Official Name:French overseas territory
Population: Area 18,575 sq km (7,172 sq miles)
Area: Major languagesÂ French (official), Melanesian and Polynesian dialects
Major Languages: Major religionsÂ Christianity, indigenous beliefs
Major Religions: Life expectancyÂ 74 years (men), 80 years (women)
Life expectancy: CurrencyÂ Pacific franc
Currency: New Caledo
Hard to narrow down just 1, but perhaps la crÃ¨me de la crÃ¨me is MarÃ© Island. Along the southern bay, Wabao ticks all the boxes: an extended streak of snow-white sands with calm, shallow, and baby-blue waters overflowing with colorful fish seemingly within touching distance of the shore. Most beaches around MarÃ© are only accessible on foot, ensuring they remain remarkably undeveloped, and often completely deserted. One of the more accessible is Ekure, at the end of an easy hiking trail; more remote and Crusoe-esque is the beach at Buhnetine. As well as clusters of thatched bungalows, local tourist authorities promote the chance to stay at a €˜tribal homestay€™.
Despite boasting the world€™s biggest lagoon and second-largest reef (which more-or-less surrounds New Caledonia), diving is not as developed or popular as Fiji or Vanuatu. This is probably because there is so much more to do across the entire territory. Part of the Loyalty Islands, OuvÃ©a vies with MarÃ© as the perfect beach destination, but is also fantastic for underwater exploration. The lagoon is exquisite, dotted with islets, and backed by coral cliffs. Diving is easy to arrange among caves and reefs, but there€™s also plenty to see with just a snorkel and mask. What€™s more, a bit of time and effort will reward hikers/snorkelers with freshwater pools teeming with turtles.
An extraordinary array of activities is available within a short bus ride (or even daytrip) from the capital. Not cheap compared to Fiji or Tonga, they are nonetheless, well-developed and safe €“ as much for locals (especially French expats) as tourists. These include hiking among rainforests sprinkled with waterfalls along well-defined trails that can also be traversed by mountain-bike; kayaking among eerie forests of dead trees; exploring national parks brimming with rare and endemic birds; and whale-watching (July to September) along the southeast coast.
Yachties don€™t need to berth anywhere remote or potentially unsafe because Noumea is encircled by marinas heaving with boats of all types, mostly owned by affluent locals. The most convenient is at Baie de la Moselle, which is deep, calm, secure, and within strolling distance of numerous facilities. Easy trips by boat from Noumea include the idyllic ÃŽle des Pins island about 3 hours away, and gorgeous islets such as ÃŽle aux Canards and ÃŽlot MaÃ®tre are within just a few minutes of the marina. And while sipping lattes or swigging beers in the city€™s trendy cafÃ©s, fellow yachties happily share advice about sailing up the extended coasts of Grande Terre and across to the magical Loyalty Islands.
The best time to visit New Caledonia, however, depends on how you want to spend your time there. If you plan on an active holiday, the cooler months are ideal. Hikers tend to avoid the summer rains, as do whale watchers, divers, and snorkelers (visibility is best between April and November).