What to Do and See – Isle of Pines
Isles of Pines does not have a port. Instead, cruise ships anchor just offshore in Kuto Bay from where passengers are tendered to the pier on small boats. The bay is located on the southwest side of the island and often referred to as the “Jewel of the Pacific”
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.
Passengers are often greeted by local dance performers as they arrive at the mainland. There is limited public transport on the island aside from a handful of taxis and locally run mini vans.
- 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.
- 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.
1. Kuto Bay (PLAGE DE KUTO)
As you take the short walk down the road from where you get off the tender boat, this beach is to your left.
This is a truly picturesque location with all the trappings of the South Pacific- translucent shallow waters, fine soft white sand and towering lush palms. There is a beach bar, a restaurant and food stalls selling local delights.
If you are looking to snorkel here – the bottom is just sand so snorkelers looking for coral and colorful fish will be disappointed – better to go around the corner to Kanumera Bay or Oro Bay.
There is not much in the way of shops, a few market stores. The RESTAURANT KU BUGNEY – behind the sand has awesome views but food and drinks are expensive for the average person. Approx. ($12 AUD) for a beer . Heaps of local seafood being BBQ’d if you are game. You can get a whole lobster fro around $20 – $30 depending on size. Try fresh coconut water straight from the coconut – I love it – only approx. $3
Lots of trees at the back of the sand for shade and a great place to take an awesome panoramic photo looking back towards your ship.
2. Kanumera Bay – (ROCHER DE KAA NUE MERA)
Kanumera Bay – a stone’s throw away or to be more exact, just cross the road behind the palm trees of Kuto you will come across 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 sparkly blue and green waters is a large limestone rock, La Rocher, which is deemed sacred by the local people. It is a beautiful spot to swim and snorkel and take in the natural wonders.
The coral around the rock is a little damaged due to ignorant people breaking it by standing on it with their flippers etc. If you are a confident swimmer, head around the left side of the rock, and over a little to the right, a little further than majority you will discover some beautiful fish and the odd colourful coral.
Confident swimmers, go right around the rock, and see how coral changes on each side.
3. The Natural Aquarium – (PISCINE NATURELLE)
Oro Bay: The ‘natural swimming pool’ in Oro Bay is would be close to one of my favourite places in the South Pacific. If you are mobile and can walk through at least knee deep water then I highly recommend. Surrounded by 40-metre native pine trees, and crystal turquoise waters full of colorful tropical fish, this place will take your breath away.
You need to get a driver to come and take you here. it will cost around $20AUS per person return for the drive which is 25 minutes away. Where the driver drops you off it is another $15 or 1000 pf entrance fee each to enter. We had a little local boy showing us where to walk, but easy to find without. Its about a 15 minute walk through the tidal river (yes it goes up and down) and part of the ‘jungle’ (bush land) to reach the snorkeling area.
You just follow the blue markers.
Take reef shoes as you will get wet and walking across the river as there is a little bit of coral in it and its painful when you stand on it.
Arrange a time for your driver to pick you up. (Don’t pay until you return). Take an underwater camera as there are heaps of fish everywhere in the crystal clear water . Thousand of fish… huge clams of various colours, puffa fish, angel fish, hermit crabs, coral fish of all colours and size….and they just swim right up to you. Highly, highly recommend!!!
4. Queen Hortense’s Cave – (GROTTE DE IS REINE HORTENSE)
Grotte de ls Reine Hortense – one of New Caledonia’s most impressive and popular sites, this HUGE cave is reached through a tropical garden. Inside, the cave has the most fascinating and beautiful natural formations, 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.
There is a small fee of $4 per person at a little kiosk at the entrance to the pathway leading to the cave. The short walk into the caves is through a beautiful rain forest but has not no designated boardwalk, so you need to take care if you are unsteady on your feet as the earth floor of the Grotte can be quiet slippery.
There is no lighting in the Grotte, so the mobile phone inbuilt torch becomes a necessity. Better still bring a small torch in case your drop your phone…
5. Island Site Seeing Tour
For something a little more cultural – If you want a quick tour around the island – grab a driver. For around 2 hours you can have about 7 stops where you will visit all the local sites. For around about $25 or 2000 pf you can vites all the sites including church, caves, memorial totems, prison etc…
You will visit the small town of Vao, with the pretty Mission Church at its centre and the Statue de St Maurice commemorating the arrival of the first missionaries. Make sure your driver stops for you to take some photos also of the houses decorated with floats and ships hawsers, found on the beaches.