Port Review: Port Vila, Vanuatu

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It’s the trading centre and capital of Vanuatu, and Port Vila is also one of the more attractive South Pacific towns. Set against the backdrop of a beautiful natural harbour on the island of Efate, Vila is a busy but laid-back town with resorts dotted along the water and in the hills behind, and the centre of town is great for shopping and has its own French Quarter and an authentic waterfront market.

The Details

Location: In the South Pacific off the northeast coast of Australia.

Language: English, Bislama & French.

Currency: Vatu.

Docking/anchoring: Ships dock at Port Vila’s commercial pier which is about 3km from the centre of town.

Transport: There are plenty of taxis in Port Vila outside the cruise terminal while a ship is in port. Always agree on the fare before getting in. There are also taxi vans which carry up to 10 people but these only travel when they’re full, and they usually charge a small fee per person.

Don’t Miss

The best way to experience the Ni-Vanuatu culture is at the Ekasup Cultural Village which has been awarded Vanuatu’s best tourist attraction for the past two years. It’s set in a beautiful tropical rainforest and provides an insight into the fascinating culture and history of ancient Melanesia. 

Just outside of Port Vila is a track that leads to the Cascade Waterfalls which is a 50 metre high waterfall with naturally eroded rock swimming ponds in a stunning jungle-like rainforest. It takes about 50 minutes walking through the rainforest, which can be slippery at times, but the reward is one of the most magical swimming experiences you’ll find.

Best Photo Op

Don’t miss the sail-in to Port Vila, as you’ll be able to take photographs of the beautiful natural harbour with its pretty islands and the town itself as the backdrop.


Port Vila is a shopper’s dream and the duty free offerings are among the best you’ll find in the South Pacific. The downtown area has shops with well priced indigenous arts, crafts and clothing and the main waterfront market also has to be seen to be believed. Whenever there’s a cruise ship in Vila, locals also set up a market town right outside the terminal with hundreds of stalls and this is also a good way to pick up original souvenirs if you don’t feel like the journey into town.

Eating And Drinking

Despite its relatively small size, Port Vila is a cosmopolitan place and there’s a decent selection of restaurants and bars. The waterfront resorts around the town are a good place to start and if you wander the streets you’ll find some good local joints and may experience Vanuatu’s national dish, “laplap”, which is a packet of meat or fish and vegetables wrapped in a banana leaf and marinated in coconut milk. The Anchor Inn is a local watering hole right on the water which does basic pub grub, and other good bar/restaurants include The Moo Bar at Moorings resort and the Bodega Bar which is perched right over the harbour.


Lagoon cruises and sunset cruises are the most popular and they take you out into the harbour and past private homes, villages, rainforests and resorts. The sunset cruises usually involve “happy hour” with nibbles on board and these ones often sell out early so if you can, book in advance.

Horse riding tours are becoming increasingly popular and Club Hippique, set on a 400 hectare property outside Vila, is set on a lagoon and has its own rainforest and copra plantation. Most of the rides last about 60 minutes and an instructor leads the way on a horse that’s suited to your ability and experience.

Crystal Blue Beach, south east of Port Vila, is a secluded location with perfect white sand and calm blue water which is ideal for snorkelling and swimming with coral reefs and tropical fish. The location is private and most tours are half day and include light refreshments.

For luxe-for-less bargain cruises or holidays which feature Vanuatu or Port Vila, visit our sister website, www.luxuryholidaybargains.com.au.

Joanna Hall