It’s a good thing Coconut Palms can’t talk, because if they could they would whisper all the secrets of the island paradise of Vanuatu. On the upside, Lifestyle’s Travel Expert, Rose Jacobs is more than happy to spill the beans!
So, you want a tropical holiday to recover from the harsh winter of Australia, but you don’t want to travel far, you want guaranteed warmth – of the weather and of the locals, and you wouldn’t mind somewhere that offers unique experiences found nowhere else in the world. Then, my friends, you’ve found it!
Vanuatu is roughly a three hour flight direct from Sydney. Yes, that’s right, THREE. For all my fellow Mums and Dads out there, this is music to your ears! So is the sound of the island beats strumming out of the airport that will greet you, right alongside the duty free shop that sells French champagne for a dramatically reduced price compared to what we pay back home. In paradise yet? But wait, there’s more.
Regardless of your budget there is an abundance of villas, hotels, resorts and islands that will blow your mind. To rattle off a few, in no particular order, they are:
The Havannah: A child-free luxury resort at the north tip of Vanuatu’s main island. It’s the one you’ll see in most of the luxury advertisements for Vanuatu… and for good reason.
Mangoes Resort: A really great family friendly option with modern suites and pools.
The Boathouse: A private villa for those who are a little more adventurous and enjoy the idea of your own home away from home in a beachside area called Dream Cove. You will truly feel like a local here!
Irririki: A kid’s paradise! Massive pools, heaps of hotel rooms and situated on a teeny island, just a short boat ride offshore from the main town of Port Vila.
Ratua Island: This is a special one indeed. A privately owned island, just a short plane ride away to the island of Espiritu Santo and then a speed boat to one of the most extraordinary places I’ve seen on earth. High end. More of a honeymoon destination for those happy to splash out.
And now this is where the fun really starts. When you’re not half asleep in your hammock in the sun, finishing your first pina colada at midday, you will want to check out the local sights and adventures Vanuatu has to offer. And they truly are unique!
A volcano: Mount Yasur is the closest active Volacno you are allowed to stand near in the world. Literally. Call me crazy, and you may choose to stay as far from the flowing lava as possible, but this is one of those things that you will never forget. It’s a fair hike up the side, and it’s not exactly well sign posted (so when they say don’t walk around to the right, you listen to them!) but when you reach the top, preferable at sunset to appreciate the full glow of this beast of mother nature, you are humbled by her force, her colours and her heat. It’s mesmerizing and you could sit there all night (as some people do) except for the fact you’ve got to hike back down the volcano, in the dark. It’s on the nearby island of Tanna and this also involves a short flight from Vanuatu’s main island. Seriously worth the journey! If you want to stay overnight, there’s a tiny nearby resort called White Grass that will do just fine.
Waterfall abseiling: Still on the adventurous side of things, if you love the beauty of natural waterfalls and you also love the idea of climbing down the middle of them, then get yourself to Mele Falls, where the crystal clear flowing water will cascade over your shoulders as you descend into a pool of refreshing water and float down the stream for lunch.
Blue holes: After all this adventure you’ll want to do something a little more cruisy perhaps. Why not let a guide drive you (it’s a good idea – because these swimming holes are often hidden in dense jungle!) to one of Vanuatu’s many hidden gems, called Blue Holes. These are natural swimming pools that contain a certain mixture of limestone, volcanic gases, fresh and salt water and the result is glowing azure blue water. You can canoe into them for that true Indiana Jones effect, or swing from a rope and let all your worries go as you soak up this unbelievably beautiful experience. Take a picnic and spend the day lazing about the pools.
Dive a shipwreck: If you’re after some amazing underwater adventure then descend to the SS President Coolidge shipwreck on the island of Espiritu Santo and learn about the fascinating history of this wreck, that happens to be the largest, most accessible wrecks in the world. She was sunk in 1942 after accidentally hitting friendly mines as she attempted to carry troops into the harbor. You could spend days exploring the hidden treasures of this once luxury liner, buried at sea.
Wow, you must be starving by now after all those activities! It’s a good thing then that I happen to know the best places to sample the local produce and what a spectacular variety there is!
Francesca's Italian Restaurant and Bar: Not that you’ll want to imagine you’re anywhere else but Vanuatu, you may find yourself thinking you’ve been transported to Italy’s Amalfi coast when you dine here. Overhead palapas dripping with colourful and aromatic vines, Italian tunes floating in the warm breeze, homemade pastas and refreshing prossecos and negronis. It’s worth the short drive to get here… and you’ll want to stay all day!
Jill's Cafe: Right in the heart of Port Vila, the humble little burger joint will blow your mind! I dare you to try and finish the paradise burger! The daily freshly squeezed lemonade will quench any thirst. And the best part, you’re opposite the local handy-craft markets where you can snap up some bargain souvenirs right after lunch.
Le Jardin des Saveurs: Being a French-speaking nation, it’s only right that you visit the best French restaurant on the island. Combining traditional French cuisine with the local tropical flavours, this won’t disappoint. Especially if you order the fat, rich and fluffy chocolate soufflé for desert.
I do hope you enjoy your visit. I have no doubt you will. And I know this because the locals in Vanuatu have recently been voted the happiest people on earth. As you’ve just read, there are many reasons why. But they are just a few. Enjoy!