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7 ways to get the best from New Caledonia’s paradise beaches

The idyllic Kuto Bay, on Ile des Pins
Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, New Caledonia rises from the waters of the world’s biggest lagoon: covering some 24,300km², it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You couldn’t find a better spot for bountiful beaches with white sands as fine as flour, contrasting with a palette of turquoise blues and the deep greens of the pine forests and coconut groves. From Grande Terre to the Ile des Pins and Ouvéa, idyllic beaches nuzzle into the slightest recess in the archipelago’s shores.

Watch the fish in Oro Bay’s natural swimming pool
Oro bay with its natural swimming pool. The perfect place to splash around with the fishies

People who like swimming with masks, flippers, and snorkels love this vast aquarium carved into the coral. A narrow channel protects Oro Bay from the ocean swell, making it the perfect arena for clownfish and parrotfish, giant sea urchins, and damselfish to show off their colours without a care in the world. You can get there in 45 minutes by walking from Upi Bay, but why not discover this sublime bay and its “potatoes”, the strange coral rocks formed by erosion, by outrigger canoe?

Spot the baby sharks in Ouvéa

Imagine an endless strip of sand lined with coconut trees. On Ouvéa, the beach goes on for almost 25km, alongside the atoll’s only road, itself 35km long. To the north, the lagoon is home to a “nursery” for lemon sharks! You’re almost guaranteed to witness the sight of fins breaking the surface of the water, as this species always returns to its birthplace to breed.

Go swimming with the whole family in Kuto Bay
The sandy beach in Kuto Bay, as fine as talcum powder...

With its crystal clear waters framed by the slender silhouettes of the Cook Pines, Kuto Bay is more than just one of the world’s most beautiful bays. It is also the perfect spot for a family swim. The shore is carpeted by sand as fine as talcum powder and free from coral, as soft as soft can be on little feet. And once you’ve enjoyed your swim, the adults are sure to appreciate the cuisine: restaurants overlooking the bay proffer a local variety of snail, the bulime.

Go walking in Shabadran Bay on Maré

Access isn’t easy, with sharp corals to cross, but the 2.5 hour walk is worth checking out: the singular beauty of this island with its elevated terrain becomes apparent, with precipitous cliffs intersected with creeks. And upon arrival, the waves crash against Shabadran’s famous “terraces”, cascades of reefs and coral shelves rising from the sand. Spectacular!

Swim with turtles at Luengoni
Turquoise waters, fine sands, and a coral islet on the horizon... the picture postcard view from Luengoni beach.

At Luengoni, on Lifou Island, the soft sands entice you to walk barefoot. But don’t forget to take shoes and flippers with you! They will come in handy on your search for Luengoni’s real treasures: the sinkholes and water pockets. Explore them with a swim when the midday sun illuminates the emerald waters of these strange cavities, where banyan tree roots meet limestone stalactites. Or you might just be happy with a swim to the coral island that you can see from the beach. If your luck is in, you will be accompanied on your crossing by green turtles...

Try some boardsports in Poé

Feeling the full force of the trade winds from the southeast, Poé is the best beach for wind and kitesurfers. Nearby, La Roche Percée is the only surf spot on the archipelago’s beach, and also the starting point for a pleasant trail taking in the three bays that snake along Bourail lagoon, along to the little Baie des Amoureux (Lover’s Bay). On your way, stop by Turtle Bay, a prized nesting spot.

Explore the islets around Nouméa
Maître Islet, at the heart of a 200 hectare marine reserve, can be reached via a 20 minute boat ride from Nouméa

A few cable-lengths from Nouméa, a string of islets forms a scattering of sandy rings, and a real shop of marine curiosities: Amédée and its white lighthouse that looks down on the sparkling lagoon from 56m up, Maître and its rocky plateau, Larégnère, whose protected coast is a nesting site for tufted puffins (a protected species of bird), not to forget about Canard with its undersea trail.

Getting to New Caledonia