Espiritu Santo – The Must See Island of Vanuatu
I wasn’t surprised to learn that James A. Michener based his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Tales of the South Pacific on his observations here. It’s not hard to see why this beautiful island would provide such inspiration. Known just as, ‘Santo’ to the locals and regular visitors; the Island of Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu was a major supply base for US Forces during WWII. Michener was stationed as a lieutenant commander for the US Navy here.
Today, much of the war history is still here for the curious to find. From wrecked planes in the jungle to a world class dive site over the sunken SS Coolidge, a luxury liner turned troop carrier. At Million Dollar Point, you can snorkel or dive over the millions of dollars worth of machinery that was dumped into the ocean close to the shore when the war ended. (Check out my post here on Million Dollar Point). You don’t have to look hard to find these relics, they are spread all over the island and the remnants of the metal walls built by the US forces still stand today.
The island is far from being just a dumping ground for long forgotten war relics though. Santo is a tropical paradise; untouched by brand name resorts, annoying crowds and anything resembling a concrete jungle. The only jungle you will see here is the authentic kind. With only one main road that runs along the East Coast, it’s impossible to lose your way.
This coconut lined East Coast road is one of the highlights of a visit to Santo. It ends with the aqua waters and white sands of a deserted tropical beach in the village of Port Olry. (Check out my post on Port Olry and the coconut lined road here). A serene village that in the absence of mains power, is completely self-sufficient with the use of solar power and coconut oil generated electricity.
Accommodation here consists of basic bungalows in fantastic beach front locations. The few restaurants serve surprisingly quality dishes using fresh ingredients from the nearby village. It is extremely likely that the coconut crab or fish you order for lunch was caught that morning.
The road takes about an hour to drive and every passing ute has you waving to the locals riding in the tray back, which is apparently legal here. Of course, it only takes an hour if you don’t stop at one of the many attractions to see just off the main road which include: the three Blue Holes, Champagne Beach and Lonnoc Beach. (Check out my post on the must see Blue Holes here.) Allowing a few days to explore this part of the island at a relaxing pace is a great idea as it would be a shame to squeeze it all into one day trip as many people do.
Most people stay in the town of Luganville when visiting Santo. Whilst this is a lovely option, it doesn’t compare to Port Olry or some of the nearby islands. Luganville does have it’s advantages though. There is a range of accommodation options and unlike Port Olry, there are convenience stores, banks and shops.
Freshwater Plantation on Aore Island, just a short five minute boat trip over the channel from Luganville is another highlight. This unique plantation offers a walking tour which showcases the organic produce grown here, an ancient banyan tree, a bat cave with a suspension bridge and a chance to cuddle and feed some baby animals.
You shouldn’t visit Freshwater Plantation without staying for lunch at their café/restaurant followed by some chocolate bliss balls made from the organic cocoa grown on site. (Check out my post on Freshwater Plantation and their organic bliss balls here.) If you are feeling energetic, you can also spend some time jumping off the floating pontoon out front before heading back to the mainland. There is some lovely private accommodation options on this island as well.
The most refreshing thing about Santo, is that it is still untouched. You won’t find brand name luxury resorts here, or even good WIFI. However, you will find stunning beaches fringed with coconut trees, fresh locally grown produce, fantastic snorkelling, unique blue freshwater swimming holes and a fascinating WWII history. You will find yourself truly relaxing whilst living the simple life.
Visiting With Kids
The Island of Espiritu Santo is easy to visit with kids. There is simple food on every menu for fussy eaters, the ocean is walm and calm and the locals seem to enjoy children. The only issue will be older kids missing a reliable wifi connection.
If you are thinking of visiting with kids, you might be interested in these posts in particular:
Air Vanuatu operates weekly direct flights from Brisbane, or you can spend some time in Port Villa first before flying over to the Island of Espiritu Santo.
Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand and Fiji Airways fly to Port Villa also.
Want To Learn About More Awesome Places?
For more blog posts, photographs and information on my travels through Vanuatu and the Island of Espiritu Santo, please check out this page: Vanuatu
For more information on ALL of my travels, please check out this page: My travel destinations
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