Paradise at Turtle Bay

Turtle Bay Beach House

Turtle Bay Tree House

Holiday Houses Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

Kayaking Espiritu Santo

A Local’s Guide to Kayaking Espiritu Santo & Other Watersports Adventures

 

Most of the watersports adventures and kayaking Espiritu Santo are centered along the east coast of the island between Aore Island in the south and Port Olry in the north. That’s because this is where most of the resorts and tourism accommodation houses are located but it’s also where the best islands, reefs, beaches and blue holes are as well. Plus this area is protected from the SE trade winds and the southerly swells that prevail for over half the year (June – Sept). This makes it one of the best kayaking, paddling and snorkelling destinations in Vanuatu. For some amazing stories on paddle boarding around Santo click HERE .

Aore Island Santo Jet Ski Adventures

There’s lot of watersports activities on Aore Island (opposite Luganville) if you know where to look. One of them is Santo Jet Ski Adventures. This tour offers jet ski safaris around the island to remote beaches and reefs. Not exactly sure if its still operating but the contact details for their Facebook page are HERE

Aore Island Resort & Freshwater Plantation

Aore Island Resort has a free ferry you can catch across to the island from Luganville (usually behind Santo Hardware). At the resort it’s possible to hire out kayaks and its worth a paddle along the coast to explore some of the reef and beaches in the area. You can also do the same while visiting Freshwater Plantation on Aore (their boat leaves from Starfish Kava Bar about 10-15 min south of Luganville). Snorkelling at both of these locations is Ok but not great, the reef here is still recovering from Cyclone Harold in 2020. For the best snorkelling on Aore it might be best to catch a water taxi over and go to Cindy’s Reef.

Lapita Beach Club & Aore Coffee

The Lapita Beach Club also provides some great snorkelling on Aore Island. Bookings need to be made in advance and the boat leaves from St Michel Landing  about 10 mins south of Luganville, You can choose to go on their Plantation tour of a working cattle and coconut Plantation, or alternatively organise to have a beachfront BBQ lunch with fresh cut coconut and cold beverages. And every Tuesday and Friday they can organise sunset brinks and kava tasting or even a BBQ dinner (as long as you book in advance). For more information click here.

Finally you can catch a water taxi out to Aore Island Coffee for around 1500vt from behind Santo Hardware on a Saturday or Sunday for a lazy morning breakfast/brunch and then swim and snorkel at the nearby beach after. Contact Aore Island Coffee for more info (they can also recommend a taxi boat).

South Santo, Venui Plantation 

About 30 mins south of Aore Island is another paddle/kayaking destination worth checking out. Venui Plantation is a stunning kayaking spot with offshore islands, reef and beaches to explore. Venui is a working plantation that grows vanilla, pepper, limes and beef cattle. It also rents cottages and a house for overnight and weekly rental. Sometimes if you ask nicely they will allow you to use the facilities (kayaks/picnic area, beach etc) if you just want to visit for the day – message them or contact them via their Facebook page. Not sure if there’s a cost involved. Make a day of it by taking a picnic lunch and visiting nearby Tuffintari Falls and Tongoa Island while you’re in south Santo. 

 

Kayaking Espiritu Santo

Palekula Bay – Suranda Bay 

Palekula Point/Santo Golf Club

Palekula Bay is a beautiful protected area for a swim, SUP or paddle. It’s framed by a long peninsula of land (Palekula Point) that can be reached via the loop road from town (past Million Dollar Point) or via the turn off at the top or bottom of the hill at Suranda (but be advised this is a very rough dirt road in parts). It’s the same road that goes to the Santo Golf Course (there’s no sign so ask the locals). Palekula Point is lined by white sand beaches and fringing reef. It’s beautiful but can be a little shallow at low tide. It’s a favourite BBQ spot on weekends for the locals. At the Santo Golf Club (west of Paleukula Point) you can swim at the beach, snorkel on the reef and join in for a game of golf and/or a BBQ lunch  on the weekends (check out their facebook page HERE).

Paddling Palekula to Suranda

If you are an experienced paddler and have your own sea kayaks, you can do a one way paddle from Palekula Bay to Suranda following the coast. It is not advisable to paddle from Luganville around the point to Palekula unless the weather is very calm as there can be big waves and tidal movement here. The coastline north of Palekula takes you past some beautiful beaches and fringing reef to Suranda Bay, which is renown for being a haven for dugongs and turtles. There is also a river leading up to a blue hole here that you can explore.

PS This blue hole in Suranda is privately owned but you can rent it out for the day (or half day) for a very reasonable price. Its right next to the road on the long straightaway after you pass the bridge at Suranda. Talk to Awa at the Pacific/Unity Shell Service Station at the start of town to arrange for the key. If there’s a group of you it actually works out cheaper than going to some of the other blue holes and you get to have it all to yourself! 

Paddling the Outer Islands

If you don’t have kayaks but still want to go snorkelling and spot dugongs in this area you’re best bet is to hook up with Island Fishing Santo tours.  Alternatively you can follow a route along the outer islands by paddling from Palekula Point across the channel to Ais Island, hugging the inner coastline north to Mavea Island and then eventually onto Dany Island. There are some nice beaches at the northern end of Ais and Mavea.

 

Barrier Beach

Paddling Suranda to Barrier Beach

This is a very pretty kayak paddle that takes you past Lope Lope, Tides Reach and Barrier Beach. Lots of beautiful fringing reef and pristine beaches to explore along this stretch of coastline, especially as you head further north. It’s also well known as a dugong hotspot. There is a river leading to a blue hole at Lope Lope (can only get into it at high tide) that is very pretty and definitely worth exploring.

If you don’t have your own kayaks, you could try booking in for lunch at Barrier Beach Resort or Black Pearl Resort and hiring some of their kayaks or SUPs. If you decide to paddle the entire coastline its recommended to do this as a one way paddle with a pick up at the end destination of Turtle Bay. Why? BEcause the prevailing winds and waves are mostly SE so its a hard paddle back! A one way paddle north is approx. 10 -12km and will take you 3 hrs to paddle depending on wind, tide and kayaking ability. Alternatively book into Turtle Bay Beach House as your end destination or have Willie the house manager drop you off with some kayaks at Suranda or Barrier Beach so you can do the one way paddle back yourselves! 

Turtle Bay 

Turtle Bay is the ultimate kayaking and watersports destination in Espiritu Santo. It’s a large protected lagoon approx. 7km long surrounded by half a dozen inner islands and 2 outer islands. In addition to some great fringing reef and pristine beaches you can also kayak up two stunningly beautiful crystal rivers to blue holes. You can rent kayaks and SUPs from Turtle Bay Lodge (but be aware some of the islands are privately owned so you will need permission to land on them) or ask at the Dive Center there about snorkelling and diving trips to the nearby islands. Alternatively try Eco-Dive and Reef Resort, just behind Turtle Bay Lodge. They also have a boat and can take you out on snorkelling or diving safaris around the islands.

Turtle Bay Beach House

Alternatively you can stay at Turtle Bay Beach House or Turtle Bay Tree House and have free use of all their watersports equipment while staying there to explore Turtle Bay and surrounds. In terms of kayaking Espiritu Santo this is your best option. The house has single and double sit-inside sea kayaks, surf skis, stand up paddle boards and sit-on-top double kayaks. In addition there is a specially made kayak ramp for easy access to the water as well as a beach shower to wash yourself off after a paddle. To book a room click HERE.

Some good snorkelling can be found at the back of Oyster Island (a short kayak paddle away), Dany Island and Mavea Island (Note – Dany Island charges 1000vt pp to snorkel and land on the island – Mavea however is free). It takes around 45 mins to paddle across the passage to Mavea Island on a calm day (or half an hour to Dany Is). Alternatively go into Riri Village and ask the locals there about getting a banana boat across to Mavea Is. Price is usually around 6,000vt for a return trip.

Kayaking North of Turtle Bay

If the weather is good, you can sneak around the point past Turtle Bay Lodge (north of Turtle Island) and kayak 4kms to the top of the bay (ideally at high tide as its a shallow entry). Lots of amazing reefs and turtles along the way. Worth a snorkel if you can find a beach to land on anywhere along the west side of the bay.  At the north E corner of the bay there is the entrance to a large crystal river. Paddle up the river around 4-5kms (keeping to the left at the main fork in the river) until you reach the stunning Nanda Blue Hole.

Nanda Blue Hole

There is a small cafe here where you can stop and get something to eat and drink (*Note – they will charge you 1000vt each for entering and swimming in this area). If you do not want to pay, stop at some of the other swimming holes on the way up to the blue hole (and there are plenty!). Its about 9km one way and takes about 2.5 hours. Beware, there are thick mats of water lillies along the way which you will have to battle your way through in order to get to the blue hole. On the way out you can explore the other fork in the river (it goes up another 2 kms) but it does not lead to a second blue hole (just a lot of tangled, Amazon-like overgrown waterways!). We recommend either a one way paddle with a pick up at Nanda/Jackies Blue Hole or a return paddle to Turtle Bay Beach House , the perfect base for your kayaking Espiritu Santo experience!

Kayaking Espiritu Santo

Velit Bay 

The next point around from Turtle Bay (about 9kms north) is Velit Bay (see photo below or go to Beaches page for more info). Much of this area is privately owned but there are plenty of sandy beaches on the northern side of the bay (away from the main house) where you can relax and swim. You will pass a couple of islands on the way to Velit – firstly Lataroa (Pilotin) Island and then Lataro (Satoshi) Island. Lataro is privately owned but it’s possible to stay here in one of their beautiful cottages (see AIrBnB for details). Lataroa Island is currently uninhabited and there is a nice white sand beach with some fringing reef on the western side of the island.

Paddling Velit Bay to Champagne Beach

The white sand beach at the western end of Velit Bay next to the big house is privately owned by the Chinese and they are not keen on unannounced visitors. Keep in mind, this stretch of the coast is rugged, isolated and features exposed open water, so only experienced kayakers should attempt this. There is nowhere to pull out your kayaks unless you ask permission from the owners of the Chinese-owned Plantation surrounding the beach. Also note the prevailing winds during most of winter are trade winds that blow steadily from the S-SE  (in the summer they generally blow from the N or NE) so most people do a one-way trip north with a pick up at Champagne Beach (only advisable in good weather). This section of coastline is rugged and offers little protection from the wind and waves. There are no beaches or protected bay to pull into. If you are paddling, best to continue north until you reach Champagne Beach.

Kayaking Espiritu Santo

Champagne Beach – Lonnoc Beach 

This is an amazing paddle and watersports destination and well worth the effort to get there. There are a number of tourist accommodation bungalows stretched out along Lonnoc Beach and some of them have kayaks for hire. Not sure of the condition. Start at Lonnoc Beach Eco-Lodge  and work your way east along the beach in your search for a decent kayak. Use this area as a launching off point to explore the whole of the Champagne/Lonnoc Bay right out to Champagne Point and back. Remember if you land at Champagne Beach they will hit you up for a 1000vt pp entry fee each! Everywhere else is free. Lots of beautiful reef to snorkel on and a few isolated beaches to discover if the tide is right. It’s mostly sheltered from the SE tradewinds so it’s a great place to paddle.

Elephant Island/Port Olry 

There’s a large island about 4km just offshore (Elephant Island) which has some small beaches and excellent snorkelling. Only paddle out here if the weather is good and its mid-low tide as it is open to the swells and wind and the beaches are small and only accessible at a lower tide. For more information on islands you can paddle to, check out our Islands page. If you have your own kayaks and are a keen paddler, a one way paddle from Lonnoc to Port Olry is a great expedition paddle to do in good weather. Make sure to drop into Golden Beach along the way (just watch the reef)!  Takes about 3.5 hrs. 

Hideaway Paradise Bungalows

This beautiful little spot is located about 5km before you reach Port Olry (look for teh sign on the right). It offers some great reef snorkelling (but only at high tide when you can get over the reef surrounding the lagoon), some beautiful white sand beaches to stroll on, an island you can swim to and even a restaurant to eat at! Best of all they have kayaks you can hire to paddle around the nearby islands, coastline and beaches. A hidden gem for kayaking Espiritu Santo.

Kayaking Espiritu Santo

Port Olry 

With over half a dozen islands to explore and some stunning white sand beaches to launch or land on, Port Olry is a kayakers dream. Best to base yourself at Chez Louis restaurant. He can also provide you with a guide to help you explore Dolphin Island. There are a number of bungalows along the beach, some of which have kayaks for rent. Don’t expect to find many and they vary drastically in their seaworthiness. The alternative is to have the locals paddle you out in their own wooden dugout canoes. The small island about 800m to the right of Chez Louis has a nice sand beach and reef area and is also home to a fruit bat colony.

Dolphin Island

Our favourite paddle is to go across to Dolphin Island and visit the secret lake. Aim to go through the passage between Dolphin Island and the closest island to the mainland and you’ll see a long sand spit. Follow the coast around to the north side of the sand spit where the long white sand beach is and pull up under one of the large overhanging trees there. Then look for a path through the bush and coconut plantations that will take you east to the large freshwater lake located under the eye of the Dolphin (check it out on Google Maps). If yo’ve reached the right place you’ll see a grassy picnic area to swim from. It’s not easy to find! The alternative is to take a local guide along with you who can show you the way. 

The best snorkelling around Dolphin Island is on the little cluster of islands about 800m just to the NW of the beach you landed on. There’s a little beach you can land your kayaks on. Also there’s a shipwreck on the reefs just north of the closest island to the mainland (it comes out at lowtide) which makes for interesting snorkelling. 

Port Olry Blue Holes 

Just nortth of the main Port Olry beach is a deep protected bay lined by beaches. If you paddle deep into the bay it eventually turns into an inlet and then a river. The river forks into two – the left hand fork takes you to two beautiful blue holes while the right fork takes you to a shallow freshwater swimming hole (locals often wassh their cars and horses here). This is a great paddle if the wind is up as its very protected. You could do a one way paddle in and be picked up at the swimmnig hole there as it has road access. 

Cape Quiros 

About 5-6 kms north of Port Olry is stunning Cape Quiros, a beautiful protected bay with two gorgeous white sand beaches framed by some very nice coral fringing reef that is perfect for snorkelling. Youn can drive or paddle there. If youre driving stay to the left of the big mountain and then follow the roads that stay close to the coast. If you’re paddling, follow the coastline north from Port Olry around until you reach the other side of the large mountain and you will see the bay and a long white beach. There is a second beach just north of the first one. We recommend to do this as a one way paddle – there is a road access is via the abandoned village at the southern end of Cape Quiros beach or from the little beach at the north end.

Accommodation Options

We always recommend Turtle Bay Beach House (and Turtle Bay Tree House) as your accommodation base for your paddling and watersports adventures. Firstly it’s half way to everything, secondly its located in the ultimate kayaking/watersports area in Santo (Turtle Bay), thirdly all the kayaks and SUPs are free to use when you stay there and fourthly, its great value for money. Book HERE