There’s stiff competition for the crown of tourist hotspot in the Pacific and, for a while, Vanuatu has been playing second fiddle to big players like Fiji. That looks set to change – there’s much to love about this island destination, not least its accessibility from Australia, its excellent diving and the freshly renovated resorts that have sprung back to life following the 2015 cyclone. Port Vila is a lively capital with great restaurants, wonderful beach bars and colourful local markets. From there, head to some of Vanuatu’s best resorts – just set your watch to island time and prepare for barefoot luxury.
The Havannah Vanuatu
A half-hour drive from Port Vila, The Havannah is strictly for grown-ups. Couples rejoice: at this resort, there are no kids clubs or crowded buffets. Instead, there are gorgeous villas built for two, plentiful spots for private dining and an absolute beachfront position that invites leisurely activities such as snorkelling and stand-up paddle-boarding. For the full experience, choose one of The Havannah’s two Deluxe Waterfront Villas. Each has a deck that extends out over the glinting sea for sun-basking and a private seven-metre infinity pool for blissful wallowing.
There’s also an outdoor shower and bath and a separate dining area where a private chef will cook and serve up the day’s catch. Inside, the décor is island chic: neutrals, timber furniture and crisp white sheets in the enormous beds. If you deign to leave the villa, make it for the Arôm'Essence Day Spa for a massage, or Havannah Harbour, which offers spectacular sights for divers, including downed seaplanes and old Coca-Cola bottles that are remnants from World War II.
Iririki Island Resort & Spa
The thatched fares and bungalows of the recently refurbished Iririki Island Resort & Spa are surrounded by the sparkling Coral Sea. It is an island, after all, albeit one that’s just a three-minute ferry-ride from bustling Port Vila. Following the devastating Cyclone Pam, Iririki’s Australian owners rebuilt, taking the liberty of adding a swim-up blackjack table and a karaoke room to the mix.
The thatched beachfront cottages look traditional from the outside but inside they’re anything but rustic. Four-poster king-sized beds, a beautiful wood-accented bathroom and a living area leading onto a spacious balcony are ideal for honeymooners but there is suitable accommodation for families, too. Dining options abound from the romantic Azure Restaurant to the more egalitarian (read: kids are welcome) Sunset Pool, Bar & Grill.
Those who are perfectly content to get on intimate terms with the day spa and the four-tiered swimming pool, have at it, but there are things here for active types too. Bikes, kayaks and snorkelling gear are free to guests, staff will rise to the challenge of a beach volleyball match, while a games room and playground will keep kids occupied (as does the kids club).
Ratua Private Island Resort
The Robinson Crusoe island of Ratua, a 30-minute ferry ride from Espiritu Santo airport, is presided over by a secretive French billionaire. This Gallic philanthropist opened the island to guests as a not-for-profit eco-resort in 2010, dedicated to the progression of both the local communities on neighbouring islands and sustainability.
The guest villas are incredible: 200-year-old structures made from teak and shipped from Indonesia, with ornate Balinese furniture and fittings. All have views of the bay and are surrounded by verdant green jungle. Everything here is made of wood thanks to a no-plastic policy, and there are no cars. Guests walk, cycle, or gallop across the beach on horseback. The food is organic and hyper-local – livestock is raised on the island, and the fruit and vegies are grown on-site. There are regular beach barbecues and private picnics as well as the Yacht Club restaurant and a bar where fresh coconuts are put to good use.
Eratap Beach Resort
Secluded Eratap Beach Resort is less than 20 minutes drive south-east of Port Vila with three private beaches, a lagoon and uninhabited islands nearby that you explore via stand-up paddleboard or kayak. Guests can rent fishing gear and bicycles and there’s a quaint pétanque court for gentler exertion.
The creature comforts are unstinting: villas have warm elegant interiors with huge beds and comfortable timber furnishings plus wi-fi and air-conditioning. Beachfront Villas give guests the option to shower inside or outside, not to mention a beautiful bath from which to watch the waves, while Honeymoon Suites have private plunge pools and thatched lounge pavilions. The beachside restaurant is flexible – dine barefoot on the beach, on the terrace or even on the deck of your villa.