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Port Review: Isle Of Pines, New Caledonia

Joanna Hall

Known as Kuni to the locals, who are Melanesian, this is arguably one of the most stunning of the New Caledonia islands, if not the South Pacific, and this makes it a popular port of call on many itineraries.

The Facts

Location: New Caledonia.

Language: French & Kanak dialects.

Currency: French Pacific Franc.

Docking/anchoring: Ships anchor off Kuto Bay and tender to a pier.

Transport: The Isle of Pines is a very quiet island and you’ll be lucky to even see a taxi. Most cruise guests either take a tour or just hop off at the pier and walk along Kuto Beach to find a good local swimming and sunbathing spot.


Dominated by the peak Nga, which reaches up 262 metres into the sky, the stunning Isle of Pines sits on the southern tip of the archipelago, and is a natural jewel, recognised by UNESCO as one of its coveted World Heritage Sites. Of its many pristine beaches and lagoons, one of the most famous is Oro Bay; it’s marked by winding, tidal channels, and is a natural pool packed with marine life and protected from the wind and the open ocean by coral cliffs. For visitors, snorkeling the Natural Aquarium is a highlight, however, there are plenty of other activities including hiking, horse riding, drifting on an outrigger, cruising on a catamaran to enjoy the scenery and scuba diving.

Don’t Miss

The Natural Aquarium is one of the best snorkelling spots in the South Pacific and it’s a 20 minute drive from the pier past Kuto Beach. Situated on the lagoon edge of Oro Bay, you then walk a further 15 or 20 minutes through shallow water and forest trails to enjoy the turquoise waters of the Natural Aquarium. It’s a truly beautiful spot and fish feeding brings out all the marine life among some beautiful coral reefs.

Best Photo Op

Whichever ship you arrive on, you should be able to get a nice photograph of her from Kuto Beach with the white sandy beach itself, palm trees and the ship itself out in the bay.


There are some okay souvenir shops where the tenders dock at the pier in Kuto Bay with souvenirs by local craftsmen and clothes but prices are not cheap. Realistically this place is really all about the natural beauty and marine life, rather than shopping opportunities.

Food and Drink

If you love French cuisine, then you’ll enjoy the food in the Isle of Pines, but again bear in mind that prices are fairly high. The main village of Vao has a few local boulangerie, or bakeries, if you want to try a real croissant or pastry, and most of the good restaurants are located in resorts. At Kuto Beach, the Kou-Bugny Hotel welcomes outside guests in the main restaurant and in the less formal Les Vieux Bugnys. A two minute walk from Kuto Beach is the Kuberka Resort which also welcomes visitors. The main specialties are seafood dishes, but there will always be a plat du jours, or daily special, which will be traditionally French.  

Pick of the Excursions

The most popular excursion is undoubtedly the snorkelling tour of the Natural Aquarium. You’re driven to the edge of Oro Bay for the walk to the natural pool and most tours give you one hour to snorkel and swim in the shallow and warm waters, while enjoying the tropical fish and corals.

Most cruise ships offer an island sightseeing tour of about 2-3 hours which usually takes in the main town of Vao including the Notre Dame de l‘Assomption Church, the Statue of Saint Maurice in Saint Maurice Bay and a visit to the natural Grotto of Queen Hortense.

If you’ve done both of the above tours, another option is a lagoon and boat tour which takes in Brush Island and Turtle Bay, with manta ray and turtle spotting a major highlight. Most tours will also stop for a spot of swimming in one of the perfectly formed lagoons.


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  1. Posted by on 29th Jan 2019 Verified Customer

    Marvellous Melanesia 5 Star Review

    I am so glad you reported on Isle of Pines as it's been on our list to check out for a while.....from what I can see it is super quiet, unspoiled and not too far away from Australia so getting there would be relatively easy. I expect it to be expensive on arrival but that's what get when you travel to true paradise. I have heard of the natural aquarium before and the water does look incredibly inviting! Thanks for sharing Ultimate Travel