Vanuatu is a South Pacific Ocean nation made up of roughly 80 islands that stretch 1,300 kilometers. The islands offer scuba diving at coral reefs, underwater caverns and wrecks such as the WWII-era troopship SS President Coolidge. Harborside Port Vila, the nation’s capital and economic center, is on the island of Efate. The city is home to the Vanuatu National Museum, which explores the nation’s Melanesian culture.
Vanuatu is that perfect mix of wild, untouched paradise and welcoming South Pacific haven. It’s known for its breathtaking geological features such as the world’s most accessible active volcano, Mt Yasur, and the mesmerising natural blue holes. Where else can you hike up a crater to stare down into a magma-filled active volcano then ashboard back down, snorkel in a blue hole and drink kava with the local village chief – all in the same day? Vanuatu is also famous for having one of the friendliest populations in the world. Vanuatu is a Pacific island adventure far beyond any notions of cruise-ship ports and flashy resorts. The resorts and restaurants of Port Vila have little in common with traditional kastom (custom) village life in the outer islands, but it's contrasts like these that make Vanuatu a surprise and a challenge. Deserted beaches, ancient culture, remote and rugged islands and world-class diving are just a small part of the magnetism of this scattered 80-plus island archipelago.
Vanuatu was slammed by Cyclone Pam in 2015, but the ni-Van people, resilient and laid-back as ever, take life in smiling strides. Whether you’re island hopping via yacht, staying in a luxury resort or travelling on a budget, Vanuatu has myriad wonders that will steal your heart. It takes a little time, effort and a healthy sense of adventure to truly explore Vanuatu's islands, but it's worth every bit of it.
BEST TIME TO GO TO VANUATU
Renowned for its clear skies and beach-loving lifestyle, the weather in Vanuatu is warm all year round. It’s characterised by the drier, temperate months of April to November, and the hot, wet, and humid months of December to March. As the temperature rarely drops below the mid-20s even in the coldest months of the year, Vanuatu is a popular destination in winter and spring for those seeking a sunny island escape.Crowd numbers can swell as a result, with the Australian school holidays considered peak periods. If possible, the best time to travel to Vanuatu is outside these holiday times.
Summer is the height of the wet season, with monthly rainfall averaging over 300mm in January. Like many tropical zones, summer is also cyclone season, and humidity is high at this time. Appropriate clothing : Modest summer beachwear. Don't forget: A sarong to cover up.
Autumn sees temperatures begin to cool off, dropping by a few degrees to average daily highs of 26 degrees in May. In early autumn the chance of a rain shower is still high but decreases throughout April and May. Appropriate clothing: Casual attire like shorts and shirts, or a skirt below the knees for women. Don't forget: Insect repellent to ward off the mosquitoes.
In winter, the days are generally clear and dry, with pleasant temperatures in the mid-20s. This is arguably the best time to enjoy all the archipelago has to offer as the seas are warm enough for swimming and the days are almost always fine. Appropriate clothing: Knee-length dresses, or light pants and shirts. Don't forget: A light jumper in case the evenings are cool.
Spring continues to offer some of the best weather conditions to enjoy all Vanuatu has to offer. The average daily temperatures reach a pleasant 25 degrees, and the rainfall is at its lowest for the year. Appropriate clothing: Short sleeves for the day, and a long-sleeved shirt at night. Don't forget: A torch if you're travelling to areas where electricity supply might be limited.
GETTING TO VANUATU
Vanuatu has three international airports, with the largest being Bauerfield near Port Vila on the island of Efate. This is by no means a flashy international airport, but is the point of arrival for most inbound flights from Australia. It's also where you can catch a domestic flight to the region's other islands, with daily connections to Tanna and Santo. Located west of Fiji and only 1 hour 30minutes flight, Vanuatu is not more than 2-3 hours by plane from anywhere in the south Pacific such as from neighbouring Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, and the Solomon Islands. Because of the proximity, getting to Vanuatu is easy with direct flights from Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, Noumea, Honiara, and Nadi by various international airlines (below airline listing) including our very own national carrier. Nationals of any European Union state within the Schengen Area may enter Vanuatu visa-free for up to 90 days in a 180-day period.
GETTING AROUND VANUATU
Vanuatu transport is diverse, to say the least. It takes all means of transport to get around this island nation. Most islands feature one or two airstrips, with Air Vanuatu servicing major destinations.There are also ferries and cargo boats to get between some of the islands, but with frequent stops and large distances to cover, this can take a while. If you’re sticking to the major islands then mini-bus or taxi is the best way of getting around Vanuatu, and you can also hire your own car on Efate and Espiritu Santo.
Public Transport - There is no official Vanuatu public transport system, with services instead provided by privately owned mini-bus. These buses also don't travel specific routes. Instead, passengers flag one down and tell them where they're going. If you're looking to use local transport, keep an eye out for a red B on the number plate.
Taxis - Vanuatu taxis are marked by a red T on the number plate. At Luganville and Port Vila, they're usually standard sedans. Once you leave the major townships, taxis take the form of rugged 4WDs, with open trays at the back. The taxi trip from Bauerfield airport to Port Vila has a set price, but elsewhere fares need to be negotiated before you set off.
Walking - When you're covering small distances or accessing remote areas in Vanuatu, walking is the best way to get around. Most day trips and tours incorporate at least an element of walking, while exploring and more remote regions may require a decent hike. Walking is also the opportunity to meet the friendly ni-Vanuatu and take in local sights.
WHERE TO STAY IN VANUATU
Deciding where to stay in Vanuatu is all about the experience you’re keen to enjoy. Most islands offer at least basic accommodation like village stays and family-run bungalows.If you’re seeking high-end resorts and the creature comforts of home, the best areas to stay in Vanuatu are probably Port Vila on Efate, and Luganville on Espiritu Santo. These precincts have long drawn the tourist crowd and offer a polished accommodation product.Head a little farther off the beaten track and you’ll find options like beachside bungalows and bures, along with private luxury islands like Bokissa and Erakor.
Port Vila offers the greatest range of places to stay in Vanuatu, with resorts lining the township's foreshore. Accommodation ranges from budget to high-end, and is popular due to its proximity to the nation's major airport. There are also a host of boutique and eco-friendly options just outside the township, with further major resorts located on the nearby islands of Iririki and Erakor.
Tanna features a selection of accommodation that varies from rustic beachside bungalows, and upmarket but small-scale resorts to treetop accommodation overlooking Mt Yasur. Although there is a variety of accommodation facilities, services can be basic and this just adds to the charm. Tanna is a spectacular destination where the accommodation provides further experience of the natural, volcanic surrounds.
The majority of Espiritu Santo's hotels and resorts are clustered around the main township of Luganville, but there are more authentic options to explore. These include village-style bungalows, beachside retreats, and easily accessible resorts on the nearby islands. Whatever your accommodation choice, Espiritu Santo is the opportunity to discover sensational diving, swimming and snorkelling set in stunning natural surrounds.
Pentecost Island encourages visitors to get back to basics and explore an authentic island way of life. The accommodation here is limited but welcoming, comprising mainly family-run bungalows made of traditional materials. If you're intending to stay, it's a good idea to bring a few supplies, including drinking water, enough cash, and a gift for your accommodating hosts.
Expanding over 400 acres of pristine land, including private beaches, a freshwater cascading river, stunning mountains and green landscape, Le Life Resort offers a vast selection of accommodation options, including spacious oceanfront bungalows, glamping bell tents and large round white tents. Le Life Resort is a 3-star Eco-friendly property, in the heart of North Efate. Each tent and bungalow has majority homemade artwork and furniture. Guests staying at Le Life Resort can enjoy a variety of activities, including snorkeling along the reef, swimming in the ocean or cascades, bush and beach walking, bicycle rides, kayaking and visiting iconic sites nearby, such as the blue lagoon and hot springs. Cooking classes, fishing, team building, training and retreats are available on request.]
Situated on 75 acres of tropical gardens on the edge of Erakor Lagoon, this luxury resort features 3 restaurants, 2 bars, 2 swimming pools, plus a 12-hole golf course and a day spa. Each of the air-conditioned rooms and bungalows at Warwick Le Lagon Resort & Spa Vanuatu features a furnished patio or balcony with views across the Pacific Ocean and beyond. Guests have access to 2 tennis courts and a fully equipped fitness centre. Activities at Warwick Le Lagon Vanuatu include snorkelling, windsurfing, canoeing, and kayaking. Wild Ginger restaurant offers Asian cuisine with views of the landscaped gardens and Erakor Lagoon. Pool Grill & Bar serves light meals and drinks by the poolside. The "Reef Lady" glass-bottom boat offers daily tours and coral viewing trips around the lagoon. Massages on the beach are available. Port Vila Bauerfield Airport is 8 km away.
Offering a restaurant, a bar and sea views, Alofa Beach Bungalows is located in Lénakel, 100 m from the beach. All bungalows feature a balcony. Free on-site parking is provided. Each bungalow offers a private bathroom with a shower and free toiletries. A fan and bed linen are provided. At Alofa Beach Bungalows you will find a 24-hour front desk and lovely gardens. The tour desk books horse riding and island tours. Your free island breakfast includes fruits, bread, butter, jams, coffee and juices. The small restaurant offers international cuisine.
Malekula Holiday Villas is a villa with a garden, located in Lakatoro. It provides free private parking. Free WiFi is offered . The kitchen comes with a dishwasher. Towels and bed linen are available in this villa. Pekoa International Airport is 69 km from the property, while Norsup Airport is 3.5 km away.
Boasting accommodation with a balcony, Mahun Lagoon Bungalows is set in Lembinwen. Situated on the beachfront, this property has a restaurant and a garden. There is a seating area, a dining area and a kitchen complete with a dishwasher and a stovetop. A continental breakfast is available each morning at the country house. A sun terrace is available for guests to use at Mahun Lagoon Bungalows.
Located in Siviri, 39 km from Port Vila, Whispering Palms -Two absolute Beachfront vilas provides a restaurant and free WiFi. Each unit comes with a patio, a fully equipped kitchen with a fridge, a seating area with a sofa, a flat-screen TV, a washing machine, and a private bathroom with shower and a hairdryer. An oven, a stovetop and toaster are also featured, as well as a kettle and a coffee machine. The villa offers a barbecue. Whispering Palms -Two absolute offers a business centre, laundry service and free private parking. Hiking and snorkelling can be enjoyed nearby, while a bicycle rental service, a private beach area and water sports facilities are also available on site.
With garden views, Tanna Fireworks Homestay is set in Looukeureus and has a restaurant and a 24-hour front desk. Both WiFi and private parking are available at the homestay free of charge. Units come with a kitchen with a dining area, and a private bathroom with free toiletries and shower. à la carte and Full English/Irish breakfast options are available every morning at Tanna Fireworks Homestay. The accommodation offers a children's playground. After a day of skiing, diving or cycling, guests can relax in the garden or in the shared lounge area.
Set on a private and secluded tropical island, this beachfront resort offers guests free ferry transfers to and from Espiritu Santo. Relax in the 12 m swimming pool or enjoy the restaurant’s all-day menu. Aore Island Resort is only a 15-minute ferry ride from the town of Luganville. Aore Island Dive provides boat dives to the famous “USS President Coolidge” wreck, Million Dollar Point and outer coral reefs. Built along the beach and surrounded by lush tropical gardens, each bungalow has refrigerator, tea/coffee making facilities, iron and ceiling fans. The private bathroom has a hot shower and hairdryer. The Nakamal Restaurant offers buffet breakfast, with light meals, salads and pizzas available throughout the day. The menu can include local delicacies such as famous Santo beef, lobsters and local seafood. WiFi is available in the restaurant only, for an additional charge. The popular “Island Night” at Aore Island Vanuatu features local dancers, musicians and storytellers. Guests can try the local “kava” drink. Fishing, diving, snorkelling and plantation tours can be arranged.
The Moso Vanuatu is an exclusive boutique resort and dining destination located on stunning Moso Island, North Efate, Vanuatu. The Moso features a year-round outdoor pool and a private beach area. Largely untouched, Moso Island is an isolated sanctuary, surrounded by crystal-clear blue water and shaded by rustling coconut trees. Just under 3 hours flight from Brisbane and over 4 hours from Sydney, we will arrange your airport transfer which is a scenic 25-minute drive from the airport and a short boat ride across the beautiful Havannah Harbour. For day-trippers parking is available and we’ll arrange the boat to meet you. The area is popular for snorkelling and diving. Bauerfield International Airport is 19 km from the property.
Situated on 2 acres of lush tropical gardens, Les Cottages de Bellevue Ecolodge boasts a swimming pool and accommodation with a private terrace. It is a 5-minute drive from Port Vila town centre. You can spend your day by the pool enjoying the sunshine or relax on the shaded sun loungers. Staff can arrange diving or horse riding trips for you. Guests can also dine al fresco in the BBQ area, surrounded by beautiful gardens. Each cottage offers 4-bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, a washing machine and 2 bathrooms. All include a lounge area with an iPod docking station, a DVD player and a TV. Guests can visit the Mele Beach and Lololima Waterfall, both less than 20 minutes’ drive away. Bauerfield International Airport is a 25-minute drive.
PLACES TO GO & THINGS TO DO IN VANUATU WITH FAMILY
Palm-fringed islands, rainforests, remote villages, and rumbling volcanoes make for a lengthy list of enticing things to do and Places to go in Vanuatu with you alone or with your family . It’s the ultimate destination to sightsee, bask on beautiful beaches, and discover ancient traditions. From culture and arts to snorkelling, shopping and dining out, the activities in Vanuatu share the common thread of warm hospitality against a backdrop of sublime beauty.
The clear, calm waters make diving and snorkelling in Vanuatu one of the major reasons many people are drawn to this island nation. The region features natural coral reefs, temperate seas, and a bounty of wrecks waiting to be explored. Best of all, most are easily accessible from popular destinations like Efate, and Espiritu Santo.
Whether it's via a luxury vessel, charter yacht or one-day cruise, sailing Vanuatu is the opportunity to take in all the beauty of the islands from the vantage point of the sea. Discover remote beaches, hidden coves, and uninhabited islands. Vanuatu boasts a thriving sailing industry, with charter and cruise vessels available at Port Vila and Espiritu Santo.
Be sure to pack your walking shoes, because Vanuatu hiking offers access to some of the region's hidden gems. Adventures to consider include exploring Mt Yasur volcano on Tanna and hiking into the jungle to experience traditional tribal life in Malekula. Alternatively, the less-visited Vanuatu volcano of Mt Marum also has guided tours.
Vanuatu sightseeing is simply a feast for the eyes. This is a nation famed for its beauty, and that beauty is everywhere you go. From the milky blue waters of the Mele Cascades on Efate to remote beaches, jungle mists, and cultural highlights such as Ekasup Cultural Village and the National Museum of Vanuatu, there's no end of things to see here.
Established in 1955, the Vanuatu Cultural Centre documents the traditions, histories and lifestyle of the ni-Vanuatu people. The centre provides a fascinating insight into the village life, and tribal culture of the regions, with artefacts, hands-on displays, and images. From sand drawing to music, dance, and contemporary arts, this is the place to explore Vanuatu's indigenous culture and heritage, and is located in Port Vila.
Housed within the Cultural Centre in Port Vila is the National Museum of Vanuatu. Featuring ancient items used by the first people to arrive in the region 3000 years ago, the museum's exhibits also encompass the more contemporary history of Vanuatu. New displays include a World War II exhibition, information on the struggle for independence, and historical and modern art.
The bright and colourful Lakatoro Cultural Centre is located in Malekula Island's administrative centre. Although small, the centre offers an introduction to the mysterious culture of this island. In Malekula's rugged jungles, cannibalism lasted longer than anywhere else, and tribal living is still practiced. The Malekulans now proudly share their heritage, and you can gain an insight via the artefacts, cultural objects, and stories on display.
On the nearby island of Espiritu Santo, there are also a number of popular Vanuatu attractions including the stunning Champagne Beach, named for its pristine powdery sand and clear turquoise effervescent water. There’s also the awe-inspiring Blue Holes which are a naturally-formed swimming hole with almost magical brilliant blue waters caused by fresh water springs rising through limestone.
Situated on the main island of Efate, just 10km from Port Vila, the Mele Cascade waterfalls are an incredible natural attraction that can be seen on your own or as part of a guided tour. Unbelievably clear water sits in sparkling aquamarine pools as you make your way up to the falls along a small path that can at times be slippery and a little steep but the amazing views of the 35m falls are more than reward enough.
Located on Tanna Island, Mount Yasur is perhaps one of the most famous Vanuatu attractions. An active volcano measuring 361m above sea level, Mount Yasur is located on the southeast tip of Tanna Island, along the coast near Sulphur Bay. Although safe to approach, Mount Yasur has been almost continuously erupting since discovered by Captain Cook in 1774. An amazing sight to see, Mount Yasur frequently erupts with small, violent explosions from the 400m wide summit and is not to be missed on any visit to Vanuatu.
Vanuatu surfing is on par with some of the best spots in Samoa, Fiji and Tonga however with less of the crowds and certainly at a cheaper price. Just like the Maldives, Vanuatu surfing doesn't attract huge waves but does offer the perfect shape and some excellent surf spots right on your doorstep in a beautiful tropical environment. One of surfing's better kept secrets, Vanuatu surfing offers some of the most hollow and powerful surf in the South Pacific. Solid swells hit shallow reefs around the islands, making for fantastic surfing conditions.
The fishing in Vanuatu is some of the best in the world and it's really no surprise when you consider its enviable location in the South Pacific. Vanuatu fishing is predominantly known for its deep sea and reef fishing, however sports fishing and game fishing is also a rather rewarding experience in Vanuatu. Whether you enjoy simply dropping a line in and relaxing or like to get right out there and into the thick of it, Vanuatu fishing is sure to impress.
Vanuatu is renowned for some of the best diving in the world. The crystal waters and spectacular reefs offer dive sites and attractions for all skill levels. The President Coolidge is one of the most sought after dives in the world and is located off the island of Espiritu Santo. Recommended for experienced divers only, you should allow several days to explore this attraction.
Vanuatu beaches are renowned for their soft white sand, golden sun kissed glow, fascinating coral deposits and sparkling turquoise waters ideal for snorkelling and swimming. There are many hotels and resorts located on the beachfronts to make the most of the island's stunning natural environment and no matter where you're staying, enjoying the beach is a big part of every Vanuatu holiday.
A stunning archipelago in the South Pacific, cruises to Vanuatu arrive at a number of ports including Wala, Vila, Santo, Mystery Island and Champagne Bay. Whether finishing their journey here or just passing through on their way to another exotic destination, Vanuatu cruises allow you to explore the lush tropical islands, pristine beaches, incredible dive sites and cascading waterfalls of Vanuatu onboard a cruise. Arrive in Vanuatu the same way the first explorers did, albeit in a much more luxurious vessel, and enjoy the scenic views of this unique method of arrival. Relax on deck and enjoy your tropical surrounds or venture ashore and explore the charming little villages and friendly locals with cruises to Vanuatu.Whether you're looking to cruise around the Vanuatu Islands, visit Vanuatu as part of a larger itinerary or cruise one way to Vanuatu, there is sure to be a Vanuatu cruise to suit you.
WHERE TO EAT IN VANUATU
Port Vila has become famous for being a diners’ paradise. The fresh seafood and local produce are superbly prepared into tantalizing dishes. Try the local Poulet fish or a fresh lobster for seafood, or get to know cuisines that are influenced by the country's French, Spanish and British colonial past. The variety is simply astounding. Try a succulent Santo beef steak, local Teoma prawns or be adventurous and sample rousette (flying fox), nautou (ground pigeon) and escargots (snails).
The national dish is called Laplap, made from grounded yam or taro roots, often mixed with pieces of pork, chicken, fish or flying fox, wrapped in banana leaves that are then soaked in a coconut and water mixture before being cooked in an underground oven. For vegetarians, there is the traditional nalot, made from breadfruit.
At the outer islands, restaurants outside resorts are very few. Most of the menus will have limited choices and are confined to local produce and island foods. Rice is included in many meals. Sample fresh vegetables, fruit and cuisine at the local markets.
L'Houstalet is Port Vila’s most famous French restaurant on the island, blending local flavours with French influences. With a menu that remains untouched for over 30 years, as well as a cozy atmosphere, here you will have your well-deserved meal after a day exploring the Efate.
Address: Captain Cook Avenue, Port Vila, Efate, Vanuatu
Wild Ginger at the Warwick Le Lagon Resort & Spa is an Asian fusion restaurant and teppanyaki bar. This place is perfect to experience excellent, fresh fish such as sashimi and sushi.
Address: Elluk Road, Erakor Lagoon, Port Vila, Vanuatu
At Tilly's Restaurant & Bar, you can get all sorts of dishes, from the outstanding Vanuatu cuisine to tapas, and New Zealand lamb as well. The chefs prepare the food with the very best, fresh seasonal produce to create a mouth-watering dish.
Address: Lini Highway, Fatumary Bay, Port Vila, Vanuatu
Located near the markets, with a great view over the harbor, Chill Restaurant & Bar is the perfect spot for lunch. Here you can enjoy delicious seafood for a good value, with a terrific lunch special that includes a soft drink, beer or glass of wine. On the menu, you will also find western comfort dishes, such as pasta and pizza.
Address: Lini Highway, Port Vila, Efate, Vanuatu
Tamanu on the Beach will present you with an iconic South Pacific dining experience. In this open-air restaurant right by the Pacific Ocean, you can enjoy a gourmet dining cuisine menu with local organic meat and the freshest of seafood. Tamanu's signature dish, Lobster Mornay, is more than recommended.
Address: Efate, Vanuatu
Sea View is one of the best for fast food and value meals. Here you can enjoy a nice lunch or dinner — or even a quick bite — by the pristine Pacific waters.
Address: Kumul Hwy, Town Centre, Port Vila, Vanuatu
Island Time proves that great flavours do not necessarily come at a great cost. With a wide choice of burgers and chicken dishes, you will certainly find something that suits your taste.
Address: Lini Highway, Port Vila, Efate 678, Vanuatu
Crystals at the Grand Hotel and Casino on the waterfront has an excellent lunch and dinner menu, but its Friday Curry Night is where it's at. For about $26 you get a choice of up to four curries, plus homemade roti, dahl, samosas, onion bhaji and pappadoms. Go for the butter chicken if it's on the menu. The outdoor bar area of Crystals overlooks Iririki, the harbour's pretty island resort, and the pool area. Start your evening — or finish it — with a cocktail poolside at the Grand.