Paradise at Turtle Bay

Turtle Bay Beach House

Holiday House Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

A Local’s Guide to the Best Beaches Espiritu Santo

 

Espiritu Santo is blessed with some of the most beautiful beaches in Vanuatu. Some of them are easily accessible on the mainland, some require a boat trip to an island while others require a payment to the local village to access (which helps support the whole community) or premission from the custom owner to enter. The best (white sand) beaches Espiritu Santo are located on the east coast, however there are more rugged, wild and remote black sand beaches on the west coast (they are just very hard to get to and generally exposed to strong winds and waves). So for the sake of this blog, we will stick to east coast beaches only. 

 

Million Dollar Point

Although the beach at Million Dollar Point is pretty enough as beaches go, it’s what under the water just offshore that makes this one of the best beaches in Santo. Imagine a gigantic military junkyard full of every type of vehicle and piece of equipment you can imagine half covered by reef and inhabited by schools of colourful fish and you start to get an idea of what awaits you, During WW2 the U.S. military dumped literally millions of dollars worth of surplus equipment and goods off this beach purely to spite the British and French, who refused to buy it off them. Read more about this incredible story HERE. It costs around 500-1000vt pp to access the beach and it’s really only worthwhile going on a calm day when it’s not exposed to the SE trade winds (as it can get a little rough and low vis), It’s located on Canal Rd 5km east of Luganville (a few kms after the airport turnoff) – just look for the sign. You can also dive this area with some of the local dive companies (see our Diving Page). Million Dollar Point is also the jumping off point for the water taxi boats to Tutuba Island, which has a spectacular white sand beach at it’s southern end (see below).

Tutuba Island

A short water taix boat ride across the channel from Million Dollar Point is Tutuba Island. On its southern end is a beautiful white sand beach complete with overhanging palm trees worthy of an Instagram post of paradise and some great snorkelling on some inshore coral reefs. You would need to check in with the chief of the village to make sure it is okay to use the beach area when you arrive or talk to the water taxi driver who can no doubt help you make contact before you go. It can be a rough crossing if the wind and waves are up so try to pick a calm day to go over. Well worth the effort to get here and one of the best beaches Espiritu Santo. (PS Its only a short boatride over the Bokissa Island next door where there is even better snorkelling and yet another beautiful white sand beach!).

Palekula Point

If you keep following the road north from Million Dollar Point it will eventually take you to Palekula (Palikulo) Point . It’s a narrow peninsular half way between Suranda Bay and Million Dollar Point (on the coastal loop road). If you are driving from Suranda, the turnoff is about 2.6km on the left past the Santo Golf Club (there are no signs!). The 3km drive up to the tip of the sheltered peninsula is studded with deserted white sand beaches, shipwrecks, an abandoned Japanese fish factory and fringing reefs frequented by turtles and dugongs. For the history buffs, Palikulo Bay was the site of a massive floating dry dock, a seaplane base and a bomber runway built by the US army during WW2.The beaches all the way along the inside of the point are very protected and shallow so perfect for families with young kids. In fact this is a favourite weekend BBQ area and escape for local families. For more info on Palekula Point see HERE

Barrier Beach/Tides Reach

Although technically just one long white sand beach, locals call the northern section Barrier Beach and the souther section Tides Reach. This is home to a number of resorts and Air BnBs and the only real way to access the beach is via Barrier Beach Resort. Luckily Barrier Beach is open for lunch and dinner so suggest you book in and go for a swim or a stroll along the beach before or after the meal. Make sure it is mid-low tide otherwise there will be no beach to walk on! There is a small blue swimming hole at the souther end of the beach which is a great for a refreshing swim.

Mavea Island

At the northern end of Mavea Island just off Turtle Bay (where Turtle Bay Beach House is located), there is a classic South Seas Island Fantasy Beach with a crescent of white sand frame by swaying palm trees and colourful reef. It’s stunning and usually its completely empty. You can catch a water taxi from Ri Ri Village (look for the Oyster Island sign and ask for Johnny or Quenster). It takes about 20 min to get across and costs 6000vt for the boat (up to 6-8 persons). There’s a great walk from the beach as well (see our Islands page HERE for more info) to a giant banyan tree, Alternatively if you stay at Turtle Bay Beach House you can kayak over or we can arrange for a boat to pick you up directly from your door. Turtle Bay Beach House is a great base to explore the best beaches Espiritu Santo has to offer as it is half way to everything and has the best value for money cottages and beach houses on Santo!

Oyster Island

Oyster Island is a small island in Turtle Bay that used to be the location of Oyster Island Resort. It was bought by the Chinese some years ago and has been left in riuns ever since. The good news is that Honeymoon Beach on the east side of the island has also been left untouched and is a great spot to play Robinson Crusoe for a day. You can kayak there from Turtle Bay Beach House or Turtle Bay Lodge relatively easily (around 30 mins) or catch a boat from Riri Village (look for Oyster Island sign). The beach features a blue lagoon area just out front and there is some reef to snorkel on (it’s ok but not great). There’s also a few other nearby islands which have great little beaches to explore. If you stay at Turtle Bay Beach House you can explore all the islands of Turtle Bay over a week at your leisure! 

Golden Beach

From Champagne head north towards Port Olry (another 20 mins up the road). About 6.5 km past the village of Hog Harbour there is a hidden turn-off to one of the prettiest beaches on the whole of Santo, called Golden Beach. The sand is a golden yellow and you can body surf here. The turn-off is not marked and the beach is on vacant private property so ask around for directions or get permission from the custom chief of the area to go there. If you go past Hideaway Paradise Bungalows turn off you’ve gone too far (backtrack a km or so)! Its about a 5 mins drive off the main road on a rough, overgrown dirt track.

Lonnoc/Champagne Beach

However if you’re after Vanuatu beaches that are truly mind-blowing, you need to drive north. First stop is the turnoff to Champagne Bay and Lonnoc, where the sand is like icing sugar and the crystal clear azure waters look like an aquarium  (*Note – you have to pay the landowner to enter – about $5 AUD each) . Don’t make the mistake of going there when the cruise ships are in otherwise you might find yourself surrounded by hundreds of tourists! Lonnoc on the other hand is free and you can rock up to Lonnoc Beach Bungalows  and order a cold beer, lunch or a Coke (or even hire kayaks).

And of course there is the famous Million Dollar Point (about 5km east of Luganville on Canal Road) which is actually a nice white sand beach that has  the bonus of having lots of interesting WW2 relics to dive/snorkel on within a couple of metres of the beach. This costs around $5pp to access.  

Port Olry

Port Olry is a rustic fishing village with a couple of picturesque beachside restaurants. There’s a stunning white sand beach and a few tropical islands directly offshore. It;s a great place to relax and enjoy the best of Vanuatu beaches. You can actually walk across to the nearest island at low tide or you can hire kayaks or a boat and go exploring.

Cape Quiros

Half an hours drive past Port Olry is a stunning white sand beach called Cape Qurios. It it a little bit like Champagne Beach but with incredible coral reefs just offshore (especially on the northern end of the main beach). It;s a great place to relax and enjoy one of the best beaches Espiritu Santo has on offer.