Cruises leaving from Australia or New Zealand will typically stop in New Caledonia, a gem of a destination with clear, uncrowded beaches. The Loyalty Islands are an archipelago of New Caledonia, located in the Pacific Ocean. Snorkel, swim, or sunbathe at spots like Peng Beach on the western side of the island, take an excursion to one of the island’s secret grottos, or climb the black cliffs of Xodre at the southeastern tip of Lifou.
Lifou is an adventurer’s paradise. This is an area truly undisturbed by resorts and heavy tourism development. The remote Lifou is lush and undeveloped, making for a truly off-the-beaten path destination.
On your Loyalty Island cruise, you’ll see that the trio of islands is made up of Lifou, Maré, and Ouvéa. Though they neighbor Australia, these islands are French provinces. Most locals speak the native language Drehu, though some speak French.
The striking Jokin Cliffs are made of layers and layers of coral stone. You can climb up to the top for incredible views of the island and the ocean, which stretch as far as the eye can see. There’s also a cove for snorkeling here, a favorite activity for tourists and locals alike.
On your Loyalty Island cruise, don’t miss even more gorgeous swimming and snorkeling opportunities at Luengoni Bay, where turtles often outnumber the people you’ll see on the beach. The water is some of the clearest in Lifou. Organized tours from your cruise ship will often drop passengers here as one of the stops on a day tour.
It’s a climb to get to the Notre Dame de Lourdes Church, but the views of the island and the Pacific Ocean from the top are well worth the trek. The footpath is steep, so watch children carefully as you climb and take breaks as you need to. The simple church was built by Catholic missionaries visiting the area in the 19th century.
It’s not hard to find a beautiful, secluded place in Lifou, but Peng Beach offers another level of peaceful. Take a half-hour drive from Easo to get there, where you can spend most of the day simply relaxing on the sand or swimming.
Snorkeling is one of Lifou’s top attractions and is the perfect way to spend a day on your Loyalty Island cruise. For only $15 AUD, you can snorkel one of the most varied coral reef structures in the world. Over 2,000 species of fish can be found in this protected area.
Take a boat out to the barely populated Tiga Island, which doesn’t have a single hotel or restaurant. The native Kanaks live on Tiga Island and subsist independently on items like yams, shellfish, and imports from other areas. Tiga Island’s bright blue waters grow increasingly turquoise the closer you get to the shore.
Thrill seekers will enjoy discovering and climbing into one of Lifou’s secret grottos, an underground cave system where you can swim in a seemingly-endless black hole of water. Admission to the grotto area is only $10 AUD, and locals man a tent marking where your journey will start. You’ll descend a heavily forested path on the way to the grotto, giving you a sense of the island’s remarkable nature.
Arrange a tour of the House of Vanilla while you’re on your Loyalty Island cruise. A guided tour of the factory will show you how the vanilla is produced and how it became something Lifou is renowned for. Lifou’s climate turned out to be perfect for producing natural vanilla, and today there’s even a festival in mid-October honoring the growth of vanilla farming in the area.
Fetra Sun Tribu de Luecila,
Address: 98820, New Caledonia
Sit on the terrace for waterfront views on the eastern side of Lifou. Fetra Sun rotates its menu weekly, keeping things fresh and exciting. Think yellow tuna carpaccio, molasses pork with shrimp and rice, duck confit, and more. Coffee and dessert are a must, like the delicious apple tart with salted caramel butter.
Gite FenepazaMucaweng, New Caledonia
Address: Mucaweng, New Caledonia
This spot is truly casual, where the cooks grill meats like chicken and fish or vegetables right in front of you. Try the coconut crab or garlic shrimp. It’s less than a 10-minute drive from the town of Easo to the restaurant. Most of the seating is outdoors, so be prepared if you’re there on a hot day.
La kaz A Jo, New Caledonia
Address: 37J9+7X We, New Caledonia
French and Caribbean dishes rule the menu at this tiny snack shack. They keep it simple, serving items like quiche and salads as well as sandwiches with chips. They close shop at 2 p.m., so don’t come too late for lunch.
The Kanaks comprise the native population of the Lifou area. Later, it became home to the Melanesians. European contact with the island didn’t come along until much later, when James Cook, a British explorer, came and named the area “New Caledonia” in 1774. The French claimed the area less than one hundred years later in 1854, where it then served as a penal colony. Lifou acted as an Allied base for American troops in World War II, and New Caledonia was declared a French overseas colony in 1946.
Vanilla was introduced to the area by English missionaries in the mid-19th century, but the crop didn’t take off until the late 20th century. When cruises from Australia began to make stops in the port city of Easo, the area became renowned for its snorkeling and clear turquoise waters. Today, the Melanesians work hard to preserve their culture in Lifou through festivals, cuisine, and educating tourists on the island’s history.
Cruise ships will anchor in Santal Bay near a town called Easo, as there is no formal, established cruise port in Lifou. Passengers will then be tendered into Easo, where they can go on to explore the open air market for crafts and souvenirs as well as local produce and handmade goods, or head to Easo Beach to immediately break out their beach towels and relax under the palm trees.
Transportation options are limited in this remote area. Taxis and car rentals are available, but you may want to book a taxi in advance of arriving. Renting bicycles is popular with active visitors who want to tour the island on two wheels.
Shopping is fairly minimal near the area where ships anchor in Easo on the island of Lifou. Vendors at the open air market will sell you fresh coconuts to drink from, and it’s also a prime spot for scouting out potential souvenirs and handmade goods like straw bags and clothing. It’s a modest market, but the wares are colorful and distinct.
The CFP franc is the recognized official currency. When you’re on a cruise to Lifou, Loyalty Island, note that credit cards as well as Australian and US dollars are commonly used, though Australian currency is more likely to be accepted of the two. Tipping isn’t part of the culture in New Caledonia, but tipping your tour guide is really polite, particularly if they provided great service to you while on the tour.