Isle of Pines, New Caledonia

With radiant turquoise waters hiding a wealth of colorful corals and fish below, Isle of Pines is a wonderful place to dive and explore. Although this breathtaking island has been nicknamed “the closest island to Paradise,” it once served as a penal colony to thousands of French deportees.

Pottery found on the island dates back to 1500 B.C., although the discovery of the island is most often attributed to Captain James Cook, who sailed by during a voyage to New Zealand in the 18th century. Cook named the island after its towering native pines, but he never set foot on land, presumably threatened by the sight of smoke rising above the trees.

The great explorer missed out on some of the most fascinating treasures ashore. From the tiniest endemic creatures to the far-reaching views offered by its highest peak, Isle of Pines is a unique island destination with plenty to discover.