Grotte de la Reine Hortense or Grotte d'Oumagne on Île des Pins in New Caledonia.Grotte de la Reine Hortense, Île des Pins
©Grotte de la Reine Hortense, Île des Pins|Sicilia

Queen Hortense's cave

Isle of Pines

The Isle of Pines is well known for its dreamy beaches and heavenly bays. But do you know about its hidden treasures? Inland, the island reveals its secrets and legends to the curious visitor… The Grotte de la Reine Hortense, also known as grotte Oumagne, can be found at the end of a path surrounded by lush tropical vegetation. Giant stalactites, bats and banyan roots tell the legend of Queen Hortense, a key figure on the island. On your own or in the company of a local guide, follow in the footsteps of Kanak ancestors!

The Grotte de la Reine Hortense is located in the northern part of the Isle of Pines. To get to Île des Pins from Nouméa, you can choose between air and sea. Air Calédonie operates daily flights from Nouméa-Magenta domestic airport. Flight time is around 30 minutes. Boats from the Betico company make the crossing once or twice a week between Grande Terre and Isle of Pines, taking two and a half hours. Once there, you’ll need to rent a vehicle (car or scooter) to reach the cave, or book a guided day trip. The Grotte de la Reine Hortense site is a 10-minute drive from the Moué airport.

  • As the area is damp and therefore slippery, we recommend that you wear proper footwear to undertake this peculiar path.
  • Think about bringing a small flashlight, which will make it easier for you to admire the stalactites, frozen for several millennia, and explore the tunnel up to the light shaft.
  • Please bring cash to pay the entrance fee (300 XPF)
Top 5 things to do on site

1. A lush trail

Prepare for a journey deep into the bosom of vibrant tropical greenery, where a babbling stream weaves through the landscape and limestone tubules punctuate the scenery – this is the magical realm of Queen Hortense’s grotto. Follow the delightful path that leads you to this tucked-away wonderland. A quirky blend of tree ferns, heliconias, and jaw-dropping bird-of-paradise specimens (don’t worry, it’s a plant!) create a unique blend of lush vegetation. And as you delve into the remarkable tales of Queen Hortense, the daughter of the legendary Chief Kaoua, those welcome sentiments of peace will wrap around you like a warm embrace.

2. Admire the giant stalactites

As soon as you enter the cave and along the way, take the time to look up: bats stir discreetly while stalactites line the cavern’s heights. The atmosphere becomes increasingly mysterious…

3. Discover the cave's secret room

There’s more to come! As you go deeper into the cave, you’ll come across a well of light invaded by the roots of a banyan tree. A mystical ambiance guaranteed as you cross the cave by torchlight!

4. Immerse yourself in the history of Reine Hortense

The grotte d’Oumagne has been made famous thanks to the legend surrounding it. The place is said to have served as a refuge for the daughter of the great chief Kaoua Vendégou, the young Kanedjo from her Kanak name, later christened Hortense in homage to the mother of Napoleon III. It was here, then, that Hortense found refuge during certain conflicts between tribes, her relatives fearing for her safety. It is also said that this brilliant queen was the first Melanesian to speak and write French. So symbolic is this place for the Kuniés that they have even erected a small temple in the Queen’s memory within the depths of the cave.

5. Take a guided tour to learn more

Don’t hesitate to include a visit to the Grotte de la Reine Hortense as part of a full- or half-day guided tour of the Isle of Pines. There’s nothing like hearing the legend and history of the place from a native of the island!