19th October 2016
The largest island of Vanuatu, Espiritu Santo is one of the jewels of the South Pacific. There's a surprising amount of things to see and do in this leisurely island paradise, some obvious and some off the beaten track. From its magical blue holes to its stunning beaches and lush rainforest, Espiritu Santo is an unforgettable holiday destination. To help you make the most of your time in this island oasis, we've put together a list of the top 10 essential experiences in Espiritu Santo.
1. Blue Holes
One of Santo's most famous attractions are its blue holes, incredible swimming holes carved out of limestone by millennia of pure fresh water springs. The amazing natural phenomenon must be seen to be believed, with water so deep, clear and incredibly blue that it almost doesn't seem real. You'll find the three best blue holes on the east coast of the island - Riri Blue Hole, Nanda Blue Hole and Matevulu Blue Hole. These national treasures are an experience not to be missed.
2. Champagne Beach
Not only is this beautiful beach the perfect haven for those looking to rest and relax, it's also a unique natural attraction. It gets its name from the low-level volcanic activity which occurs beneath its pristine waters. Gas escapes from volcanic rock which, at low tide, causes the shallows to bubble like freshly poured fizzy champagne. Set on a spectacular, calm bay the beach also boasts soft white sand and deep blue waters making it the perfect spot to swim, snorkel or sunbake.
3. Port Olry
A little slice of French paradise, the tiny fishing village of Port Olry boasts palm-lined white sand beaches, turquoise waters and three small offshore islands which you can kayak to. Tropical reefs ring these tiny islands and offer some truly magical snorkelling. Port Olry makes for a relaxing day trip soaking up the sun, sand and snorkelling and there are a number of great shack restaurants serving all kinds of local cuisine in the village.
4. Million Dollar Point
There's plenty of World War II history to be found in Vanuatu but Million Dollar Point is perhaps the most interesting. It gets its name from the hundreds of tonnes of military equipment that was dumped just off the coast by the American Army at the end of WWII. 70 years later it is now an unofficial underwater military history museum and one of the most bizarre snorkelling experiences you can have. Exploring the fascinating military equipment sunk and encrusted with coral and aquatic life is one of the most interesting experiences you can have in Santo.
5. Millennium Cave
Measuring 50m high and 20m wide, Millennium Cave is the largest cave in Vanuatu and is also one of its most majestic. Just 15km from Luganville, Santo's main town, you'll trek through dense rainforest, across bamboo bridges, through rivers and pools and down ladders to reach this incredible cave. A fairly challenging hike, its recommended that you only visit when accompanied by an experienced guide but the best part is, the guide can take you along the ancient riverbed and over gigantic boulders so you can cool off in the cascading waterfall. It's pretty unbelievable.
The main town of Santo, many visitors only pass through Luganville on their way to other activities however it would be a shame to miss it as Luganville has some unique experiences of its own. Don't miss the outdoor marketplace for everything from craft stalls to local street food vendors, it's a riot of colour and gives you a true taste of local life. The Coconut Crab Sanctuary grotto is also worth exploring and is a great chance to get up close and personal with the famous protected local species. You also can't miss your chance to try the traditional local beverage kava at the Cave Kava Bar. In fact, Luganville is the best place to try kava as in more remote parts of the island the traditional drink still holds great cultural significance and is not permitted to be consumed by women.
7. SS President Coolidge
Once a luxury liner, the SS President Coolidge function as a WWII troop ship until it was sunk by mines off the coast in 1942. The wreck was later declared a protected site meaning its artefacts remained intact and it is now one of the most accessible shipwreck dives in the world and an unmissable diving experience on any visit to Santo. Explore the decks, cannons, guns, military jeeps and personal effects that lay just beneath the surface. There's also a mosaic tile fountain, chandeliers and the famous 'Lady' porcelain statue.
8. Santo Horse Ranch
For something a little bit different, explore the hidden trails, coconut plantations, local villages and mangrove tunnel with some equine friends from the Santo Horse Adventures ranch. Regardless of whether you're an experienced rider or have never ridden before, you can enjoy the ultimate adventure discovering some of Santo's unique places that you just can't reach by vehicle or on foot. Best of all, all horses at the ranch are rescues who are now being taken care of and your adventure helps to provide a home and care for more horses in the future.
9. Aore Island
Technically this isn't part of Santo because, as its name suggests, it's a separate island but Aore is the perfect day trip. Jump on the ferry to the island and spend the day swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving, fishing, parasailing and more. The island also offers some beautiful walking tracks worth exploring. You can explore the island on foot or hire a push bike or quad bike and spend the day sightseeing around this beautiful island.
10. Leweton Cultural Village
Just outside of Luganville, a visit to Leweton Cultural Village is a fantastic way to gain an insight into the diverse culture and fascinating history of Vanuatu. Experience tribal greetings, custom songs and traditional dances, basket weaving demonstrations, kava making and traditional food preparations, however the highlight is the rare chance to see women from remote northern islands performing their stunning water music. To understand Vanuatu's rich ancient culture, Leweton Cultural Village allows you to appreciate all it has to offer.