Unspoiled new caledonia

Last Updated on October 26, 2023

New Caledonia is an island country about 1,500 kms from the east coast of Australia.  It is in the Pacific Ocean and 2.5 hrs plane ride from Sydney.  New Caledonia is about 2,300 kms below the equator so the seasons are opposite to that of the northern hemisphere.  

Its capital, Noumea is located on the big island or Grand Terre.  There are small islands that visitors can fly into or sail on a ferry boat from Noumea.  There are also island tours that start out from Noumea.

We spent 10 days in New Caledonia in early June 2023. We spent a total of five nights in Noumea, two nights in Ilot de Maitre which is a 500 hectare nature reserve and three nights in Isle of Pines.  We describe here our experience to help you decide whether New Caledonia should be on your destination list.  We also describe what the weather was like during our stay as well as how to get around New Caledonia.


Noumea is New Caledonia’s capital city.  It is a port city.  Noumea has beaches like Plage de Baie de Citrons, Plage de l’Anse Vata and Kuendo beach.  But these beaches pale in comparison to the sugar sand beaches of Isle of Pines (more later).  

We used Noumea as our jumping off point to visit Ilot de Maitre and Isle of Pines.  We stayed by Baie de Citrons and it was enjoyable.  Our accommodation was just in front of the beach.  We just walked out the hotel door, crossed the road and we were standing on the beach.  Restaurants also lined Baie de Citrons.

Bay of Citrons has calm waters and the beach is long. There is a sidewalk alongside the road that parallels the bay.  Not far from Baie de Citrons is the Plage de l’Anse Vata which is another crescent shaped beach with golden sand.  

Plage de Baie de Citrons

We also stayed in Moselle to be near the bus transfer station.  The accommodations in Moselle are more inland so they are not near the beach.  Actually, there is no beach near Moselle.  Plus the restaurants are more spread out unlike Baie de Citrons.  Basically, there was nowhere to hang out after dark except to head back to our rooms. 

Ilot de Maitre

Ilot de Maitre is a 500 hectare nature preserve.  Double Tree Resorts operate a resort here made up of over the water bungalows and garden bungalows.  By sheer luck, we scored an over the water bungalow stay on the island for two nights just by looking at Booking.com.  There is also a public beach that visitors can use.  The public beach faces the over the water bungalows.  Their restaurant also caters to guests and day visitors alike.  Meals are pricey being the only place to eat on the island.

Over the water bungalows at Double Tree Resort

The island is not big.  We cannot see across to the other side but we can walk around the island in less than 30 minutes.  The water around the island is crystal clear.  Fish and other marine life were visible from the walkway that connects the over the water bungalows.  Turtles frequented the area near the bungalows in the morning.

The over the water bungalows sunning deck and wide living room window face west providing the perfect place to view the sunset.  Each over the water bungalow has an electrically operated stair that can be lowered to the water.  Unfortunately, the authority overseeing the area had a no swimming in the water mandate due to some shark sightings.  So we were not able to get into the water but we had fun feeding the colorful coral fish.

Double Tree has their own boat slip and ferry boat to take guests and visitors to and from the island.  It makes multiple trips during the day.  Their boat slip is at the Place Moselle port near the public market.

Isle of Pines

Isle of Pines or Ils de Pins is an island to the southeast of Noumea.  It is an undeveloped island.  Vao, the largest town, still looks like it is from the early 20th century except that the roads are paved.  You can drive around the island in less than four hours.

We can truly say that this is one of the few places in our travels that we were sad to leave.  Initially, we were going to stay on the island for two nights but we extended it for another night as we knew from the moment we laid eyes on Kuto Beach that we would want to stay longer.  Surprisingly, changing our Air Caledonie flight back to Noumea by delaying it another day only cost about $14 for two people.

The water around Isle of Pines is gorgeous turquoise and blue. In some places, the waves crash on the beach while in protected coves, the water is calmer.  

Kuto, Kaa Nuë Méra and Kutéma Beaches

Kuto, Kaa Nuë Méra and Kutéma Beaches, in our opinion, are as close as you will ever get to paradise.   They are named after the same bay where they are located.  All can be found in the island’s southwestern corner.  Fortunately, most of the accommodations in the island are located in the same area. These are undeveloped beaches yet easily accessible and walking distance from the accommodations.  

Kuto Beach
Kutéma Beach

The beaches on the northern side of islet  Île Kô Ngéaa Ké facing Oro Bay are also wonderful.  These beaches have no names on Google Maps but just search for Le Meridien or Le Kougny and it will take you there.  You can see the beaches using the aerial view.

Beach facing Oro Bay on the northern side of islet  Île Kô Ngéaa Ké

All these beaches have white sugar like sand lined with coconut and other tropical trees.  It is like being in a postcard.  Their crescent shape with relatively calm and clear waters just called us to spend a lazy day lying on the beach, whether under the trees or in the sun.

Upi Bay

There are other attractions in Isle of Pines besides its pristine beaches.  One is Upi Bay which is a shallow enclosed bay or lagoon with some islets scattered in the middle.  Local fishermen on pirogues take visitors on a ride up and down Upi Bay.  Just ask the locals at Vao where to catch the pirogue and they will gladly point you in the right direction, albeit it may be in French.  We asked three people before we landed on the right spot.  The fishermen leave at 8 AM and return at 11 AM.  It is a relaxing ride over clear and calm water.

A pirogue and one of the many islets in Upi Bay

Some hotels offer tours that combine a one way pirogue ride in Upi Bay and the Piscine Naturelle (natural pool – more later).  Basically, guests get off the pirogue at the north end of Upi Bay, walk 45 minutes through the forest until they reach the natural pool.  Then they walk from the natural pool to the designated pick-up point about 15-20 minutes away.  These tours are more cost effective for the single traveler and costs about the same for a couple compared to contracting with the fisherman and renting a car.

Piscine Naturelle (Natural Pool)

The other attraction and perhaps the most information on the Internet is the natural pool.  The natural pool is located on the island’s northeast corner by the islet Île Kô Ngéaa Ké.  You can actually find it in Google Maps.  

Natural Pool

We rented a car and drove to the designated parking area just before the road going to the Le Meridien Resort.  Then we walked down the road until we reached the shallow river-like body of water that separates Île Kô Ngéaa Ké from the rest of the island.  We waded through the water and on to Île Kô Ngéaa Ké until we reached the natural pool.  It is a big pool.  There were plenty of people but it did not feel crowded in the pool.  The pool is like an aquarium with many colorful fish.  

Other Islands

Other pristine islands, beside Isle of Pines, that can be visited from Noumea are Ouvea, Lifou and Mare. We actually wanted to explore Ouvea but found that the costs of a round trip airplane ride and available accommodations could not justify the short time we were going to spend on the island. Perhaps we needed to do more research or booked our accommodations earlier to get more favorable prices.

Weather in June

The weather was perfect. It was T-shirt weather most of the time.  Sometimes we would wear another light layer, such as a long long sleeve shirt, at night when there was a breeze.  

We experienced a few short drizzle events but not enough to break out the rain jacket.  It is warm during the day when the sun is out.

Peak Season

We came during the peak season according to locals. School was out also.  It did not feel crowded whatsoever.  It was actually nice being able to take a stroll by the beach without anybody invading our space.

Getting Around


There are two bus companies that operate on Grand Terre (the big island).  Taneo serves Noumea and surrounding communities.  It even has a line, P3, to the international Airport about 30 kilometers away from Noumea.

The cost of a single ride was 300 XFP and can be purchased from the bus driver.  Taneo also has a day pass for 900 XFP but that can be purchased from a kiosk or at a bus terminal.  We bought our day pass tickets at the Place Moselle terminal.  It is a very cost effective way to get around Noumea.

Single trip bus ticket

The other bus company is Rai and they have buses that go beyond the surrounding towns of Noumea.  However, we did not ride them as the schedule is limited and their routes did not get close to the places we wanted to see.

There are no buses at Isle of Pines. You have to make airport shuttle arrangements with your accommodation. If you do not plan on renting a car, you have to sign up with a tour offered by your accommodation to get around.


Betico2 is the ferry company that goes from island to island. Their schedule and fares are shown on their website.  We did not use Betico2 to go to Isle of Pines because we would only save about $15 but we would have to spend 2.5 hours on a boat instead of 30 minutes in a plane.

The good thing about Betico2 is that the price does not fluctuate unlike airline fares.

Air Caledonie

Air Caledonie is the local airline that flies between islands.  The cost of flying is competitive to that of Betico2, depending on when you book. 

Domestic flights fly out of Magenta Airport in Noumea.  It is very convenient to get to the airport as the Taneo L4 line has a stop right in front.

Rental Cars

Rental cars are available at both Noumea international and domestic airports.  We did not bother renting a car at Noumea as we did not plan on driving the Grand Terre.  

We rented a car from our accommodation at Isle of Pines.  The rental cost included the gas.  They did ask for an international driver’s license to rent the car.  


New Caledonia is an island country in the Pacific Ocean.  The closest large city is Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.  We flew from Sydney and it took about 2.5 hours.

New Caledonia is a French speaking country.  Its currency is the Caledonian Franc.  Visiting New Caledonia can be expensive.  Expect a decent meal for two to set you back between $40 to $60, depending on what you order.  And that does not even include a drink (water is free at restaurants).

Noumea is the largest city and the country’s capital.  Noumea is located on the Grand Terre or big island.  There are some nice beaches in Noumea, but the postcard perfect beaches are in the other islands just  a short plane ride away.  

We were lucky to stay in an over the water bungalow at Ilot de Maitre.  Setting foot on Isle of Pines was a blessing.  Its undeveloped land and unspoiled beaches are as close to paradise as you can get.  The Piscine Naturelle and Upi Bay are other attractions worth visiting.  You may end up not wanting to leave Isle of Pines just like us.