Île des Pins

Known as Kunié to the Melanesians, Île des Pins (Isle of Pines) is a tranquil paradise of turquoise bays, white-sand beaches and tropical vegetation 110km southeast of Noumea.

According to local legend, warriors of Tongan descent came from Lifou about three centuries ago and were invited to take over leadership of the island. Captain James Cook later named the island Isle of Pines when on his second voyage of Pacific exploration in 1774.

The 1840s saw the arrival of both Protestant and Catholic missionaries, and traders looking for sandalwood. The Kunies opted for the Catholic religion and thereby for French possession in 1853, though they may have regretted it 21 years later when their island became a settlement for 3000 political deportees from the Paris Commune. Nowadays the island is an indigenous reserve.

Administratively, Île des Pins is part of Province Sud. Vao is the administrative centre, while Kuto is the main tourist area. There's not much in the way of shops or restaurants and most people eat where they are staying. Restaurants attached to gîtes or hotels accept nonguests, but you'll need to book in advance. Seafood is popular, as are Île des Pins’ escargots (snails), a local speciality.

The Île des Pins Fair is held in May or June over three days and features singing, dancing, crafts and gastronomic delights.