Ile des Pins Main

This is an Ile des Pins story: During the world windsurfing championships held in New Caledonia in 1999, board sailors suddenly stopped in the middle of the competition and dropped their sails to take in the sheer beauty of the Isle of Pines...Yes, another contender for the most-beautiful-island-on-the-planet title.

Capt. James Cook named it in 1774 for the tree-rich landscape, but it's the gloriously clear waters offshore, bordered by some of the most stunning beaches (Kuto and Kanumera are the best known) in the entire South Pacific, that enthrall travel-weary visitors. This is an island made for slow bicycle rides ... leisurely snorkeling ... long days on deserted, white-sand strands ... French picnic baskets ... watching a woodcarver at work in his home ... sailing a pirogue outrigger into Upi Bay to see the moon on the water....

Noumea, the cosmopolitan French-Pacific capital of New Caledonia, is only 30 miles away. But somehow on the Isle of Pines, where there are no resorts, no large hotels, and no nightlife, cosmopolitan charms may not seem all that important.