Picking a favourite island in New Caledonia is always a huge challenge. With its stunning pure white beaches that look like something from a picture-perfect postcard – it even has the nickname the closest island to Paradise – Ouvea is always a strong contender. But it’s not as touristy as the Isle of Pines, so many visitors overlook it. I visited Ouvea three times, and planning our second and third trips was way easier than the first. I hope my suggestions on where to stay and what to do in Ouvea help you in preparing for your own adventure.

Mouli - Ouvea - New Caledonia

The challenges we faced on our first trip

If I had to write an article just about our first visit to Ouvea, I might have titled it “When Things Don’t Go as Planned in Ouvea.” We travelled to Ouvea during the festive season (New Year), and locals were busy celebrating and not that focused on tourism activities.

Booking a place to stay (the ones we wanted were all full), arranging transportation (we had a tough time booking a car that turned out to be too small for our group), struggling to contact tour guides, and facing tour cancellations… Every step of our first trip to Ouvea was a bit of a headache. But once we arrived, our perspective on Ouvea changed quickly. It’s easy to forget the mishaps when you’re in such a paradise.

Once you’re there, it feels like the worst thing that can happen when visiting Ouvea is spending the day on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Who wouldn’t be up for that?

I’m happy we managed to go back a few times; it’s always a pleasure. Our experiences have helped us plan perfect trips, so I hope they can do the same for you!

Tips to visit Ouvea

ouvea - mouli - baie 02

Do you need to rent a car in Ouvea?

Ouvea is a small island, and it only takes about an hour to drive from the northern end to the southern tip. However, transportation options on the island are very limited. Depending on where you plan to stay and the activities you want to do, you might consider renting a car or a scooter. Based on our experience, it’s a good idea to book your transportation well in advance.

We had no trouble reaching the rental agency (Lok Ouvea – [email protected]) to book a car before our arrival in Ouvea. However, keep your expectations low with the quality of the vehicle. You may be tempted to hire a scooter. We tried during our first visit, and every time we called, we were told it would be ready in a few hours or the next day. In the end, we never received the scooter.

If you don’t want to bother with a vehicle rental, I recommend staying near Mouli. It is a stunning location, and with the nearby resort*, you will have access to most of the tourist activities. Make sure you book a transfer from the airport with your accommodation as there won’t be any taxis waiting when you get there.

Join guided tours

It’s essential to go on a guided tour to explore the most beautiful spots in Ouvea. Even if you don’t speak French, you will still appreciate the remarkable places your guide will take you to. Typically, you’ll need to contact the guide directly to arrange your tour, so it’s more convenient to request your accommodation to make the booking on your behalf.

Bring your snorkelling gear

If you like exploring the underwater world, Ouvea offers a few opportunities for snorkelling. It’s also a great backup plan in case your tour gets cancelled. However, remember to bring your own snorkelling gear. If you don’t have gear, consider asking the Paradis d’Ouvea resort* if they can lend you a snorkelling set; you might just get lucky!

Choose your accommodation carefully

You’ll find a variety of accommodation options on the island to suit different budgets and preferences. They offer different experiences, so it’s important to choose wisely. I’ve included some accommodation tips later in this article.

The weather

new caledonia - ouvea - rain and sunset

You can explore Ouvea at any time of the year, but it’s generally better to avoid the cyclone season from January to March. Based on our experiences, we observed that the weather can vary significantly between the north and south of the island. So, if the weather isn’t ideal where you are, you could consider driving to another part of the island in the hopes of finding some sunshine!

You may be interested in: New Caledonia: 20 tips for an easier (and cheaper) trip 

Learn about the history of the island

The north of Ouvea is known in history for sad events during the 1988 French election. It’s a topic that remains a painful subject for locals so you’d better not discuss it. However, before you visit, I recommend watching the movie Rebellion, and if you understand French, Kanak l’Histoire Oubliee is also quite interesting. Some people argue that these movies may be biased, but they are still rooted in actual events, and I think they provide valuable insights into the feelings of the Kanak people.

Food and drinks

You’ll find local restaurants, called “snacks,” at different spots across the island. It’s better to book a table, especially during peak times.

I highly recommend stopping for lunch to try the local flavours. We had great meals at O’Kafika, offering stunning lagoon views, and Snack Fassy, a low-key but tasty option, especially convenient when you have an afternoon tour in the south of Ouvea. Don’t miss the chance to try crabs; the coconut crab and mud crab are very different and delicious in their own ways. Most accommodations offer dinner. If you get the chance, order a bougnat, a famous local dish.

If you’re on a budget and can’t dine out every day, you’ll find a few small supermarkets on Ouvea, although they can be a bit pricey compared to the main island. They’re still good for getting ingredients for sandwiches or simple lunches. I also like to stock up on biscuits since breakfasts at accommodations can sometimes be disappointing. The Fayaoué market is another excellent option for buying local fruits and snacks.

Buying alcohol can be a bit tricky on the island. The best way to have a drink is to go to a resort or restaurant. If you want to buy some drinks, you can only do it at certain shops in the morning. I suggest asking your host or hotel staff for the most up-to-date information.

Our favourite places and tours on Ouvea

The shark nursery

Antoine guided us on a beach stroll to the river’s mouth, where young sharks stay until they grow big enough to venture into the open sea. The crystal-clear waters offer a fantastic view of these baby sharks as they swim around. If you can speak French, you’ll have the opportunity to discover more about these sharks and the reasons they’ve selected this location for reproduction.

Lekini cliffs

You’ll need a guide to explore the preserved limestone cliffs, visible from Mouli Bridge on the opposite side of the river. Walking with wet shoes on the rocks is not always easy, but the incredible views make it well worth the effort. As you admire the impressive rock formations, you’ll learn more about the region’s geological history. At the end of the cliffs, you’ll get the chance to go snorkelling. While there may be more spectacular snorkelling spots in New Caledonia, this experience is still a lot of fun, and drifting with the gentle current adds an extra sense of excitement to it.

Mouli Bridge

The Mouli Bridge is a must-see spot on Ouvea, one of those picture-perfect places. This beautiful bridge links the main island to the smaller Mouli island and offers stunning views.

On one side, you have the Lekini cliffs surrounding a calm and clear bay. On the other side, there’s the expansive lagoon. In the middle, the channel is teeming with life. From the bridge, we spotted turtles, rays, and various types of fish making their way from the bay to the lagoon.

The underwater visibility was the worst we’ve seen in New Caledonia, but it’s still great fun to search for the big sea creatures. I highly recommend wearing fins for added comfort and safety in the tidal current. Remember, it’s not allowed to enter the bay toward the Lekini cliffs, as this area is protected.

Trou aux tortues (turtle hole)

You can spot turtles in various locations on Ouvea. We saw a few near Mouli Bridge and at the beach by Hotel Le Beaupre*. However, one of the best-known places to see turtles is the Trou Aux Tortues. It can be a bit tricky to locate using a tourist map, as there are no signs, so it’s a good idea to use Google Maps with offline maps downloaded.

You might have to wait a few minutes before you spot your first turtle, but the place itself is quite lovely, making the wait enjoyable. During our visits, we saw turtles every time.

Cruise to the South “Pleiades”

The South “Pleiades” are a cluster of small islands known for offering some of the best snorkelling experiences on Ouvea. We arranged a tour with Pierre (contact: [email protected]), and it was an absolutely fantastic time.

Pierre took us to one of the islands for a delightful lunch and snorkelling adventure. We saw a group of six cuttlefish and a pair of majestic eagle rays coming close to us, which was truly magical.

Manta rays can be seen in Ouvea throughout the year, but when we visited during their mating season, our guide didn’t take us to see them to avoid disturbing them. It was nice to see that they prioritised the well-being of the animals over tourism. We also got to see sharks from the safety of our boat, which was quite thrilling!

North “Pleiades” cruise

Our trip to the North “Pleaides” was quite different to the South. We took a smaller, less touristy fishing boat. While the scenery was not as breathtaking, we enjoyed the sense of seclusion as we savoured our freshly caught meal on the beach.

Snorkelling La Derivante

Make sure you give Madame Koma a call to book for lunch before visiting her restaurant, Le Soleil Levant. Once you’re there, you’ll find a small path that leads to the beginning of a lovely snorkelling area known as “La Derivante,” which means “the drift” in French. The current will carry you to the next beach without any effort on your part – you just need to keep your eyes open and enjoy the ride. The coral in front of the beach is also quite remarkable. Don’t forget to bring your fins for safety. Then, it’s a 500-metre walk back to the restaurant.

Accommodations in Ouvea

During peak season, book your accommodation in advance to choose the one that suits you the most. It’s also worth noting that hotels in New Caledonia can be relatively pricier compared to other destinations, offering comparatively fewer amenities and services. So adjust your expectations to fully enjoy your stay!

Paradis d’Ouvea* – the best option for international tourists

Restaurant room with tables and the beach in the background at Paradis d'Ouvea resort in New Caledonia

If you’re looking for a luxurious stay on Ouvea Island, the Paradis d’Ouvea* is the perfect choice. Their rooms with sea views are hard to beat; you’ll be right on the beach. You can also enjoy the views from their restaurant or relax on the lounge beds with delicious cocktails. However, keep in mind that this is one of the most expensive accommodations on the island, so it may not be suitable for budget travellers. The location is ideal as you’ll be very close to Mouli Bridge and the beautiful Lekini Cliffs.

Hotel Le Beaupre*

Still not really for budget travellers, but Hotel Le Beaupre* is another fancy place to stay on Ouvea Island. You won’t get a room with an ocean view, but you’ll only have to cross the road to be on a stunning beach where we saw more turtles than people. The restaurant has a good reputation, and they were friendly when we stopped by for drinks. Its location in the middle of the island makes it convenient for those with a car, as you can easily reach both the northern and southern parts.

Our more authentic stay in Gossanah in the North of Ouvea Island

For a more authentic experience on Ouvea Island, we recommend staying in Gossanah in the north of the island. We stayed a few times at Beauvoisin, in a traditional hut with real beds. Marc and his family are always very welcoming and helpful, and they also do an excellent job of keeping the place beautiful and tidy. Their bougnat (a traditional meal) is delicious, and we also loved spending time with Marc’s father learning more about his plants and vanilla plantation.

Our stay at Beauvoisin is always so much more authentic and interesting than staying at a hotel. However, comfort is more basic, and your interactions with locals will be very limited if you don’t speak French. You can email [email protected] to book your stay. Also, it’s worth noting that Gossanah is quite remote and it will take you about one hour to go to the south of the island.

Our experience at Les Cocotiers

During our first trip to Ouvea, we stayed at Les Cocotiers due to the limited availability of budget accommodations on the island. While the online reviews were mostly negative, our experience was fine despite not feeling warmly welcomed. However, we wouldn’t recommend booking Les Cocotiers if other options are available, due to the number of people who describe terrible experiences. We might just have been lucky.

The best thing about Les Cocotiers was the magnificent beach just across the road. We watched incredible sunsets every evening. Also, being able to share a “fare” for our whole family of six adults (also called “case“, it is a traditional house with mattresses on the floor) made the stay very cheap.

The restaurant at Le Cocotier was very basic. We much preferred the Snack Fassy and of course the restaurant at the Paradis d’Ouvea* resort.

Have you been to Ouvea? Share your experience in the comments below!

Where is Ouvea Island?

 Ouvea is the most northern island of the Iles Loyautes, located 190 km to the east of New Caledonia’s mainland. You can go to Ouvea by plane from Noumea with Air Loyaute for a scenic flight.

Although it is a French island, New Caledonia is close to Australia and New Zealand in the South Pacific.


Eloise is the creator and writer of MyFavouriteEscapes.com. She writes about her experiences exploring exotic destinations and finding hidden gems closer to home. Her goal is to share tips and stories to inspire and encourage others to go on their own adventures. She loves outdoor and nature-based activities like scuba diving, hiking, kayaking, and sailing. She grew up in France and has lived in England and Turkey before calling Australia home for the past decade. So let's get ready for another adventure!

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