Isle Of Pines Natural Pool: Why You NEED To Visit 2024

If you are interested in visiting Isle Of Pines Natural Pool then you have come to the right place. I will let you know everything there is about visiting this hidden gem including how to get there, the history, entry fees, what to expect, and more!


Isle of Pines is a beautiful island in New Caledonia, known for its stunning natural scenery and rich cultural heritage. One of the most popular attractions on the island is the Isle Of Pines Natural Pool, a turquoise lagoon surrounded by coral reefs and pine trees.

If you are looking for a place to relax and enjoy nature, the natural pool on the Isle of Pines is the perfect spot. The pool is protected from the waves by a ring of rocks, making it calm and serene.

The water is shallow and warm, ideal for families with children or beginners. You can also explore the deeper parts of the pool, where you can see more marine life and coral formations. I was actually surprised at how deep it was in some spots.

Whether you know it as the Natural Pool, Natural Aquarium, or its French name Piscine Naturelle, it is all the same thing and something that had been on my personal bucketlist for many years.

I visited Isle Of Pines as part of a South Pacific Carnival Spirit cruise departing from Sydney. Prior to the trip, I presumed visiting the Natural Pool would be super easy to do as it’s the most popular thing to do here and a common drawcard for tourists visiting the country. However, after a bit of research, I found out it is not as simple as you would think.

I think the fact that we were traveling on a cruise ship with a couple of thousand people, and visiting the most popular thing to do at this port and only seeing 20 to 30 other people during the hours we spent there says something. Though if you are willing to put in the effort to venture there it is completely worth it.

So strap in as I let you know all about visiting the Isle of Pines Natural Pool. This includes where it is located, entry fees, why it is worth visiting, the history, how cruise ship passengers can visit, and what to expect.


The Natural Pool In Isle Of Pines: Why It’s Worth Visiting & Travel Tips

looking out to the other part of the natural aquarium where it meets the ocean
looking out to the other part of the natural aquarium where it meets the ocean

Why Visit The Isle Of Pines Natural Pool

The Natural Pool is so special because it is a rare and beautiful example of a coral lagoon that offers a unique snorkeling experience. You can swim with thousands of colorful fish and corals in clear and calm water, and feel like you are in a giant aquarium.

The Natural Pool is home to a diverse and rich marine ecosystem, with over 200 species of fish and 150 species of corals. Some of the fish you can see include butterflyfish, angelfish, parrotfish, clownfish, surgeonfish, and triggerfish. Some of the corals you can admire include brain coral, staghorn coral, table coral, and mushroom coral. You can also spot sea stars, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, and sea turtles. If you love snorkeling this is a must-visit.

The Natural Aquarium is not only a natural wonder but also a cultural heritage site. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Lagoons of New Caledonia, which covers six marine clusters that represent the diversity and beauty of the coral reefs and associated ecosystems in the region.

The Natural Pool is also part of the Kanak Cultural Landscape, which is a sacred site for the indigenous people of the island. It is a place where they perform rituals, ceremonies, and festivals to honor their ancestors and their gods.

holiday makes and a few cruise goers checking out the natural pool in isle of pines during a low tide and slightly overcast day
holiday makes and a few cruise goers checking out the natural pool in isle of pines during a low tide and slightly overcast day

History Of The Natural Pool In Isle Of Pines

The Natural Pool is more than just a natural wonder, it is also a place of legend and history.

According to local lore, there is a taboo place in the pool that hides a giant serpent, called Manghénine, who haunts the pool at night. You might want to avoid swimming there after dark!

The pool is also linked to Queen Hortense, the daughter of King Gouaro of Kunié (the local name of the island). She was born in 1824 and became queen at the age of 18. Queen Hortense was known for her beauty, intelligence, and courage.

She resisted the French colonization and defended her people’s rights and traditions. Also, she had a passion for gardening and planted many flowers and plants around her residence in Oro Bay. She died in 1905 and was buried near the pool.

a cheeky little fish curious by my go pro at the natural aquarium
a cheeky little fish curious by my go pro at the natural aquarium
first arriving at the natural pool in isle of pines with just a few other visitors
first arriving at the natural pool in isle of pines with just a few other visitors

How To Get To The Natural Pool

There are two main ways to get to the natural pool in Isle of Pines. How long you have on the island and how much you want to spend will decide which method you may want to use.


Driving

The natural pool is located in the south of the island, near Oro Bay. You can drive or take a taxi from the main village of Vao, which is about 15 km away.

The road is paved and well-maintained, but it can be narrow and winding at some points. You will pass by some scenic spots along the way, such as the Queen Hortense’s Cave and the Kuto Bay.

When you reach the car park near Oro Bay, you will have to pay an entrance fee of 1,000 XPF / $9.00 per person, which goes to the local tribe that owns the land. Then, you can walk for about 10 minutes along a path that crosses a channel and leads you to the natural pool.

signage at the wooden hut where you pay for your entry fee
signage at the wooden hut where you pay for your entry fee

Getting From The Car Park To The Natural Pool

Now as I mentioned the remainder of the way is via a relatively short walk which is completely worth the effort and more.

After paying your entry fee you will follow a dirt path that crosses a shallow channel of water. You may need to take off your shoes or wear water shoes to cross the channel, depending on the tide. The water is clear and refreshing, and you may see some fish swimming around.

After crossing the channel, you will continue on the path that leads you to the natural pool. The path is well-marked and easy to follow, and it takes about 10 minutes to walk.

Along the way, you will enjoy the shade and the scenery of the forest, which is home to many native plants and animals. You may hear the birds singing, see the crabs scurrying, or smell the flowers blooming.

As you get closer to the natural pool, you will notice a change in the landscape. The forest opens up to reveal a stunning view of the lagoon, with its turquoise water and coral reefs.

You will also see the majestic columnar pine trees that give the island its name. These trees can grow up to 40 meters tall and have a unique shape that resembles a column or a spear.

walking across the shallow river to access the isle of pines natural pool
walking across the shallow river to access the isle of pines natural pool

Arriving By Boat

The Isle Of Pines natural pool can also be reached by sea, which is a more adventurous and authentic way to explore the island. You can take a traditional Melanesian canoe from St. Joseph Bay, which is about 10 km from Vao.

You will need to book your canoe trip in advance with a local operator. The price ranges from 5,000 to 8,000 XPF / $45.00 – $72.00 per person, depending on the duration and itinerary of the trip.

You will sail for about an hour across Upi Bay, which offers stunning views of the turquoise water and the coral formations. You will also see some giant rocks that emerge from the sea, such as Brosse Islet and Turtle Islet.

Then, you will disembark at a beach near Oro Bay, where you will have to pay the same entrance fee as by land. From there, you will hike for about 40 minutes through the forest to reach the natural pool. The hike is also easy and scenic, and you will pass by some sacred sites and monuments along the way.

tourists hanging out and going for a snorkel at the natural pool in the isle of pines
tourists hanging out and going for a snorkel at the natural pool in the isle of pines

Entry Fee To The Isle Of Pines Natural Pool

Once you park your car or get off your taxi at the car park near Oro Bay, you will see a sign that says “Piscine Naturelle”. Here you will find a wooden hut where you can pay the entrance fee of 1,000 XPF / $9.00 per person.

We didn’t have local currency when visiting and we were able to pay in Australian Dollars.

The fee goes to the local tribe that owns the land and helps preserve the natural environment.

pine tree ladened natural pool at low tide in the isle of pines
pine tree ladened natural pool at low tide in the isle of pines

How Can Cruise Ship Passengers Visit The Isle Of Pines Natural Pool

When I booked our cruise to the Isle Of Pines I knew I had to visit the Natural Pool, as its considered one of the best things to do here.. Though at the time I didn’t actually realize how difficult it would be.

The natural pool is located in Oro Bay, on the northeast side of the island. It is about 15 km from the cruise ship terminal at Kuto Bay. Obviously, this isn’t walking distance and is no doubt one of the best things to do on the island. Therefore you would assume you could visit as part of a shore excursion tour.

Unfortunately and surprisingly there aren’t really any shore excursions offered in Isle of Pines. Instead, there is some great snorkeling and beautiful sandy beaches right where the tender drops off passengers.

Therefore you can either take a taxi, a shuttle bus, or rent a car or a scooter to the Natural Pool. The road is mostly paved, but the last part is a dirt track that can be bumpy and muddy.

I decided to hire a car rather than use a shuttle or taxi simply because this was a bucketlist destination for me and I wanted to make sure everything was 100% organized. I didn’t want to be waiting around asking people for a taxi.

I booked my car rental through Edmond Transport which is the main car hire company on the island. They offer a variety of cars and we organised a pick up and drop off time down at the cruise ship port and it was all pretty straightforward. We also booked the gas included option so we didn’t have to worry about filling it up. At the time the rental was $75.00 for the day.

However, I do see that nowadays Edmond Transport offers an island circuit tour to cruise passengers. This would be a great way to see the highlights of the island including the Natural Pool and it is pretty affordable at $30.00 per person.

a school of small fish in the beautiful water of the isle of pines natural pool
a school of small fish in the beautiful water of the isle of pines natural pool

When Is The Best Time To Visit The Natural Aquarium In Isle Of Pines

There is no definitive answer to what is the best time to visit the Natural Pool, as different seasons and times of the day may have different advantages and disadvantages for visitors. However, here are some factors to consider when planning your trip:

Weather: The Isle of Pines has a tropical climate, with warm and humid weather all year round. The average temperature ranges from 22°C to 28°C, with little variation throughout the year. However, the island is also prone to cyclones, especially from November to April, which can bring strong winds, heavy rains, and rough seas.

Tides: The Natural Aquarium is influenced by the tides, which affect the water level and visibility in the coral basin. The best time to snorkel is during high tide, when the water is deeper and clearer, and more fish are visible. Low tide, on the other hand, offers a more peaceful and secluded experience, but the water is shallower and murkier, and some corals may be exposed.

Sunlight: The Natural Aquarium is also affected by the sunlight, which enhances the colors and clarity of the water and the fish. The best time to snorkel is during midday, when the sun is directly overhead and illuminates the pool with bright light.

the beautiful isle of pines natural pool during high tide and a sunny day
the beautiful isle of pines natural pool during high tide and a sunny day

My Experience At The Natural Aquarium In Isle Of Pines

As I mentioned before visiting the Natural Pool here in the Isle Of Pines had been a bucketlist item of mine for years. Therefore when booking a cruise I knew I had to visit, but it was a lot harder to organise than I organically thought.

In the end, I decided to hire a car for the day through Edmonds Transport. After getting off the cruise ship on the first tender boat and enjoying some time hanging on the nearby beaches before the crowds got there it was time to hit the road.

We met a worker at the designated drop-off point and did a bit of paperwork and then the car is all ours. We head off up the road and across the island. The first stop of the day is the one I am most excited about, visiting the Natural Pool.

After a twenty-minute or so drive across the island along some windy roads we come across a pretty empty parking area and the wooden shack I had read about online. We managed to pay the entry fee in Australian Dollars since this is what we were cruising with.

From there we follow the not overly marked trail by using an offline version of Google Maps downloaded on my phone. This proves quite helpful as crossing the stream it isn’t easy to spot where the trail begins again.

Nevertheless, after about a 10 or so-minute walk we arrive at the Isle Of Pines Natural Pool. Since it is only about 10 am it is still pretty quiet with only a few other groups visiting.

We set up under some nearby pine trees dumping down our bags and laying down a couple of towels. The weather isn’t the best but determined to make the most of it I grab my snorkeling gear and jump on in.

The water wasn’t the warmest with the sun not out so it was a jump straight in situation. Honestly, I was absolutely amazed by the coral formations and fish in this incredible pool of water, no wonder it is also known as the natural aquarium.

There were triggerfish, clownfish, and more that I couldn’t even name. They were also surprisingly large and the water is a lot deeper in parts than it looks. It is quite a different experience than swimming out in the open ocean with currents and waves. Basically, it is more enjoyable and relaxing.

No doubt I didn’t visit the Isle Of Pines Natural Pool in its best state, though we still had a great time. On a gorgeous sunny day, we could have easily spent a few hours here relaxing and exploring! Nevertheless, it is still 100% worth visiting.

blue hues in the water at the isle of pines natural pool
blue hues in the water at the isle of pines natural pool

What To Pack For The Isle Of Pines Natural Pool

If you are planning to visit the Isle of Pines Natural Pool, here are some tips on what to pack for your trip:

Snorkeling gear: You will need a mask, snorkel, and fins to explore the underwater world of the natural pool. You can also bring a waterproof camera or GoPro to capture the amazing marine life.

Sun protection: The sun can be very strong in New Caledonia, especially on the water. Make sure to pack sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and a rash guard or a long-sleeved shirt to protect your skin from sunburn and UV rays.

Water shoes: The natural pool is accessed by a 10-minute walk from the parking lot or a 40-minute walk from Upi Bay, where you can take a traditional Melanesian canoe. The path is shaded by columnar pines, but you might encounter some crabs or sharp rocks along the way. Water shoes can help you avoid any discomfort or injury on your feet.

Swimsuit and towel: You will definitely want to swim in the natural pool. Bring a swimsuit that is comfortable and suitable for snorkeling. You might also want to bring a towel to dry off after your swim, or a sarong that can double as a cover-up.

Picnic lunch and water: There are no shops or restaurants near the natural pool, so you will need to bring your own food and drinks. Pack a picnic lunch with some sandwiches, fruits, snacks, and water bottles. You can enjoy your meal on the beach or on the rocks overlooking the pool. Remember to take your rubbish with you and leave no trace behind.

Cash: The entrance fee to the natural pool is $9.00 / 1,000 XPF per person. You will need to pay this in cash at the gate. There are no ATMs near the natural pool, so make sure to withdraw some cash beforehand.

a beautiful giant calm inside the natural pool at the isle of pines
a beautiful giant calm inside the natural pool at the isle of pines
the small rocky coral sections of reef are visible through the crystal clear water
the small rocky coral sections of reef are visible through the crystal clear water

Where To Stay In Isle Of Pines?

Whether you are looking for a luxurious resort, a cozy bungalow, or a budget-friendly hotel, you can find the perfect place to stay on this island. Here are some of the best areas to stay in on the Isle of Pines:

Baie d’Oro: This is the most popular area on the island, as it is home to a stunning natural swimming pool and a lagoon surrounded by coral reefs and tropical fish. You can also enjoy the white sand beach, the coconut grove, and nearby attractions such as Upi Bay and St. Joseph’s Bay. The best accommodation option in this area is the Le Méridien Ile des Pins, a luxurious resort that offers bungalow suites, bedrooms, a restaurant, a bar, a spa, and a botanic garden.

Kuto Bay: This is another beautiful area on the island, with a long and wide beach of fine sand and clear water. You can swim, snorkel, kayak, or relax under the bugny trees that shade the beach. You can also visit the nearby Kanumera Bay, which has a sacred rock that is revered by the locals.

Vao: This is the main village on the island, where you can find shops, restaurants, markets, and cultural events. You can also visit the Notre Dame de l’Assomption church, which was built by convicts in 1860. You can also explore the forest trails and discover the endemic flora and fauna of the island.

Le Méridien Ile des Pins

Le Méridien Ile des Pins

A luxe stay for those wanting to be in paradise. Rooms start from $400.00 per night including breakfast.

BOOK NOW
Oure Tera Beach Resort

Oure Tera Beach Resort

A slightly more affordable option in an equally amazing location. Rooms start from $270.00 per night including breakfast.

BOOK NOW

Other Things To Do In Isle Of Pines

Climb N’Ga Peak: If you are feeling adventurous, you can hike up to N’Ga Peak, the highest point on the island at 262 meters. The hike takes about an hour and is suitable for most fitness levels. You will be rewarded with spectacular 360-degree views of the island and its surrounding lagoon. You can see the different bays, beaches, and villages, as well as the nearby islands and reefs. The hike starts in Kuto, a village on the southwest coast of the island.

Queen Hortense’s Cave: This is a natural wonder and a cultural heritage site that tells the story of a local queen who hid in the cave for several months during an intertribal conflict. The cave is located in a lush rainforest and has a wide entrance and a stunning garden. You can visit the cave with a local guide who will share the legend and history of this place.

Sail On A Outrigger Canoe: Another way to enjoy the beauty of the lagoon is to sail on a traditional outrigger canoe over Upi Bay, a large bay on the east coast of the island. You can board a canoe at St. Joseph’s Bay and glide along the calm waters, guided by a local boatman. You will see impressive rock formations, coral reefs, and marine life along the way.

Try Bougna: Bougna is a traditional dish of the Kanak people that consists of meat (usually chicken or fish), yams, bananas, sweet potatoes, and coconut milk wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in an underground oven. It is a hearty and flavorful meal that reflects the island’s culture and cuisine.

Check Out The Beaches: Relax on one of the many beautiful beaches that dot the island, such as Kuto, Kanumera, or Nokanhui. You can enjoy the soft white sand, the warm turquoise water, and the gentle breeze. You can also rent a kayak, or a paddle board to explore the coast.


Any Questions? Let me know in the comments!


LIKE IT? PIN IT!

If you are interested in visiting the Isle Of Pines Natural Pool then you have come to the right place. I will let you know everything there is about visiting this hidden gem including how to get there, the history, entry fees, what to expect, and more!

Want more New Caledonia Inspiration? Check out….


Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. So, if you click on it and purchase something, I get a small percentage at no extra cost to you. As always all opinions are my own and your support is much appreciated.

Photo credit: “Natural Pool, Isle of Pines” (CC BY 2.0) by  Jeremy. “Natural Pool, Isle of Pines” (CC BY 2.0) by  Jeremy. “Natural Pool, Isle of Pines” (CC BY 2.0) by  Jeremy

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