New Caledonia is truly a mesmerizing slice of paradise that offers something for everyone’s taste. From the unique cultural mix of French and Melanesian and exquisite cuisine to incredible opportunities to unwind and reconnect with nature – it really does have it all! The mild climate with perfect temperatures all year round makes it a perfect destination, no matter what season you choose to travel in. Add warmhearted locals willing to share their Kanaks’ culture and the fact 60% of the lagoons in New Caledonia are protected as UNESCO World Heritage Site – and you’ll be wondering why you haven’t packed your bags yet. Here are the top 10 things you can do in the “Paris of the Pacific”.
1.Discover amazing marine life
Explore the underwater biodiversity by snorkeling and diving. Our choice was the amazing Piscine Naturelle on the Isle of Pines. Never have I seen such clear waters: at one moment – I put away my snorkeling mask! You can rent a bike nearby and cycle your way to Oro Bay and continue with diving. My friend and I did: it took us around 3 hours but it was really a great way to soak in all of the nature. Another great snorkeling spot is the Amedee Island: we took a day boat trip (around $180) and there was a reef shark swimming by my side!
2.Enjoy a bird’s-eye view
There are daily helicopter tours organized, which is a thrilling experience! Fly over the world’s largest lagoon and explore the islands from above: I was overwhelmed with beauty, especially when I saw the Heart of Voh. There are different routes and price packages you can try. We chose to book New Caledonia holidays and opted for a 3-hour flight: it turned out to be an investment since the pilot gave us precious insider tips on what to see.
3.Go on an idyllic horse riding
Did you know that there’s one horse for every twenty people in New Caledonia? Enjoy a movie-like experience and go horse riding along the shore. Lebris peninsula has wonderful beach tracks we tried out.
4.Go cliff jumping
For those who love the adrenaline rush, there is a great spot that’s really popular during the hotter months: Dumbea river valley. It takes around 2 hour hike from the shore in order to find the best cliffs, but it will get your heart pumping! There are some stunning waterfalls nearby: the locals were really bad at English, but so willing to help us get around!
5.Savor great food
Nouméa is the best place to try out local cuisine because it’s very much diverse. There are around 130 eating spots here and restaurants are true cultural melting pots: you can try Chinese, Indonesian, Mexican, African, and many other cuisines. Don’t miss out on tasting the Bougna, a traditional Melanesian dish. It’s a combination of chicken, fish or lobster, along with sweet potatoes, bananas and coconut milk – all wrapped in huge leaves. Finger licking good!
6.Discover Kanak culture
Don’t miss out on visiting the Tjibaou Cultural Center in Nouméa. The architecture is amazing and looks really futuristic at first glance. The inside exhibition displays traditional artifacts and huts of indigenous people of the New Caledonia and other Pacific societies. Take a guided tour or enjoy an English booklet and explore on your own.
7.Enjoy a history lesson
Visit the Museum of World War II in Nouméa. You can learn about the history of New Caledonia in the outbreak of war and during the war times. Entrance fee is rather cheap (around $3) and the staff is more than willing to make your stay as pleasant as possible. We used English audio guidebook which was really informative.
8.Spend a day with animals
The zoo with the botanical garden is about 8km from the center of Nouméa. It wasn’t that hot when we decided to make our visit, so we walked over there. Entrance fee is around $12, there isn’t a lengthy list of animals you’ll see but it’s a nice way to spend a couple of hours. Plus you can feed Cagou birds!
9.Get to know the locals
Since New Caledonia isn’t that big, you can travel across it and make your trip more adventurous. We were really interested in understanding the local way of life so we stayed with a tribe a couple of nights at the Loyalty Islands.
10.Soak it in and relax
There’s an expression in New Caledonia – “Ne casse pas la tête” which means “Don’t cut off your head”! I guess that enjoying a true paradise on earth can be nerve-wracking: god forbid there’s a small cloud in the sky or maybe you have to wait for a turtle to pass by so you can continue going your way. Self-decapitation is not the way to go, so be careful with the razor-sharp combs. Just chill and let the soft touch of sand heal you.
Traveling is meant to transform us and broaden our horizons and I always thought people who say that visiting a certain country changed their lives were exaggerating. However, there really is something in New Caledonia that triggers a change of perspective and creates memories that never fade.
About the author
Marie Nieves is a lifestyle blogger who loves unusual trips, gadgets and creative ideas. On her travels she likes to read poetry and prose and to surf the internet. Her favorite writer is Tracy Chevalier and she always carries one of her books in her bag. She is an avid lover of photography who loves to talk about her experiences. You can find Marie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.