Upi Bay, Isle of PinesUpi Bay, Isle of Pines
©Upi Bay, Isle of Pines|M. Dosdane

Upi Bay

Isle of Pines

The Isle of Pines is no slouch when it comes to magnificent bays (Kuto, Oro, Kanumera), but Upi Bay is undoubtedly the most spectacular! Often compared to Halong Bay in Vietnam, the bay of Upi is also punctuated by large coral boulders that seem to float as if by magic. The best way to observe them is to cruise its calm waters aboard an outrigger pirogue. Lulled by the lapping, turquoise and green waters, it’s common to spot rays, turtles and dolphins along the way. Come aboard and let the serenity emanating from this emblematic bay of New Caledonia wash over you!

Upi Bay lies to the north of the small island of Koutomo, and to the southeast of the Isle of Pines. Air Calédonie flies to the Isle of Pines daily from Nouméa-Magenta airport. Flying time is around 30 minutes. Betico boats also make the crossing once or twice a week, in 2h30. Once there, the best thing to do is to organize your pirogue excursion with your accommodation provider as they will advise you of details such as departure time directly. If this is not possible, you can contact the Isle of Pines tourist office to be put in touch with a piroguier. The departure point for the excursion is in the bay of Saint-Joseph, usually between 8 and 9 am.

  • Book your pirogue trip the day before with your accommodation or a transport company.
  • Take 200 XPF/pers to pay the entrance fee to the natural swimming pool.
  • On the big day, wear your swimsuit from the start. On arrival, your piroguier may stop quite far from the beach if the tide is too low. In this case, you’ll likely jump straight into the crystal clear waters to reach the sandy shore. Take care to keep your camera and other belongings out of the water!

1. Sailing between coral reefs

Clear water and coral rocks in Upi Bay, New Caledonia
Clear water and coral rocks in Upi Bay, New Caledonia
Clear water and coral rocks in Upi Bay, New Caledonia

If Upi Bay is often compared to Vietnam’s Halong Bay, it’s because of those coral rocks emerging from the bay’s transparent waters. But in constrast to Halong Bay, here, all is calm, with only a few boats sailing along the alizées, providing a sense of escape and appeasement.

2. Enjoy a traditional pirogue crossing

The best and only way to enjoy the magnificent Upi Bay is to cross it aboard an outrigger pirogue. Guided by a piroguier, the ride begins in Baie Saint-Joseph, then weaves into the bay. The spectacle is grandiose: big boulders seem to float on turquoise water, columnar pines surround the bay, and stingrays and turtles follow along just beneath the surface.

3. Enjoy a moment of peace and quiet

with the round-trip option

You may choose to visit Upi Bay on a return-trip by pirogue rather than hopping off at Oro Bay. In this case, chances are you’ll be alone on board for the return trip, with most visitors choosing to stop off at Oro Bay. You’ll then enjoy this bewitching place in perfect solitude and enjoy observing turtles, rays and other underwater sights exclusively.

Did you know?

The construction of pirogues is the result of a long tradition passed down from generation to generation. Once used for transporting wood and for fishing, the boats consist of a main hull hollowed out of a trunk, and a lightweight wooden outrigger. Saint-Joseph Bay is still home to a small construction site where these boats are made the old-fashioned way. They continue being built from araucarias for the hull and pandanus leaves for the sail as they always have!

4. Combine Upi Bay crossing and the natural swimming pool

After 1h30, the piroguier disembarks its passengers on a small beach, the gateway to the trail that leads to the Natural Pool of Baie d’Oro (accessible via a 40-minute walk). The return minibus picks up visitors at 3pm near the Le Méridien hotel to take them back to their accommodation.

5. Discuss ancestral know-how with the piroguier

Those who choose the return trip by pirogue often find themselves sailing one-on-one with the piroguier. It’s the perfect opportunity to strike up a conversation and discover the history of pirogue-making, its role in the local economy and how the elders pass on this iconic island craft.