Stressed, tired and overworked. It’s only natural you’d be feeling some or all of the above at this time of year… and naturally, a holiday won’t be far away from your mind.
Life is hectic at the best of times so giving yourself a chance to unplug and unwind is key to avoiding burnout. In fact, Google Trends even says the peak time in their ‘misery index’ is November. So it’s little wonder a tropical island vacation is at the top of most of our lists when we think of escaping the hustle and bustle and indulging in some relaxation.
Vanuatu is one such tropical location that offers the perfect environment for you to reconnect with nature and yourself – and with only 3.5 hours flying time from Auckland, it’s within easy reach too. But what separates Vanuatu from any other sunny island? Well, frankly, it has it all – from white sandy beaches to volcanoes; lush rainforests and sea caves – there’s something here for everyone, from low-key relaxation-hunters to the most intrepid adventurers who are looking to get off the grid.
Here’s 7 of our top picks for where to go, what to do and where to stay to relax, revive and reconnect. For more information about Vanuatu, visit vanuatu.travel.
1. Star gazing from the capital, Port Vila
Although Port Vila, located on the island of Efate, is the capital and largest city of Vanuatu, it is still isolated enough from pollution and smog to allow for an unrivalled view of the night sky. Head to the beach or away from the bright lights and look up – on a clear night without a bright moon, you’ll be able to spot constellations and even the entire Milky Way. There’s nothing more mesmerising (or humbling) than seeing the entire universe open up above you.
2. Intrepid trips to caves above and below the sea
One for the more adventurous among us, there are plenty of off-the-beaten-track places to explore in Vanuatu. On the island of Tanna, the Blue Cave is only accessed by boat; pack your snorkel and dive under the submerged entrance to find yourself in a cavern of vibrant blue water. Or if travelling by land is more your style, Millennium Cave can be found in the jungle, where you will weave along paths, creeks and bamboo bridges until you reach the enormous cave, spanning 20m wide and 50m high. If you’re feeling particularly daredevil-like, a shimmy down a bamboo ladder and through some rock pools and cascades (mind the bats!) will land you on the other side, where you can cool down with a river swim.
3. Hike or drive up an active volcano
A visit to Vanuatu wouldn’t be complete without visiting one of the nine – yes, nine – active volcanoes. Two are underwater and one is considered unsafe right now (Ambae Island), but the rest are all fairly accessible, although double check with your local Vanuatu Tourism Office or Visitor Information Centre to get the most up-to-date info and never visit one of the volcanoes without a guide. One of the more easy-to-access volcanoes is Mt Yasur on Tanna Island, which has been spouting up ash, red-molten rock and smoke for as long as anyone can remember. If getting within 150m of the crater rim isn’t really your scene, then perhaps you might feel more relaxed with a dip in the nearby Sulphur Bay hot springs where you can shrug away all of life’s worries.
4. Connect with nature with a trek through the rainforest
There’s nothing like getting back to nature to make you feel instantly relaxed and revitalised. Vanuatu’s rich green rainforest is the perfect place to get some fresh air and exercise – whether you opt for a gentle walk or a more intense hike, the peace and tranquility will soon have you feeling brand new. Some hikes even have a refreshing waterhole or waterfall where you can cool off! One that is especially photo-friendly is the blue holes of Espiritu Santo – the water is clear enough to see to the bottom and reflects the beautiful greenery surrounding it. Another way to connect with nature and have a tropical timeout would be to visit Eden on the River, where you can walk across a series of large suspension bridges up in the tree canopy and across the Rentapau River.
5. Explore the deep blue by going sailing, snorkelling or kayaking
Vanuatu’s incredible marinelife and beautiful clear water means it’s the perfect place for exploring and getting stuck into some water activities. For those who are into sailing, there are plenty of options, and Vanuatu’s gentle seas and fresh winds make it an ideal spot. Kayaks are easy to rent and mean you can explore at your leisure; the Bay of Islands on the island of Santo are a mini archipelago system that are ideal for paddling between at your own pace. Snorkelling is a must-do in Vanuatu, and you’ll feel completely at peace as you swim amongst the colourful coral. Aside from having one of the most beautiful and diverse reef ecosystems in the world, there is also the chance to swim with sea turtles, brightly-coloured parrotfish and butterflyfish.
6. Relax and swim on some of the world’s most beautiful beaches
You’ll certainly feel like you’re on “island time” on one of Vanuatu’s many incredible beaches. Champagne Beach on the island of Espiritu Santo, with its powdery white sands and crystal clear water, is considered not just one of Vanuatu’s most beautiful beaches but one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Here, you’ll be able to make the most of pure and utter relaxation, swimming and sunbathing or perhaps finding some palm trees to sit under to read or nap. Another great beach find is Eton Beach, just outside of Port Vila. Do note that many beaches and swimming holes in Vanuatu charge a small entrance fee to the beach, which goes towards supporting the local community.
7. Take in the glorious sunset with a cocktail in hand
There’s no better feeling than a warm evening watching the sun go down while sipping on a delicious tropical cocktail, cold beer or fresh coconut. In Vanuatu there are plenty of opportunities to take in gorgeous orange sunsets and if you’re staying on the islands of Santo, Tanna or Efate, there are plenty of waterfront restaurants and bars to enjoy a cocktail and tuck into fresh seafood and other local dishes.
This article is brought to you in partnership with Tourism Vanuatu. For more information about Vanuatu, visit vanuatu.travel.