Lifou is the largest island in the Loyalty Islands Province of New Caledonia. This South Pacific destination is the perfect spot for anyone who enjoys beaches and an off-the-grid feel. It’s also a unique cruise ship stop.
Known for its turquoise waters, its indigenous Kanak natives, and its plethora of rare wildlife, there’s no doubt New Caledonia is a wild place to visit. As a French territory, you can expect many of the locals to speak the language. Many signs are also in French. The Kanak’s language is Drehu, which is also sometimes spoken amongst the natives.
Being a port of call for cruisers and a forthcoming choice for adventure-seekers, I thought I’d put together a list of my favorite activities to do in Lifou. Don’t leave without experiencing these top 5 attractions!
1. Hike to the little Church of Notre Dame de Lourdes
One of the most prominent landmarks in Lifou is the seaside hilltop with a little church on it. The church was built by Catholic missionaries in 1858. It has an interesting history involving its roof and statue being blown into the sea by a cyclone, and sport divers finding the statue during a dive. They apparently lifted it off the ocean floor and hiked it back up to the church!
The walk to the church is mainly along a countryside road with very little shade. Bring sunscreen, a hat, and comfy shoes. An incredible view awaits you at the top! Look out over the turquoise waters and white sandy palm-tree-lined beach of Easo Bay. This is a great spot for cruisers to photograph their ship!
Descending from the church, you’ll also see a glimpse of Jinek Bay — a popular snorkel spot (listed next!).
2. Snorkel Jinek Bay
Jinek Bay is probably the best place to snorkel in Lifou. It has one of the world’s most diverse ranges of coral with over 2000 species of fish. However, it’s not for free. This area is regulated because it’s a marine protected reserve. The fee is only around $15 AUD, and you can also rent a mask and snorkel in town if you don’t have your own.
If you’re visiting via cruise ship, it’s best to buy your pass ahead of time (check your ship’s excursions), because only 100 people are allowed in at a time. But you could always try walking to the entrance early the day you’re visiting, to see about gaining access if you’re not a planner.
Sidenote : Make sure you’re wearing reef-safe sunscreen to protect the corals! Use my code AJAUNTWITHJOY for 15% OFF Badger Reef-Safe Sunscreen.
3. Swim in a Cave
Going the opposite way of the hilltop church and Jinek Bay is a cave you can swim in. It’s near a different church building and you’ll see a tent set up with some locals ready to take your $10 AUD admission fee (I only paid $5 after telling them I just wanted to take photos).
I was lucky enough to have gone at a time when nobody else was there. I wandered the little forest path to some rocks with a rope to help you descend them. You then stumble (literally — watch your footing here!) into a forest opening surrounded by tall cliff faces. There’s a giant tree in the center and birds flying above you and it feels like you just walked into Avatar. Continue on the path down into the cave where you’ll find a black hole of water that looks infinitely deep. The water is actually a jade turquoise color, and you can jump in and swim beyond it around the stalactites!
4. Visit a traditional hut
These traditional huts were (and some still are) made and used by the Kanak people, the original inhabitants of New Caledonia. If you’re curious to go inside and learn more about their way of life, find a hut with signs in the front yard that invite you in. Most will simply want a small donation in return.
If you’re not cruising and you’re planning on visiting overnight, you can do a homestay with a tribe and sleep in one of these huts! You’ll be welcomed by the Kanak community who will share stories and their lifestyle with you, and feed you a traditional meal. This lodging option gives you a unique insight into Melanesian culture. Just make sure you bring a small offering (a simple gift) when you’re invited into their homes. The very act of your offering shows that you respect them and the gesture could also mean becoming closer with them, discovering more about secret and local hidden gems.
More homestay info here (you can translate it to English at the top of your screen).
5. Tour a Vanilla Plantation
New Caledonia is quickly gaining global recognition for its vanilla quality. Several vanilla plantations in Lifou are open to the public for touring. There’s also a House of Vanilla where visitors can learn about the history and production of this yummy plant, and purchase vanilla pods. A 3-day Vanilla Festival has also been created and is held in mid-October.
Which activity would you most want to do?
Tell me in the comments!
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