Island by James Cook,
Efate (900 km2) is
home to the capital city,
Port Vila, a shopping
paradise, and is the
gate to the other islands
of the country. But
before anything else,
a round-island trip of
Efate by car is
Port Vila, capital city...
Port Vila is a small cosmopolitan town, a melting pot of Melanesian, European and Asian cultures. There are approximately 66,000 people living there, when including the outskirts and neighbouring villages. This is where most of the luxury hotels, businesses and tourist activities can be found. One of visitors’ favourite pastimes is to walk along the main street – Lini Highway – checking out every single shop on the way, then, once at the end, to retrace their steps on the other side, again seeking out the least little shop. Lini Highway is also the main banking and trading street, not forgetting its famous Vila market.
Just a few meters away from this street, you can board the ferry to Iririki Island, a charming haven of peace, with its hotel where the British hospital used to be in the Condominium days.
Vila’s other claim to fame is to be the gastronomic capital of the South Pacific. The food is excellent and very diverse with a wide choice of Pacific, Vietnamese, Italian, Japanese, Indian, Chinese and authentic French restaurants …
South of the town, on the road towards Pango Point, Erakor offers different styles of accommodation, from the family bed-and-breakfast to the fourstar hotel. It is the ideal place to go and rest after a shopping marathon, to don snorkelling gear and go and discover the fish in the lagoon, or to sip a cocktail while reading the latest adventures of Mino, the young hero of a very popular comic, the brainchild of the ni-Vanuatu writer, Guy Deroin.
A must see, must do in Port Vila
- the market: located on the main street, on the right just after the Post Office. Best to go there in the morning. Take your pick of the fruit (banana, pineapple, watermelon, soursop…), flowers and vegetables
and fill your basket to your heart’s content. Try laplap, a national dish made with grated root vegetables (taro, manioc, breadfruit or sweet potato) steeped in coconut milk, then cooked with chicken or beef
in banana or heliconia leaves (lap-lap leaves in Bislama). The market is open every day, all day, except on Saturday afternoon and Sunday.
- the Cultural Centre: opposite Parliament. It houses a significant collection of Melanesian and South Pacific artifacts (masks, canoes, carvings…) and old photographs. Open Monday to Friday 9:00 am to
4:30 pm, and Saturday until midday.
- the Michoutouchkine & Pilioko Foundation: on the road to Pango. Collections of rare items of Melanesian art. A way of paying tribute to the Vanuatu-naturalised French painter of Russian descent, Nicolaï Michoutouchkine, who died in May 2010 in Noumea.
- the Cercle sportif : body building, aerobics, yoga, tennis, squash. How to make the most of one’s holidays and keep fit. Close to the Municipal stadium.
- sailing, diving, kayaking,
trekking, horse-riding: a large number of outfits in town offer a wide range of sporting activities.
A shopper’s paradise
Vanuatu is one of the last ‘real’ « duty-free » strongholds in the Pacific. So, do not leave your map of Port Vila behind in your hotel room, put on a pair of comfortable sturdy shoes, tell your partner you will meet him in the evening at the bar of the hotel for a refreshing Tusker (well deserved it!), then head off into town. You will undoubtedly find some good bargains at the market stalls and in the Chinese stores, such as multicoloured pareos, handpainted/ printed T-shirts or various souvenirs.
Just for starters… then make a bee-line for Lini Highway. THE place to shop in Vila. You will find perfumes, wines and spirits, genuine French Champagne, jewellery (in particular South Pacific black pearls), various brands of Swiss watches, sunglasses, clothes and other fashionable items, or alternatively, electronic equipment at very good prices.
In other words, enough to keep you busy for a whole day, not to mention putting a dent in your holiday budget!
Leaving Port Vila to head north, to go round Efate (Shefa Province) clockwise, represents a round trip of about 130 km which can be done in half a day if you leave in the morning.
Alternatively, why not make the most of it by allowing yourself a couple of days and spending a night in one of the resorts dotted around Efate ?
Whereas the centre of Efate consists of extensive tracts of rainforest, with hidden rivers and cascades, the coastal area provides an ever-changing scenery alternating between rugged coastlines and lovely sandy beaches sheltered by the barrier reef. After 9 kms, you get to Hideaway Marine Sanctuary where you will find the one and only underwater post office just 50 m from the shore, at a depth of 3 m.
Returning Duty free Allowances :
2,25 L spirits or wine, 250 cigarettes or 250 g tabacco, A$ 900 personal goods (A$ 450 per minor).
• New Zealand
1.125 L spirits, 4.25 L wine or beer, 200 cigarettes or 250 g tabacco or 50 cigars, NZ$ 700 personal goods.
• New Caledonia
Wine/ Spirits - 1L at 22% of more - 2L if less than 22%. Cigarettes or Tobacco - 200 or 100 Cigarellos or 50 Cigars or 250g Tobacco
Perfumes - 50ml perfume or 250ml EDT
Personal Goods - 30,000 XPF (15,000 XPF Minor).
All shops and boutiques are members of the Duty-Free Shops Association (DFSA).
No need to show your passport or your airline ticket when paying, simply state the date of your departure and your destination and the shop will attend to delivering your goods straight to the airport.
Looking for good contacts...?
Efate: 1st port of call in Paradise...
For any informations, contact the
Vanuatu Tourism Office
Ph (678) 22 813 - fax (678) 23 889
Surrounded by shoals of tropical fish, several diving mailmen take it in turns to man the desk and take the waterproof cards sold at nearby shops, brought to them by ‘clients’. The mail is then delivered to the main Post Office on a daily basis. After the Mele Cascades, the road runs along the shores of Havannah Harbour, looking out to Lelepa and Moso Islands.
At North Efate, after Undine Bay, not to be missed is Kakula Island, a tiny island with white sandy beaches, and Nguna which used to be famous for its volcano. Along the eastern coast, there are a number of pretty beaches one after the other, including Epule, landing stage for boat trips up the river, with traditional dancing for entertainment and a Melanesian feast – with Eton beach a bit further along. After 82 kms, you reach Forari village, site of an old manganese
mine which employed over 2000 workers and represented the second hub of activities on Efate from 1962 to 1978. Another dive stop at Manuro, last relaxing stage before halting at Tamanu on the Beach, Eratap Beach Resort or Aquana Beach Resort, to close the circle soon after that.
Another very pleasant way of discovering Efate is to hire a plane or a helicopter. To this end, contact: Air Safari, Air Taxi, Unity Airlaines or Vanuatu Helicopters.