New Caledonia is just a tiny dot on the world map, yet in spite of its size, it boasts an impressive variety of beautiful landscapes, and in the Touho/ Hienghene region alone, you will find a whole lot of them: pristine beaches, crystal blue waters, lush forests, tropical flower bushes, black cliffs and great waterfalls, you name it, Touho and Hienghene have them all!
I recently had the opportunity to spend a weekend over there, and I can tell you it was not long enough since there were so many splendid places to see and cool activities to do! So here is a list of the things I got to see and do in Touho and Hienghene, which I higly recommend, plus a few tips to help you prepare your visit there! If you come to New Caledonia, you will not want to miss that Garden of Eden 😉
WHAT TO SEE AND DO:
- TAKE A DIP AT THE 500 BANKNOTE BEACH:
Picture white dazzling sand, a few waves lapping the shoreline, and a great black cliff looking like the background of a Game of Thrones scene, AND nobody else but you there: welcome to the 500 Banknote Beach, or (« Plage du Billet de 500 » in French), which, as its name indicates, used to appear on the old 500 pacific francs banknotes. Swimming or sunbathing there is a cool way to start the day (plus you can actually camp next to that beach), and from there, you can move on to some sportier activities if you’re keen.
- DISCOVER THE LINDERALIQUE CLIFFS:
From the 500 Banknote Beach, you can reach the start of a 1h30-hiking trail (just look at the signs at the entrance of the camping spot). The trail will lead you in the mountain to great vantage points over the Linderalique cliffs, which are great black limestone cliffs with sharp ridges. Don’t forget to bring some water and your camera to capture that unique view! And if you don’t feel like hiking, you can also admire the cliffs from up close by kayaking around them (you can rent the kayaks at the Khanbilou Camping site for 1000 FCFP/person). Seeing them from the bottom actually gives you a better sense of how massive and impressive they are!
- HIENGHENE BAY AND CHICKEN:
CLUUUUUCK! You cannot visit Hienghene without having your selfie taken with its famous emblem, the pretty Hienghene Chicken, also made out of black limestone. It stands proudly in the beautiful Hienghene Bay, and one of the best places to see it is from the Belvedere. From there, you can also catch sight of another huge rock shaped as a sphinx! Nature must have decided to have some fun carving animals in that bay, right?
- TAO WATERFALL:
After a day spent visiting, hiking and rowing, a little bit of freshness is more than welcome! If you’re looking for that, plus scenic views, head to Tao Waterfall! To get there, drive north of Hienghene village, then cross the « Bac de la Ouaieme« , which is actually a huge canal which cuts through the main road. You will have to take the free barge to cross it (it runs every 5 minutes). Then drive for about 10 minutes, and you will start seeing the waterfall on your left. Don’t miss the little sign which indicates the entrance, it is really small!There is an easy 40-minute hike to get from the main road to the waterfall.
The path to the waterfall is cleaned by people from Tao tribe, so you will have to pay a little entrance fee to get there (around 150 XPF per person), but please, be aware that some places around the path to the waterfall are « taboo », so be respectful of the place. Also, don’t go there on rainy days since the water level could rise really quickly and become dangerous, and finally, UNLIKE ME, leave the place before sunset! We took a little too long to pack our stuff after sunset, so we got caught off guard by the night, and had to walk back in the forest in complete darkness, which was quite foolish of us and very creepy! Fortunately, a very kind young man of Tao tribe came to our rescue and guided us on the way back. I swear to you, he could see in the dark… And I swear I almost sh**ted myself when we met him in the forest in pitch blackness!
- FOREST HIKE AND TIWAE NATURAL CORRIDOR WITH JEAN:
This was my favourite moment and place of the weekend! With your guide Jean, discover Tiwaé tribe, then go for a hike in the forest while Jean tells you what he knows about the plants that grow there and about local stories, and discover that place which is quite a unique sight in New Caledonia: a natural corridor carved in rock with a little waterfall at the end of it. It took me years to find that place, but I’m so glad I finally got to visit it! I also like the fact that Jean, our guide, is actually the person who discovered that spot when he was a kid.
(Contact: Jean, (+687) 42.70.26 or (+687) 90.37.20. Duration of the visit: 1h30 to 2 hours)
- SUNSET ON TOUHO BEACH:
Finish your day relaxing on Touho beach and enjoying one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world (and I mean it! Twice as beautiful as Santorini sunset, but without the annoying crowds!), and who knows, you might be lucky enough to enjoy cottoncandy skies like we did! 😉
WHERE TO STAY:
Mid range accomodation: Ka Waboana Lodge, located in the village, with a nice view on Hienghene bay and marina
Koulnoue Village Hotel: the hotel we went for, because it had such good deals on. The premises are located within a coconut grove right by a beautiful beach where you can catch the best sunrises, and they boast an outdoor pool, a bar, free continental breakfast, and free Wi-Fi. The bungalows are also very cute, and you can also stay in a traditional hut-shaped room if you wish.
Budget accomodation: « Plage du Billet de 500 » camping site if you want to stay by the beach
Khambilou camping site for a view on the Linderalique black cliffs (plus access to canoes)
Given the fact that New Caledonian domestic flights are ridiculously expensive, and that our bus network is not completely reliable, I advise you to rent a car if you plan to visit the north of the island. It is a 4-hour drive from Nouméa to Hienghène, and make sure you fill up your tank in Nouméa, because I have only seen two petrol stations in the Hienghene area, and they were quite far from each other, so you don’t want to get there after dark and have to stress about gas (like we did, haha).
There are quite a number of nice places on the way to stop and have a picnic, and make that road trip more enjoyable, but my favourite ones are in the Koné Tiwaka, which is the road that crosses from the West coast to the East coast through the mountains, starting from the Païamboué roundabout. I love these places because they have such scenic views, and you hardly ever meet anyone there!
If you need more proof that the Hienghene/ Touho area is really worth a visit, have a look at my VIDEO: BIENVENUE À HIENGHÈNE !
Now you know everything I know about enjoying your visit to Hienghene and Touho, go and find your own favourite spots and activities there, because I am 100 % sure that there are still plenty more to discover!
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