Vanuatu Holiday Planning Guide
Composed of 83 rugged islands spread out over a stretch of nearly 1,300 km (810 mi), Vanuatu features a huge diversity of natural environments and cultures. A fusion of British, French, Polynesian, and Melanesian influences, the nation combines devout religious devotion with the slow, relaxed pace of island life. Lush rainforests and thriving coral sanctuaries abound across the island chain and feature a colorful array of native wildlife and plant species that make for fantastic snorkeling, diving, and hiking excursions. Active volcanoes remain among the biggest attractions in Vanuatu, along with the chain's stunning beaches and shimmering blue waters. Despite the nation's harsh volcanic landscapes, rocky coast, and lack of arable land, Vanuatu is a warm and welcoming place to visit, as its people do everything they can to make tourists feel right at home.
Places to Visit in Vanuatu
Islands of VanuatuEspiritu Santo
: Home to most tourist attractions, the largest and most beautiful island of the archipelago has something for everyone on the 3,955 sq km (1,527 sq mi) surface, including lush resorts on sandy beaches where you can relax and adapt to the island time.Malakula
: The mountainous island, second in size on your Vanuatu itinerary, allows you to experience the rugged, wild side of the island nation by hiking the forests and visiting hidden cannibal sites dating back to ancient times.Efate
: The capital and international airport sit on the third largest island of Vanuatu, which attracts both adventurers and people seeking an exotic vacation in a luxury hotel or beach bungalow.Tanna Island
: Visit the active volcano and feel the heat of lava on the most fertile and fruitful island of the archipelago where products such as kava, coconut, and coffee can be found.
Cities in VanuatuPort Vila
: The largest city and capital of the small island nation combines traditions of the native culture with modern day lifestyle in upscale hotels, cafes, and bustling markets that sell all different kinds of products.Luganville
: Often referred to as “Kanal,” the city stands as the second largest urban area in Vanuatu, featuring a laid-back, diverse local population and the busiest port in the state that’s active both day and night, so you’ll always be entertained on your Vanuatu vacation.Lenakel
: The nation’s administrative capital and major port brims with luxury resorts for a serene and relaxing holiday next to the sea, ideal for swimming and exploring the marine life.Lakatoro
: Although small, the island village offers the postcard image of a long sandy beach contrasted with deep green forests of palms trees, a place where you can hide away from the sun.
Popular Vanuatu Tourist AttractionsMele Cascades
: Cascading over several shelves into a natural pool, the Mele Cascades show the natural wonder and peaceful beauty of Vanuatu. Hideaway Island Marine Reserve
: Visit the beaches of Hideaway Island to experience a tropical island in person, complete with tall palm trees and a colorful reef.
The Summit Gardens Vanuatu - CLOSED: Include the largest garden in the South Pacific on your Vanuatu itinerary and see thousands of tree and flower varieties from all around the world as they blossoming in this natural habitat. Mount Yasur
: Still active after 800 years, the sacred Mount Yasur is the highlight of the island, considered a “must-see” attraction for geology enthusiasts and adventurers alike, as small eruptions occur there daily. Millenium Cave
: This secluded prehistoric cave is bound to excite everyone on a Vanuatu vacation on the way down into the belly of the mountain; watch for a small canyon with a freshwater spring. Iririki Island
: A private tourist resort, bungalows lie right on the beach next to the water, providing a one-of-a-kind view of Vanuatu’s tropical beauty. Underwater Post Office
: The only official underwater post office in the world sits just a few meters below the surface of the water, so anyone can fill out a postcard and send it by diving underwater here. Ekasup Village
: This village of indigenous people offers insight into their culture and a visit here highlights their heritage through the language, architecture, and medicine. Matevulu Blue Hole
: Although it is secluded, the small pool will draw you in, since the fresh water is too clear to even notice the surface. Champagne Beach
: With clean water, Champagne Beach exudes the feeling of a tropic paradise with available paddling boats, changing rooms, and showers right there on the sand.
Planning a Vanuatu Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Vanuatu with Kids
Endlessly sunny weather and sandy beaches create idea conditions for a family holiday in Vanuatu where both the parents and children can have fun and relax. Port Vila
has all of these ideals plus amenities like exotic resorts, boat rides, jet skis, colorful markets, and museums to entertain the whole family. The friendliness of the locals will only add to your experience.
Don’t miss the chance to experience a real active volcano on Tanna Island
, where you can combine learning about nature with personal experience on a small excursion.
Families who love the water often claim a spot on Espiritu Santo
and explore the small surrounding islands (often via snorkel) with their rich marine life and vast beaches of white sand. Building sand castles are one way to pass the time; however, keep in mind that not all beaches have this soft sand, so take advantage of this activity when and where you can.
Things to Do in Vanuatu with Kids
Age doesn’t seem to matter when you’re headed to the beach for a swim or playing in the sand, and that’s precisely what makes Vanuatu a good choice for an exotic holiday. Champagne Beach
, with its crystal clear water and palm tree shade embodies a safe spot for a family to swim, dive, and experience all the colorful fish. If this particular beach is too far away, Port Olry Beach
offers all the same perks including changing rooms, shade, and turquoise water for the family to cool off in.
Families looking for a water adventure will have fun at Velit Bay
where fishing, diving, and watersports are the highlight. Similarly, Hideaway Island Marine Reserve
shines with three organized tours per day to more remote diving spots where coral reefs are always active.
Take time away from the salt water at Nanda Blue Hole
, a blue hole with a small picnic area surrounded by a beautiful, exotic forest. Dive right in with your kids or just stand on the sides and watch the fish in the azure water.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Vanuatu
Most resorts take pride in being well-equipped throughout the year for handling children by providing services ranging from kids clubs and sports activities to family apartments. However, outside the resorts, the availability of disposable diapers and food may be different than back home, so bring plenty of supplies for children’s needs. While diapers can be purchased on the island, bring your own mosquito nets as well as child friendly insect repellent.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Vanuatu
Cuisine of Vanuatu
The island gardens are characterized by fresh fruits and vegetables, with most families growing their own food in their backyards. Close-knit families prepare food using an old technique with heated stones or cooking on steam. Influenced by the rest of the world, Vanuatu combines international dishes with locally grown ingredients into a multicultural mix full of fresh vegetables and spices. The representative dish of Vanuatu is the national dish called lap lap; bananas, yam, and manioc make the tasty veggie paste best served hot. Most residents have their own versions of the national recipes, but everyone appreciates fresh fruits like papayas, pineapples, and mangos for breakfast. Make sure to try kava on your Vanuatu holiday; it’s usually served before dinner time in a non-formal, relaxing fashion.
Shopping in Vanuatu
The capital Port Vila
stands as the best option for retail therapy, since you can find duty-free shops alongside specialty boutiques selling jewelry, clothing, electronics, and high-end perfumes. But if you’re looking for something more authentic to the tropics, head out to the flea markets in every town and dig into the piles of items to find the quirky and unique trinkets. Places like Vanuatu Handicraft Markets
have everything from fresh fruit and homemade dishes to historical items such as old Coca-Cola bottles and wood carvings to original artwork depicting island life. Most markets also have local people offering to braid your hair for a certain price so you can adapt to their style while on vacation.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Vanuatu
Interesting Facts About Vanuatu
● “Land diving” has become tradition, inspired today’s bungee jumping. It involves diving off six tall towers with vines tied to your feet as you try to touch the soil with your hands or heads.
● The oldest archeological evidence found on the island belongs to an ancient civilization dating back to 2,000 BCE.
● Vanuatu belongs to the area of the Pacific called “The Ring of Fire” because of its volcanic activity.
● The word Vanuatu means “Land Eternal.”
● Cacao and kava are two major Vanuatu exports, so chances are that when you drink hot cocoa it originated from the islands.
Things You Should NOT Do in Vanuatu
Don’t rush. Adapt to “island time” and relax on your vacation just like the locals who like to take things slow instead of rushing anywhere. If you do decide to be more active and travel around the exotic islands, keep in mind that the locals appreciate modesty when it comes to fashion. Although wearing a bikini for a swim wouldn’t bother anyone, exposing women’s thighs can offend some of the more traditional Christians in the community. Bargaining attempts are also frowned upon, as it is not a part of their culture.
Holidays & Festivals in Vanuatu
The traditional culture of Vanuatu holds plenty of religious and non-religious holidays, but what they all have in common is a festive atmosphere. John Frum Day can easily be called the most important holiday associated with a mythical man typically depicted as a soldier bringing wealth and prosperity; the government organizes a military parade in his honor in March to emphasize the nonviolent culture of Vanuatu. Older traditions such as land diving are still practiced on the islands; men jumping off wooden towers is a part of an ancient coming-of-age ritual taking place between April and June. For the fainthearted, Fete de la Musique is a better option. Musicians get an opportunity to express their talents across the islands on June 21 and bring people closer through music.
Useful Vanuatu Travel Tips
Common Greetings in Vanuatu
Because of historical circumstances, most residents today speak English as well as French on the islands, especially in densely populated areas like the capital, which is often visited by tourists. The local population is known for their friendliness, but the easiest way to make friends is to speak the native pidgin dialect called Bislama. Greet locals with a simple hello, in Bislama pronounced as “Halo,” or a good morning, “Gud moning” in Bislama. Remember the phrase “Hamas Long Hem?” meaning “How much is that?” in case you decide to shop, then thank vendors by saying, “Tankyu Tumas.” When saying goodbye to anyone, choose between “Lukim Yu” and “TaTa,” but always smile to the person you’re talking to.
Climate of Vanuatu
The tropical climate goes a long way in defining an exotic holiday. Long summers stretch between November to March with temperatures rising up to 32 °C (90 ℉), but the islands keep gentle sea breeze throughout the year. In winter, from April to December, temperatures fall to an average of 23 °C (73 ℉), with moderate amounts of rainfall. Tropical cyclones can occur during wintertime, but the water temperatures stay between 22 °C (71 ℉) and 28 °C (82 ℉), so swimming is always possible on any of the island of the archipelago.
Transportation in Vanuatu
Traveling the island state can be a challenge, since there is no public transportation. However, plenty of companies provide their own minibuses for sightseeing and any sort of organized activities. If you’re looking for a specific destination you need to reach, taking a taxi can be a better option, as taxi rides aren’t much more expensive and buses are known for not having a set route, they just go wherever people need them to go. Drivers will appreciate car rental services available in most towns where scooters, bikes, and vans can be rented in addition to cars.
Tipping in Vanuatu
Although tipping in most countries is a way to show appreciation for good service, residents of Vanuatu don’t practice the custom (and, in fact, it may be offensive to them). A simple thank you and a warm smile will do just as well with the friendly locals.