Ile des Pins



Named for the unique pines (some more than 200 ft/60 m tall) covering the interior of the island, Ile des Pins is a South Pacific beachcomber's paradise. The pure white beaches of Kuto and Kanumera Bays, surrounded by coconut trees and wild orchids, are truly among the best in the world. When you tire of the beach, head to one of the island's interesting caves: Ouatchia (beautiful stalagmites), Wemwanyi, or Queen Hortense's Cave (a popular cave where a 19th-century queen supposedly hid during a tribal war) and Troisieme, or the Third (stalactites and stalagmites in a partially flooded cave). A guide is helpful for finding and exploring all three caves. More than 3,000 political prisoners from the Paris Commune—the forerunner of the socialist movement in France—were incarcerated on the island from 1871-79. Ruins of the prison and a cemetery can be seen in Ouro. The island, called Kunie by its indigenous populations, is controlled by eight local groups, also called Kunies, who once nixed a proposed 600-bed Club Med because the resort would have restricted the use of Kuto and Kanumera beaches. A Meridien resort on the opposite side of Ile des Pins offers deluxe accommodations, however. The island's tranquillity warrants at least a two-night stay. Air Caledonie's twice-daily flights to the island tend to fill up, so book early. It's also possible to visit on a day trip from Noumea by high-speed ferry that runs once or twice a week. 70 mi/110 km southeast of Noumea.

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