Don't Miss Places In Vanuatu
Eighty two islands make up this Pacific nation. The largest is the mountainous island of Espiritu Santo. Port –Vila, the largest town and the national capital, is on Efate Island, to the south. Many of the Vanuatu islands are the peaks of the undersea mountains and some are active volcanoes. Others are coral islands with reefs and brilliant blue lagoons.
Vanuatu has a tropical climate with high rainfall and warm temperatures all year round. Bananas grow here, as well as yams and cassava. All these are an important part of the islanders’ diet. Crops such as copra and cocoa are major exports. Tourism also contributes to the economy, and the islands are a particularly popular destination for visitors from Australia and New Zealand.
These are the top ten not to be missed places when in the island of Vanuatu.
The Mele Cascades are located just outside of Vanuatu's capital Port Vila and are accessible by either a taxi or a tour package. At the entrance to the park an admission fee is required. Entrance fee - is stamped on the hand. The not quite easy climb (about 20 minutes) through the jungle and banana plantations plus the trek all the way to the river, and small climb along the stream (with stairs) that identifies small places to swim might be hard for the not so physically agile but it is all worth it. The waterfall is astounding along with its successive basins. From this site you can also make a detour to the viewpoint overlooking Port Vila. The waterfalls is surrounded by a jungle and below there are pools where you can swim.
If there are not much large groups or even cruise groups, this attraction is not overcrowded. The Mele Cascades is one of the best places to visit in Vanuatu. It is 45 minutes away from the port where most cruise ships dock. Necessarily you have to take a good water shoes to walk along the river. If weather permits, you can swim in the waterfall. The waterfalls are beautiful in themselves. But the accessibility is perhaps not for everyone, the ground is slippery and in some places the climbing is difficult. It is great to see this site and immerse yourself in the romantic “South Seas feeling” that is more enhanced by the charm and tranquility of the place.
Hideaway Island Marine Reserve
The Hideaway Island Marine Reserve is just a 10 minute bus tour and a short free crossing boat ride away from Port Vila. The "entry" costs 10 Vatu, and the rental fee for the snorkel gear for a day is 5 Vatu. The reef is just a few meters from the beach (no sand, but fine corals) and offers a fascinating underwater world for the avid snorkeling fan.
Do not forget the postcard writing, because only this site offers the only underwater post office in the world. The free ferry runs every half hour to the island.
It has great coral reefs with many tropical fish and there are a lot of different species of fish from the plain to the sublime colors. There are free sun beds if you prefer not to snorkel and just lie around and admire the beauty of the ocean and the relaxing atmosphere. The small island is also surrounded by restaurants and complete water sports activities.
Because it is not a sandy beach, prepare to walk on the debris of coral and use the appropriate footwear. Never go barefoot. The reef reserve is well maintained and great for people who cannot dive very deep. Even kids can join the snorkeling adventure with their family. The framework is certainly not fancy but allows everyone to feel comfortable and have fun.
The Summit Gardens Vanuatu
Located on the top of a mountain overlooking the bay and the ocean, the Summit Gardens is a beautiful park with a botanical discovery that is varied and very well equipped. The small French restaurant has lots of character and food variety (good pizzas, pasta, pastries, coffee, etc.) while the nearby Zip Line is another interesting activity to try.
In short, you can spend the whole day without getting bored. This idyllic garden of more than 80 hectares is the result of a colossal and representative work of Vanuatu (with mutual respect among Australian owners, the manager of French coffee and other –Vanuatuan business establishments).
The huge park houses an essential oil distillery and manufacturing workshop for soaps / candles that you can visit. The garden is impeccable and a soothing place with nice view over the bay of Port-Vila and the Mele Cascades in the background. The site is unique and offers unforgettable flavors (including fresh juices) that are not to be missed.
Provide a day to enjoy the entire attraction. Although some find the entrance fee as too costly, it's nothing compared to what it has done to promote the ingenuity and creativity of the people of Vanuatu and their locally manufactured products. Please note that after your first entry you can return and meditate in the garden for free within 15 days.
The Blue Hole is worth the detour if you are passing through the highways of Espiritu Santo. It is equally amusing to find the water so clear and the turquoise color in the middle of nowhere. The tour can be done independently by driving along the dirt road (do not take the canoe ride) and turning left following the sign that says “blue hole” which is just after the row of canoes that you will pass by after an intersection. The location is a bit remote and tourists seldom find this site. There are facilities provided like; shaded picnic areas for rent, bathroom, and grill areas for an enjoyable picnic.
You can spend a whole day with your family and have the place all alone. It is ideal for swimming with warm and clear blue translucent water dives galore in which it is good to refresh. The nature even added a few well positioned tree trunks that serve as a diving board to the delight of all visitors. No need to have any filter for pictures as the natural color makes every shot in good photo quality. It is the best treat for an extremely hot summer day when in the island of Vanuatu.
The Millenium Cave hiking adventure is traditionally divided into four parts: 1) easy to access cave hiking, 2) the cave itself, 3) some canyoning and 4) swimming in the river. This is a beautiful walk that passes through the villages near the cave and the guides are adorable. Two things to note though; the ride is not recommended for persons subject to vertigo as the canyoning descents are of great heights. A minimum of physical fitness is also required. And for the same reasons, the ride should be avoided by children below ten years of age, unless they are already into some physical sports. Second thing; there is a second circuit just after the cave where you directly (and abruptly) go back to the village and finish the ride without canyoning or swimming in the river.
This is an interesting option for those who want to avoid precisely the canyoning and passages which are both a rigorous activity.
The cave is huge and you can find a portion that serves as a small refuge for swallows and bat. Water is good, going from rock to rock with the help of guides, then swimming in the amazing canyon, two stone walls and jungle at the top, it is all unforgettable. Do not miss spending at least one night at the village. After taking a shower, head to the hut where they cook food to witness the preparation of traditional dishes (taro, cassava, Bounia, and that of Kava). The head of the village will formally welcome (complete ceremony) you and offer the meal then consume it with the rest of the people in the village.
SS President Coolidge
The SS President Coolidge is an incredible and historical ship wreck that can be easily accessed along with a guide and professional divers. Situated a few meters from the beach of Luganville, a tour operator will accompany your swim to the site of the wreck and you will be amazed as the bow appears from your vision under the water. But this is not an easy dive, you must have self-confidence and good diving equipment, otherwise you cannot enjoy.
This huge ship wreck that can be dived off the coast of the island was once a luxury liner which was used in World War II as a cargo ship and was unfortunately driven on a "friendly mine" (and dropped). An adventure playground is how most divers describe its first cabin.
The propeller is still attached and a sight to marvel at its stately 63m length and has a mystique appeal and serves as a mute witness of what actually happened. The wreck is between 20 and 70 meters. It is a must to greet "The Lady" which can be seen at the depth of 42 m, but there are many immersed items that can still be viewed in this magnificent wreck. Try the deep night dive to see the bright fish. For very experienced divers, the frame is very competent and they will monitor you and discreetly gauge each plunge to see your skills and limits. The wreckage is vast and wide, but no worries, your companions will always ask your limits. So if you like the more "technical" or narrow passages, they will respect your choice.
The Velit Bay is an idyllic haven where everything is in pure refinement. The beach and the sand are beautiful, the water is transparent and coconut trees line its remarkable coastline. On the road to champagne beach, you can stop in this private property where a hut bar tavern was constructed for tourism purposes.
There is free Wi-Fi and you will not regret checking out this site. The road that joins the beaches is very scenic and seems to cross a completely different world from what some people are used to. The breathtaking view from the top and the calm beach surrounded by towering coconut palms is simply stunning.
Nanda Blue Hole
The Nanda Blue Hole is a diving site with a perfect blue water and incredible transparency that is magical and very relaxing. Appreciate the fresh water of these holes for only 500 VT entry fee. The blue hole is well laid out with a rope to jump and where you can slide from a wooden pontoon which is a large and very beautiful box that helps you plunge into its clear and exceptional depths.
This place is isolated and there are no annoying hawkers that press every tourist to buy the wares they sell. It is really beautiful, the clear water is cold but you will definitely enjoy swimming and jumping from the banyan trees surrounding the hole. If you have time, the canoe ride on the river until the Blue Hole is super nice.
The Mount Yasur stands 50 meters from the mouth of its active volcano that regularly spews debris, flames and fire making a visit a priceless experience, this alone is worth a trip to the island of Tanna. The volcano on this island is one of the busiest in the South Pacific. You can rent and climb aboard a 4x4 pick-up along with other tourists. The driving path is not easy and done with great difficulty because the route is characterized by large gravel pits and slopes. As you enter more and more into the lush vegetation that grows naturally out of the ground, you can see a primeval forest where the tangled branches of the huge Banyan trees are making their way from a large variety of plants and trees. The balance with mother earth manifests itself once again and so far more intense until you reach the edge of the active volcano of Tanna, that is on Mt. Yasur. The top is covered with black lava surrounded by palm trees and greenery, while inside, the crater sparks out an explosive ferment of lava and sulphuric steam that breaks intermittently.
Upon arrival, a young woman will greet you and serve as your guide. The Yakel Village tour begins with handing out every guest with a handcrafted necklace and a short prologue about the indigenous group that inhabits this part of the island. Then there is a short hike to an unlikely plantation where tobacco, yam trees and other crops abound. Shortly thereafter, the village awaits and prepares under a palapa, local dishes served in a banana leaf named lap-lap and bougna.
These dishes are cooked on hot stones and presented by the head of the tribe as a gesture of friendship. Conversation through their local dialect is translated by the assigned guide. A cultural show follows next where the men embark on a traditional dance as they are soon joined by some women and children. It is a humbling and eye opening experience that teaches a lesson on life and simplicity while at the same time shows a different perspective on things and civilization.