Dive into a Refreshing Santo Blue Hole
There are almost too many blue holes on Santo to mention, but one thing they all share is electric blue, crystal-clear water. Mountain water filtered through kilometres of underground limestone caves before resurfacing near the coast creates these magnificently pure swimming holes. The water from these fresh mountain springs then forms rivers which flow into the ocean. Each blue hole in Espirito Santo has its own unique identity, but one thing many have in common is a huge rope swing hanging from the biggest tree for thrillseekers to launch themselves into the water below. Matevulu Blue Hole is the largest of Santo’s swimming holes, accessible by car or by kayak from Turtle Bay Lodge, Turtle Bay Beach House and Matevulu Lodge (or BYO kayak/stand up paddle board for the 45-minute paddle upstream!). Riri Blue Hole is just south of Matevulu Blue Hole and is often regarded as one of the best swimming holes in Vanuatu. The paddle along the translucent, almost invisible water of the Riri River to the blue hole is like a portal to another world. You can also access the swimming hole by car, around 30 minutes drive from Luganville, or ask local tour guides to take you via outrigger canoe. Less busy than Matevulu, you can often have the place to yourself.
Thar Blue Hole sits in a sensational jungle setting near the currently closed Nanda Blue Hole at the top of Turtle Bay. Swim, paddle around, or stay the night in the sensational floating bungalow. Malo Blue Hole is a bit more of an adventure, however, a glimpse of the island’s blue hole will convince you it was worth it! Catch public transport or hire a driver to take you to Malo Landing, around 30-minutes south of Luganville. From Malo Landing you can hire a speedboat and guide for around Vt3,000 return, taking the 20-minute journey across to Malo Island to check out this exquisite turquoise swimming sanctuary. Deep and refreshing, this is considered one of the more natural of Santo’s blue holes, located in the middle of the island’s north-facing coastline. Once on Malo, ask one of the locals with a 4WD to take you to the blue hole or organise a kayak tour along the river, which opens into a rarely-visited shallow lagoon framed by a picture-perfect landscape.
Secret Blue Hole is near Hog Harbour. You’ll need to ask around for directions, as it is missing from most tourist maps. This gem is squirrelled away further north along the coastlind. Hire a four-wheel-drive to go exploring and drive around 1.4 kilometres further after the turnoff to Champagne Beach. You won’t find any signs marking the trail, so keep your eyes peeled for a hut and some seats on the right-hand side of the road with a track leading down to the swimming lagoon. It’s also one of the only Santo blue holes boasting a direct connection to the ocean, which explains its distinctly salty taste.
Relax on Champagne
Beach As you arrive at Santo’s Champagne Beach, the vibrant colours of the surrounding greenery and the sea are a striking contrast to the fine white sand of the beach. Before you know it you’ll be lying on the sand between refreshing swims, taking in the view, and watching local kids run and jump off the jetty. This is a great place to catch up on your reading, spend some quality time with your partner or family, or grab a snack and a beer at one of the two restaurants located right on the sand. Postcardworthy Champagne Beach is about an hour north of Luganville tucked away just before Port Olry.
Feast at Port Olry
People come to Port Olry to kayak to the nearby small islands and check out the colourful reefs, but they stay for the mouth-watering local seafood. Take a seat in one of the beachside huts, all run by local villagers, and prepare for a tropical feast with a view. Nothing says romantic lunch like tucking into freshly-caught lobster with your toes in the sand. As Port Olry is the last village on the sealed road, it is also the jumping-off point for more adventurous travellers to get off the beaten track and explore Cape Quieros. Taxis and hire cars can’t go any further than Port Olry, so engaging a local guide is a must.
Go on an Adventure at Millennium Cave
Want a real adventure to remember? Take the full-day tour of Millennium Cave which begins with a four-wheeldrive trail inland, followed by a bushwalk to a remote village. Once there you will begin the hiking, caving, canyoning and swimming that make up the Millennium Cave experience. From scrambling up rocks to making your way through pitch-black caves, it will certainly be an unforgettable adventure. If the four-hour hike and caving are a bit out of your comfort zone, check out the Tufuntari Waterfall Tour and enjoy a more relaxed trek through the jungle followed by a float down the river while your guide tells you stories about the area and fills you in on the local bird population.
Experience the Local Way of Life
Santo town is well-known as a mixing pot for different cultures from around the northern islands of Vanuatu. One of the best cultural experiences to be had in Luganville is the Leweton Cultural Experience, a Banks Islands kastom village located in the outskirts of town. Experience the percussive magic of Gaua’s famous water music, sample some nalot, or drink some kava, prepared Banks Islands style.
Take a Look Back at Santo’s Past
Santo has had its fair share of drama over the years, from the short-lived coup and independence in the 1980s to the massive US military presence here during the Second World War. If those trees could talk, there sure would be some stories to tell. Luckily, the World War 2 Museum can help fill you in on the island’s fascinating history and colourful past.
Dive the Wrecks
At the end of the Second World War, the Americans dumped millions of dollars worth of military equipment in the sea off Espiritu Santo — purely to spite the British and French, who were banking on the assumption that, should they refuse to pay for the items, the US military would be forced to leave it all behind for free. Fast forward 70-odd years, and it has now become a wellknown snorkelling and scuba diving site referred to as Million Dollar Point. Located just metres from the beach, it’s great for visitors who are new to snorkelling as well as experienced divers and snorkellers. Another diver’s playground created during the war was the wreck of the SS President Coolidge — hit by a sea mine and sunk just off Million Dollar Point.
How to Get There
Fly direct from Port Vila to Santo on Air Vanuatu daily. Unity Airlines and Air Taxi also offer charter flights on demand – ideal and cost-effective if you are travelling with a group.