Air Calédonie, the domestic commuter airline, uses Magenta Airport (GEA) near Nouméa. Several times a day their 46-passenger ATR 42s and 68-passenger ATR 72s fly to the Loyalty Islands (Maré, Lifou, and Ouvéa). An interisland link is offered between Lifou, Ouvéa), and Tiga. There are three or more flights a day to the Isle of Pines. Twice a week you can fly from Koumac to remote Belep off the northwest coast of Grande Terre.
Ask Air Calédonie about special package tickets that allow a visit to the Loyalty Islands from Nouméa for one price with accommodations and airport transfers included. Their Air Pass, only available to nonresidents allows any four flights for a fixed price. The pass is valid two months, and a special 20-kilogram baggage allowance is included. A fee is charged to make reservation changes.
Otherwise, the baggage allowance is 10 kilograms with overweight charges on anything above that. There's a penalty if you change or cancel a reservation less than 48 hours in advance. Reconfirm your return reservation immediately upon arrival at an outer island. It's usually easy to get a seat to the Loyalty Islands, but the flights to the Isle of Pines are often fully booked by Japanese day-trippers, so inquire well ahead. If you're told the plane is full, the ferry Betico is a good alternative.
The high-speed 360-passenger catamaran NGV Betico (pronounced be-ti-CHU) can zip you from Nouméa to the Isle of Pines or the Loyalties in under five hours and costs significantly less than the plane. It's run by the Armement Loyaltien Sarl (weekdays 0730-1730, Sat. 0600-1000), based at the Gare Maritime des Îles on the Quai des Voluntaires, 1 avenue James Cook, Nouméa. This sleek catamaran cruises at 35 knots, reaching the Isle of Pines in 2.5 hours, Maré in 3.5 hours, and Lifou in 4.5 hours. During holiday periods the ferry is fully booked, and advance reservations are recommended at all times.
All departures from Nouméa are at 0700 (the ticket window closes at 0615). The ferry leaves from downtown Nouméa and also avoids costly airport transfers on the islands. The wharves on Maré and Lifou especially are much more convenient places to arrive than the airports on those islands. Betico costs about half what Air Calédonie charges on the same routes, while allowing 20 kilos of luggage rather than the usual 10 kilos. Bicycles are carried for a small fee. Passengers on ferries to the Loyalties are almost all Kanak—the French usually fly. It's a relaxing trip with comfortable airline-style seating.
Buses link most Grande Terre towns at least once a day, and the fares are reasonable (turn to the Nouméa section of this website for information). All around the island beware of buses leaving 15 minutes early! The buses will accept bicycles as checked luggage. Hitchhiking is a snap (when there's traffic) and you'll have some very interesting conversations, if you speak French. Payment is never expected. It's always easier to hitch toward Nouméa than in any other direction. Renting a car is the easiest way to go, and it allows you to save money by car camping and eating picnic fare.
Several yacht and catamaran charter companies based on Baie de la Moselle, Nouméa, offer bareboat or skippered charters. The usual trip is to sail to the Isle of Pines and back in five to seven days. Many private crewed charter boats also work out of Nouméa and the actual fleet changes all the time as boats come and go. The optimum sailing months are April to November.
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