Tanna & Espiritu Island: Things to do in Vanuatu’s Outer Islands
Home to golden sand beaches, crystal blue waters and warm hospitality, why wouldn’t you want to visit the South Pacific paradise of Vanuatu?
While many visit Vanuatu to relax at a luxurious resort in the capital of Port Vila, there are endless wonders to be discovered beyond the main island of Efate. The many outer islands of Vanuatu are rich in culture, breathtaking landscapes and adventure, making them the perfect destination for those seeking a more action-packed holiday.
Here are some of the best things to do on two of Vanuatu’s most popular outer islands: Tanna and Espiritu Santo.
Things to do on Tanna Island
Just an hour’s flight from Port Vila, Tanna Island offers a taste of traditional Vanuatuan life. This small island packs a punch for things to do, with fiery volcanoes, black sand beaches, spectacular coral reefs and so much more to discover.
Climb the active Mount Yasur volcano
Most people visit Tanna to ascend Mount Yasur, said to be the most accessible active volcano in the world. Legend says that Captain Cook was drawn to the island in 1774 after seeing the distant red glow of the volcano.
Visitors can join a four-wheel-drive tour across the ash fields and up the mountainside, before hiking just 10 minutes to the top of the volcano. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can even spend the day ash boarding down the slopes. We recommend timing your visit to Mount Yasur for sunset, when the lava bubbles and sizzles into the night sky.
Dive into the Blue Cave
Visiting Tanna’s extraordinary Blue Cave is one of the best things to do in Vanuatu’s outer islands. The Blue Cave is a hidden grotto, carved into the sea cliffs on the western side of the island. Inside this natural rock cavern, sunlight beams through a hole in the ceiling, illuminating the electric blue swimming hole.
The Blue Cave can only be reached by swimming through a narrow sea channel – if this makes you nervous, we recommend visiting at low tide. Once inside, you can spend your time swimming, snorkelling and soaking up the breathtaking beauty.
Explore the Giant Banyan Tree
The Giant Banyan Tree is another highlight of Tanna Island. At over 100 metres wide and 80 metres high, this is believed to be one of the largest banyan trees in the world. The exact age of the Giant Banyan Tree is a mystery, although it was already ancient when Captain Cook landed on the island 250 years ago.
To witness the Giant Banyan Tree for yourself, join a tour of the village of Leitoupam. From there, it’s just a bumpy four-wheel drive journey into the jungle to reach this magnificent ancient wonder – the Tarzan-like roots of the tree are truly a sight to behold.
Experience traditional Melanesian kastom
Tanna is a fascinating island to visit, as the local culture, or kastom, is largely unaffected by the western way of life. Visit a traditional village, like Yakel, Ikunala or Imaio, to see what life in Vanuatu was like before white settlement, modern technology and mass tourism. While visitors are welcome in Tanna’s kastom villages, they are best visited with a local guide.
Things to do on Espiritu Santo Island
The island of Espiritu Santo is the largest in Vanuatu. Offering the perfect blend of barefoot luxury and adrenaline-pumping adventure, Santo is home to verdant jungles, crystalline blue holes and world-class wreck diving.
Laze on the white sands of Champagne Beach
Regularly voted as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, the postcard-perfect Champagne Beach is a must-visit on Santo. Interestingly, this beach is the site of underwater volcanic activity, which causes the ocean to froth and fizzle at low tide (hence the name!).
Spend a day lazing on this pristine beach, only getting up to jump into the water or grab a cold beer from the beachside bars. Sea turtles are known to swim in the shallow offshore reefs, so be sure to hire some snorkelling equipment during your visit.
Snorkel over World War II Relics
Located off the southern coast of Santo is Million Dollar Point, known as one of the South Pacific’s best dive spots. Following World War II, thousands of tonnes of US Navy equipment were dumped into the ocean here, creating a thriving reef that both snorkellers and scuba divers can enjoy.
Nearby is the famous SS President Coolidge wreck, which sunk off the coast of Santo in 1942. Keen divers can visit this famous site to explore the chandeliers, trucks, guns and cannons that all went down with the ship.
Cool off in spectacular blue holes
The eastern coast of Santo is home to more blue holes than any other place in the world. Scattered throughout the lush jungle, these freshwater swimming holes are created when underground streams resurface as springs.
Santo’s most popular blue holes include Nanda Blue Hole, Matevulu Blue Hole and Riri Blue Hole. Many of these have diving platforms and rope swings, making them the perfect spot for a refreshing dip.
Venture into Millennium Cave
If you have a keen sense of adventure, a tour of Millennium Cave is one of the best things to do in Vanuatu’s outer islands. This is the largest cave in Vanuatu and can only be reached via a challenging hike through the forest. As such, you’ll need a decent level of fitness, although the spectacular scenery is well worth the effort.
During a tour of Millennium Cave, you’ll hike through the jungle, explore an underground cave system and cool off in stunning forest pools surrounded by cascading waterfalls. This will surely be a highlight of your Vanuatu holiday.
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