walk through the forest into the dark caves. If it has been raining it is possible it will be closed as it is too wet.
Language Barriers – As New Caledonia is French territory much of the information available online is written in French and not English. Once you are on the Island you should find enough people speaking basic English to get by but learning a little French can really go a long way.
Vegan/Vegetarian – Eating vegan was especially hard in New Caledonia as a whole, in almost all restaurants or cafes we went to there was not even a vegetarian option. The Meridien was the only place with vegetarian items on their menu which by omitting a few ingredients can be made vegan. The restaurant at Nataiwatch was also very accommodating and cooked me up some delicious roast vegetables and a salad.
Seas Snakes – The most dangerous thing you will encounter on your Ile Des Pins journey will most definitely be the sea snake. They are distinctly striped and only a couple feet in length but just one bite is more than enough to kill you so stay clear!
For more information I will be sharing my New Caledonia Photo Diary along with a few more tips and tricks.
Will you be adding the Ile Des Pins to your travel bucket list?