Lifou is the largest island in the Loyalty Islands, an archipelago of New Caledonia, as well as the largest atoll in the world (1,150 square kilometres/444 square miles). The French claimed New Caledonia in 1854, and Lifou was discovered in 1857. It was soon frequented by whalers and traders, followed by Protestant and Catholic Missionaries, who arrived with the intention of saving the souls of the local indigenous population.
Cruise ships are greeted in the town of Easo by an open-air market selling arts and crafts, clothing and food. It is the place to buy the ever-popular coconut with its top sliced off and a straw to drink its fresh milk.
Embark on forest walks, explore grottos, snorkel, or see the traditional Melanesian way of life on one of the many shore excursions offered. If going it alone, walk up to the Notre Dame de Lourdes church on the headland overlooking the bay. The friendly locals are always willing to reciprocate a smile for a smile.
--By Giulio Saggin, Cruise Critic contributor