In February I spent five days in the sleepy, coastal town of Port Vila. We were lucky enough to visit a few months before the busy period, and were rewarded with a relaxed, small town vibe. Efate was one of the most scenically beautiful places I have seen, and the people were always welcoming and friendly.
Vanuatu is made up of 83 islands, each with it's own culture and languages. There are three main islands for tourists to visit: Santo, Tanna and Efate. There are many sights to see, but due to the size of the islands you don't need a whole lot of time. This makes it the perfect destination for a chilled out beach holiday.
We stayed in town at The Melanesian, it was newly renovated and I would recommend it, but if you're after a nice view I would look elsewhere. After talking to other visitors I would suggest The Grand (it's right on the water in the town centre) or staying on Iririki Island (a very short ferry ride away from the main land, complete with bungalows on the water).
When dining out my go-to places were Chill Restaurant and Bar, Waterfront Bar and Grill and Jill's cafe (be sure to try the Tanna coffee).
As far as things to do, it's a good idea to do a Round Island tour within the first couple of days as this gives you a feel for the island culture and if you're lucky enough to get a good guide you'll learn a lot! It only takes a few hours to drive around Efate, but you'll need to set aside a full day due to all the stops along the way. You'll stop in at a cultural village and meet the Chief, tour some beautiful gardens, swim in a private fresh water hole and see some amazing beaches.
A beautiful place for a day of relaxing or snorkeling is Hideaway Island. It's about 15 minutes from town and entry fees will cost around $10 per person (which includes the ferry ride over and back), but the water is crystal clear and it boasts the only underwater post office in the world.
Another highlight was going on a sunset cruise around the harbour. Seeing the sun set over the water, champagne in one hand and tapas in the other was bliss.
I'd have to say my favourite part of the trip was our helicopter ride, I'd never been on one before and it was an amazing experience. We chose a 20 minute Best of Efate flight, but there are choices to suit every budget.
As with every holiday there were a few things we didn't quite fit in. I would have loved to see the Blue Lagoon, as the pictures look breathtaking. Also, the adventuress in me wanted to see the jungle up close on the Zipline or take the flight to Tanna to explore an active volcano. Maybe there will be a next time.
|The bungalows on Iririki Island|
|Hideaway Island's crystal clear ocean|
|My view on the sunset cruise|
|The private water hole on my Round Island tour|
|One of the beaches I visited on the Round Island tour|
|View of Efate harbour from the helicopter, Iririki Island is on the right|