Paradise at Turtle Bay

Turtle Bay Beach House

Turtle Bay Tree House

Holiday Houses Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu
Riri blue hole is one of the prettiest Espiritu Santo blue holes

A Local’s Guide to the Best Espiritu Santo Blue Holes

 

There are over a dozen blue holes scattered around the coast of Espiritu Santo Island, each one is different and has its own unique beauty. My local’s guide to Espiritu Santo blue holes is a comprehensive list of the best blue holes on the island, including those that are open to the public and those that are located on private land. Turtle Bay and surrounds on the east coast of Santo is the blue hole mecca – there are not one but four “blue holes” here, all within a few kilometres of each other. Espiritu Santo blue holes are naturally occurring limestone springs. They are fed by incredibly pure freshwater flowing underground from mountains in the centre the island (over 30 km away). A crystal clear blue river meanders from each blue hole to the sea.

Matevulu Blue Hole

The first and closest, Matevulu Blue Hole, is the largest and deepest of Espiritu Santo blue holes (approx 18 m deep) and is only a short 45 min to 1 hr  paddle away from Turtle Bay Beach House and Turtle Bay Tree House, directly opposite Oyster Island. You can also drive there (look for the signs on the main road). Paddling up the crystal river to reach the swimming lagoon is an experience in itself – like being lost in the Amazon!  It takes about 30 minutes to paddle up the river. Once at the blue hole you are rewarded at the end with a great swimming area and a giant rope swing tied onto a large banyan tree. There are also toilets there. Cost is 1000vt per person or 500vt for kids. 

Ri Ri Blue Hole

The second, Ri Ri Blue Hole, is by far the prettiest blue hole/crystal river out of all the Espiritu Santo blue holes. It is another 45 minute paddle farther south of Matevulu Blue Hole. Paddling up the entrance lagoon and crystal river is nothing short of magical! You can also visit both these blue holes by car as well, and at Ri Ri Blue hole you can choose to have locals paddle you up via outrigger canoe (ask the locals near the bridge going over the Ri Ri river). The locals have gone to a lot of effort to provide platforms, bathrooms and change areas to make this blue hole easily accessible. Cost is 1000vt per person or 500 vt for kids.

Espiritu Santo blue holes Nanda or jackies blue hole Vanuatu
rope swing espiritu santo blue holes

Nanda or Jackie’s Blue Hole 

The third blue hole, Nanda or Jackie’s Blue Hole  is located at the top of Turtle Bay (about 1.5 – 2hr paddle north of the house). You can kayak there from Turtle Bay Beach House at Turtle Bay however it is a long paddle (2hrs +) and only recommended for experienced sea kayakers. Make sure to paddle up the river on an incoming high tide (stay to the left) – its about 4km to reach the blue hole but its’ definitely worth the effort (like being in the Amazon without the crocs or nasties). Be aware that sometimes there is substantial waterweed blocking the river to the blue hole which can be almost impossible to paddle through. Jackie’s Blue Hole can also be reached by car (approx. 6-8 min. drive past Turtle Bay) and features a small cafe. It costs a 1000vt pp.

Thar Blue Hole

There is second smaller blue hole (Thar) just before Nanda Blue Hole – look for the sign –  it’s pretty but the jetty and deck is very rickety and everything is a little bit run down. It’s operated by a different custom owner to Jackie’s Blue Hole. Still nice for a swim. 

Cirad Blue Hole

Father south from Turtle Bay (about 15 mins drive) there is a blue hole on the Lope Lope River, opposite the Lope Lope Lodge. It is called Cirad Blue Hole and you reach it by turning into VARTEC. Drive on this road for about half a kilometre (it is on the right just before the big house). This is not a “tourist” blue hole so you must seek permission from the landowner or manager of VARTEC to swim in it. As Espiritu Santo blue holes go, this is a little smaller and shallower than the other blue holes but still very pretty!

Suranda Blue Hole

About 10 minutes father south from Cirad Blue Hole there is a blue hole on the left next to a fence with black plastic on it (just before the bridge). This blue hole is on private land and normally locked up but you can actually hire it out for the day from the Chinese owner Awa for around 5000vt. He can be found at the Pacific Petrol Station in town. This blue hole is more like a swimming pool as its partly concreted in but it also has a shade house and a river leading out to the ocean which is worth a snorkel/swim through! And for the adventurous there is a blue hole on private land just up from the bridge 5 minutes south of Suranda Blue Hole. Just follow the river up from the bridge after asking permission from the landowner.

Hala Blue Hole

Finally there are a few more “hidden” Santo blue holes farther north along the coastline that are also worth exploring. The first one (which we call the Secret Blue Hole or Hala Blue Hole) is located about 1.4 km after the turn-off to Champagne Beach – there’s no sign just a hut and some seats on the right hand side of the road with a track leading down to the swimming lagoon (look for the steep descent sign). It is one of the only Santo blue holes with a direct connection to the ocean.

Vatvateur & Vatvatel Blue Holes 

More “secret” blue holes can be found by turning left at the T-intersection just past the village of Port Olry, and continuing about 1.8km down the dirt road. There are apparently two blue holes here – one called Vatvateur and the other Vatvatel Blue Hole. They are very shallow and not as impressive as other blue holes. You can kayak to them from Port Olry by following the river up from the bay and turning left at the first intersection. Again you will need to check with the local landowner or custom owner to see if you can swim in them as they are located on private property. The road leading to this area is rough and only suitable for 4WDs.

Malo Island Blue Hole

This is a huge blue hole is located right in the middle of Malo Island’s north facing coastline (directly opposite Aore Island and Ratua Island). It is probably the most natural of Santo blue holes, very cool and refreshing and quite deep. The crystal river flowing out of the blue hole is stunning and leads to a shallow turquoise entrance lagoon framed by a small island (very, very pretty). You can access the blue hole by catching a boat over to Malo and then asking one of the locals with a 4WD to take you there. Alternatively if you are staying at either Ratua Island Resort or Bokissa Island Resort they can organise a kayak trip up the river to the blue hole.

Nearly all of Santo blue holes require you to pay an entrance fee to the local landowner (about $5 – $10 AUD per person) so make sure to take some cash with you.

kayaks at Espiritu Santo blue holes

Accommodation Base

If you want to stay close to where Espiritu Santo’s best blue holes are located then you can’t go past Turtle Bay Beach House and Turtle Bay Tree House They are the closest accommodation to the three blue holes at Turtle Bay. Best of all both houses are fully self contained so you can cook for yourself. They are excellent value for money. Spend more of your money on experiences and less on expensive resorts and restaurants by staying at Turtle Bay holiday houses.