If you were to design the perfect tropical island escape it'd probably look a lot like Vanuatu. This archipelago of 83 tiny islands in the South Pacific offers everything from secluded beaches through tropical rainforests to sparkling waterfalls. One day you can be walking hand-in-hand on golden sands, the next diving into azure waters to explore silent shipwrecks before trekking to the top of a still-active volcano – Vanuatu holidays have a little bit of everything.
Things to do
In a land of great beaches it takes a lot to stand out but Champagne Bay's pristine curve of palm-fringed sand is something special. Locals drop by to sell their wares to holiday-makers sunbathing or playing beach volleyball. It's not all relaxation though – you can abseil through a waterfall or parasail over the bay on most Vanuatu tours and climbing the spooky black crater of the volcano at Vanna is a must-do. Out to sea by Espiritu Santo is the famed Coolidge wreck – one of the most accessible and most complex diving sites in the world.
Food & restaurants
Aussie innovation, French techniques and the freshest of South Pacific seafood make for a seriously good set of Vanuatu restaurants. Elan and Au Peche Mignon in Port Vila make the most of this melting-pot culture but if you're watching the pennies the lively Beach Bar in Mele Bay is a great spot to chow down and watch the sunset. Many of the top places to eat are set in hotels – Espiritu Santo's Oyster Island Resort Restaurant does a brunch buffet that attracts visitors from all over.
There is great Vanuatu accommodation all over the archipelago, but for the classic thatched-cottage-by-the-water experience Eratap Beach Resort and the Havannah on Etape Island are hard to beat. There's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to stay halfway up a banyan tree in Port Vila's extraordinary La Maison du Banion – it's open on all sides so expect parrots to come and share your breakfast with you! Honeymooners tend to head for the spectacular Ratua Private Island where just 12 romantic huts share a secluded tropical island.
Traditional crafts are on most travellers' Vanuatu shopping lists and each island specialises in different work. Northern Ambrym is known for its intricate wood carvings of traditional canoes and wild animals while Port Vila is the place for elegant shell necklaces. The art of weaving with pandanus and wild hibiscus leaves is popular all over the archipelago and the baskets and hats made this way make a fun souvenir.