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Port Vila Destination Guide
The capital of Vanuatu, Port Vila is saturated with spectacular natural assets from beaches beckoning sunbathers to the calm serenity of tropical rainforest. More than 80 islands make up the archipelago of Vanuatu with Port Vila located around the middle on the island of Efate. A popular port city and home to the country's main international airport, Port Vila is a favourite destination for families, honeymooners and anyone seeking serious R&R. Port Vila is especially known for its always smiling locals – if you were surrounded by swaying palm trees, shimmering white beaches and bluer than blue waters wouldn't you be happy too? Have a look at our cheap flights to Port Vila and see for yourself!
Your time in Port Vila can be as lively or laidback as you want. If you're content to spend your days lazing on the beach and splashing in the shallow waters, that's more than okay. In fact, it's encouraged! But there are plenty of other things to do in Port Vila for holidaymakers who want to get out and about. Join a sailing or fishing trip out to the Coral Sea, practice your slice at a nine-hole golf course or venture inland to the spectacular Mele Cascades. If you want to explore wider Vanuatu, highlights include the SS President Coolidge shipwreck dive site off Espiritu Santo and the heart-stopping land diving rituals on Pentecost Island.
Being a main tourism hub for South Pacific cruises, Port Vila restaurants are used to catering to a wide variety of tastes. With French roots tracing from the late 1800s, Port Vila's dining scene continues to show strong French influences among the many bistros and cafes. If you are staying in a self-catered holiday unit, consider popping into the Port Vila Market in the city centre to pick up fresh seasonal produce. Traditional dishes to sample on your Port Vila holiday include lap lap (a root vegetable cake made using banana leaf, island cabbage and cooked underground in hot stones), tuluk (a sausage roll-like variation of lap lap), and the more unusual nautou (ground pigeon) and rousette (fruit bat).
Where to Stay
Port Vila accommodation ranges from budget backpackers to luxurious private retreats. The ultimate tropical island getaway, the majority of hotels embrace a fitting beachfront position. Top end resorts are the best option if you're celebrating your nuptials or are seeking a romantic rendezvous – there are plenty of boutique hotels with secluded swimming spots, spa treatments and intimate dining experiences. Port Vila also caters to families with traditional bungalows and self-contained apartments a popular choice. For a once in a lifetime experience, try Hideaway Island, a short ferry trip off the mainland, where you can snorkel, dive and feed tame schools of fish from the shore.
Two words: duty free! As Vanuatu's only duty free port, shopping in Port Vila attracts some big spenders. You can pick up almost anything from French perfumes and champagne to a medley of colourful island crafts. Local markets are the best place to pick up a unique souvenir with handicrafts from nearby villages on display like shells, beads, artwork, carvings and cultural curiosities. Markets are also a great social outing – you'll have no trouble making friends with the famously warm and welcoming Vanuatuans. Hebrida Market Place along the highway is one of the best markets, open every day except Sunday. Just like in Australia, haggling over prices is not the norm in Port Vila.
Port Vila like a Local
If you want to blend in with the local crowd, flash your pearly whites and adopt a trademark laidback attitude. Enjoy the balmy evening with an open air movie, a Mele Bay harbour cruise or a drink at a lively beach bar. A popular island drink is Kava, made from the roots of a pepper plant served in a shell or bowl. Not quite alcoholic, it can still inflict a hangover if you're not careful and is an acquired taste – play it safe with a local beer like Tusker or Vanuatu Bitter. Port Vila weather is on its best behaviour from May to November with the rainy season creeping in come Summer.