Food and Drink in Isle of Pines (New Caledonia)
The food in New Caledonia is impressive, and the Isle of Pines is no different. A fusion of French tradition and tropical Pacific ingredients create different and exotic tastes. The Isle of Pines is not developed for mass tourism so dining options are mainly limited to hotels and resorts.
Le Meridien Ile des Pins has several dining options including La Pirogue, which overlooks the sparkling waters of Oro Bay. It's open daily with a menu featuring fresh seafood and French classics. The more casual dining option is Longitude 167, a restaurant and bar known for its petit plates and cocktails. (Baie d'Oro; 687 26 50 00; open breakfast, lunch and dinner)
Nautilus Restaurant at Hotel Kou-Bugny is in a prime position on Kuto Beach, featuring an outdoor terrace and cocktail menu. (Baie de Kuto; 687 24 92 80)
For casual dining and snacks, head to the milkshake bar and bakery Snack Kohu, which serves sandwiches and a dish of the day in a pretty setting under thatched shelters. (Vao village; 687 46 10 23; open Monday to Friday, 10 am to 3 pm.)
The local specialty is bougna, a sweet and mellow casserole that is baked for hours under the ground and contains root vegetables, such as yams and sweet potato, coconut milk and meat cooked inside banana leaves. It is intended to be shared between two but serves are so generous it could easily feed six.
Snails known as bulimes or escargots de l'Ile des Pins are another speciality and live in the forest. They are farmed by the locals and you can find them in most of the restaurants on the island. If you are not a fan of snails, try freshly caught grilled lobster. Cruise passengers can often taste samples at food stalls in the bay.
Beaches in Isle of Pines (New Caledonia)
Closest Beach: Kuta Bay is closest to the cruise passenger arrival point. The half-moon shaped beach is pretty and has deeper waters than most bays and therefore attracts turtles and other marine life, which you will often see when snorkelling.
Most Picturesque: Kanumera Bay has the most immaculate beach around. The circular-shaped beach creates a natural swimming pool, protected by a large rock that is sacred to the community. The sand is as soft as talcum powder and the water crystal clear.
Don't Miss in Isle of Pines (New Caledonia)
Kanumera Bay: A narrow peninsula separates Kanumera Bay and Kuto Bay which both feature stunning white sandy beaches and turquoise waters that are ideal for swimming and snorkelling. The coral reef just off the shore of Kanumera Bay is home to a range of marine life. Kanumera Bay has a sacred rock that is special to the locals. The water is shallow and protected, making it the ideal place for children and tentative swimmers to cool down.
Oro Bay: Be prepared to jump into an amazing real-world aquarium. It is on the opposite side of the island from where passengers arrive, but it is worth the effort. The path to Oro starts beside the entrance to the five-star Le Meridien Ile des Pins that's nestled among a coconut grove. After a 20-minute walk through a mangrove forest -- where you will see small black and orange crabs scuttling from their holes --you will come to the bay. The water is waist high in most parts, so even the most timid swimmer will enjoy this experience where you will find a kaleidoscope of colourful tropical fish. (Isle of Pines Tourism: Vao village; 687 46 10 27; open 8 am to 11.30 am and 2 pm to 4 pm, Monday to Friday and Saturday 8 am to 11.30 am.)
Upi Bay: Take a ride on an outrigger canoe crafted by locals from Upi Bay to the offshore lagoons. Even if you don't hop aboard the traditional vessel, you will see men working on them and, with a smile, be able to take some good photographs.
Queen Hortense Grotto: The grotto is named after the leader, Queen Hortense, who stood up to the French government in 1872 and refused its request that she and her people abdicate their island to make way for French political prisoners.
"We would rather die than leave our island," she reportedly told the authorities. She hid in the cave for several months during tribal conflict. A short walk through forest will bring you to the cave and a torch is included in the entrance fee. It can get muddy and is dark, even in the day, so use caution.
Horse-riding: Tours are offered for horse riding on the beach, which is a great way to see the island in a different light.
Hiking: Climb the trail to the Isle of Pines' tallest mountain, N'ga Peak, which rises 262 metres above sea level, and takes less than an hour to summit. Don't forget your camera: the 360-degree panoramic views of the surrounding lagoon are spectacular.
Visit Vao: the main village on the island is Vao, which is worth a visit if time allows. The main attraction is the pretty Mission Church at its centre and the Statue de St Maurice commemorating the arrival of the first missionaries. Don't miss the great view over the island from behind the church.