Bucket list experiences in New Caledonia to check out in 2024

As the end of 2023 draws near, travellers are looking towards 2024 and compiling their dream destination bucket list. One spot that every Kiwi should consider is the French overseas territory of New Caledonia. As one of New Zealand’s closest South Pacific neighbours, this island paradise is just 3 hours from Auckland, making it the perfect destination for a once-in-a-lifetime holiday next year.


New Caledonia is predicted to be one of the hottest destinations for travellers in 2024. Whether it’s to swim in the tranquil bays, skydive over the world’s largest lagoon, get to know the local Kanak culture, relax by the palm trees or experience the best parts of French cuisine without the long flight, New Caledonia has got something for everyone to add to their 2024 bucket list!


Sail on an Outrigger Canoe 

One of the most exciting and unique experiences in New Caledonia is sailing around Upi Bay in a traditional dugout canoe. As you set sail over the pristine waters of the world’s largest UNESCO heritage-listed lagoon, make sure you take in the colossal rock formations and coral reef below. Along your journey, you might catch a glimpse of New Caledonia’s aquatic residents including turtles, rays and playful dolphins. To experience this unforgettable trip, make sure to stay at the Le Méridien Ile des Pins, with its beachfront access and upscale amenities or in the beach bungalows with a view of Kanumera Bay at the Oure Lodge.

Swim with Exotic Marine Life

With so many protected areas, New Caledonia is the ideal place for getting up close and personal with exotic marine life. The coral pinnacles of the reefs are home to thousands of multicoloured fish such as butterflyfish, triggerfish, parrotfish, and clownfish. New Caledonia’s lagoon is the perfect place to snorkel with gentle waters and plenty of snorkeller-friendly areas. The island of Ouvéa is one of the best locations for snorkelling with its picture-perfect landscape and soft sandy beaches. A great place to stay while in Ouvéa is the Hotel Paradis d’Ouvéa or one of the traditional tribal homestays.


For those wanting to explore the ocean’s depths, Lifou is a great diving spot where you can swim with elusive Manta Rays. Make Lifou your base camp and stay at the InterContinental Lifou Wadra Bay Resort (IHG). Set to welcome its first guests early 2024, the InterContinental Lifou is in a stunning and remote location, perfect for ultimate relaxation.


Indulge in Gourmet French Cuisine 

To experience a taste of France right on your doorstep, New Caledonia’s capital Nouméa is the place to be. Serving up delicious, authentic French cuisine, Nouméa is a must-visit for any foodie in 2024. For French classics with a New Caledonian twist head to Marmite et Tire Bouchon, which will tantalise your tastebuds with its fall-off-the-bone lamb shank and steak tartare. Nothing beats a perfectly paired wine and cheese tasting session at Chai de L’Hippodrome, featuring French items imported straight from Europe. For a truly unique experience, dine in an overwater restaurant at Le Roof, combining classic French flavours with stunning bay views! For an indulgent foodie experience, stay at the Chateau Royal Hotel with access to its wine cave and within walking distance of all of Nouméa’s best restaurants and cafés.


Fly Over the Heart of Voh

The best way to take in the exceptional beauty and diverse landscapes of New Caledonia is with an ultralight flight. The main island’s coral reefs, dense forests, and red-earth landscapes are stunningly beautiful when seen from above. Soar over some of New Caledonia’s most spectacular sites such as the Heart of Voh, a naturally formed heart shape within a mangrove forest. More adventurous travellers can go skydiving over Poé Beach in Bourail further up the West Coast giving you an adrenaline rush as you soar over the peaceful blue lagoon below. Once the parachute is deployed, you’ll get to spend many memorable minutes suspended in mid-air gliding over the ocean.

Hike Through Ancient Forests

New Caledonia’s natural environment is truly unique, offering an incredible array of biodiversity. The island’s dense forests are home to more than 3,000 native species, and hiking through these ancient forests is the best way to appreciate their beauty. From short walks for families to long-distance expeditions lasting several days, New Caledonia has a variety of hiking trails for every skill level. Visitors can also go horse riding or cycling to best discover New Caledonia’s untouched wilderness. Some of the best trails can be found in the Blue River Provincial Park, with the drowned forest and rich red earth making for a spectacular sight. Another great spot is Bourail with its grassy plains and blue lagoon views.

Immerse Yourself in Local Culture

The indigenous Kanak culture is unique to the islands of New Caledonia and there are many ways travellers can immerse themselves in the local traditions. One of the best ways to learn the customs of the Kanak people is through a tribal homestay. You can also learn all about their culture and coutume (social rules) first-hand and try the famous Bougna dish! It’s important as a visitor to show respect for the customary traditions. For example, if you would like to enter tribal lands or access places considered taboo, you should ‘faire la coutume’ (make the customary gesture) as a mark of respect. Upon greeting you can offer a small gift such as a small souvenir from your country, coffee, food or a 500 or 1,000 franc note.


When staying in the tribal village, you can weave with the women, visit a yam plantation and learn to carve wood like a Kanak artist. Another great way to immerse yourself in this culture is with a visit to the Tjibaou Cultural Centre in Nouméa where you can learn about the art, history and knowledge of the Kanak people.

Participate in a Local Event

Year-round, New Caledonia has a variety of local festivals and fun events that are not to be missed. From the agricultural Bourail Fair on the West Coast to the Loyalty Islands Fair that celebrates Kanak culture and the Bastille Day festival in Nouméa that pays homage to New Caledonia’s French ties, these festivals will give you a greater appreciation for the archipelago and its diverse culture. For sports lovers, New Caledonia also hosts several major sporting events that attract international athletes and locals alike such as the New Caledonia International Marathon in August or the Megarando cycling event in September.


For more information on these upcoming festivals and events, please visit:



For more information on the destination, please visit: https://www.newcaledonia.travel/nz

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