Isle of Pines (Ile Des Pins)
August 27-31st, 2017
Ile Des Pins, known as Isle of Pines (or Island of Pines) is probably the mostly known tourist place in New Caledonia. The island is so called for its forests of Araucaria columnaris tress, which can be found among white sandy beaches, crystal clear lagoons and natural swimming pool.
ISLE OF PINES - GENERAL INFO AND TRAVEL GUIDE
Ile Des Pins, commonly known in English as Isle of Pines, is located only 30-minutes flight south of Noumea, in New Caledonia, slightly north of the Tropic of Capricorn. The name of the island derives from the predominant vegetation, represented by centuries-old specimens of Araucaria columnaris, an endemic tree of New Caledonia, which for its shape resembles the common pines. Isle of Pines is more or less twenty kilometers in length and width, and it's coastline is dotted deep bays surrounded by wide beaches of fine white sand, among turquoise lagoons with crystal clear waters. The inner part of the island has low hills with calcareous rocks and forests of tropical trees, with many Araucarias. Offshore there are instead many uninhabited islands and coral reefs, ideal for boat trips, hikes, picnics and for snorkeling.
Isle of Pines is certainly the most famous tourist place in New Caledonia and is the first that comes out when looking for photos and travel information about this country. As a result, it is also one of the most popular and busy places in New Caledonia. Probably the popularity of this island compared to Grande Terre and to Loyalty Islands, derives also from the fact that there are more services and facilities available, including luxury resorts belonging to famous international chains. In addition, the seascape is really fantastic and perfect for postcard-like pictures.
How to get to Isle of Pines: the island can be reached in a 30 minutes flight from Noumea, by Air Caledonie turboprop planes available several times a day on every day of the week. The schedule of the flights would allow visitors to make day tours to Isle of Pines from Noumea, an option often chosen by tourists in a hurry, which allows to quickly see most of the attractions offered by the island. There is also a seasonal ferry service from the Grande Terre, covering the distance in a few hours.
How to get around on Isle of Pines: Ile Des Pins has a good road network, for a total of one hundred kilometers of paved roads, as well as some tracks that go into the most remote areas. For the distance involved between the various attractions, it is advisable to rent a car (generally the help desk at the hotel where you are staying can help arranging the car rental, however we suggest to request the car when the accommodation is booked, as the number of cars is rather limited). Alternatively, always at the hotel, visitors can book guided tours going to the most interesting points of the island. Always keep in mind that some of the most spectacular places are only accessible by boat, or through (easy) trails in the forest that can be sometimes long. Boat trips can be organized through the hotel as well.
Where to stay on Isle of Pines: on the island there are accommodations located in different points and for different budgets. Le Meridien is a luxury resort located in Oro Bay, the most spectacular place on the island, made famous by the "Piscine Naturelle" (natural pool), however, despite being a 5-star expensive accommodation, do not expect the services you would have at same price in other tropical paradises. The real luxury here is the natural beauty of the place where this resort is located. Another great place to stay on Isle of Pines is between Kuto and Kanumera Bays, where various facilities are available, including the cheaper Nataiwatch providing traditional style bungalows (from Nataiwatch visitors can get to Oro Bay and to other beautiful places by car or by day trips offered by the hotel).
The main tourists attractions on Island of Pines not to be missed are:
- Oro Bay and the Piscine Naturelle: Along the east coast of Isle of Pines, within walking distance from the Le Meridien resort, a series of trails through the Araucaria forest leads to two beautiful bays and to the "Piscine Naturelle" which, as the name in French suggests, it's a kind of natural swimming pool where visitors can relax or swim with mask, fins and snorkel.
- Kuto and Kanumera Bay: Along the south-western coast of Ile des Pins, the bays of Kuto and Kanumera offer beautiful beaches of fine white sand and coral reefs where visitors can swim and snorkel among coral and tropical fishes.
- Crabes Bay: It is located along the northern coast of Ile des Pins and it's characterized by particularly fine sand (almost like clay), while mangrove and palm trees grow up to the shore.
- Upi Bay: Upi Bay is a deep fjord with crystal-clear waters, surrounded by a beautiful white sand beaches and Araucaria forests. Visitors can get to Upi Bay only through a long trail in the forest, or by boat.
- Grotte de la Reine Hortense: a large cave in the limestone rock, with stalactites and stalagmites, in the middle of a tropical forest home to many different species of plants.
- Vao village: The main town of Isle of Pines has a large cathedral built in 1960 by a penal colony.
- îlot Brosse et Nokanhui: A few minutes by boat from Ile des Pins, there are a series of small uninhabited islands, barely visible coral reefs and sand-bars among crystalline waters.
But now let's see more in details the photos of the places we had the opportunity to visit.
The flight between Noumea and Isle of Pines offers spectacular views onto deserted islands
, lagoons and vast coral reefs. From Isle of Pines, boat trips are available to visit these magical places, choosing between picnics on deserted islands or snorkeling and diving excursions.
Isle of Pines has a paved road network
in good condition, so visitors can get to most parts of the island by car (some remote bays are however only accessible by boat or by hiking easy but long trails the forest).
The lagoon in front of Le Meridien resort, in Oro Bay
, the starting point of the trail leading to the Piscine Naturelle (natural pool).
A trail among palm and Araucaria forests, about 20 minutes long, connects the entrance of Le Meridien resort
to the Piscine Naturelle in Oro Bay.
The Piscine Naturelle (natural pool
) is one of the most famous tourist attraction on Isle of Pines and a glimpse from the air, from a plane that just took-off from Isle des Pins airport, gives a good idea about the size of Oro Bay and the endless possibilities for walking and swimming in this beautiful place.
with the large lagoon, the natural pool and the Araucaria columnaris
forest that reaches the beaches.
More photos of Oro Bay and of Piscine Naturelle
The Araucaria forest
near Oro Bay is home to centuries-old trees tens of meters high.
has a beach with particularly fine sand and a vast lagoon surrounded by forests of Araucaria and mangroves.
A giant, centuries-old Kauri tree
. The Kauri has been heavily exploited in Oceania for its particularly resistant wood, to the point that it is currently protected since it is risking the extinction.
and Kanumera Bay
are the ideal place to relax among wide beaches of fine white sand.
Isle of Pines is the most famous and exploited tourist place in New Caledonia
: although the number of visitors is lower compared to other famous tropical paradises, the difference with the Loyalty Islands and the Grande Terre is immediately evident. Probably tourists are sometimes so rude, to force locals to afflict signs that leave no room for interpretation...
A walk in the forest
that covers most of the island is a good opportunity to discover the native species of the place.
The Caves de la Reine Hortense
offer a glimpse into the geology of the island, consisting mainly of limestone rocks of coral origin.
is instead the main town of Isle of Pines and houses a large cathedral built by a penal colony during the 60s.
along the sides of the roads to Ile Des Pins airport.
returns home carrying his dinner, a huge coconut crab, tied to a leash.
is a small 2-star lodge near Kanumera Bay, not far from a beautiful beach. The bungalows are built in traditional style, have a kitchen, a bathroom, hot water and wifi.