AWESOME things to do in Vanuatu
Before my recent trip to this small island nation, I have no idea there would be so many things to do in Vanuatu. I had planned to visit for two weeks but thought that perhaps even one week would be enough. How wrong I was.
Vanuatu is a made up of 83 islands, each unique in their own way. It is a country where you can wake up next to the beach, explore a waterfall by midday, then be hanging out with a cannibal tribe in the afternoon. A place where you can climb an active volcano, then soak away in a thermal hot spring and have a few shells of kava before dinner.
Here at 12 awesome things to do in Vanuatu. Remember, this is just a short list from a two-week experience. I’ll definitely be back there in the near future to explore the other things this beautiful country has to offer!
- Climb the Active Volcanoes on Ambrym
This is really one of my favorite things to do in Vanuatu. The hike up Ambrym’s volcanoes is an intense two-day journey through dense jungle and up the steep mountainside. At the top, you’ll be blown away by the view of a huge bubbling lava lake. You are literally looking down to the center of the earth.
Find out how to climb Ambrym’s volcanoes with my detailed guide. Take the two day, three day, or crossover options.
- Watch the Naghol Land Diving on Pentecost
The Naghol Land Diving is one of the craziest traditions I have ever seen, and I’ve seen quite a lot around the world. In the Naghol Land Diving festival, men jump from a wooden tower up to 35m tall with just some vines tied to their legs.
The aim is to hit the ground – but not die.
This is something you have to see to believe. The tribal dance and chants in the jungle give the Naghol Land Diving festival a surreal feeling you won’t forget.
- Swim in Vanuatu’s Blue Lagoons
Taking a swim in one of Santo’s Blue Lagoons is perhaps the most popular thing to do in Vanuatu. The water is incredibly blue, almost otherworldly. These small lagoons out in the jungle are the perfect place to escape the tropical heat.
There are actually three popular Blue Lagoons on Santo; Riri Blue Hole, Nanda Blue Hole, and Matevulu Blue Hole. Get a review of each in my ultimate guide to Vanuatu’s Blue Lagoons.
- Meet Cannibals in Malekula
Did you know that the Cannibals in Vanuatu actually ate other people until the late 1960’s? Seriously! The last person eaten was actually a French tourist. When the police caught the guy who ate the tourist, he told them it was because he liked the taste.
Luckily the cannibals don’t eat people anymore, however, the tribes are more than happy to show you their traditions including some old cannibal sites. At one of the ‘kitchens’ on Rano Island, there are still skulls and other human bones scattered about the place.
Visiting a cannibal tribe is one of the most unique things to do in Vanuatu, a real eye-opener to a unique culture.
- Visit tiny remote islands without electricity
Have you ever looked at some tiny remote island on google maps and wondered what was there? I have, so I went. Vanuatu has 83 major islands, however, there are thousands of smaller islets to explore.
Most of these tiny islets don’t even have electricity or roads yet. It is a complete throwback to an earlier time for most of u foreigners.
These back to basic islands are an eye opener to what really matters. People are happy and sociable. You won’t find anyone sitting around watching TV. I highly recommend visiting Uripiv Island off the north coast of Malekula.
- Snorkel amazing coral reefs
Colorful coral reefs and a huge range of tropical fish surround many of the islands in Vanuatu. This is really an underwater paradise, a perfect place for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Some coral reefs are as shallow as 1m below the surface of the water, you can float right over the top of them. Many islands have a steep drop off where you can enjoy snorkeling along an ocean wall with a deep blue abyss below you.
Expect to see all sorts of tropical fish, sea snakes, reef sharks, green turtles, dugongs, and even whales and dolphins. Look out for marine conservation areas for the best snorkeling areas – these are locations where fishing is banned.
- Enjoy of the world’s best beaches
Perhaps one of the easiest things to do in Vanuatu is to enjoy lazing back on an amazing beach. There’s definitely no shortage. With so many beaches to choose from, which are the best?
I highly suggest Lonnoc Beach on Santo. You will not regret staying a few nights at the Lonnoc Beach Bungalows, this is one incredible escape. Take a kayak out on the water and paddle around the headland to Champagne Beach for lunch.
Further north up Santo is Port Olry, a long white sandy beach with the clearest ocean water you’ll ever see. The beach has a few nice bungalows including this amazing Treehouse Bungalow! What a unique stay.
- Visit a Nakamal for a shell of Kava
Kava is the local drink in Vanuatu. It is a drink made from the roots of the Kava plant and served up in Kava Bars or Nakamals. The effect is like having a light dose of marijuana, it’ll make you slow, relaxed, but oddly give you a numb tongue.
To get the strongest effect from Kava try drinking 3 to 4 shells (typically 100 vatu each) before eating. Kava has a stronger effect on an empty stomach. However, be cautious of drinking too much, too often as it can also upset your stomach if not used to it.
Vanuatu holds its head high as being the producer of the world best quality and strongest Kava. It has quickly become the country’s largest export, replacing the production of coconut oil (copra)
- Take an overnight cargo ship
I had a brief list of things do in Vanuatu before I departed Australia, and this was on it. Taking a cargo boat in Vanuatu is a surreal experience in just about every way. The entire cabin it outdoors, totally exposed to the elements. You sleep on the floor, tell stories with locals, enjoy a few hot Tusker beers and stare up at the millions of stars.
I took a small 20m long cargo boat from Santo to Malekula. The boat departed at 11pm and arrived around 7.30am – 8.5hrs in total. Along the way I saw volcanoes erupt in the distance, a huge thunderstorm roll overhead, bioluminescent algae filling the ocean and flying fish scattering the water by sunrise. It couldn’t have been any more like the Life of Pai.
Read about my full experience of taking a cargo boat in Vanuatu. Let me know if I convinced you to do it too!
- Take a local flight over the islands
Get ready to be awestruck. You don’t need to book an expensive scenic flight for incredible views of the islands from above, simply book a domestic flight with Air Vanuatu. My favorite flight paths in Vanuatu are Pentecost to Port Vila (1hr 30min) and Malekula to Ambrym (20min). Each flight is just over AUD100.
Taking a quick domestic flight not only gives you an incredible view but also gets you to your destination. How does that saying go… killed two birds with one stone?
- Try the organic avocados – they’re incredible
Smashed avos on toast never tasted better. The huge, organic avocados in Vanuatu will divide your life – before the avo and after the avo. What’s better is that one huge avocado costs a grand total of 15c! You can buy a whole basket for the price of a coffee.
Most of the avocados are grown in the gardens. These are small private jungle-like farms scattered across the island. The avocados are picked ripe and sold in the fresh markets. Be quick because they can also sell out quickly.
Surprisingly, Vanuatu also has great fresh bread too. Perfect match!
- Take an outrigger canoe on the water
An outrigger canoe is a traditional boat carved out of a tree trunk. The main hull of the canoe is counterbalanced with a smaller secondary hull. It’s a bit like the original version of a catamaran.
You’re unlikely to just find an outrigger canoe free to be taken just lying about on the beach. The best way to take on of these out on the water is to have a chat with the locals. More often than not, they’ll gladly take you out for a spin.
Check out this video of me and my mate Rudolf paddling around an outrigger canoe off the coast of Malekula. We were looking for Dugongs which apparently inhabit the area.
This is just a quick look into what Vanuatu has to offer from my two-week trip. Next time I head back I’m going to a totally different set of islands and will add to the list!
What are your favorite things to do in Vanuatu?