What To Do In Vanuatu (And What To Avoid!): 16 Suggestions

the 15 best things to do in prot vila vanuatu

The memories I made during my trip to Vanuatu are second to none.

I had an absolute blast experiencing the water activities and immersing myself in the rich culture and and some AMAZING food..!

In this post, I’ll share 15 of the best things to do in these cities. As a bonus, I’ll fill you in on how to avoid some common pitfalls and scams. Let’s dive in (pun intended).

1. Grab A Beer At Paradise Cove Resort And Snorkel Off The Beach

Tristan Balme Paradise Beach Vanuatu

This resort is located on the west coast of Efate, about 20 minutes drive from Port Vila down towards pango. It has a stunning beach with crystal-clear water and colorful coral reefs. You can rent snorkeling gear for 500 vatu (about $5) or get it for free when staying at the resort. The resort features a stunning bar and restaurant to grab a cold beer and a delicious meal. 

As an easy afternoon trip (we caught the local bus for $1!!) this was some of the best snorkelling I did and soooo easy to do.

2. Go To A Kava Bar And Drink With The Locals

Tristan Balme best things to do in vanuatu drink kava

Kava continues to be a favorite drink for social and ceremonial purposes amongst locals. But I think mainly also because its cheaper than beer!

This root crop-based drink is available at various nakamals (kava bars) around Vanuatu. But I found the best place to try different variations is Bultahi Kava Bar right in the middle of Port Vila. 

The drink is served in coconut shells and has a bitter and earthy taste. After a few gulps, you should start to feel its numbing and calming effect. Nakamals are usually simple huts with a counter and some benches (some have live music and dancing) and you can buy a shell for 100 Vatu (about $1). 

Tip: There’s a bit of a knack to figuring out how to drink it (and how much to drink) so I shared what I learned in this article here 🙂

3. Take A Scooter 136 km Around Efate Island

Tristan Balme best things to do in vanuatu hire a scooter

Riding a scooter around the island was one of the highlights of my trip. You’ll pass through the diverse landscapes–rainforests, waterfalls, and a few villages, markets, and attractions along the way. 

We opted drive clockwise and stopped at a lot of the attractions listed in this article such as Tanna Coffee, Top Rock, and Blue Lagoon. It was a great day!

Where to get your scooter:

At eBikes Vanuatu Scooter rentals cost AUD $95 or vt 7,500 (Single rider) or AUD $135 or vt 10,500 ( rider & passenger) per day. It’s a little on the pricey side, but 100% the best way to see the island.

Tip: Ask about their “weekend deal” for a cheaper rate from Friday to Monday.

My partner and I shared a scooter for 4 days while in Vanuatu and it made everything sooo easy. And these 50cc bananas on wheels are surprisingly powerful.

Note: To rent any type of vehicle, you’ll need a valid driver’s license and an International Drivers Permit. Some companies give you the option to order add-ons, like insurance, unlimited mileage, and riding gear. At eBkes Vanuatu that’s all included in the price which is nice!

4. Shop The Port Vila Market And Sample The Local Cuisine

Tristan Balme port vila market food

Don’t be putt off by the shabby kitchenettes – it’s all part of the authenticity!

The marketplace is well known for selling the freshest fruits and vegetables. But that’s not all you can get your hands on. You can buy handicrafts and souvenirs to take back home with you. Or sample some of the national dishes, like laplap (baked pudding made with meat and grated root crops), tuluk (similar to laplap, but usually steamed), and many more. 

Most of the food items are cheaper than the surrounding restaurants and you’ll be served by the friendliest of vendors. 

5. Go Resort Crashing And Sip A Cocktail Beachside (In Luxury)

Tristan Balme best things to do in vanuatu go resort crashing

Resort crashing is a fun and easy way to experience some luxury–massage, facial, soak up the sun–without breaking the bank. You can have a day filled with water activities by using the resort’s facilities or enjoy a meal and cocktails after spending a day being pampered. Some of the upscale spots I recommend are Iririki Island Resort, Warwick Le Lagon Resort, and Mangoes Resort. 

6. Spend A Day Snorkeling On The Lelepa Island Tour

Tristan Balme best things to do in vanuatu do the lelepa island tour

Lelepa Island is a small and pristine island off the north coast of Efate. The tour entails a full-day boat ride, snorkeling, lunch, and a village visit. A highlight of the tour is snorkeling in a coral garden where you can hand-feed a variety of fish in clear, warm waters. What follows is a scrumptious barbecue with fresh fish, meat, and salads.

The village visit gives an insight into the rich local culture, history, and customs. The entire tour costs roughly 9,500 vatu (about $121) per person. 

7. Or.. The Pele Island Tour While You’re At It

Another beautiful island near Efate, this tour is similar to the Lelepa Island experience. You can snorkel and see various marine life and have lunch awaiting you. There’s also an opportunity to play soccer or volleyball with the kids. The tour costs 8,500 vatu (about $111) per person.

8. Check out Tanna Coffee Roasters for the best espresso in town!

Tristan Balme the best cafe in port vila vanuatu my favorite coffee 1

Not only does Tanna Coffee Factory serve amazing coffee, but I also like that they support local farmers and communities in growing and processing organic coffee beans. They’re based on Mele Road and offer guided tours–about the history and mission of the company–and demonstrations of the roasting process. There’s also a shop to taste and buy their products. 

The cafe has a relaxed and friendly vibe, with comfortable seating, and a rustic finish. There is also a large outdoor deck, where you can enjoy the view of the garden.

I ordered a flat white (yes, I’m basic..) which cost 350 vatu (about $3), paired with a tasty ham and cheese croissant. If you’re looking to enjoy a chilled beverage, you’ll never go wrong with their milkshakes. 

9. Traverse the Treetop Canopy Zipline

If it’s adrenaline and adventure you’re after, I recommend treetop canopy zip-lining in the rainforest near Port Vila. You’ll zip across 6 different lines, ranging from 80 to 300 meters long, and reaching up to 80 meters high. This lets you enjoy panoramic views of the forest, the ocean, and the islands. You might even catch a glimpse of wildlife along the way. 

I paid about 9,000 Vatu (about $121), and the package included a guide, entrance fee, equipment, pickup, and drop-off from my accommodation. 

10. Soak in the hot springs

There are several hot springs near beaches and resorts to help you relax and rejuvenate. But my go-to is Takara Hot Springs, nestled close to a mud pool. After a bit of detoxing and exfoliating, you can rinse yourself off in the spring and continue with your day, or relax further. Most are free to enter, but I encourage you to make a donation to the local community. 

11. Snorkel with turtles at Top Rock

Tristan Balme best things to do in vanuatu visit top rock

Top Rock is a small island off the east coast of Efate. You can enjoy the views, have a picnic, or, my favorite, snorkel with sea turtles. You can partake in half or full-day tours, and both include a boat ride, water activities, and refreshments. It’s reasonably priced too. I paid 1000 vatu (about AUD50).

12. Swim In The Clear Waterhole Of Blue Lagoon

Tristan Balme best things to do in vanuatu visit blue lagoon

Blue Lagoon is a natural pool filled with turquoise water and surrounded by greenery. Similar to most bodies of water, you can partake in numerous water activities. You can also relax on the grass or the benches and simply enjoy the scenery. The entrance fee is 500 vatu (about $5) per person.

13. Beach bumming At Eton Beach

Tristan Balme vanuatu eton beach

Eton Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Efate, with stretches of white sand and pristine waters. It’s located on the east coast of Efate, about 45 minutes drive from Port Vila. You can swim, sunbathe, or picnic on the beach. There are also several rental companies where you can get kayaking, paddling, or snorkeling gear for 1,000 vatu (about $10) per hour. The entrance fee is 500 vatu (about $5) per person, and there are toilets and showers available. 

14. Go Bush To Lololima Waterfalls

These series of cascades and pools are nestled in a jungle near Port Vila. You can join a half-day tour that includes a 4WD ride, a hike, and a swim. This allows you to see the different waterfalls ranging from 5 to 20 meters high. And then take a dip in the clear, cool water. The tour costs 6,000 vatu (about $90) per person and includes a guide, a snack, and a drink. 

15. Pick Up Authentic Souvenirs At The Handicraft Market

Tristan Balme handicraft market port vila

For a little something to show for your travels, visit the handicraft market. You’ll find unique and quality souvenirs made by local artisans. These range from carvings, baskets, and mats to jewelry, paintings, and many more. You can expect exceptional quality products at fair prices.

Tip: Be aware of buying souvineers in shops as these are often cheap ‘made-in-china’ knock offs. The ‘Handicraft Market’ is the place to go to pick up authentic souveniers that actually support the local creators!

There’s always a story behind each of these crafts too, so I encourage you to take the time to talk to the sellers and learn about their stories. 

16. Taste Sugarcane Rum At The 83 Islands Distillery

Tristan Balme 83 islands distillery

83 Islands Distillery is a small and family-owned distillery that produces rum from local sugarcane. You can join a tour that includes a visit to the distillery and a tasting of their products. This allows you to experience the entire rum-making process, from processing the crop to bottling of the final product.

I especially enjoyed comapring their sugarcane rum to their molasses based rum.

They also make some gins (which are really interesting with a sugarcane base alcohol)

The entire tour costs 1000 vatu (about $10) per person but you will need to book in advance on their website or over the phone.

What Not To Do (IMO)

1. Get ripped off at Cascade Falls

Cascade Falls is a popular attraction in Efate but the entrance fee is very expensive, at 3,500 vatu (about $35) per person, with very limited waterfalls. You can find better and cheaper waterfalls elsewhere, like Lololima. 

It was explained to us that the Cascade falls used to be owned by the local village, and they charged $5 to visit. Its was bought out a few years ago by an international firm and now it cost $35 to go the the lower falls and $65 for the walk to the upper falls! Kinda sad..

2. Take a trip to Hideaway Island 

Hideaway Island is a small island near Port Vila and it has major cleanliness and maintenance issues. The area is unkempt and there’s limited availability of hot water. I also had a disappointing snorkeling experience, and the underwater post office was simply gimmicky. The rates are relatively low compared to other islands, but there are much better things to do during your vacation.

You can find better and decent accommodation and snorkeling spots elsewhere.

3. Be aware of scams and other travel dangers

These cities are generally safe, but you can be a victim of crime, especially at night. Avoid walking alone or in dark or isolated areas and take a taxi or a bus instead. Also, try not to flash your valuables keep them in a safe place or on your person.

You should also be aware of scams, such as overcharging, fake taxis, or fake tours, and always check the prices and reviews before you pay or book anything.

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