The memories I made at Port Vila are second to none. I had a blast experiencing the water activities and immersing myself in the rich culture and history of this beautiful country. 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).
Table of Contents
1. Grab A Beer At Paradise Cove Resort And Snorkel Off The Beach
This resort is located on the west coast of Efate, about 20 minutes drive from Port Vila. 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.
2. Go To A Kava Bar And Drink With The Locals
Kava continues to be a favorite social and ceremonial beverage amongst locals. During my visit, I quickly got on board with sampling it as part of mingling and experiencing the locals’ culture. 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.
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).
3. Take A Scooter 136 km Around Efate Island
Riding a scooter around the island was one of the highlights of my trip. You’ll pass through the diverse landscapes–rainforests, waterfalls, volcanic craters–and explore various villages, markets, and attractions along the way.
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.
TIP: Ask about their weekend deal for a cheaper rate from Friday to Monday.
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.
4. Shop The Port Vila Market And Sample The Local Cuisine
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)
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
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. 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.
9. 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.
10. Snorkel with turtles at 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).
11. Swim In The Clear Waterhole Of 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.
Beach bumming At 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.
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.
Pick Up Authentic Souvenirs At The Handicraft Market
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.
And there’s always a story behind each of these crafts. I encourage you to take the time to talk to the sellers and learn about their stories.
Taste Sugarcane Rum At The 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 harvesting the crop to bottling of the final product. I especially enjoyed comapring their sugarcane rum to their molasses based rum.
The entire tour costs 1000 vatu (about $10) per person.
What Not To Do
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.
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 condition of the underwater post office was simply gimmicky. The rates are relatively low compared to other islands, but visiting it will ruin your entire vacation. You can find better and decent accommodation and snorkeling spots elsewhere.
Walk alone at night or flash your valuables
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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