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