Tiffany Carroll asked local experts how to spend the perfect day in Vanuatu. Suggestions were divided along gender lines, so we’ve tallied the results and come up with the following girls and guys guide for visitors.
Galavanting Goddess Experience
The overwhelming favourite amongst female visitors and locals alike is fashion designer Jo Jo Vanuatu’s home-based tour. A 15-minute scenic drive from Port Vila delivers you to Jo Jo’s beachfront residence at Pango where the pampering begins. Champagne on arrival, a neck, shoulder and foot massage and high tea, all whilst you sit back and enjoy Jo Jo’s fashion show. There’s no hard sell to buy anything, or do anything for that matter. Enjoy the afternoon with girlfriends, get the latest tips on European fashion trends, swim or snorkel and simply release the Goddess within…
Visit a day spa
Move over Bali, we’ve got Day Spas to rival the best in the world. From the attentive Lotus Health and Beauty in Port Vila, to Le Lagon’s tranquil Oasis Spa or Santo’s Moyyan House by the Sea, it’s hard to beat a massage in Vanuatu for a relaxing time out. Most Day Spas use local ingredients for their body scrubs and massages, even volcanic ash and mud from Tanna’s Mt Yasur volcano. A favourite of this writer’s is Arom’Essence at The Grand Hotel – sublime.
It may sound extravagant, but taking a helicopter to lunch in Vanuatu kind of happens all the time – it’s the way we local girls roll. Talk to Simon at Vanuatu Helicopters about transfers to Vila’s leading restaurants at The Havannah, Eratap Beach Resort or Tamanu on the Beach. The trip takes between five and 15 minutes and the scenery is unbeatable. Lunch at these restaurants should not be missed – the helicopter transfers ensure you have enough time to get to them all. At least that’s what we girls argue.
Eton Beach, Champagne Beach, any beach
We’re a bit spoilt for beaches in Vanuatu, from the picture-perfect Champagne Beach in Santo to Vila’s Eton Beach or Tanna’s Port Resolution White Beach, we promise you will never swim in clearer, cleaner water. Champagne Beach is about 45 minutes out of Luganville and is one of the most photographed, but luckily not the most visited beaches in the world. Eton is a 25-minute drive from Port Vila and Tanna’s Port Resolution White Beach leaves both for dead. Pack an esky for each and enjoy a day of fun in the sun.
There are bargains to be had in Port Vila, from super cheap duty free and European luxury brands at Paris Shopping to kaftans and resort wear shops, girls you really need to block a day for retail therapy in the nation’s capital. We love Pandanus next door to ANZ for their affordable jewelry and locally made gifts, Diana Tam’s art gallery and home studio on the Pango Road and the gorgeous gift shop at The Summit on the Devil’s Point Road. Vatu is the currency of choice, but many shops accept AUD and NZD as well.
Vanuatu’s waters are brimming with fish, seemingly eager to play catch me if you can with visiting fishermen. Port Vila is home to a number of game fishing charters, including the professional Crusoe Fishing located next door to The Waterfront Restaurant. We encourage tag and release for some species, such as the magnificent Marlin found in waters around Vanuatu, however the local restaurants gladly take fresh catches of tuna, Wahoo, Mahi Mahi and Poulet. Half and full day charters are available.
Off road fun
Ever wanted to hire a buggy and tear through a jungle? Well now you can at Off Road Adventures in Mele Bay, Port Vila. Join a guided tour and zip along beaches, pass by villages and do a bit of ‘circle work’ in the bush. We can’t promise you wont get dirty (in fact, you’re likely to get home filthy), but we can assure a good time.
Have a shell or two
To experience the real Vanuatu, you need to meet the locals and engage in local social and cultural activities. Trying Kava is one way to do both. Served at local ‘Nakamals’ from sunset on, Kava was traditionally drunk by Ni-Vanuatu men as a way of relaxing at the end of the day, or to settle business issues peacefully. Today visitors are welcomed at Nakamals throughout the islands. The muddy-tasting drink is, well, frankly it’s awful, but many enjoy its mild narcotic effect.
SCUBA, snuba or snorkel
Vanuatu proudly boasts some of the best wrecks and reefs in the world. We certainly have the biggest, most accessible shipwreck – the SS President Coolidge in Santo, but we’re also home to some untouched, magical reefs throughout the islands. If you’re not a qualified SCUBA diver, don’t worry – you can get certified at most dive shops in Port Vila and Santo – or try Snuba in Port Vila. Great diving can be found around Paradise Point in Port Vila and at Fantastic Reef in Santo.
Mt Yasur Volcano, Tanna
There’s nothing like standing on the edge of the earth and watching Mother Nature at her best and most fierce. Mt Yasur is around two hours drive in the back of a truck from Whitegrass Airport in Tanna. A short hike up the volcano and you’re at the crater of the world’s most accessible, active volcano. Accommodation in Tanna ranges from basic (no electricity, no running water) to most creature comforts (generator power, lukewarm showers). It’s not for the feint hearted, but is our most popular tourist destination. Go and see why.