A speak in the South Pacific and formerly called the New Hebrides, Vanuatu is a group of 83 islands located thousands of miles east of Australia. It enjoys pleasant weather most of the year, except for seasonal cyclones and trade winds, and boasts several tourist attractions catering to a wide range of preferences. Adventurous tourists can go diving and explore shipwrecks underwater, while the more laid-back types can bird-watch or simply enjoy the scenery. Some of the popular islands are Pentecost, Espiritu Santo, and Malekula. There are modest tourist facilities, and transport is limited in some of the less visited islands.

Accommodation ranges from international-standard resorts to adventure lodges. Most of the high-end hotels are in Port-Vila, and minor resorts can be found in the smaller islands. All the resorts offer traditional hotels, apartments, bungalows, lodges, and guest houses, and there are usually no hotel taxes or service charges. There are also campsites on the outermost islands, including Efaté and Nguna Island.

When to Go

Vanuatu has a subtropical climate, with moderate rainfall throughout the year. Warm, wet, and humid weather lasts from November to April, and trade winds are common from May to October. There are occasional cyclones from December to April.

Getting There & Away

The main airport is Bauerfield, about four miles from Port-Vila. The airport is modern and well-equipped, and taxis and buses provide regular trips to the city center. Taxis and minibuses are the most common form of land transport. Most taxis are metered, but most drivers will agree on a fixed rate. The roads are well-constructed in Port-Vila and Luganville, but most other roads are either dirt tracks or compacted coral. Avoid driving on such roads during rain, as they can get slippery. Small ferries and boats based in Port-Vila and Espiritu Santo provide inter-island transport occasionally.

Health & Safety

Port-Vila is fairly safe and disease-free, but there is high risk of typhoid and low to moderate risk of malaria in other islands. Most of the food, including milk, is considered safe to consume, but mains water may be chlorinated and cause mild stomach problems. The hospitals, particularly in the capital, have basic but adequate equipment. Bring a first-aid kit and medications if you plan to stay outside of Port-Vila for more than a few days. The waters are generally safe for swimming, but sharks have been spotted off Malekula island.

Itineraries

One day at the Cultural Center
One day at Yasur

Additional time
Two days on Espiritu Santo Island
Three days on Pentecost Island

Highlights

Cultural Center: located in the capital, Port-Vila, the Cultural Center houses one of the largest collections of Pacific artifacts in the world.

Yasur: this active volcano is the most accessible in the world. You can actually climb to the peak and peer into the crater, where you can see a pool of hissing, bubbling lava.

Espiritu Santo Island: this is a popular scuba diving site, where divers can see the seabed where the USS President Coolidge and the USS Trucker both rest.

Pentecost Island: with its rugged plains and limited infrastructure, Pentecost Island is the perfect place for visitors seeking a real island experience.

Activities

Diving: divers are treated to fasinating underwater scenes, including shipwrecks, canyons, and interesting marine creatures.

Swimming and water sports: most of the island coasts are safe to swim in, and many provide excellent opportunities for sailing, windsurfing, waterskiing, and other water sports.

Fishing: you can rent a kayak or small watercraft from the islands and go game fishing, or simply glide over the Pacific and enjoy the scenery.

Bird watching: various bird species inhabit the coastlines and rainforests, especially around the southern islands. The best time to bird-watch is from September to January, which is breeding season.