Tulagi is both the island and main town on the island and is the capital of Central Province. From 1896 to 1942 it was the capital of British Solomon Islands Protectorate. It's a smaller island about 5.5 km long and 1 km wide and is about a 2 hour boat ride from Honiara. We originally planned 2 nights here and stayed 4. You can explore the island in detail in a day with taking a break from the afternoon heat. It was a good place to make your base to explore the local area and there is some good diving here (including a few wrecks) in which I did a dive. Wish I had time for more. There are several World War 2 sites to see here including some Japanese caves, American quonset huts and an old colonial graveyard. There are two hotels on the island as well. When coming here make sure you have enough cash as there are no ATMs on the island. Internet is available at the communication centre but it's painfully slow. What I found kinda surprising is that there is a decent size shipyard here to fix boats.
Savo is a smaller volcanic island in Central Province. It's off the north western tip of Guadalcanal and west of the Nggela Islands. Though the island is active every 100 to 300 years, if you go to the south side of the island you can see some geothermal activity. Here you can see people cooking some of their food. There are a few villages around the island you can explore or go on some hikes or just hang out on the beach. The hike to the geothermal vents is pretty short which I wouldn't really call a hike. Due to it's proximity to Guadalcanal, there was a fair amount of fighting here (on land and water) during World War 2.
Mbike Island is a privately owned island in the Sandfly Passage in Central Province. Extreme Adventures used to go to here but after an incident, they stopped. You can ask there on how to go there now. I arranged my visit, where I rented the entire island for a few hours for the two of us through Raiders Hotel on Tulagi. Here I laid on the white-ish sand beach for a while, snorkelled around the reefs where there are giant clams just a little bit off of the shore. Had a nice lunch and went for a dive on an old Japanese trawler a small distance from the shore. There are cabins for longer stays and a couple of bathrooms with showers. Also a volleyball court here if you have enough people and feeling competitive. You can go kayaking and fishing as well. I really enjoyed my time here and it really felt like I was on vacation when I was here.
Bonegi is about 12km west of Honiara and is basically known for two things. The beach and Bonegi 1 and 2. Bonegi 1 and 2 are Japanese supply and troop ships that were sunk here during World War 2. The Hirokawa Maru and the Kinugawa Maru. To get to the beach you pass through a gate and pay a fee ($50 Solomon dollars I think). There are two gates as the Bonegis are a little bit apart but once you pay, you're good for both. The shipwrecks are easily dived and are easily snorkelled. They lay about 30 metres off of the shore and you can see the top of both when snorkelling. The beaches themselves are not your standard Caribbean beach but good enough to soak up some sun for a while.
US War Memorial and Solomons Peace Memorial Park
Two memorials that are south-ish of Honiara. One built by the Americans to honour the lives of Americans and Allies who lost their lives during World War 2 fighting in the Solomons. It's on Skyline Drive and free to enter. It has big marble slabs describing the battles that took place. It's well kept and there is enough to read to occupy yourself for a bit. The Solomons Peace Memorial Park was built by Japanese Veterans to honour all who died in the fighting. It cost a bit of money to get, I think $50 Solomon dollars which I thought was price for what you get. It does offer nice views of the surrounding areas.
Vilu War Museum
The Vilu War Museum is an open air museum on Guadalcanal, west of Honiara. As far as I know it's open daily (maybe not for holidays) from 9am to 530pm and it costs $100 Solomon dollars for an adult. It's not quite an hour outside of Honiara. To get most of the way there is pretty easy. Just take the main road west out of Honiara. It's when you start getting close it gets harder. There is no sign(I guess there used to be a sign, but it keeps getting stolen), just an ordinary road with tall grass on both sides. Roughly 500 metres down this road, it will open up and a road will be on the left and that's where the museum is. The museum started off with one man just collecting old war wreckage for the area. When I was there, it was his granddaughter showing us around. I guess prior to the ethnic tensions, they had more stuff on display. There is enough here to keep you occupied for about an hour, more if you are really into WW2 planes and artillery pieces. When I was here, it was just the two of us plus the one staff member and our taxi driver. I guess it's fairly popular with WW2 veterans visiting and the occasion tour from Honiara.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Honiara is the capital city of the Solomon Islands and is located on the northern part of Guadalcanal with the waterfront being on Iron Bottom Sound. It is here where the international airport is and Point Cruz which is the sea port. Honiara got it's start during World War 2 when it was a collection of quonset huts. It became the capital of the British Protectorate of Solomon Islands in 1952 which increased it's population. The city itself is nothing grand but there are some tourist sites to check out and some of the best accommodation in the entire country. The market is pretty full and there are some souvenir shops to spend you money. It's the place to start your exploration of nearby sites, there is WW2 wreckage nearby and some waterfalls (which I didn't check out). If you are into casinos, there are two here. There is a tourist information centre here that I found to be alright. But considering tourism is still in it's infancy here I guess that makes sense. There are also a couple of dive shops here and tourist operators here if you are looking to go further out in the Solomon Islands. Be sure to stock up on cash here as there are plenty of ATMs here but they become quite rare once you leave the city.
Guadalcanal is the main and largest island (and main province) of the Solomon Islands. It's a mountainous island that's covered in tropical rainforest and has an area of 5,302 km2. It's here you will find the capital city of Honiara, it's international airport and sea port. Most of the population and infrastructure is around Honiara on the north side of the island. Getting to the south side of the island and you are really getting away from it all. Outside the capital city, there are several tourist sites that are easy for the casual tourist to see. Although it is the main island, I wouldn't linger here too long with all those other islands out there.
If you're unfamiliar of the Solomon Islands but Guadalcanal sounds familiar, it's because during World War 2, it was a major battle site between the Allied Forces and the Empire of Japan. It was a 6 month battle that cost tens of thousands of lives. It was the Allies who would win this battle. And a fair bit is left over around on the island from World War 2. Unfortunately this wasn't the end to violence on a grand scale for this island. Between 1999-2003, ethnic violence would cause around 30,000 serious injuries or even death.
Kava is very popular in all the Pacific Ocean islands. I tried it in several places, people invited me. I can't say I do not like it, but I did not find any good taste drinking kava. I was indiferent. If I was invited to drink kava, it was OK, and if I was not invited, I also was OK.
In fact, I prefer to drink a good cold beer!Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Adventure Travel
Dive WWII Wrecks
There's few dive destinations in the world that compare to the Solomon's. Whether you like reefs, big and abundant fish, or wrecks...this place has it all. I dove mainly out of Gizo, which is the capital of the Western Province and probably the easiest jumping off point for diving in the "West" (as Solomon Islander's refer to the area). The amount of WWII wreckage is incredible...we dove this little baby (an almost perfectly intact Hellcat fighter) immediately after a reef dive that I can honestly say was the best dive of my life!
There's 2 dive operators in Gizo, but I definitely recomend Solomon Water Sports. They have an office in the Gizo Hotel, but operate out of the Sanbis Resort (which sits on an island about 8 minutes by boat from Gizo). The persoanl attention was incredible. For 5 straight days it was just my wife and I, our dive master and a captain...not another diver in sight (unless you count the boats we passed in the open water from the "other" dive operator, who were packed in like sardines).
I can't say enough about the diving. Incredible!Related to:
- Diving and Snorkeling
- Historical Travel
Hiking to Mataniko Falls, Honiara
Walk to Mataniko Falls, near Honiara, Solomon Islands
Correct as at 11 December 2010.
An update on the excellent tip put in by the Minstrel. ( a previous posting on this website)
Still an excellent walk to do close to Honiara
Time: 2-3 hours return from Tuvaruhu Village
Take: Sneakers, plenty of water, waterproof bag for camera, phone, etc
MUST be able to SWIM!
How to do it
Take a taxi to Tuvaruhu Village
Ask a local waiting around to be your guide
Custom fee-SBD $100, guide fee-SBD $100
I can recommend: Caspar Tara, lives locally, great guy, his cell phone is 843119
Call him to meet you at Tuvaruhu
First stage: steep walk up a slope
Second stage: steep descent
Third stage: Waterfalls itself. Limestone country, there is a cave through which part of the river runs. If you swim up it you will see many megalitres of water crashing thruogh a hole in the cave roof
Fourth stage: float/ swin/ walk back to Tuvaruhu village.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Jungle and Rain Forest
Zipolo Habu Resort on Lola Island
Lola Island is a beautiful little island in VonaVona Lagoon. Zipolo habu is a small "resort" on the island and the only place to stay. I call it a resort, but its more of an ecolodge with basic bungalows to stay in, a restaurant and bar, and a dive and fishing operation. Its a fantastic place to stay a few days in solitude. The resort is really a fish camp and by all accounts the fishing is incredible. However, even if you don't fish, they can arrange dives, hikes (even overnight hikes with guides to the crater of Kolombangra), surf trips... pretty much anything. The owner is a very colorful Canadian guy who's lived in the Solomon's for almost 30 years. Make sure to bring a bottle of rum and offer him some while you hang out in the restaurant/bar in the evening. You get a few rum and tonics in him and he'll tell you some phenomenal stories.
A great place to stay while diving, fishing, or generally exploring VonaVona Lagoon (its about 5 minutes by boat from Skull Island and their boats can take you anywhere in the lagoon, for a price).
I'll try to add more later.Related to:
- Jungle and Rain Forest
- Water Sports
Skull Island is a small island located in VonaVona Lagoon that contains a headhunting shrine. The centerpiece of the shrine is an elaborately carved container that holds the skulls of the chiefs of the local village. Littered around the chief's shrine are the skulls of the chiefs victims. A very eerie and interesting look into the headhunting days of the area. Its hard to get an accurate idea of when headhunting actually ended in the Solomons (if at all), but apparently it continued pretty widespread until about 40 years ago.
For more information on Skull Island, see my Lola Island page.Related to:
If you have the chance and are in reasonably good shape, try hiking to Mataniko Falls just outside of Honiara. The trail takes you into the hills overlooking town where the Japanese maintained positions during the famous Battle of Guadalcanal during WWII.
The falls are gorgeous and the hike there passes through some lush forest. At one point you come across a cave through which the river passes and you can swim inside and cool off, which will be a necessity after hiking in the oppressive tropical heat.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Hiking and Walking
Get out into a village. Even...
Get out into a village. Even travel to the outer islands. You probably wont enjoy Honiara the first time you visit, but you'll fall in love the outer islands and village life.
Honiara isnt the nicest place in the world. You'll learn to love it as it grows on you. Village life is much safer, more interesting and slightly challenging. You'll love it!Related to:
- Diving and Snorkeling
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