What we recommend you see and do on Santo Island

Head straight to one of the local white sandy beaches and start experiencing the laid back natural beauty and lifestyle of Espiritu Santo. Watch your worries blow away on the gentle sea breezes, feel the warmth of the sun on your body and chill off in the crystal clear blue waters. Enjoy the first few days of your holiday amongst the tropical rainforests and clear blue skies before heading off to explore this island paradise. With tours including deep sea fishing, kayaking, diving, and island hopping Espiritu Santo has something unique for every one to enjoy.

Espiritu Santo Attractions

Diving and Snorkelling Santo

Santo is home to the “The SS President Coolidge”, a 200 m luxury cruise ship that sank after hitting a mine during WWII with 5,000 troops on board, all but 2 escaped.  Now declared a Marine Reserve, she lies intact on her side and is accessible throughout. To see the whole ship it is recommended you do at least 10 dives, each time discovering more of the ship and its watery treasures.

Other popular dive sites on Santo include “Million dollar point” (where the Americans threw all their equipment and machinery into the sea at the end of WW11), and the wreck of the “Tucker” off Malo Island. There are also spectacular reef dives with large coral gardens, bombie heads, turtles, manta rays, reef sharks and caves to explore.

For snorkelers, there is also plenty to see in Santo’s many blue holes, lagoons and inshore reefs. Visit one of Santo’s amazing blue holes, surrounded by lush rainforests, just inland from the pristine Lomnoc Beach. These holes are a true natural wonder where crystal clear fresh water comes to the surface through layers of limestone and coral producing water of jewel quality blue.

Espiritu Santo activity

Beach life on Santo

The beaches in Santo are the best you will find in Vanuatu. Pristine white soft sandy beaches, dotted with the most amazing shells and bleached coral, creating heaven for any avid shell enthusiast. Lonoc, Golden Beach and Champagne beach are the most popular.

Santo Fishing, Boating, Kayaking

Vanuatu boasts some of the best game fishing and deep water fishing grounds in the Pacific due to its volcanic geology. The fishing waters around Espiritu Santo are reputed to be the best in Vanuatu. Fishing tours can be booked through your resort. Local game fish include; marlin, Wahoo, Spanish mackerel, giant trevally and numerous species of Tuna including albacore and yellow fin.

Espiritu Santo kayaking

Santo Sea Kayaking and Outrigger Canoe Tours

Sea kayak or outrigger canoe tours offer an interesting alternative and an opportunity to visit local blue holes and dive right in. Most resorts supply ocean kayaks for your use and one Tour Company offers an idyllic trip through spring fed rivers in locally made dugout canoes.

Millennium Cave and River Trek Tour. You’ll walk through lush rainforest, where you will learn the medicinal uses of local plants and trees before descending down bamboo ladders to a 400 m long and 50 m high cave, complete with bats, a running stream, stalagmites and stalactites all around. Once through the cave, you’ll start your river adventure. Scrambling over rocks and boulders, you’ll navigate a waterfall before enjoying a lazy float downstream. You’ll swim through canyon walls, past plunging waterfalls and take in the majesty of the pristine landscape before returning to town.

Santo Swimming

With its clear turquoise seas, Santo offers some amazing swimming opportunities. Whether you enjoy a calm float in blue hole or an ocean swim beyond the reef, you will return feeling refreshed and relaxed. Each year these gorgeous calm seas attract local and international competitors for the “Vanuatu Swim Safari, Espiritu Santo ocean swim.

Nanda Blue Hole is Cool Crystal Blue Water Pool lying amidst the natural green forest. It is a forty five minutes drive from Luganville town to Shark Bay on the eastern side of Santo.

Hiking Santo

Vatthe Conservation Area covers 2,276 hectares of lowland alluvial forest and offers bushwalkers and bird watchers an experience to remember. Loru Rainforest Protected Area covers 220 hectares of lowland rainforests and has its own bat caves and is a known coconut crab location. As you will be out there for a few hours, remember to be self sufficient, take your own food and water, let the resort know where you are going, and the best advice is to take a guide with you.

Mountain Bike Hire Santo

To discover Santo, up close and personal, hire a mountain bike and design your own tour. There are many fascinating village, beaches and points of interest within an easy ride of your accommodation and most resorts stock good quality bikes. Ask your resort to pack a picnic for you, grab your swimming gear and head off for a day of relaxed discovery.

Driving on Santo

While roads are sealed, they are full of pot holes. So drive carefully and slowly especially if there has been heavy rain as the depth of the holes can be deceptive. A good 4wd is recommended.

Kastom Cultural Village Tours Santo

To experience a way of life that has been largely uninfluenced by western culture, you can take a cultural tour to a number of Kastom Villages. Here locals will share with you their local customs and culture, their knowledge of traditional medicine, dance, crafts and styles of cooking. You will experience, Warrior welcome, Coconut Demonstration, Custom Dance, Water music, Public Dance, Food Preparation, Stone Kava preparation, local fare and Kava tasting.

Horse Riding Santo

There are a number of horse riding tours available and can be booked through most resorts. Explore the island’s beautiful landscapes on horseback with rides available along beaches, through the rainforest, through stunning farmland and natural valleys and fresh and saltwater lagoons.

Espiritu Santo horse riding

Kava Bars Santo

If you haven’t already tried kava, it’s a strong herbal drink made from kava root that is a major component of traditional Melanesian culture. These roughly made Kava bars can be identified on the roadside by their red hanging lanterns. The experience is one to be tried at least once.

Shopping Santo

The main street that runs through Luganville contains most of the commercial businesses and restaurants. The main street contains the port at one end, and the markets and municipal council building at the other end. In the centre there are two main types of stores; tourist boutiques, and all-in-one stores, best described as a cross between a supermarket and a hardware store, stocking cheap imported goods from China. Luganville has a market place in town which is quite popular with cheap local foods and drinks and local craft market stalls. If you are looking for groceries there is supermarket in town that stocks western goods, however it is advised that you bring any special toiletry or dietary products with you.

Espiritu Santo Nightlife

Interested in a night out on the town? You could try to find a kava bar but even those are very sedate. However, the sunsets are so spectacular that you could easily create your own fun, with good company, great wine and great views. Most resorts have their own bar and restaurants and provide local live music.

 

Espiritu Santo Accommodation

Espiritu Santo Accommodation ranges from quality resorts to village style bungalows, while accommodation in rural Santo is mostly village style bungalows. Santo hotels and resorts are clustered around the district centre of Luganville except for Lunnoc Beach Bungalows and Vatthe Lodge on the north eastern coast of Santo and offer an array of services and facilities to suit every budget.

There is only one midrange hotel in Santo, Hotel Santo with 30 rooms, is located right in the CBD. Camping is also available in some areas.

Santo Resorts are small and intimate but include a full array of holiday resort facilities and activities. They each have their own special flavour and facilities. Many are air conditioned or have fans and their own shower and bathroom facilities, some offer self contained facilities.

Three of the resorts are on islands separated from the main island of Santo; these three resorts are only accessible by a few minute’s run aboard one of their own boats.

Bokissa Private Island Resort is on it’s own private island and no one lives there except management and staff. Bokissa has a virgin rainforest, a white sand beach, clear sea water, good landing area, and a thriving, healthy, live coral reef.

Aore Island Resort is on a large island separated from Luganville by Segund Canal and has its own in-house dive school. Surrounded by lush rainforests and coconut plantations, this resort has family friendly and adult only accommodation available.

Oyster Island Resort is on a very small island on the east coast of Santo, and the island only takes half a day to leisurely walk around. There are stunning beaches, some very romantic and hidden. All of them have stunning views of other islands or the mainland.

Beachfront Resort is on the main island of Santo very close to the Luganville CBD. Beachfront Resort offers absolute beachfront, excellent mid range accommodation overlooking the sheltered waters of Segond Channel and Aore Island.

Espiritu Santo Accommodation

 

Espiritu Santo bungalow

 

Santo Budget Accommodation

  • Luganville has 6 budget motel-style places to stay
  • Santo Adventure Lodges
  • Santo adventure Lodges are traditional style village bungalows. These are clean but offer basic facilities.
  • Camping is available at Champagne beach and Loru Camping, Loru Protected Area, Santo. Bring your own tent.

                                 ALL ABOUT ESPIRITU SANTO

Espiritu Santo Island map 2

Espiritu Santo GEOGRAPHY

Due to its size and its mountains, Santo has the greatest expanses of original rainforest and is home to colourful butterflies, tropical birds and beautiful orchids. Huge Kauri trees remain in the mountainous forests of the southwest. The Big Bay Conservation area in the north was the first National Park ever created in Vanuatu and is a must if you like the natural splendour of the rainforest, and enjoy bushwalking. Natural spots of great beauty include the stunning Champagne Beach, in the north and the deep, crystal clear Blue Hole whose cool spring water is a bright azure colour and is great for a refreshing dip.

Espiritu Santo transportation

Espiritu Santo Transportation

While the transportation in Luganville has improved immensely over time, it is still not plentiful. There are considerable numbers of buses, taxis and cabs which are providing services in the town that come into town in the morning and return in the afternoon. Don’t expect to find public transport on Sundays although one could wait and hitch a ride.

There are two places to find public transport in Santo. If you’re heading up the east coast then go to the Unity Store and Pacific Petroleum station (formerly “Unity Shell”). Buses and market trucks leave from 1500H. There are always people waiting here and the pump attendants know all the drivers. Minibuses are preferable for comfort and in case of rain.

For south Santo, you can wait on the roadside across from the Luganville market house, in front of the clump of bamboo. It doesn’t look like a bus stop but you can find people waiting here from about 1400h. If there are some women from South Santo in the market house, they will know which trucks are in town.

If you are prepared to tackle the pot holed roads then there are also car hire places available in Luganville or this can be arranged through your accommodation. A 4wd is the preferred transport.

Espiritu Santo facilities

Espiritu Santo Facilities

Picnic spots and public BBQ’s, there are no council parks or picnic areas in Santo, you simply pack a picnic, portable BBQ, grab a blanket and set off to find your own private piece of paradise.

The supermarket located in Luganville is basic but well stocked with everything from hardware to cheap imported Chinese goods and western fare. It is a good idea to check used by dates. Resorts stock very small supplies of toiletries, sun block and first aid supplies.

Medical Services, Luganville has the second largest hospital in Vanuatu called Northern District Hospital. The hospital provides services to residents in Luganville and people in rural parts of Santo and has it’s own hyperbaric chamber. Additionally the hospital is also serving people in other northern islands of Vanuatu such as Banks etc. It often relies on aid from overseas countries notably Australia and New Zealand. Other medical aid posts are found throughout the island, although there may be no facilities in remote rural areas.

Public Toilets are not found in Santo. Bring your own toilet paper and head for the bush toilet.

Espiritu Santo health

Espiritu Santo Health

No vaccinations are required. Vanuatu is situated in the malarial belt so anti-malarial medication is recommended especially if you intend to visit the outer islands. Check with your doctor one month prior to departure. There is a public hospital in Luganville and medivac facilities back to Port Vila if required. There are private and public hospitals in Port Vila and medical centres. In the unlikely event that you require extensive medical care, ProMEdical can arrange medical evacuations back to Australia, New Zealand and Solomon’s.

Getting to and from Espiritu Santo

Pekoa is an international airport, and Air Vanuatu the domestic airline, provides flights to Santo from Vila on a daily basis (2 times a day) it takes approximately 50 minutes to fly from Port Vila to Santo. Air Vanuatu has direct flights once a week from Brisbane and Sydney.

Pekoa is a busy domestic hub for the northern islands and Luganville is Vanuatu’s second biggest sea port. Boats to other islands can be found at the Simonsen (towards the airport) and Melcoffee (west of town) wharves. Passenger carriers are available for inter island travel throughout Vanuatu and generally cost as much as an airfare and take around 3-4 days. Don’t expect comfort and luxury on these vessels, they are overcrowded and very basic open air “barges”, travelling this way is really only worth considering for the experience itself.

 

Espiritu Santo Island

More commonly known as Santo (Spanish for “Holy Spirit), this is the largest island in Vanuatu with an overall area of 4000km2. Situated in the northern region of Vanuatu, it is home to one of the world’s best dive wrecks, The SS President Coolidge.

The majority of the population of some 10 000 inhabitants, live along the coast or on the small offshore islands. The capital of Santo is Luganville, Vanuatu’s second urban centre. Within recent years there has been a steady growth in the business sector on Santo, with new businesses, resorts and land developers flocking to its untouched lands. Santo Islands claim to fame is that James Michener was inspired to write “Tales of the South Pacific” while he was stationed in Santo during World War II.

During World War II, particularly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, Santo Island was used by Allied forces as a military supply and support base, naval harbour, and airfield. The presence of the Allies later contributed to the island’s diving tourism, as the United States dumped most of their equipment into the sea at what is now known as ‘Million Dollar Point’.

More info

Espiritu Santo Island map

 

Espiritu Santo Island

Espiritu Santo Island

 

 

Pentecost Island Land Diving Naghol Vine Diving

Pentecost Island is most famous for being the spiritual birthplace of the extreme sport of bungy jumping, originating in an age old ritual called the naghol, or land diving.

Kiwi entrepreneur and the man that introduced us to modern day bungy jumping using a series of intertwined elastic bands, AJ Hackett, developed his idea from this ancient ritual that takes place on Pentecost Island.

Between April and June every year, on a Saturday, men in the southern part of the island jump from tall towers (around 20 to 30 m) with vines tied to their feet, in a ritual believed to ensure a good yam harvest and fertility for men. The vine diving ritual is also now used to show acceptance into manhood.

The Legend of the vine jumping festival tells of a woman who ran away from her husband who beat her and hid in a tall tree. The husband, Tamale begged her to say sorry and come down but warned he may beat her a little more.

She refused so he climbed the tree after her and as he reached the top she jumped. In his anguish Tamale jumped after her, only to realise that she had tied liana vines around her ankles. The woman survived while Tamale perished. To this day, men jump from the towers as a show of strength to women in the village and as a statement that they cannot be tricked again. When the vine stretches at the end of the dive the land divers head curls under their shoulders and touches the earth, making it fertile for the following year’s yam crop.

Land diving was first given international exposure when David Attenborough and a BBC film crew brought back footage of the ritual during the 1950s.

Queen Elizabeth II , visited Pentecost in 1974 and witnessed a land diving ceremony, during which one unfortunate islander died because the jump was performed too early in the year, when the vines were much less elastic than usual.

Nowadays, tourists pay large sums of money to witness the ceremony, often taking day trips from Port Vila. These tours are often booked out so make sure you book in advance.

After an easy trek through the jungle you come upon the bungy site. The giant bungee tower is in a small clearing with a back drop of jungle and the structure itself is a crude tower with 5 bungee levels made out of native wood held tightly together with homemade ropes made out of liana vine. It is situated on a slight slope and the ground in the front is freshly tilled to help break the fall of the jumpers. This is an experience that will leave you holding your breath as you watch each magnificent man take the daring death defying plunge toward earth.

Your land diving day tour will also include taking part in village celebrations after the jump, including traditional music and dancing, and a feast of home-cooked food shared with the successful jumpers.

Pentecost Island land diving

 

Things to do on Pentecost Island

Pentecost is a small island, pristine and untouched and its beauty lies within its virgin rainforests, cascading waterfalls and clear blue streams and ocean waters. There is very little in the way of entertainment and most people visit for day trips or quick overnighters. Most tourists take in the Land Diving festival, a village tour, jungle walk and visit the gorgeous waterfalls and swimming holes.

Land Diving is not all that is on offer in Pentecost. There is the spectacular Waterfall Falls that cascade down the mountain and through the clear blue swimming pools out to the ocean. Melsisi is a local village on a hillside that overlooks a long coral beach, and here you will find an amazing Catholic Church Cathedral and mission that offer accommodation. Cultural village tours are available and Pentecost offers some of the most pristine rainforests in Vanuatu. There are lovely beaches with fantastic coastal views, with great snorkelling and a chance to swim with dolphins.

land diving

Explore underground caves, then climb up to the waterfall and watch as it cascades down the mountain, cool off in fresh, cool pools at the bottom. You can also visit (and taste only if you are male, as women are still not allowed to drink kava in Pentecost) Kava and coca and coconut plantations. Sand drawing is another interesting custom of the island. Symbolic figures are drawn in the sand in one complete movement, without lifting a finger, to depict ancient legends and customs.

For the more adventurous you can try mountain climbing. Mt Vetmar, at 887m above sea level, is Pentecost’s second highest mountain. It takes only half a day to climb and come back down. On top you’ll witness some fine views over south Pentecost and there are some unusual plants and birds to see in the rainforest.

Island Kastom tour. All the inland villages, (Bunlap, Ratap, and Lonlibili) are pretty traditional in terms of dress, (the men wear nambas the colourful penis sheafs and women grass skirts), spiritual beliefs, and customs such as village ceremonies and dance. The laws are imposed by a chief and everyone must obey them.

And after all your jungle trekking and mountain climbing you can relax that weary body at the natural hot springs at Hotwota.

Whilst Pentecost is a family friendly place to visit, there are not scheduled activities for children to enjoy. The land diving tour may be a little hard to take for some children or indeed, lead to replication in the more adventurous ones!

For a truly unique, tropical island, rough adventure holiday, a trip to Pentecost is well worth taking.

 

 

Pentecost Island is a lush, mountainous island which stretches North to South over some 60 kilometres It has an area of 490 km² and a population of 12,000 as of 1999. The north Pentecost village of Laone was the home of Walter Lini, who led Vanuatu to independence in 1980. Today, the ‘father of the nation’ is commemorated by a statue at the nearby Lini Memorial College.

Pentecost Island

Visiting Pentecost Island

Pentecost Island is for the adventurous traveller. Don’t come if you expect 5-star luxury, infrastructure and tourist facilities are basic. However, if you are prepared to rough it a little, you will be rewarded with a real island feeling which comes from genuine cultural experiences with friendly and welcoming local people.

Getting to Pentecost Island

Pentecost island domestic airport is Lonorore and is approximately 190 km from Port Vila. With less than 60 minutes flight time from Port Vila, Air Vanuatu offer return flights from Port Vila a few times a week.

Pentecost Island Transportation

Your resort can arrange transport for you, as there is no public transport available in Pentecost. 4wd are available for hire and can be arranged with your accommodation.

Pentecost Island Accommodation

There is very little in the way of accommodation Pentecost and what is available are village style bungalows made from traditional local materials with thatched roofs, coral walls and sandy floors. Facilities are very basic; however they are equipped with hot showers and flush toilets.

Typically these have a small restaurant operated by the owners with local foods. Visitors should consider bringing their own water and have extra tea, coffee, sugar that can be left behind as a small gift. Guest houses in Southern Pentecost are very busy during the land diving season from April to June. All services on the island are payable by cash in Vatu, so ensure you bring enough cash with you.

Pentecost Island Accommodation

 

Must Do’s in Tanna

What we recommend you see and do in Tanna

Fly directly to Port Vila and experience the local sites and tours and get a general feel for the friendly and slow paced lifestyle of Vanuatu. Take a quick flight to Tanna Island and stay for a few nights at one of the resorts. Enjoy a village and local market tour and take a night tour of the live Volcano, Mt Yasur.

Mt Yasur may be the draw card for Tanna Visitors, but it will be the memory of the friendly and welcoming local Ni Vanuatu that will remain in your heart forever. Tanna truly is the land where time stood still.

 

Take a quick flight South of Port Vila and you will find yourself on Tanna Island. Tanna is 40km long and 19km wide, with a total area of 550k and a population of approximately 20,000. Tanna is populated almost entirely by Melanesians and they follow a more traditional lifestyle than many other islands. Some of the villages are known as Kastom villages, where modern inventions are restricted, the inhabitants wear penis sheaths and grass skirts and live in hatched huts, and the children do not go to public schools. This island is the centre of the John Frum Cargo Cult which worships an American World War 11 soldier as their god. The tourism industry has been slow to grow in Tanna, with Mt Yasur, the live volcano being the main attraction.

Geography of Tanna Island

Protected by coral reefs and black sandy beaches, Tanna Island is a combination of thick untouched tropical rain forest, ash plains and rugged mountains. The north-west, in the rain shadow of the central ranges, is covered with grassland and scrub. The garden area in the centre of the island is very fertile, producing kava, coconut, coffee, fruit and vegetables in quantities large enough to export. Travel inland to breathtaking waterfalls, underwater caves and crystal clear blue swimming holes.

Tanna Island Travel Story

Our party of 4 arrived at Bauerfield Domestic Airport 1 hr prior to departure as directed, for our 8am flight to Tanna Island. Only to discover that we were to travel in groups of two on two separate flights, the first leaving in 10 minutes. After a quick weigh in (yes the light aircraft has a weight policy) and payment of our 200vt departure tax, we were walking across the tarmac to board our small aircraft. No toilets or lunch service on this 45 minute flight. We watched with interest as supplies including livestock, fresh produce and a digital Tv were loaded aboard. A quick detour to Erromango Island found us landing on a short grass strip runway to the applause and cheers of the local Ni Vanuatu. After a quick unload and reload we were on our way to Tanna Island. Our flight was uneventful, and the view from above spectacular. Who would have thought that water could be so clear! The next day we discovered another flight had encountered a delay at Erromango when the aircrafts wheels became bogged and had to be dug out with sticks, shovels and bare hands. That’s Vanuatu for you, no two days are ever the same.

Tanna Island Facilities

Picnic spots and public BBQ’s, there are no council parks or picnic areas in Tanna, you simply pack a picnic, portable BBQ, grab a blanket and set off to find your own private piece of paradise. The General store located in Lenakel are basic but are well stocked. Selling everything from fruit, toiletries, bread, household products and gas bottle refills. It is a good idea to check used by dates. Resorts stock very small supplies of toiletries, sunblock and first aid supplies.

Lenakel public hospital is a small 40 bed facility that serves over 20000 people from the 6 surrounding islands, with a female ward, a male ward, a labour/delivery ward, a pediatric ward, and TB ward. There are also a few small one room “Bush clinics” scattered throughout the villages. Public Toilets are not provided in Tanna.

Tanna Island Transportation

There is no public transport system in Tanna. Your resort will organise a transfer from the airport and once you are in Tanna, you will need pre-arranged transfers as there are no taxi’s or cars for hire.

Tanna Island Services

Call rates, internet rates and phone line rentals are high in Vanuatu, local and international call rates are high and mobile rates higher. It is not uncommon to encounter telephone or internet disruptions. Once again patience is required.

Money

Vatu (Vt or VUV) is the local currency and Foreign currency exchange in Lenakel is available at the local banks. It is a good idea to exchange your foreign money in Port Vila and to bring enough Vatu with you for your visit. You will be able to pay for your accommodation and meals and tours booked through your resort in Vatu and by credit card. Credit card use incurs a fee anywhere from 3-6.5%.

 

Tanna island is Vanuatu’s most popular short term destination and offers accommodation that is rustic, in Melanesian style bungalows and guesthouses. Travellers have a choice between budget, very basic bungalows to expensive more luxurious expat owned resorts. Tanna island accommodation is an experience within itself. Whether you choose total beach front access, jungle tree top accommodation or a room with a view of the volcano, the absolute untouched beauty of Tanna Island will surround you. Hosting comfortable beds, hot water, some have ceiling, fans flush toilets and restaurants that serve western style food and local meals, the absolute beachfront views will only endear you to the charm of these village style bungalows. As with most out of the way locations, prices for accommodation vary and can be expensive.

All resorts are family friendly yet offer little in the way of “Adult only” vacations. Most Tanna island accommodation is offered as twin share and is clean but basic. Remember to pack your insect repellent

Tanna island

Tanna Island for Families

Got kids? Tanna is a safe, fun and adventure packed holiday location for kids of all ages. There is a plethora of activities to enjoy with your children. Including; Volcano tour (not recommended for very young children) horse riding, swimming, snorkelling, bike riding, helicopter or seaplane flights, fishing, kayaking and various island tours. While local resorts offer children friendly activities such as petanque, board games and racket sports, there are no kids club facilities available or TV in most places.

Tanna Island Weddings

With its romantic sunsets and beautiful landscapes, Tanna is a popular wedding and honeymoon destination. Local resorts and restaurants offer excellent facilities for receptions to suit small wedding groups.

Tanna Island Conferences

Although a little out of the way and expensive, the major resorts in Tanna could provide you with a unique and intimate conference venue. Be aware that accommodation is predominately shared and very rustic and that the restaurant areas would be the only venue available for meetings and would not be offered exclusively.