Vanuatu: Paradise Within Reach

22 June 2016
Read Time: 2.6 mins

You’ll get to Vanuatu in about the time it takes to watch a movie – and then you’re in another world. No crowds, no hassle, no rush; just unbridled tropical islands ringed by colourful reefs.

And while island havens are typically geared towards couples, Vanuatu is ideal for families. It’s safe, friendly, exotic yet accessible, and there’s a growing range of villa-style accommodation options.

A big drawcard is the crystalline beaches and eye-boggling underwater scenes, but there’s plenty that’s special on land as well.

Resort on the beach at Eratap in Vanuatu Eratap Beach Resort provides a setting where you can actually escape (Image: Melissa Rimac)

The escapist vibe sets in straight away. Eratap Beach Resort has the feel of a far-flung Pacific island, even though laid-back Port Vila is only a 15-minute drive away. Here, spacious bungalows open to a large private lawn that spills onto a sugar-sand beach.

Metres from shore, butterflyfish dart amongst coral gardens aglow in sherbet hues of lemon, violet and powder blue. A boat and driver are on-call should you feel like visiting nearby private islands, and there are kayaks, sailboats and stand-up paddle boards for those more active.

It would make for a deeply replenishing holiday to simply settle into this self-contained pleasure zone. However, Vanuatu’s main island, Efate, offers so much that warrants stirring from your daybed. With scant traffic and a single road ringing the island, self-driving is an ideal way to explore.

Red smoke rising out of Mt Yasur on Tanna Mt Yasur is one of the sights that make exploration worthwhile (Image: Melissa Rimac)

At Club Hippique ranch, the gentle, quiet horses go right into the water and take you for a swim with them. Keep driving up Efate’s east coast road and you’ll find innumerable places to pull over and have an entire beach to yourself. Eton Beach and the natural swimming pool at Blue Hole also have picnic facilities.

Around Port Vila, gospel singing pours out of churches each Sunday morning. The atmosphere is welcoming and you’ll usually be invited to a feast afterwards where local children happily include visitors in games.

In the north east of Efate, a short walk through the jungle reveals the Mele Cascades and deep pools. The recently expanded Wet and Wild Adventure Park is close by, along with excellent snorkelling and an atmospheric eatery at Hideaway Island.

White Sands Beach on Vanuatu Close to Captain Cooks landing spot at Port Resolution, White Sands beach has coral gardens a few strokes from shore (Image: Melissa Rimac)

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Not-to-be-missed day trips include: the Coongoola, a romantic timber ketch that visits coral fringed beaches and a turtle sanctuary; Lalepa Island, where Survivor was filmed; and kayaking tours.

Vanuatu’s wild landscapes and ancient culture are amplified on the outer islands, easily reached by a short, super-scenic flight.

Locals dancing on Tanna in Vanuatu Witness a cultural dance on Tanna (Image: Melissa Rimac)

Jurassic-esque Tanna is synonymous with Mt Yasur, one of the world’s most active volcanoes. You’ll be peering into the crater and watching red lava shoot skywards, ground shaking in sync with sulphurous venting, just a 15-minute stroll from your car.

Laced tightly along Tanna’s west coast are layers of visibly evolving reefs that form a labyrinth of coral-encrusted channels, caves and overhangs.

The lounge zone at White Grass Resort on Tanna White Grass Ocean Resort is your gateway to Tanna's highlights (Image: Melissa Rimac)

The water out the front of the stunningly set White Grass Ocean Resort is typically calm and comfortable for kids and inexperienced snorkellers. An exhilarating way to start the day here is to slide off the jetty into the mirror-smooth, blue ocean, then surge through a coral encrusted channel to the drop-off.

A short ride on the provided bikes leads to Blue Hole 2, a large, sheltered pool edged with coral-festooned nooks. Blue Hole I, special for its velvety soft corals, is reached via a short stroll through ancient uplifted reefs that have mingled with lush foliage to surreal effect.

Colourful coral in Blue Hole 2 on Tanna Underwater delights at Blue Hole 2 (Image: Melissa Rimac)

Each day, Jack the dive guide takes guests on complimentary snorkel tours to sites favoured by turtles.

Tours from White Grass take in markets, traditional kastom villages, horse riding and the sublime Blue Cave swim, which involves a mesmerising boat trip.

Be sure to schedule time to just chill out in the outdoor lounging zones and hammocks while watching the crimson sun linger for what seems an unnaturally long time before it slides slowly into the ocean. Nothing is ordinary on Tanna.

Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to Vanuatu.

Melissa Rimac

Melissa Rimac is a travel writer and photographer. You can follow her adventures on instagram at @snorkellingqueen and online at