Top ten insider tips for Port Vila, Vanuatu

1. On a Wednesday night head down to the Nambawan cafe for their outdoor cinema (you can also go Saturday and Sunday (family film night)). Sitting in comfy chairs, or lying on a blanket, with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and eating one of their tasty pizzas is a great way to spend the evening. As the sun goes down the film begins, with a beautiful backdrop of the harbour. This is a real bonus, if the film is a real shocker you can watch the yachts coming and going, and look up at the stars. If only I could do that at a normal cinema...

2. Watch the sunset at the Grand Hotel (also see the previous post 'Sunset in Port Vila'). The bar on the top floor has fantastic views out to the ocean. Sometimes they have happy hours, sometimes the entire bar staff gets recruited to work on a P&O cruise ship, leaving chaos, but that is OK as the staff are replaced the next day from the Port Vila Hospitality college, which brings me onto number 3.

3. Eat dinner at the Nambanga Training Restaurant. The Port Vila Hospitality college 'training' restaurant. Really great food at a very good price. A little bit out of town, so you will need a taxi.

4. Have a drink in the evening at the Sea Side Kava Bar. Wander in when you see the red light bulb by the road (don't worry, this means a Kava bar in Vanuatu). Drink Kava if the fancy takes you, or have a bottle of Tusker Beer. The bar has a superb view out over the lagoon. Take a torch, you will see why, trust me.

5. Spend an afternoon on Pango beach. Last stop for the ubiquitous taxis, and a great place to relax and watch the surfers. Walk to the point for a view back towards Erakor island.

6. See the Turtles at Turtles Bay. No links for this one, which shows it is pretty undiscovered, a shame as it deserves more visitors. A conservation project is run there to protect and breed turtles, alongside a fantastic beach, nice food and hermit grabs galore (great fun if you have children). There is also a WWII shipwreck 200 metres north from the beach. A taxi driver should know it, it is just the beyond 'Tamunu on the beach' hotel, approx 30 minutes from downtown Port Vila.

7. Load up on great Vanuatu music, from reggae to string bands at the Vanuatu music shop. Hidden away on Rue Camot (the small road before the Digicel store). You can buy CD's and tapes. Yes cassettes are still available, just as they become cool again.

8. Spend a day at Hideaway Island. Well on the tourist trail, although not all know you can visit without staying there. A 1000 vatu ($10) fee will get you onto the island and experience some of the best snorkeling in Efate. There is even an underwater Post Office (rarely open though). Great food and a wonderful way to spend a day relaxing. The island is used by Air Vanuatu 737 Pilots to line up to land at Bauerfield, but as there are only usually two flights a day this is more of an interesting diversion and an opportunity to watch the colorfully painted Air Vanuatu plane, than the torture of being under the flightpath at a major western airport.

9. Have lunch at the market in Port Vila. After shopping for Epi peanuts (yum) and whatever is fresh and in season at the colourful markets, head to the back area, close to the water. This is similar to a hawker market in Asia, lots of stalls cooking food for you on the spot. Santo beef, whatever fish has been caught that day, taro, yam, rice. It is fresh, safe to eat, filling, and cheap. And you will likely share a table with entertaining locals, who will provide great conversation and be curious as to why you are there (Blame me). Get there early, the best food will be gone by 1PM.

10. Go to Coconut Palms in Seaside on a Saturday night, have a draught Tusker Beer at the friendly bar. grab a Pizza and watch the incredible Fire dancing show, before relaxing to some cool reggae tunes in the bar until late.


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