40. Le Meridien Ile Des Pins, New Caledonia

40. Le Meridien Ile Des Pins, New Caledonia

Le Meridien Ile Des Pins

Ile Des Pins, New Caledonia (France)

4 nights points redemption

Panoramic Oceanview Bungalow Upgrade

The trip on our share taxi across Ile Des Pins took about 20 minutes.  We knew we were close when we crossed a new single-lane bridge traversing a beautiful salt-water lagoon with a Le Meridien sign.

We arrived to the front desk at around 10:30AM.  At check-in we gave our name and were informed in French that the check-in time was 3:00PM.  We let them know we understood.  We shared with them that we were Starwood Platinum members and if there was any way they could arrange an early check-in should a room be available.  The front desk agent, a very friendly and helpful staff member, looked into it and let us know that we could have a room available at noon.  We went to the bathroom to change into our bathing suits and turned our luggage over to Mady.

As soon as we got outside we toured around the property.  The physical plant was absolutely beautiful.  We could immediately tell this would be one of these “epic” hotel stays on par with the St. Regis Punta Mita, JW Marriott Capri, and Intercontinental Opera.  The sand was beautiful white.  The hotel had its own private, shallow bay.  Surrounding the bay were hills filled with unique narrow pine trees and palm trees.  The bay was also surrounded on all-sides by big coral rocks on which sat some of the bungalows.  The pool was a beautiful infinity pool sitting near the beach and in-front of the restaurant area.  We waded out into the incredibly shallow and clear water and soaked-in the sun.  3 nights here would be a blast.
IMAG1506The Beitco II Ferry which made the 60 miles 2.5 hour journey from Noumea to Ile Des Pins

Welcome sign at the front of the hotel.
Welcome fruit juice wrapped in banana leaves presented to us at check-in.
Scenes from the physical plant of the property.  This view has the pool in the foreground and the beautiful beach and shallow Baie d’Oro just past it.

At noon we headed back to check-in to see about our room.  Mady informed us that we had been upgraded to a Panoramic Oceanview Bungalow.  We had paid 20,000 points per night for this Category 6 (at the time) hotel.  The standard rate for a Panoramic Oceanview Bungalow is around $900 USD per night, so this was quite an upgrade.

View of our bungalow straight ahead.  Many of the bungalows had private steps from the bungalow into the water.  Our private steps went right to the beach along-side the water.
If we chose to enter our bungalow using the walkways and not the beach we had to take elevated walkways which rise about the thick jungle/pine foliage of Ile Des Pins.
Bungalow 24, our home for the next three nights.
Living room seen from immediately walking into the bungalow.
TV and coffee set-up.  Not pictured is a desk and a chair just to the left.
The king-sized bed complete with mosquito net (just in-case).
The bathroom had a toilet on the left, massive tub in the middle, and great stand-up shower on the right.
A view from the back of our bungalow of our bungalow.  Behind us is the private walkway to the beach and ocean.  The bungalow had two chairs laid out for “jungle-view” relaxing and a patio with chairs and table as well!

View of the beach and water taken from our patio chairs.

This room was truly exceptional.  It had to be one of the best in the entire resort.  While the physical plant and sheer natural of the beauty of the place was exceptional, the service was pretty weak. Except for Mady at check-in who was the star of the crew. And while you would expect more for a 5* hotel resort, it didn’t surprise me too much.  See this place is in the middle of nowhere.  There is a small base of people to pull from for employment.  It is technically part of France and also succumbs to France’s culture and labor laws.  Everyone was quite nice, but the service was on “island time”.  Requests had to be re-requested or the delivery of the request wouldn’t be quite right.  This would be even harder for guests who don’t speak French.  It seems only a small percentage of the staff spoke English proficiently, although most were at least conversational.

The island is so remote it has its own little monopoly on thing.  In the Baie d’Oro area the hotel is the only place to stay except for a nearby campsite called Gite Regis.  There are two nearby places that serve-up lunch, Gite Regis and Kou-gny.  There is nowhere else that serves dinner.  The nearest town is 15km one-way and has only very limited grocers and snack shops and the only ATM on the island.  The hotel rented free bikes which were in just OK condition.  To rent a scooter would be about $80 US per day.  So in this area the hotel restaurant was the only place in town to eat at night.  So reservations were mandatory unless you wanted to rely on room service to eat.  The restaurant was quite expensive with the food adequate but not wonderful.  The only thing wonderful were the breads and pastries which were home-made on-site given how difficult it is to source ingredients in this remote paradise.  A burger and fries was about $23 while the cheapest fish on the menu was $40.  The nearby places for lunch were really cool and local.  See Lady Tocqueville’s food-blog for a review of one of them.  They were fresh and delicious seafood, one-day lobster the next fish, but at a high price for beach-side dining out of a shack.  The fish was about $80 for two people for lunch and the lobster about $130.  And this is literally out of a primitive shack, not a Michelin 3* restaurant!

You had to have cash everywhere on the island except at the Le Meridien.  We were running low on cash and so we decided to make a strategic run into town to stock up on cash, booze, and snacks to avoid having to pay high prices at the restaurants.  There was only one functioning bike so I took it for the 30km (18 mile) round-trip into town.  I restocked on funds, bought some expensive snacks at the primitive grocers ($6 bag of Cheetos, $12 packs of standard sliced salami), and discovered alcohol is prohibited from being sold on the island except for in the major hotels.  So no wine and beer in our room unless we were paying top dollar for it from the hotel (the house wine cost $40).  But we made do with the Cheetos, Chocolate, Cheese, Salami, and Cokes I hoofed back to the hotel.  Basically our strategy was to snack up a lot on this stuff in the room and then share an entree from the hotel restaurant.  This helped us keep costs down a good bit.

View of the Baie d’Oro from the Kou-gny cafe next to the beach.  To get here from the hotel you wade through knee deep water to the next side of the bay.

While the hotel had lousy service and expensive prices, there was plenty to do.  They had awesome shaded day-beds set up on the beach to relax and fall asleep on while listening to the tide come in.  They had free paddleboards, paddleboats, kayaks, and snorkel gear to take-out into the bay.  About a 20 minute walk through the woods and by the natural salt-water lagoon sits the amazing naturelle piscine which is a beautiful natural pool created by tide movements.  The coral and snorkeling were excellent here.  We saw tons of crabs, starfish, snakes, sea cucumbers, exotic fish, and even some massive seat turtles.

We paddleboarded to uninhabited islands near the resort in the peaceful and beautiful bay.  The took out the paddleboard a couple times at high tide to get some more views of the bay and to get some exercise.

All-in-all we had 3 memorable incredible days and nights at this resort on the island considered l’isle plus proche que paradis (the closest thing to paradise).

We had free breakfast given our SPG Platinum Status as well as free wi-fi.  The hotel refunded our private taxi transfer since the hotel shuttle normally offers a free transfer to and from the Betico Ferry.

All the breads and pastries at breakfast were homemade.
Part of the breakfast buffet was outside with the bacon, pork, and eggs served out here.  Also in the foreground are pots for steamed rice and miso joup since the hotel hosts quite a bit of Asian guests.  During our stay we saw a Japanese or Korean bride and groom take their wedding photos on the beach, quite a few French folks, a couple Italians, and a couple Aussies.
More breakfast buffet shots.  Given that lunch and dinner were so expensive we made sure to fill-up on this generous free breakfast.

The juice and cereal station on the breakfast buffet.

On our day of check-out we were scheduled to head back to Noumea on the Betico II at 5PM.  The hotel gave us a 4PM check-out due to our SPG Platinum status and set-up a complimentary 4PM private transfer to the ferry dock.

We were sad to say goodbye to such an incredible exotic paradise.  This place was so freakin’ far from our home in North Carolina, we figured we would not have the opportunity to ever come back.  We really enjoyed relaxing, snorkeling, and recharging our batteries here.  We were excited to get back to Noumea which would be a bit less expensive and at least have more options to eat and drink.  3 days felt like the perfect amount of time there for us given our budget.