Named by Captain Cook in the 18th century for its prominent, spiny pine trees, Île des Pins is a vibrantly beautiful island located in the Pacific Ocean and part of the New Caledonia archipelago. Surrounded by some of the world’s brightest aquamarine blue water, the island has also been nicknamed as “the closest island to paradise,” with tropical fish and coral that can be seen through the transparent waters of its lagoon. Île des Pins was used in the 19th century as a prison for political exiles from France and remains can still be seen at Kuto and in the village of Ouro. Today the island’s primary inhabitants of the island are the native Melanesian Kanaks, with 2,000 residents. One of the local sites to see on this island are the spear-shaped carvings surrounding a Catholic monument in the city of Kuto. The beaches in Kuto and close-by Kanumera are some of the finest beaches in the South Pacific and while Kuto is for swimming, Kanumera and the giant rock in its bay are for snorkelling.