The Isle of Pines (French: Île des Pins) is in New Caledonia.
The Isle of Pines has been nicknamed L'île la plus proche du Paradis ("the closest island to Paradise"). It is also rich with animal life and is home to the world's largest gecko species.
As an island, there's only two ways into the Isle of Pines; by air and by sea.
Air Calédonie, the country's domestic flag carrier, operates three to five flights each day of the week between Nouméa's Magenta domestic airport and Isle of Pines' airport in the island's interior. Flights take only half an hour but are quite expensive, generally costing 18 600 CFP return if they aren't on promotion. As there is no public transport on the island, you will need to arrange transfers from the airport in advance; most places of accommodation will be able to arrange this. At the airport, facilities include a small gift shop, an information desk and some opportunities for car rental.
Betico (+687 442242) operates the ferry between Nouméa and the island, taking about 2 and a half hours. The cheapest adult day return fare costs 10 700 CFP, with more expensive 'VIP' options. The ferry does a day return trip on Wednesday, along with a trip to the island on Saturday morning and the return on Sunday evening. The 1 Ferry Wharf. is located on the Kuto peninsula, but lacking facilities is little more than a slab of concrete. There are plans to expand the wharf. It is within walking distance of Kuto hotels, but for anywhere else on the island, you will need to arrange transfers in advance.
- 1 Catholic Church (L'église de Vao), Vao. The large, white and red Catholic Church dominates the centre of Vao. Built in 1960 by the island's convicts, it is still used on a daily basis by the island's many Christians. Masses are held M W Th Sa 06:30, Tu F 18:30, and the main mass Su at 09:00.
- 2 Ruins of the convict prison (Vestiges du bagne), Wèro (1km up the road north of Kuto). The prison buildings of the former convict colony lie in ruins as an eerie reminder of the island's dark past. The main complex lies behind an imposing, brick wall, with the entrance accessible up a small set of steps from the main road. Inside, paths have been cut through the tall grass allowing visitors to explore the surprisingly-intact buildings. Old graffiti has been etched into some of the cells, with rusted iron bars still covering the windows. A smaller building sits adjacent in slightly worse condition, while 150m up the nearby access road is a restored water tower. Free.
- 3 Convict cemetery (Cimetière des Déportés), Wèro (Take the turnoff 2km north of Kuto, then straight for 700m). The final resting place of hundreds of convicts, many of them Paris Communards who died due to poor conditions or while mounting an unsuccessful ocean escape. The names of most who died are written on a memorial, although few of the graves are marked.
- 4 Bay of St Maurice and Statue of Jesus (Baie de Saint-Maurice), Vao (From town centre, right turn after market, then first left for 500m). A beach sits at the shore of this beautiful, turquoise bay. A statue of Jesus, surrounded by traditional totem poles etched with faces, denotes the arrival of Marist missionaries in the 19th century, while also remembering locals who died for France in the First World War.
- 5 Vao Town Hall (Mairie de L'Île des Pins), Vao (East of the town centre, on the road towards Kuto), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. The island's town hall is a humble building with traditional Kanak styling incorporated in its architecture. While not a tourist attraction as such, visitors are welcome to view the informative noticeboard, which includes cruise ship arrivals, recently passed laws and major upcoming events.
- 1 Kunie Scuba Centre.
- 2 Natural Pool (La Piscine Naturelle). Framed by pine trees, this is a postcard-perfect sheltered turquoise bay full of coral and an astonishing amount of fearless tropical fish. A 20-minute walk along the river from Le Meridien resort; if coming from the mainland, turn right immediately after the bridge and follow the occasional signposts. Expect to wade through knee-high water at high tide, and bring along everything you'll need since there are no facilities.
- 3 Pic N'ga.
- 1 Boulangerie de Wèro (Wèro Bakery), Wèro.
- 2 Creations Île des Pins, Kuto, ☎ .
- 3 Curios Maliska (Épicerie de Wèro).
- 4 Vao Market (Marché de Vao), Vao (100m east of Church on main road). W Sa 06:00-11:00. A twice-weekly market specialising in local produce. Come earlier when it's more lively and the food is fresher.
Eat and drink
Eating options on the island are extremely limited. Most visitors eat at their lodgings, and advance reservations are typically required even then.
One local delicacy worth sampling is giant snails (bulime), typically served cooked in the French style with garlic butter. The snail in question, Placostylus fibratus, is technically an endangered species but they're now so lucrative that they're locally grown on farms. Expect to pay up to 3000 CFP for a half-dozen.
- 1 Snack Kohu (Take the signposted turn-off to the left for 500m near the market square), ☎ . M-F 09:30-15:30. A small little lunch bar just to the north of the main part of Vao, and the only real restaurant on the Isle of Pines not attached to a hotel. Offers chicken, beef and American-style sandwiches for about 700 CFP, along with soft drinks, milkshakes and coffee for 350 CFP. Also sells fries, mixed salads, main course meals and desserts. 700-1950 CFP.
Hotels and resorts
- 2 Hotel Kou-Bugny, Kuto, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-out: 10:00. 26 600/29 600 CFP comfort/suite bungalow, 24 600 CFP room.
- 3 Le Méridien Ile des Pins, Oro Bay (Baie d'Oro), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Set on a private beach and a short walk away from the Natural Pool, Le Meridien is the most luxurious resort on the the island and has prices to match. Last refurbished in 2015, there are both rooms in shared accomodation blocks and private villas, the best of which have staircases directly down to the lagoon. Pool, restaurant, bar, spa, small gym and complimentary sea sports gear like kayaks, paddle boats, etc. From 30 000 CPF.
Homestays and gites
- 1 Post Office (OPT), Vao, ☎ , fax: . M-F 07:45-11:15, 12:15-15:00. The island's only post office, which also offers an ATM and phone facilities.