Vanuatu Destination Guide
There’s beauty in Vanuatu, without doubt: from the 'blue holes' of Espiritu Santo to the unspoiled reefs of Efate, from the bubbling cauldron of Mount Yasur on Tanna Island to the rainforests of Pentecost, this is natural splendour at its finest. However, there’s far more to this island nation than mere landscapes.
Vanuatu is one of the most culturally rich and diverse countries on the planet, where more than 120 languages are spoken by a population of only 220,000. These myriad cultures are expressed in many ways, from the land-divers of Pentecost Island to the kava-drinkers on Efate.
Vanuatu is perfect for those who wish to simply relax by the ocean or a resort pool; however, it’s also something of an adventure destination, offering hikes through the mountains, scuba dives and many activities in between.
- Country: Vanuatu
- Currency: Vatu (VUV)
- Offical Language: English, French, Bislama
- Visas: Australians travelling to Vanuatu for less than 30 days can obtain a visa upon arrival, with evidence of an onward or return ticket
- Tipping: Tipping goes against local customs, so keep your thanks verbal
- Electricity: Vanuatuan outlets run on an average 220 volts and use Type C, G and I plugs
Temperature (max C)
J 28, F 29, M 29, A 27, M 26, J 25, J 24, A 24, S 24, O 26, N 27, D 28
Rainfall (max mm)
J 257, F 272, M 282, A 338, M 244, J 127, J 158, A 125, S 99, O 137, N 165, D 201
Best way to take a dip is...
- Snorkelling off Hideaway Island
- On a underwater scooter ride
- A trip to Cascade Falls
Vanuatu holidays offer some of the best swimming, snorkelling and sport diving anywhere in the world. Serious divers will want to explore the depths beyond the protected marine sanctuary in Port Vila to see impressive shipwreck diving sites, such as the Star of Russia, the Konanda and the ex-Qantas Sandringham flying boat, the Tasman. Even more impressive, in Espiritu Santo, is the luxury liner the S.S President Coolidge, which sank during World War II. these wrecks lie in mountainous terrain below the surface, reflecting the land above, meaning divers can enjoy the cliffs, overhangs and massive caves, connected by intricate lava-formed underwater tunnels.
World-class dive sites boasting underwater caves and stunning grottos attract aquatic lovers, but there’s plenty more to explore above sea level in Vanuatu too. A selection of Vanuatu tours can take you through dense jungle to traditional villages, beneath cascading waterfalls and, on the southern island of Tanna, to the summit of Tanna Yasur Volcano. Captain Cook himself likened Tanna Yasur to Stromboli in Italy, due to its vivid nightly glow. While you're on Vanuatu's largest island, Espiritu Santo, those with a keen sense of adventure can take an action-packed trek through tropical forests to uncover the impressive Millennium Cave.
Seek out adventure with...
- Off road buggy tours (self-drive)
- Volcano sand-boarding
- Rides on the Vanuatu Jungle Zipline
The South Pacific isn’t exactly known for its world-class cuisine – however, Vanuatu is doing much to buck that trend, with a number of excellent eateries in Port Vila and its surrounds that benefit from the country’s past as a French colony. As you might expect, the staple diet here revolves around seafood: from local lobster and prawns to reef fish and tuna. There’s much more to ni-Vanuatu cuisine than these staples, however, as you’ll soon discover from any wander around a market. There’s fruit – more fruit than you’ve ever seen. There’s also rice, and, best of all, the best locally bred beef in the South Pacific comes from Vanuatu.
Get a taste for the South Pacific with...
- A sip of Kava (natural sedative)
- Juice sipped straight from a coconut
- Home-cooked meal from the market
Although Vanuatu is made up of 83 islands, there are four that are the most popular with tourists: Efate, where you’ll find the capital, Port Vila; Tanna Island, home of Mount Yasur volcano; Pentecost Island, where the daredevil land-divers originate; and Espiritu Santo, which boasts some of the nation’s best scuba diving. Accommodation on all of these islands ranges from luxurious resorts to basic bungalows, and even homestays in small villages.
Take a day-trip to...
- Blue Lagoon swimming hole
- Ekasup Culture Village
- Tanna Island’s volcano (Mt Yasur)
You don’t come to Vanuatu in search of big international brands. You come to the islands to find unique souvenirs created by the people who live here, and there are plenty of those on offer. These might range from the smallest carving or woven bag in a local market to a large artwork from one of the galleries in Port Vila.
Vanuatu like a local
The capital of Vanuatu and its largest, busiest city Port Vila is located on the island of Efate. Port Vila offers is a popular port on many South Pacific cruise itineraries and, as such, offers plenty of duty-free shopping, as well as a more 'authentic' shopping experience at the Port Vila Markets. Sip a fresh coconut as you browse the brightly coloured clothing, hand-woven baskets and fresh flowers on offer. Best of all, there's no bartering required here! It's not customary in Vanuatu to haggle.
1. Take a cushion: While the main roads on the islands of Efate and Espiritu Santo are in generally good condition, once you stray from these beaten paths you’ll find things deteriorate rapidly. When travelling around Tanna or Pentecost, or off-road in Efate and Espiritu Santo, plan to take plenty of breaks from driving. It’s going to be slow going.
2. Soak up the chill vibes: While you're in Vanuatu, do try the national dish lap lap (a root vegetable cake cooked in an underground oven), and also get into the Vanuatu way of life by embracing 'siesta'. Relax beneath swaying palm trees, on the beach, or by the pool at your resort - it doesn't matter where, as long as you're soaking up the chill vibes.
Did you know...? There are no street numbers anywhere in Vanuatu. In a country of only 220,000 people, it’s assumed that everyone knows where you live – and taxi drivers will always know the location of the place you’re trying to go. Mail in Vanuatu is delivered to post office boxes in the larger settlements.