Packing may be the less fun part of going on holiday. Some may even find it stressful. It’s true that having the right items for a trip makes life easier. New Caledonia has developed infrastructures and many shops where you can find all you need (not for cheap, though). But what kind of clothes to pack to visit New Caledonia? What about these items that will make your adventure more comfortable and easy? Learn from my travel experience and pack everything you’ll need in New Caledonia with this list!
Luggage allowance when travelling in New Caledonia
Luggage allowance for domestic flights can be as low as 12kg. It’s good to force you to pack light. The best way to visit New Caledonia is to hop from one island to another and the more luggage you have, the more complex it is. That’s why having a new Caledonia packing list is very helpful.
You could also ask your hotel in Noumea if they would agree to keep your luggage for a few days while you visit another island. Some have a storage room just for this. However, as there are many things to do in New Caledonia, it’s better to keep your equipment with you.
I recommend considering the weight of your bag when it is empty to choose the best bag to travel to New Caledonia.
But if you’re worried about the luggage allowance for New Caledonia domestic fights, stop worrying.
It was straightforward to add extra kilograms at the airport as long as the luggage didn’t exceed 23kg. For Air Caledonie, we paid 250 XPF per extra kilogram – and it is even cheaper if you anticipate and buy an excess baggage allowance online. And it was 300 CPF per kilogram with Air Loyaute.
Responsible travel tip: Packing light is one of the ways to reduce a little bit our carbon footprint while travelling. Tourism carbon footprint is huge. It is estimated at “about 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions“. And the more weight planes are carrying, the more fuel they use.
The climate of New Caledonia
From December to March, it’s a hot and humid summer. It can rain a lot, and they even have cyclones in New Caledonia. Temperatures average 26°C and can go up to 35°C.
From June to September, it’s winter. Temperatures are generally between 15°C and 25°C but can get colder at night in some places. Although it’s a lot drier than in summer, there are still risks of rain. Water temperatures don’t drop too much, averaging nearly 23°C.
New Caledonia packing list: things to pack for the best holidays
1. A French translator
People in New Caledonia speak French and the local language of their region or island. They learn English at school, but most of the people who don’t work in tourism only speak very little English. If you don’t speak French, you will have better chances of interacting with the locals if you bring a translator to help. You may prefer to rely on your 4G connection, but it won’t work everywhere.
I loved our exchanges with the tribes when we visited the Loyalty Islands (Lifou, Ouvea and Mare). It was interesting to learn about such a fascinating culture while visiting stunning places. That’s why I’m putting this tip first.
Beach clothes and accessories
I’m sure you guessed you’ll need beach clothes when you book your holidays to idyllic islands in the South Pacific. But don’t skip this part just yet: I have added some useful extra tips!
2. Polarised sunglasses
Take polarized sunglasses with UV protection. The contrasts in the water will be even more impressive. Plus, you will be able to see animals better through the water as the polarized glasses remove glare. My sunglasses look like that* and I love seeing life through them!
3. Versatile hat
The sun is very strong in New Caledonia so you have to travel with a hat that you can use in different activities. You will need to protect your head from the sun when you are on the beach but also while snorkelling and on a boat. Look for these features:
- Secure fit and/or retainer cord
- Packable (easy to fold)
- Material that can get wet and rinsed
You can opt for a basic cap or a fishing hat, but you don’t have to! There are also fancy and beautiful options for women*.
4. Light towels
Towels are heaving and it could be tempting to only bring one, but you will need two: one for the beach and one to shower. I recommend choosing a microfiber towel* as it is light and dries quickly. Wet items are heavier and can get smelly.
If you’re staying at a guesthouse in a tribe, towels are rarely included with the accommodation. However, if you plan to stay at hotels or resorts, you’ll have towels included, and this is not relevant – but make sure you confirm this with them before to avoid bad surprises!
5. Snorkel gear
New Caledonia has some of the most beautiful lagoons in the world, so it would be very frustrating not to be able to enjoy them. I would not consider travelling there without my snorkel and mask, so put these ones on your New Caledonia packing list! Not sure how to choose your snorkelling gear? Check out this article full of tips!
Fins are too bulky to make it to my packing list. Most of the time, the snorkelling spots were shallow without current and fins weren’t necessary for good swimmers. They’re part of the safety gear so if you are not a confident swimmer or not willing to cancel a snorkelling session if there is current, you should consider bringing fins. Mouli, on Ouvea Island, was the only place where we couldn’t snorkel without fins, but we were able to rent them at the nearby resort. There are small fins that aren’t too bulky and would fit in a suitcase.
6. Underwater Camera
The islands of New Caledonia look like paradise, and the underwater world is as beautiful. I recommend learning a few tips about underwater photography before going there.
I have used three types of underwater cameras that I am happy to recommend:
- The Nikon W300*. My favourite one. It is suitable for most situations I encounter when I travel, including scuba diving up to 30 metres. I love the quality of the macro shots I take with it.
- The Olympus TG-5*. I find it is the most versatile one as you can change the lens* and equip it with many accessories. However, you cannot go deeper than 15 metres, making it only suitable for snorkelling and shallow dives.
- The GoPro Session*. I am almost never satisfied by the photos I take with the GoPro compared to the Nikon or the Olympus. Even if the newer GoPros are better for photography; I’m not a big fan of the wide lens. However, I find it’s an excellent camera for filming, especially if you use it on a stick to get closer to the animals without scaring them away. It’s also straightforward to use so entirely adapted to beginners. The editing software allows the creation of stunning videos very quickly. Be careful; it’s only suitable for snorkelling (10 metres max). Other GoPros can go deeper with a case.
7. Reef shoes
New Caledonia has picture-perfect beaches with never-ending white sand. But sometimes, you will have to walk on rocks or shells to reach the water, and you will be glad to have reef shoes to protect your feet. I recommend choosing shoes that dry quickly and with holes in the sole*. It is also more convenient and economic if they are versatile so you are comfortable wearing them for a few activities and not only when you’re in the water.
Check out this model* for example.
8. UV fleece rash top
I doubt you’ll forget your swimming suit to go to New Caledonia, but have you thought of bringing sun protection that won’t harm the coral?
That’s my first reason to love having a UV fleece rash top like this one*.
If you’re unlucky and snorkel when the jellyfish are here, you’ll also be super happy to be protected. I also particularly like a rash top with fleece as it protects from the cold too. New Caledonia waters are lovely and warm all year round (around 22°C in winter in Noumea). I hate when I have to end a snorkelling session because I’m cold. And we lose heat a lot faster in the water than outside, especially when we are making efforts. So the top with fleece guarantees that I can stay for longer!
9. Reef-safe sunscreen
Talking about sun protection, you don’t want to visit New Caledonia without putting sunscreen on regularly. You can buy sunscreen over there, but I could not find one that has no chemicals that wouldn’t harm corals. So I brought in my suitcase a reef-safe sunscreen from Australia. If you want to learn more about sunscreens, check out Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Safer Sunscreens.
And if you don’t want to look at the labels while still putting sunscreen on, zinc is your go-to option.
10. Water bottle
With the heat and the possible humidity, you will need to drink water regularly all day. Tap water is safe to drink in New Caledonia, so bring your water bottle to fill it up. You will save money and avoid single-use plastic.
If you don’t have a water bottle yet, check out this one*. It has all the important features you want:
- stainless steel (more durable than plastic and no taste),
- standard mouth (so it’s convenient to drink from),
- insulated (so it stays at a good temperature)
11. Dry bags
Not only are dry bags* compact and light, but they are also perfect to protect your precious items from the sand and the water. They are also a great temporary solution to carry wet clothes without getting the rest of your luggage wet.
Clothes and equipment for the evening and night
You will not need this one if you stay in hotels, but a headlamp* can really help if you are staying with a tribe. It may be a short walk to go from the hut to the toilets at night! I love the idea of a solar panel headlamp*, but I don’t know how well it works.
13. Insect repellent
Mosquitoes loved me in New Caledonia. I kept wearing long pants and tops but it didn’t stop them. Unfortunately, they are to be avoided. Not only are they annoying but they also may carry viruses like dengue.
So insect repellent can be the solution. Deet is reputed to be the most effective, but I doubt it is good for the environment. Hence, I recommend using a deet-free product.
And if like me you have sensitive skin, you may prefer products that will keep the mosquitoes away while keeping their distance from you too. Sometimes, we were given coils to burn in our room. But not always, so it’s a good idea to bring something to be safe. Check out this organic insect repellent*.
I doubt you’ll forget to put your toothbrush on your New Caledonia packing list. But what about your shampoo, conditioner, and soap?
Although they will provide toiletries at the hotels and resorts, I still advise you to bring your own. They are often distributed in single-use small plastic bottles which has an enormous impact on the amount of waste you generate.
It is easy nowadays to find silicone travel containers like these* in which you can add the products you use at home. They are supposed to be leakproof. As I am also trying to reduce the amount of plastic I use at home, I opted for bars for shampoos, conditioner, and soap. I buy mine at Lush and they look exactly like this shampoo* but I don’t know if it’s the same product. Ethique is another brand that I heard good things about for shampoo bars* and conditioner bars*. I love how there is no risk of leaking at all with the bars, and I also find I use fewer products. I carry them in a metal box similar to this* (always double-check the size!) that I can clean and reuse.
It’s rare, but sometimes linen isn’t complimentary when you stay with a tribe.
Travel sheets are perfect in that situation to avoid paying extra, and they use no space in the luggage. It is also a plan b option if you end up in a place where you question the cleanliness (which didn’t happen to us in New Caledonia, but elsewhere when travelling). Choose one with a pillow pocket, so you don’t need to carry a pillowcase. Make sure it’s breathable and not too warm (some are made with a temperature regulating material). Check out this one for example*.
Once the sun disappears, it gets colder! No matter the season, you won’t need warm clothes in New Caledonia, but it’s a good idea to bring a comfortable jumper.
17. Card game
After a day exploring the stunning island, you’ll probably feel tired straight after dinner. But in case you’re not, a card game is good entertainment. I highly recommend bringing one as there is not much happening at night on the islands of New Caledonia, and if you’re unlucky with the weather, you may be required to stay inside. To be honest, we never used our card game, but it doesn’t hurt to carry one.
– Hiking clothes and accessories –
New Caledonia is a lot about beautiful beaches and reefs. But the few hikes we did were adventurous and fantastic, so I highly recommend bringing sports gear and exploring the islands on foot too.
18. A pair of sports shoes
We spent most of our time in New Caledonia wearing tongues or being barefoot. But there are a few activities we couldn’t have done without a pair of sports shoes, like hiking Mont Nga on the Isle of Pines or the Shabadran hike on Mare. Hiking boots are not necessary and are bulky so if you choose to bring them, you may need to wear them on the plane.
19. A small backpack
Foldable backpacks are light and perfect to have an extra bag once you arrive at your destination. It makes packing a lot easier as you avoid emptying your luggage when you need a bag. For hiking, it’s ideal to get a water-resistant one made of durable fabric, so it doesn’t tear apart when you touch a bush. I also appreciate having multiple compartments to find things more easily and having a pouch for my water bottle on the side is even better. Large shoulder straps make a big difference in comfort. Check out this one for example*.
20. First Aid Kit
It feels safe to travel to a country with good infrastructure and equipment like New Caledonia. There are three hospitals on the main island. But as you explore natural and remote places, it’s not the same. Pharmacies do exist on the smaller islands, but their offer is limited. They have at least one doctor there, so no reason to worry about this.
Still, a good first aid kit can make a difference for small issues. Locals always have a practical solution to help with your problem (our guide tore his shirt with its machete to create a colourful bandage), but you might find it slightly too “back to basics” to your tastes.
In case something more serious happens, I recommend purchasing travel insurance (click to read about the one we chose) as costs can quickly add up for the medical fees and the flight transfers to get treatment.
21. Rain and windproof jacket
You may leave your rain jacket in your bag if you’re lucky. But it’s an item I would not travel without, even if I am out of the wet season. They can get rain and wind in New Caledonia! It can also be very useful if you plan a boat trip.
22. Pieces of Fabric
Have you heard about the Coutume? Like in many cultures, it is a tradition to bring something to your hosts. You can buy pieces of fabric while shopping in Noumea. They locally call them manou and use them a lot on the islands for many different purposes. If you didn’t have time to buy them in Noumea, there are a few available in the small shops on the other islands.
If you are doing the hike with a tour guide and it’s advertised to tourists with a fee, you don’t have to do the coutume. But it may feel appropriate sometimes, and it’s good to have the option to do it as it will create a different relationship with the tribe you are visiting.
– Electronics –
We took thousands of photos during our trip. Seriously, everywhere looked fantastic. We had enough memory cards in stock (we learnt our lessons before), but having enough batteries could be your primary challenge. Our solutions:
23. Adaptor and multiple sockets
Most places had electricity, and it wasn’t an issue to charge our electronic gadgets. However, the plugs are the same as in France, so we needed adaptors*. The multiple sockets were super useful as we have several cameras and phones to charge every day.
If you plan to go off the beaten track and stay in a remote area as we did in Lifou, you will not have electricity. A powerbank* can be very useful to charge your cameras if you are an underwater addict like us shooting every fish of New Caledonia lagoons. If you have the budget, I recommend upgrading to a durable one with a solar panel* that can be used in even more situations.
25. Car charger
I always bring a car charger* when we plan to rent a vehicle. Road trips are excellent to discover a country. But as we often use the GPS when driving abroad, we quickly use up my phone battery.
– Scuba diving gear –
We hire most gear when we go scuba diving in New Caledonia. Equipment was always well maintained and often very recent. We always bring our masks and our fins, if we plan multiple dives. I’ve had bad experiences with hiring fins on the Great Barrier Reef (huge blisters) so now I prefer to bring mine, even if they’re bulky.
I highly recommend bringing your dive computer. You may be surprised to see that they sometimes do not offer a dive computer in their list of equipment for hire. I really prefer to dive with a computer. It’s safer and you don’t have to follow closely your guide to have the same profile.
– Bonus to save money –
Cutlery, food, and containers
I always carry a set of cutlery (and often a retractable plate). It makes life a lot easier if I buy food at the market or the supermarket. It opens a broader range of products that I can eat, and I can avoid going to the restaurant. Restaurants in New Caledonia are generally tasty but quite expensive, and that’s one of the budgets that you can control.
Responsible travel tips: Carrying your reusable cutlery helps reduce waste when you travel.
I always carry “emergency snacks” and the option to make a picnic lunch. Shops are easy to find in Noumea, but it becomes more challenging when you leave the capital. I would hate not to be able to do an activity because I haven’t planned my lunch. And as nothing is done in a hurry in New Caledonia, having lunch at the restaurant also means taking an extended lunch break. It is super nice to take our time, but sometimes there are other things we want to do. Containers will open more options for you to keep with food if you get access to a kitchen or order too much at the restaurant.
I also brought breakfast with me. Finding a broad range of biscuits in Noumea was easy. However, the offer was restricted elsewhere. I found breakfasts were expensive for nothing special (plus, I could not eat most of the things because of food intolerance), so bringing biscuits was an easy way to save money.