Port Olry is at the end of Espiritu Santo Island‘s sealed road – i.e. as far as you can go on Santo with a hired car or taxi drivers. The village feels like an isolated slice of paradise. We decided to stay there for most of our time on Santo Island. There are indeed many things to do in Port Olry, even for those who don’t want to relax on the magnificent beach.
Indeed, Port Olry is the biggest village on Santo and the second biggest village in Vanuatu. It brings the best of both worlds: many activities to enjoy, with the calm and the relaxing pace of a village.
The obvious things to do in Port Olry
Admire the perfect views
The number one thing to do in Port Olry as soon as you arrive is simply to stop and look around you. It’s postcard perfect.
The sand is white, the water is turquoise, the palm trees provide a bit of shade, and the nearby island is a lovely touch to finish the perfect painting. Some say Champagne Beach is Vanuatu’s best beach, but I seriously wonder if Port Olry shouldn’t get the #1 spot.
Relax at a beach bar or restaurant
They are used to receiving tourists in Port Olry. It’s a village, but you will find many small bungalows and treehouses along the seashore for tourists, as well as small restaurants and bars. The menus and prices were quite similar all along the beach – and a bit expensive to be honest. But it’s an excellent opportunity to refresh in the shade of a hut while soaking up the views and participate in the local economy as the businesses in Port Olry seemed all owned by locals.
But we don’t like to sit and look for too long. If like us, you’re after active holidays, you will find plenty of options of active things to do in Port Olry.
Our favourite activities in Port Olry
Canoeing in Port Olry
We hired many times a kayak Chez Louis, one of the bars along the beach. You can easily paddle to the island in front of the village, Dolphin Island. Don’t expect to see dolphins though; they named like that because of its shape. But we saw a few turtles in the bay while paddling to Dolphin Island. On the island, you can walk to a couple of lakes. Although we are used to bushwalking, we only found one of them, so good luck!
Our favourite part to explore with the canoe was the island on the right-hand side of the bay. A bat colony live there so have a look up sometimes. However, my favourite part was to look down: we found stunning coral formations on the other side of the island (opposite to the Port Olry bay).
The small effort to go around Bat Island is worth it: that’s where you’ll find the best snorkelling spots in Port Olry. The visibility was quite good, the corals looked beautiful and the marine life was abundant.
We went horse riding with two siblings, Jean-Marc and Jean-Luc. They took us from the village of Port Olry to their village, on the other side of the river. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the lifestyle just outside the village and to taste some delicious local fruits. Like so many locals we met during our trip around Vanuatu, Jean-Marc and Jean-Luc were welcoming and caring. These encounters made our journey
Life in the village
It’s hard to leave the beach when you are in Port Olry, but wandering around the village is a fantastic opportunity to get a sneak peek at the ni-Vanuatu way of life. Don’t rely on the market for food: the choice is very limited and nowhere like what we found in Luganville. It’s still worth having a look around as, if you’re lucky, you could find homemade products to try.
If you have time, you may even go to the church: it’s at the top of the hill, and the views are lovely. It may have one of the world’s most photogenic Christian crosses. We were lucky to be there for an event and I loved how colourful it was.
The beach is long enough for a short walk. And if you manage to be there at low tide, you can even walk on the sandbar to reach one of the islands near Port Olry. Make sure you ask a local about it before adventuring there, you don’t want to get stuck!
Other things to do in Port Olry
Every day in Port Olry, you can see the locals going fishing with their outrigger canoes. We’ve watched their techniques many times from the shore or our canoe. We would have loved to join one of them for a closer look and to ask the many questions we had in mind. We didn’t think of asking, and we were disappointed to find out too late that they could take tourists with them for a small fee. Next time!
If you prefer to catch bigger fish, you can organise a motorboat trip with fishermen. We tried to do that two days in a row. Unfortunately, the boat had issues that they didn’t manage to fix before we had to leave Port Olry. It looks like we’ll have to go again!
Yes, there is a spa on the beach in Port Olry. Do not imagine the comfort and atmosphere of a five-star hotel with a spa: it’s just a hut on the beach. It’s simple, and that’s what’s lovely and special about it.
For a small fee, you can get a guided-walk around a local’s garden. We had done that before on Tanna Island and we didn’t find time to do it again in Port Olry. It’s an interesting visit to learn more about the local products and how they use them.
Explore the rest of the island
Although Port Olry feels remote, it was actually a good place where to stay to explore some of the most famous attractions on Santo island. We used it as a base to visit the Blue Holes and Champagne Beach isn’t too far either.
Where to stay in Port Olry
We stayed in a tree house at Serendipity Beach Bungalows* and loved it. It was basic, but we had everything we needed. Our host Angelique was lovely and easy to get along with.
If you’re travelling on a budget, you can simply sleep in a tent at Port Olry Harbour Beach*.
If you want sophisticated accommodation, you may have to go a bit outside Port Olry and come back up for a day trip. Check out these tips for Santo accommodations.
Where is Port Olry and how to get there?
Port Olry is on the northeast coast of the island of Espiritu Santo, in Vanuatu. The archipelago is between Australia and Fiji. There are direct flights from Brisbane to Luganville, the only town in Espiritu Santo.
To go to Port Olry from Luganville, you can catch a taxi or hire a car. Pricewise, it’s cheaper to rely on the taxi as you won’t need it every day.
It’s quite expensive to hire a car in Espiritu Santo. However, we like the freedom that a car provides. For example, we could decide to go back to the market in Luganville to buy the ingredients our hosts needed to cook a local dish we wanted to try and that wasn’t on the menu.
If you catch a taxi, I recommend organising one day in advance where you want to go from Port Olry. It will be easier to have a driver that’s already in the north of the island rather than having him coming from Luganville at the last minute. You can hire a taxi for a few hours (or even the full day) and negotiate a better rate. It’s the best way to visit the Blue Holes for example.
Have you been to Santo? What were your favourite things to do in Port Olry? Leave a comment below!
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Eloise lives in Brisbane (Australia), but you won’t find her often in the city. When she is not disconnected underwater or in a national park, she loves sharing her travel tips and inspiring her readers to take care of our beautiful planet. She considers every weekend as a two-day holiday break. Her approach: you don’t always need to go far to travel. Still, she also enjoys exploring the world and discovering new cultures. Eloise is originally from France and, before moving to Brisbane, she lived in Sydney, Istanbul and England.