Guide to Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu’s Hidden Northern Paradise
Espiritu Sano is Vanuatu’s largest island, and second most populous. The interior of the island is a wild jungle with unsealed and at time unpassable roads. The coasts are lined with white and black sandy beaches.
There are plenty of things to do both in and around the island, yet it receives nowhere near as much attention as the flash resorts of Efate (Port Vila).
Towns in Espiritu Santo
The largest town on Espiritu Santo is Luganville which locals generally refer to as Santo. Lunganville. This is the entry point to the island. Most people end up staying somewhere in Santo as it offers the widest range of utilities for tourists.
Hog Harbour is a village located 45km north of Luganville. The village itself does not offer any tourist attractions, apart from being able to sit down and chat with a few locals. The people out here are very friendly. There are a couple of beaches around Hog Harbour which are amazing including; Lonnoc Beach and Champagne Beach.
Beaches in Espiritu Santo
Espiritu Santo surely has lots of nice beaches around the north, west and south coast, however, these parts of the island are only accessible by proper 4WD. Here are a few of the nice beaches, which can be accessed easily by hire car via sealed (or mostly sealed) road.
Lonnoc Beach is a chilled out, secluded beach located 45km north of Luganville. The beach is great for swimming and kayaking, or just chilling out totally escaping from everything.
Take a right where the sign indicated Champagne Beach, 1km before reaching Hog Harbour. Follow a dirt road for about 5 minutes through farming land until you reach the Lonnoc Beach Bungalows.
Lonnoc Beach Bungalows are a great place to spend a few nights. Check out my full review of my three nights spent there.
Champagne Beach is located just down the road from Lonnoc Beach. It is a nice, white sandy beach back by jungle with a few wild cows roaming around. Champagne Beach is most well-known as a popular location for large cruise ships to stop at.
Make sure there is not a cruise arriving on the da you plan to visit; otherwise, your secluded beach will be filled with over one thousand photo-snapping tourists.
There is a 500 VTU entry fee to access Champagne Beach.
Port Olry is the northernmost town on the east coast of Espiritu Santo which is accessible by sealed roads. Port Olry has a long sandy beach with the clearest ocean water that you will find around the island. The local kids play out on the beach after school and are more than happy to socialize with foreigners.
There are four resorts lined along the beachfront at Port Olry, all offer food and drinks for day visitors. Expect to pay between 2000 and 4000 VTU for a meal, and 500 VTU for a beer. It is expensive for food in Vanuatu, but the view is well worth it.
Port Olry is located about 50 kilometers north of Luganville, about a one hour drive.
Blue Holes in Espiritu Santo
One of the most amazing things to do in Espiritu Santo is to visit a Blue Hole. A Blue Hole is a freshwater swimming hole located in the jungle. The water is a deep blue color due to the limestone which surrounds the water. The following three blue holes are the most popular to visit in Espiritu Santo. Check out my guide to Vanuatu’s Blue Lagoons for even more.
Nanda Blue Hole
Nanda Blue hole is a little more developed than Riri and Matevulu. Concrete and wooden boardwalks are built around the edge of the pool where you can relax. Nanda has the clearest and bluest water. The visibility is easily over 20 meters. The Nanda Blue hole is surrounded by thick jungle so that you are still in the natural surroundings.
Entry to Nanda Blue Hole is 1000 VTU. You can drive right down to the water.
Riri Blue Hole
Riri Blue hole can be accessed either by car or by canoe. I highly recommend taking the canoe option for an amazing 15-minute jungle river cruise. At the end of the river, the Riri Blue hole is surrounded by a few small huts, a diving platform and a swing rope.
Entry to Riri Blue Hole is 500 VTU, the canoe is another 500 VTU per person.
Matevulu Blue Hole
According to locals, the Matevulu Blue Hole has apparently turned green after too much rain fell into it. I am not sure that this is the real cause, but we decided to pass on this waterhole. Entry to Matevulu Blue Hole is 500 VTU. It is the closest blue hole to Luganville.
Getting Around Espiritu Santo
Like much of Vanuatu, transport options for tourists is very limited and quite complex to understand at times.
Taxi –Taxis are the quickest way of getting to your destination, but are very expensive for Vanuatu. Expect a one-way fare from Luganville to Lonnoc Beach or Port Olry to cost between 4000 and 8000 VTU. Taxis can be recognized by the red T or PT on the number plate.
There is a public bus, which operates from Port Olry to Luganville. It makes the southbound journey at about 6.30am and the northward journey at about 3.30pm. There is only one trip per day each way. A standard fare is 300 VTU.
Pick Up Truck
The most common transport method is a pick-up truck, anyone who is already driving from Port Olry to Luganville, or vice versa. A standard trip ranges between 300 and 500 VTU for which you will get to sit in the back in the sun and wind.
To board a pick-up truck, stand by the side of the road and wave a car down as it passes. Some stop, others do not.
Vehicles head south in the morning before midday and return north in the afternoon after midday. You will not have much luck trying to do it the other way around. If catching a ride north from Luganville your best chance is to wait at the main petrol station opposite the unity store.
There are very limited vehicles after dark, so plan to get around in daylight hours.
Hire cars are available at the Espiritu Hotel in Luganville for 10,000 vatu per day. With a hire car, you can access the sealed roads from Luganville to Port Olry, but cannot take these cars off-road. If you break the rules, there is a 75,000 VTU penalty.
A hire car is the best option if you have a group of people that want to explore the east coast for a day.
How to get to Espiritu Santo
Air Vanuatu flies from Port Vila to Espiritu Santo daily. Flights are about one hour. There are also a number of ferries and cargo boats which run between Port Vila. Read about my cargo boat journey from Santo to Malekula here.
Be sure to check out Vanuatu’s other islands in my comprehensive Vanuatu travel guide.