As the largest island in Vanuatu, Espiritu Santo is an outdoor adventure paradise – with world class diving, fishing, spearfishing, kayaking and trekking. Santo is also blessed with a wealth of traditional culture and amazing natural attractions like stunning blue holes, pristine white sand beaches, colourful fringing reefs, picturesque islands, lush rainforest and mountains full of waterfalls, canyons and rivers.
Our top 10 list of activities Espiritu Santo has tried to incorporate as many of these attractions as possible based on a combination of factors – value for money, unique experience, natural beauty, cultural heritage, ease of access and fun and adventure. For more information on things to see and do in Espiritu Santo see here and here.
Attractions and Activities Espiritu Santo
1. Swim in a blue hole
Blue holes are spectacular freshwater springs. There are several of them scattered along the east coast of Espiritu Santo. Some of the more popular are Ri Ri Blue Hole, Nanda Blue Hole and Matevulu Blue Hole. We recommend paddling up the crystal river leading to Matevulu Blue Hole. Best option – do a guided kayak tour with Island Time Kayaking or hire a kayak/SUP if you’re budget conscious – alternatively stay at Turtle Bay Beach House and paddle their free kayaks up to either blue hole. There is a small fee per person for swimming at these spectacular freshwater springs but it’s one of the better things to do on the island so it’s well worth it (and you get to use the giant rope swing!). One of our top attractions and activities Espiritu Santo!
2. Float down a river at Millennium Caves or Mt. Hope
Millennium Caves is absolutely amazing, mind blowing and insane – but not for the feint-hearted or the unfit. This is a jungle trek/cultural experience/caving/canyoning adventure all rolled into one. It’s an hour’s drive into the mountains above Luganville. Imagine Indiana Jones on a National Geographic adventure and you’re getting close to the truth. Book direct with the Millennium Caves office here. If you want the more family friendly version of Millennium Caves, try the Mt Hope Waterfall tour. Some of the things to do on the tour include floating down slot canyons, jumping off boulders and climbing up a waterfall. This is about a 40 min drive from Turtle Bay on the east coast up a very rough dirt track. Book via Village de Santo Resort or find more info here. As activities Espiritu Santo go, this is definitely for the more adventurous.
3. Snorkel and Sunbake at Champagne Beach
Take a picnic lunch, take your snorkelling gear and prepare to be dazzled by one of the most beautiful, natural white sand beaches in the South Pacific. Not a resort in sight, just Champagne Beach in all its glory. In addition to lots of shady huts to relax under, there is a nice section of reef located on the western corner of the beach. There is a fee of around $25 per car for entry into Champagne Beach.
If you want to add in a splash of adventure to your day trip, try kayaking from Lonnoc Beach to Champagne Beach on one of Island Time Kayaking’s tours or catch a small boat across to Elephant Island (about 5kms away) for a half day snorkelling and seafood lunch tour.
Finally, stop off at Lonnoc Beach Bungalows for a cold drink or a bite to eat or visit Hideaway Paradise Bungalows just up the road for a beachside seafood lunch. We also recommend you visit the nearby Hog Harbour blue hole (about 1.4km after the Champagne Beach turn off) for a refreshing swim in a stunning natural spring (a 500vt entry fee pp may apply). A great combination of attractions and activities Espiritu Santo for a day trip.
4. Visit a cultural village
A visit to Espiritu Santo and Vanuatu is not complete unless you have immersed yourself in the local culture. There are lots of nearby kastom villages to choose from, many offering a variety of things to do – kava ceremonies, traditional dancing, the famous water music, island feasts and more. Of these, Leweton Cultural Village is very accessible and one of our favourites. If you want to experience more of an adventure, try taking a tour to some of the villages in Fanafo (up in the mountains on the east coast) – the bamboo forest walk is particularly good (see here for more information) – or check with Wrecks to Rainforest booking agency in Luganville for their 3 day trekking tours to remote kastom villages. You In terms of cultural attractions and activities Espiritu Santo, this is something not to be missed.
5. Dive the Coolidge or the Reefs
Espiritu Santo has one of the world’s best wreck dives on its doorstep, the SS President Coolidge, as well as some amazing reef dives around the nearby outer islands like Tutuba Point and Cindy’s Reef. And you can’t beat the famous Million Dollar Point dive (or snorkel) for fascinating WW2 history and accessible reefs and wrecks. There are several companies based in and around Luganville who specialise in Espiritu Santo diving, our pick is Coral Quays Fish and Dive or Aore Adventure Sports. If you’re into underwater adventure, these attractions and activities Espiritu Santo style are worth experiencing.
6. Go Island Hopping
Espiritu Santo is surrounded by a ring of 35 mini-islands so the choice of islands to visit is huge (see here for more info). If you want an adventure and a taste of what the real Vanuatu would have been like 50 years ago try hitching a boat ride to Malo Island for the day (make sure the weather is calm) and visit the cute Pantanas Bungalows or visit Mavea Island, island of adventure, only 15 mins by boat from the east coast of Santo and discover WW2 plane wrecks, pristine white sand beaches, amazing snorkelling local wildlife and traditional village life – click here for more info . Alternatively, for a more mainstream experience, catch the free ferry from Luganville across to Aore Island and snorkel at Aore Island Resort or visit the caves at Freshwater Plantation and enjoy a beautiful lunch at their local restaurant. In terms of things to do, island hopping is one of the more exciting attractions and activities Espiritu Santo!
7. Fishing/Spearfishing the deepwater drop offs
Santo is renown for its world class fishing and spearfishing. Every large gamefish is on offer thanks to huge drop offs and deepwater channels within throwing distance of inshore fringing reefs. Add to that a multitude of easily accessible seamounts, deep canyons and 30+ offshore islands and it all adds up to fishing heaven (see here for more info). There are a range of fishing boats to suit all budgets– from small local operators like Fabrice Moderan’s Island Fishing Santo , Deco Stop Lodge and Aore Adventure Sports right up to Calvin and Julie’s Santo Gamefishing Charters on Fiesta, a live-board 46ft flybridge Cresta cruiser. A rewarding things to do Santo option.
8. Day trip to Port Olry
Port Olry is a sleepy, picturesque fishing village located at the top of Santo’s beautiful east coast and home to one of Santo’s most beautiful natural beaches. It’s about a 40 min drive north of Turtle Bay Beach House. We recommend finding a beachside restaurant (Chez Louis is good), ordering a fresh lobster or local fish and diving into the crystal clear waters off the gorgeous white sand beach. If you want a little more adventure you can either walk to the nearby island from the point at low tide (good snorkelling on east side off island) or organise a boat/canoe ride over to the larger island (Dolphin Island) Thion and do the walk up to the lake if you are feeling fit. Ask at one of the restaurants for a boat contact or try George Wass There is some good snorkelling off this outer island and a nice beach to relax on. You can take a picnic lunch over. For a great blog on the top 10 things to do in Port Olry click here .
9. Visit a secret waterfall and a hidden island village
Drive 40 min south of Luganville across rickety bridges and through beautiful rural countryside to reach Tangoa Island. Local villagers will paddle you across the short distance from the mainland to their small island by traditional outrigger canoe and show you around. There are some beautiful walks, an optional island kakae lunch (if requested ahead of time) and snorkelling on coral reefs at nearby Ella Island. After Tangoa Island, you can visit nearby Tuffuntari (or Tarbuntari) Waterfalls. This place is a hidden treasure – it’s at a junction where two rivers meet, one warm and one cold! Wonderful crystal clear water, fish to feed, a refreshing swimming hole and that amazing waterfall over limestone cliffs! Cost is around 500vt each payable to custom owner on arrival. Nelson (one of the guides) is eager to please and very knowledgeable about the area. For more information on Tangoa Island contact Reynold Vuti on 5443483 or for an organised day tour contact Wrecks to Rainforest . See also Tuffuntari Waterfalls facebook page – click here.
10. Swim with a horse
Located at “The Ranch” on Espiritu Santo’s east coast, this is without doubt one of the most beautiful locations for horse riding in the whole of Vanuatu. The trail ride winds it way through rainforest, coconut plantations, crystal blue rivers, traditional villages and then onto a beautiful beach. The highlight is a swim in the ocean with your horse! In terms of one of the more unique activities Espiritu Santo, this is pretty special! Megan-Jane, the owner is passionate about her business and can customise each trail ride to suit a groups needs (they are normally around 1-2hrs long).
The price includes all gear and equipment, pick up and a warm up ride in the arena for those unfamiliar with horses or western style saddles. It’s one of the more relaxing things to do on Santo. Afterwards you can enjoy a snorkel or lunch at Lope Lope Lodge which overlooks a picturesque beach. In her spare time Megan rescues horses and rehabilitates them at her horse sanctuary. Click here for more info.
In between all your outdoor adventures, make time to chill out and relax at one of the spa/massage centres scattered around Espiritu Santo. We recommend Barrier Beach Resort, about a 15 min. drive north of Luganville (look for the sign). Choose from body wraps and scrubs, cocoon treatments or facials using active botanicals, vanilla sugar and salt scrubs or surrender yourself to a special island time massage or a Hot Stone massage for the ultimate indulgence. The good news is that once you’re done, you can then swim at the stunning beach afterwards or enjoy some beautiful food or a refreshing drink at their beach side restaurant.