Visiting Vanuatu with kids is a great option for a Pacific Island holiday. It’s all smiles on the tarmac as the plane door opens and you are blasted with warm tropical air and the welcoming scent of outdoor kitchen fires smoking in the villages. Welcome to Vanuatu!
Ni-Vanuatu are renowned for their friendliness and hospitality, and especially for their love of children. Smiling faces, a laid-back atmosphere and a touch of French culture gives a family the perfect mixture of a tropical holiday a slight European twist.
VISITING VANUATU WITH KIDS
We spent a week on Efate, the main island of Vanuatu, based in Port Vila and found it an ideal destination for travel in the Pacific that was unique and a little less mainstream than some of the other islands. Navigating Vanuatu with kids is pretty easy, and families are well respected and looked out for.
Visiting Vanuatu with kids is not new to us as a family. Vanuatu is special to us; my Mum lived there post-university as a volunteer for VSA and met my Dad when he sailed in on a yacht. As a child, my family spent a winter living in Vanuatu where I went to a small village school; each break time we had to run down to the beach to scrub our blackboards with sand and wash them in the sea! And more recently, we have had one more big live event in Vanuatu… You will have to scroll on to find out what that was…
ABOUT VANUATU, QUICKLY
Capital: Port Vila
Population: 292,680 (2018)
Official language(s): Bislama, English, French
Religion: 83% Christian, 17% other
HIGHLIGHTS FROM VANUATU
If you are staying on Efate for your visit, and wanting to get out and amongst some of the landscape and culture, then we can recommend these highlights from our stay:
- Snorkelling at Hideaway Island
- Trying laplap at the Central Markets
- Swim at Mele Cascades
- Day trip to Erakor Island
For an easy day trip from Port Vila, take a boat over to Hideaway Island and the Marine Sanctuary. The boat ride is only ten minutes across to the island, but Hideaway does feel a secluded world away. It has beautiful snorkelling with plenty of friendly fish life and colourful coral, and a restaurant and shaded beach that make it easy to spend a day away.
We visited the markets first, stocked up with food for a picnic and got the local ‘bus’ (minivan) to catch the ferry over to Hideaway Island (it was hard to leave the picnic spot as Harry was enjoying the attention of a big group of children interested to meet him!).
PORT VILA CENTRAL MARKETS
Location: Waterfront – Port Vila
Opening Hours: Monday through to Friday and half Saturday.
Price: There is no entry fee.
We always love the markets of the Pacific! As soon as you find them you get a feel instantly for the culture, with rows of women with smiling faces and pikinini (children) sleeping and playing underneath the tables set up with handicrafts and bright coloured fruit and vegetables.
Food in Vanatu traditional consists of a combination of fish, root vegetables (taro, yams, sweet potatoes), and a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables. Don’t leave Vanuatu without trying the national dish, ‘laplap’. This is a root vegetable cake, steamed and wrapped in leaves which can be found at the central markets.
The waterfalls near Mele Village are one of the islands most popular natural attractions. Mele Village is about a twenty minute drive from Port Vila, and its easy to get a local bus to Mele. From the carpark, the walk to the top of the cascades is only about 15 minutes, with some stairs along the way. There are bathroom facilities available, a sitting area, and small cafe on site for purchase of food and drinks. It costs 2000VT per adult for entry, which does seem expensive when compared to some of the other local activities, but this area is local owned and run by locals.
Revenue generated help pay wages for local employees, maintenance and upkeep of the area, plus community development for the surrounding village. The pool is refreshing to swim in and you can stand under the waterfalls, making all the steps to get there well worth while!
Location: Erakor Lagoon
Opening Hours: 24 Hours
Price: 1500 vatu per adult and 1000 vatu per child. Entry includes a voucher of 1000 VT per adult and 500 VT per child to use towards food, drink or the day spa.
Kava is the national drink of Vanuatu – reputed to be the most potent in the Pacific… It’s not exactly known for being a delicious drink taste-wise (though we did try it again in Fiji!). But it is a big part of Ni-Vanuatu culture and definitely worth trying if you get the chance. One of the lady’s from Erakor took us for an outing to visit her village on the neighbouring side of the lagoon and invited us for a kava ceremony.
Never ones to turn down an opportunity like that!…
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed on Erakor Island at the Erakor Island Resort, as well as at Fatumaru Lodge; a Melanesian style hotel with outdoor and beachfront access. Staff at both places are unbelievably friendly and will make sure your trip is everything you want it to be.
We booked our stay at Fatumaru as part of a package deal and got a good price. For a more budget option we can also recommend Vanuatu Holiday Hotel, where some of our family stayed while in Port Vila with us. Our style of travel has certainly changed over the years, and this was a rather special trip to Vanuatu (read on to find out why). We would likely choose a more budget option next time when travelling to Vanuatu with kids.
Its easy to get a taxi if you are staying at a resort. Taxi’s are everywhere and will often wait outside your hotel or resort. A more exciting and much cheaper way to travel around the island is to catch the local buses.
Not technically buses in the Western traditional sense; these are usually 10-12 seater vans, that follow a specific route between villages and the centre of Port Vila. Ask a local or check with your accommodation for the direction you are wanting to head. And enjoy the open windows and island reggae while riding local style! (It’s do-able with kids, grandparents and even a pram if you’re keen!).
Vanuatu’s main airport is Bauerfield International Airport (VLI), only 10 mins from Port Vila. If you are arriving into Vanuatu with kids it is easy to arrange a pick-up ahead of time with your accommodation.
PS. That one extra special life event mentioned earlier comes with so much more love for Vanuatu… Did I mention we got married on Erakor Island while we were there?! 🙂