One of the best decisions we made after landing in Port Vila was to hire a rental car and create our own DIY – Do It Yourself Driving tour from Port Vila.
With tours starting at 5000 VUV per person (45 USD or 58 AUD) and limitations to each tour we quickly decided that investing in a rental car for three days would give us the opportunity to see specific attractions within a time frame we chose. We hired a two door 4×4 vehicle through Euro Car for a total of 21,000 VUV (190 USD or 245 AUD).
Driving on the right-hand side of the road gave us a challenge straight up as we are originally from Australia but even though we were new to driving on the opposite side of the road. It only took us a few hours before we stopped turning on the wipers when trying to indicate or opening the door when looking for the gear stick. After a few laughs and some interesting moments, we were PRO.
Clock wise or Anti Clock wise?
There is only one road going around the whole of Efate Vanuatu so it’s not hard to decide where to go, but which direction you should start? Depending on your places of interest will determine your starting point. We went anti-clockwise day one. Clockwise Day two.
Attractions anti-clockwise are in order as follows
- Port Vila
- Bigfala Bayan Tree
- Shark & Turtle Feeding Bay
- Blue Lagoon Swimming Hole
- Hot Springs
- Mele Cascade Waterfall
- Hideaway Island Day Visit
- Port Vila
Plus many more spots along the way worth enjoying.
Grab one of the free tourist maps available at the airport or accommodation tour desks and just head off with your camera and a sense of adventure.
How much time & money will we need?
To travel none stop around Efate is roughly 3 hours. The earlier you start, the more you will get out of your Driving Tour. We gave ourselves two full days to explore which was perfect for us but you could easily fill three days. Here is our recommendation on time needed for each attraction.
Bigfala Banyan Tree
Not far out of Port Vila, you need to head off the main road and enter on to a loop road taking you toward the coast and around back to the main highway. On this loop road, you will find the Bigfela Banyan Tree. We stopped as this spot is on the tours. Spend as long as you like walking around him and capture some images. Some facts – The Banyan trees while technically a pest, with their magnificent root systems provide shelter to locals during cyclones. Belonging to the Fig family they can only grow up to 30 metres high however the girth grows wider over time.
Price – FREE
Tip – Prepare for a bumpy road
Shark & Turtle Feeding Bay
Continue along the dirt road, towards the end, you will find Shark and Turtle Feeding Bay. A great spot to stop for lunch. We recommend you arrive mid morning, enjoy the turtle and shark feeding, swim with the turtles, find Patrick the Starfish from SpongeBob SquarePants (our joke) then enjoy the fabulous BBQ lunch they cook over hot charcoals. YUMMMYYY. Our BBQ included BBQ chicken, steak, root crops (Sweet Potato, Taro) salad, and fresh fruit.
Price – Entrance Fees tend to change in price depending on the season – We paid 1500 VUV per adult and 600 VUV per child 5 -12 years. Lunch was only an additional 200 VUV pp. Great Value!
Tip – You will need a minimum of 2 hours here
Once you leave the Shark Turtle Feeding Bay, wind along the road a little to get back onto the main road. Continue around Efate for around 15 minutes keeping an eye out for signs on your coastal side. Blue Lagoon is sign posted but not very well, miss it and you will need to head back. From what we could figure out, two families have built businesses on either side of the Blue Lagoon, both offer the same entrance fee, but we loved the side closest to Shark Turtle Feeding Bay. Thatched roof huts covering picnic tables positioned around the property gave plenty of spaces to sit bags, enjoy a refreshment and of course the view. You cannot walk from one side to the other as it’s fenced off, but you can swim over.
You can read all about our time at Blue Lagoon Swimming Hole HERE – includes detail images and video.
Price – 350 VUV pp including children over 6 years old.
Tip – How many hours can you spend at a stunning Blue Lagoon Swimming Hole that looks like it’s straight out of the movies? We spent hours here over two days. If you are creating a two day DIY Driving Tour from Port Vila, then spend the remainder of your afternoon here.
We visited both days on low tide when the water is fresh, high tide the water is salt. Read more about why this occurs via the links above.
No options to purchase water or food. Bring everything you need.
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- Hot Springs
A lovely drive with lots to see and enjoy between the Blue Lagoon Swimming Hole and Hot Springs, ensure you stop by the side of the road, explore the beaches & gorgeous swimming areas, and of course strike up a conversation with the locals. Everyone is friendly and happy.
The Hot Springs are not well signed posted due to Cyclone Pam destroying their operations. Located at on the coast side of the main road at Takara Village the local hot springs are owned and operated by the local land owners. We were happy to paid the high entrance price and supported this business. It’s comforting to know that the owners had not sold their land to foreign investors and are having a go at building the business themselves.
We have enjoyed Hot Springs and Mud Pools in Fiji, and while very different in Vanuatu, each of us very much enjoyed the experience. I read on several forums that people were disgusted and didn’t venture in. Their loss. The mud was very therapeutic for the skin, the land owners daughter was very informative about how they built their business from Mud and Clay (literally), and the warm to hot man made pools washed away all worries and stress making it very relaxing.
Once we exited the hot spring pools, we were escorted around the property and shown where the hot water escaped the hard earth and told how a visionary, many years earlier visited the families grandfather, sharing a vision that his property (previously deemed useless) would one day bless the family and provide an income. Today that vision exists in reality.
Camping is available to those who bring their camping equipment. A small fee will apply.
Price – 2500 VUV per adult
– 1000 VUV per child over 6 years old
– 500 VUV to walk around and view the property
Tip – Bring old swimming costumes or shorts as mud may stain lighter colours. We spent 2 hours here.
Venturing back on the road the distance between the Hot Springs and Mele Cascade Waterfalls is roughly a 45-minute drive. There are lots to see and capture along the way, including beautiful coastal and island views. Once you start heading up the ranges, you are getting closer, ensure you stop to enjoy the views where possible. Once on the bottom of the ranges, you will find Mele Cascade Waterfalls
Very well sign posted, lots of parking space and easy to find just next to the main road. Basic snacks and drinks are available to purchase but no meals. We stopped here on day two of our Do it Yourself Driving tour from Port Vila and brought a picnic lunch to enjoy.
The path from the base of the park to the top waterfall is well maintained and relatively easy with steeper sections being short.
You can read all about our time at the Mele Cascade Waterfalls here with detail images and video.
Price – 1500 VUV pp – Kids under 5 Free – (Price changes depending on season)
Tip – Pack Coral Shoes to give you good grip over wet slippery rocks at the top. We spent several hours here on day two of our driving tour.
Just down the road from Mele Cascade Waterfalls is the turn off to Hideaway Island car park. Drive in, park and just wait for the complimentary boat to and from Hideaway Island to pick you up and drop you off. If it’s low tide, simply walk on over. Once on the island, you will be guided through the entrance where you will need to pay your visitors fee. Swimming, Snorkeling, Kayaking and of course, posting yourself or family a postcard from the Worlds Only Underwater Post Office is a must do while visiting. Bring your lunch or dine in their restaurants. Spending a full day here would be easy. We only got to visit Hideaway Island for just over a couple of hours, but you can read all about our time there.
Price – 1250 VUV per person over 12 years
– Children 5 – 12 years 600 VUV. Under five years old free
Tips – Bring Coral Reef Shoes as the beach is 100% coral and not pleasant getting in and out of the water. Visit Vanuatu Beach Bar next to the Car Park on the way home, enjoying the beautiful sunset.
Once back in your car, keep heading around, and roughly 15 mins later you will be back in the heart of Port Vila.
We spent two days seeing all the attractions and could have easily turned it into three. Efate is easy to navigate and drive around, even though the roads can be rough at times. The ring road around the island is fully sealed and worth the effort to see.
Would you consider creating your own DIY Driving Tour from Port Vila? We did and loved it!!