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.

 

Mt Yasur

Mt Yasur is the world’s most accessible and active live volcano. Despite constant and increasing volcanic activity over time, tours to Mt Yasur continue. Local tour companies offer “flyovers”, day tours and the most amazing night tours. The Volcano really comes alive at night, promising you a natural firework show that you will remember forever.

Diving and Snorkelling

Tanna is surrounded by a coral coastline dotted with deep blue, rock pools and blue holes, teeming with colourful marine life and live coral gardens. Wearing reef shoes is a must in Tanna, as many blue holes are accessible only by walking across the rocky coral shoreline. Take a short boat ride out to Lemnap underwater cave, duck dive under the cliff wall and drop into a stunning 60 metre wide grotto. You will swim amongst a myriad of sea life in the clearest of turquoise seas. For the more adventurous, dive the wreck of “The Fijian” a sailing boat that sunk in 1916 and lies in only 20 metres of water.

Beach Life

The beaches in Tanna vary from volcanic black sands, through a mix of white coral sand to white sandy beaches. Beaches are dotted with the most amazing shells and bleached coral, creating heaven for any avid shell enthusiast. Port Resolution, with its white sandy beaches and deepwater harbour, is a favourite for visiting yachties. Nearby attractions include Shark Bay, (yes there are real sharks here), hot springs and freshwater lakes and Turtle bay, where turtles come to lay their eggs.

Cave Tours

People travel from all over the world to explore the ancient caves on Tanna Island. There are blue water caves, with snorkel access only, underwater caves that require a leap of faith to enter, and caves that come with their own skeletons.  An experienced guide will explain how these caves were formed and the local legends associated with them.

Fishing, Boating, Kayaking

Fishing tours can be organised at your resort with local fishermen, usually in a small aluminium dinghy. It is a good idea to bring your own fish hooks, lures and heavy lines as supplies are limited on Tanna. Local game fish include Marlin, Wahoo, Yellow fin Tuna, Barracuda and Skipjack, all fish caught are given to the local village who may in turn sell them back to the resort for your dinner that night. You may even catch some lobsters.

Sea kayak or outrigger canoe tours offer an interesting alternative and an opportunity to visit local blue holes and dive right in. You may even sight a whale or two.

Surfing

Popular surf spots just off the reef in Tanna include Port Resolution and Lenakel.

Swimming

With its clear turquoise seas, Tanna 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 “Aniwa and Tanna Swim Safari”.

Walking

There are some pretty good walks on Tanna but few or no tourists using them. Walking on Tanna is a cost-effective means of getting around, a means of exploring the island and there are some challenging mountains to climb in the south. Tanna terrain offers rugged mountains, rainforests, waterfalls, clear streams and is sparsely populated. There is a road but it is lightly trafficked and not all-weather. You can often catch a passing truck in the morning or the afternoon. 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

To discover Tanna, 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. Ask your resort to pack a picnic for you, grab your swimming gear and head off for a day of relaxed discovery.

4WD Tours

Tanna has some good sealed roads and travelling around the island by 4wd is a fairly comfortable experience. However if it has rained heavily recently you could be in for some off road adventures.

Cultural Village Tours

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. Some of the tours available include: South Tanna Cultural Tour, Ipai Custom Tour, Black Magic Tour and Yekel Custom Villages.

John Frum Cult Village Tour (Friday Evenings)

Join in the dancing and enjoy the celebration of this unique cult. These Tannese people were encouraged by the WWII soldier John Frum to turn from Christianity for the promise of a better life with the addition of Western goods such as radios and coca cola. John returned to America and his followers are still awaiting his return and the bounty he will bring. If you visit on a Friday you will be privy to the weekly ceremony when John Frum members conduct rituals including raising flags and marching in unison, holding the belief that mimicking these American acts will lead to the delivery of magical cargo such as radios, jeeps, fridges and other manufactured items owned by American visitors during WWII.

Hot Mineral Springs

Hot mineral springs are renowned in the South Pacific for their relaxing and therapeutic properties. The hot springs are warmed by Mt Yasur Volcano. They flow over the beach and into the sea at Sulphur Bay. This is a popular location for the local villagers to do their laundry and bathe in the hot water.

Horse Riding

Within minutes of arriving on Tanna Island you will discover the wild brumbies roaming the grassy plains. 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, into the forest and to one of the world’s largest banyan trees.

Seaplane and Helicopter Tours

Discover Tanna Island from a higher perspective and take a helicopter or seaplane tour. Tours depart from Port Vila and bookings are essential.

Kava Bars

Trying Tannese kava is quite an experience. 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 hanging lanterns. The experience is one to be tried at least once.

Due to transport challenges, Kava export is a slow growing yet profitable trade in Tanna. The kava root is sourced straight from the Jungle where it is then ground into a fine powder and added to water to produce a dirty coloured liquid. Kava is traditionally used in custom ceremonies and at the end of the working day. Due to its relaxing effect kava is ideal for: relaxing muscles after a busy day working, calming of nerves, reducing anxiety and giving a sense of well being and contentment. Perhaps this is the reason why Vanuatu was recently voted “The Happiest Place on Earth” by the Happiest Planet Index.

tanna boat

tanna kayaker

tanna atv adventures

tanna dancers