Last updated on March 9th, 2022
With 83 tropical islands floating in the warm waters of the South Pacific Ocean, Vanuatu is one of the most diverse island destinations in paradise. Add to that the friendly and always happy spirit of the locals, and you have a winning combination. From pristine white sand beaches, to clear blue holes, active volcanoes and villages little changed by time – Vanuatu will leave a lasting smile on your face! I spent two weeks in Vanuatu while voyaging across the South Pacific. Here’s my personal list of the top things to do in Vanuatu.
Visiting Vanuatu? Here’s a 10-day sample itinerary to help you make the most of this South Pacific destination.
With an excellent sealed road circling the island, venturing on a road trip in Efate is the ultimate way to begin your Vanuatu vacation. En route, you’ll ascend to panoramic lookout spots, pass endless coconut plantations and meet the always smiling locals. Highlight stops include swinging off a rope into the fresh waters of the Eton Lagoon, a beachside lunch in Taka Village and snorkeling off Havannah Harbor, where Survivor Vanuatu was filmed!
Have you ever gone snorkeling and suddenly remembered you forgot to send that letter back home? Not really, ah! In any case, the world’s only underwater post office happens to be right here in Vanuatu, off the tropical reef of Hideaway Island. Even if you’re not staying at the resort, come here as a daytripper, say hello to the clownfish and don’t forget to send mom and dad a postcard from paradise.
The French have their champagne, the Italians have their limoncello and the Ni-Vans have their… kava! This sedative and muddy-looking drink is made from the roots of a locally grown bush. After a few shells (the drink is served in coconut shells), you’ll start to feel a very calming sensation and just want to head to bed. The best kava bar I found was the Shefa bar in Port Vila, where perfect sunsets go hand in hand with a bowl full of fresh kava!
What do you do with a huge amount of military surplus and no buyers around? That’s exactly what the US Army chiefs were wondering at the end of WWII. With a large base on Espiritu Santo Island and no more fighting to do, the army simply dumped a lot of equipment off the beach. So you probably now understand how Million Dollar Point got its name. Head underwater on a scuba dive or just put on your mask and snorkel and swim 30 meters off the beach. Below the surface awaits you all the military equipment that money could back in the 1940s.
Vanuatu’s islands hide thousands of natural swimming pools that are just waiting for you to discover. The prettiest one just might be the Matevulu Blue Hole on the island of Espiritu Santo. Shaded by massive banyan trees, a crystal clear natural swimming pool springs out of somewhere. Swimming in this blue hole feels like floating in space. Of course, after you’ve watched the local ‘pros’ in action, grab the rope and swing off the giant banyan tree!
Every year, the people of Pentecost Island erect monumental towers for the upcoming festival without any help from engineering firms. After all, they’ve been doing this for centuries, if not longer. Between April and June, the towers are ready for the brave land divers who jump with nothing but thin ropes made from vines separating them from the afterlife. The closer you get to the ground, the better the harvest will be. Easier said than done!
The SS President Coolidge was a luxury liner that was converted to a troop carrier during WWII. In 1942, it was carrying 5,000 troops to the military base in Espiritu Santo Island when it struck a friendly mine and sunk just meters off the beach. Nearly everybody made it safely to the shore but the wreck has been a mecca for scuba divers ever since. Negotiate your way through the dark hull of the giant wreck and step back in time. You’ll pay a visit to the infirmary, engine room and storage compartments where tanks, jeeps, and ammunition are rusting away. The ship’s close proximity to the beach, its well-preserved cargo and decorated history – make the Coolidge one of the best wreck dives in the world.
Let’s face it, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about a vacation on a South Pacific Island is that perfect white sand beach. Well, the good news is that Vanuatu has plenty of those. The best beach in Vanuatu is considered to be Champagne Beach, where the sand is ridiculously white and where all your troubles seem to magically disappear. But next door, little known Lonnoc Beach is just as pretty, and you might have it all to yourself.
As you drive to the middle of nowhere on the island of Tanna, your host who wears nothing but a short grass skirt welcomes you to what looks like the filming location of one of those BBC nature documentaries. In fact, this description is not that far from reality, just watch the highly recommended film Tanna. The Yakel tribe have hardly changed over the centuries, growing their own crops, raising their own livestock and keeping themselves entertained in the absence of TV and wifi. A visit to their village is an experience you’ll never forget, and before you return to the 21st century, you’ll be treated to a dance that sends shockwaves through the ground!
The radiating glow of Mount Yasur is said to have attracted the great Captain Cook to the shores of Tanna Island by complete coincidence. A visit to its rim is something which you do not want to miss. The long trip to the ‘the world’s most accessible active volcano’ takes you on a tour of this beautiful island. As you touch down on the volcano’s ash-covered plain, you’ll think you’ve just landed on Mars. Steam then begins to come out of the ground as you near the beast, and then there’s no choice but to ditch the 4X4 and climb the rest of the way to watch the show.
As the sun magnificently sets, the nightly spectacle begins. Explosion after explosion illuminate the night sky, and smoke engulfs the petrified yet curious visitors viewing just a few meters above the crater. It’s an experience that you’ll never forget and a reminder of who’s the real boss on this island!
So those are the top things to do in Vanuatu. What do you think? If you’re planning a trip to Vanuatu, here’s a 10-day sample itinerary to help you make the most of this diverse South Pacific destination.
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