If you love hiking, look no further than Vanuatu. With mountains and volcanoes aplenty, there’s something for everyone across this network of islands.
Every time I go hiking, I question why I enjoy hiking.
Pools of sweat form in your collarbones and your calves ache. As the sun beats down, you huff and puff and faloomph onto rocks in the shade, and your knees hobble and wobble the moment you begin your descent.
For those reading who, like me, find themselves hiking some mountain or walking some obnoxiously long distance each weekend, the benefits are clear. Sure, exercise. Yes, the views – obviously – it’s a beautiful world.
But the endorphins, the euphoria… that feeling. It’s tasty! It’s addictive! That’s the feeling we’re chasing. The feeling that totally nullifies all the pain the moment we reach the peak, or the end, or jump into that river, lake or ocean.
I spent around three weeks in Vanuatu recently, and sniffed out as many hikes as I could find. Yes, the amount of sweat was ridiculous (tropical island life), but the landscape and the views were totally different to what I was used to in Australia.
Every hike is guided in Vanuatu, which not only provides necessary employment to the locals, but allows you to engage in the story of the place. Your guides are willing and wonderful storytellers. Here are five of my favourites:
1. Mt Marou – Nguna Island
If you’ve got a few days scheduled in Port Vila, make sure you add Mt Marou to your list. A short drive from the city centre to the dock in the north and a 30-minute boat ride out to Nguna Island will have you walking from the ocean up to the rim of an extinct volcano. This 3-4 hour hike begins with a steep incline, followed by a nice flat walk through some mountainside villages.
Your final leg is very steep and very exposed to the sun (what a combo!), with a wall of grasses beside you. Make sure you wear a hat and bring plenty of water. You’ll thank me later.
At the top you’ll find yourself surrounded by the most magnificent views of the surrounding reefs and islands. It’s totally worth the hike for views that are sure to dominate your Instagram for months to come. There’s a picnic table and a soft plain of grass to lie on your back, get your breath back and admire the view.
On your way down, as you reach the village, your guide will ensure you get fresh fruit and refreshments from a local village family. Plenty of mangoes and coconuts and pineapples – just what a sweaty body wants. I recommend a swim afterwards too; the reef’s awesome and known to have regular dugong visits.
2. Mt Garet – Gaua
If there’s one word to describe this overnight hike, it’s lush. There’s everything in the Mt Garet hike – from Siri Waterfall, the highest waterfall in the Pacific Islands, to mud pools and hot springs to yes, of course, a hike-able volcano.
We’ve put together a microadventure about this hike, have a read for all the details!
3. Manbush Trail – Malekula
If you love the immersion of multi-day hikes, add this one to the list. This five-day hike will take you through the jungles and bush villages on Malekula Island.
A high level of fitness is required, as you’ll be hiking for around six hours each day. Porters will happily carry your gear, so comfortable walking shoes and a day bag is all you’ll carry.
Make sure you stock up on snacks before you head out! When you get back to Lakatoro don’t forget to book a meal at Palm Lodge – it’s one of the best restaurants in town and they have nice bungalows if you need a place to stay.
Photos thanks to Vanuatu Tourism Office
4. Benbow Volcano – Ambrym
This volcanic island was definitely one of my favourites during my time in Vanuatu, and the Benow Volcano overnight hike tops it on the experience charts. This Mars-like world was unlike anything I’ve ever seen on my travels.
I wrote a microadventure <will add hyperlink once live> about this one too, so if the photos convince you (and they should), head over there for everything you need to know about how to get there, what to expect and what to bring.
5. Mount Tabwemasana – Santo Island
Mount Tabwemasana is the highest peak in Vanuatu, standing at 1,879m high on Espiritu Santo Island. There are in fact two peaks (male and female), and local Kastom says that these peaks embrace in the cool of the night.
Tourists rarely make the trek up this mountain, mostly due to how physically gruelling it is, and its remoteness.
To get there, you’ll need to catch a boat from Tasiriki to Kerepua.
Photo by Mark Wilgar
Before You Hike in Vanuatu
Like all of these hikes and more in Vanuatu, the best way to arrange this is by asking your host or your local travel centre.
No matter which island you’re on and where you’re staying, the locals can organise everything you need to get you where you want to go – porters and guides included.
Don’t forget to pack your own medical kit too, remote islands such as these may have less medical resources than you’re used to so being prepared is definitely the way to go.