This year I had the privilege of being able to visit the Solomon Islands – an incredibly untouched and authentic island nation in the South Pacific. Solomon Islands Tourism is only just gaining popularity, as the country is actually one of the ten least visited nations in the world. The island nation is spread out over more than 900 islands in 900 miles, with six main islands accessible from each other mainly via short internal flights. The country is very spread out, and consists of both mountainous/volcanic islands with dense jungles to flat white sandy beach islands laden with palms.
The Solomon Islands are laden with coral reefs and impossibly clear water, and are teeming with wildlife both above and below the surface. They have some of the most untouched and magnificent fishing, surfing, diving, and wildlife-spotting locations in the world, which you are likely to have all to yourself on any given day.
The people of the Solomon islands are mostly of Melanesian descent, with portions of Polynesian and Micronesian descendants as well. Locals are lovely and welcoming, however often intrigued and confused about the sight of visitors (more or less depending on where you go!). They’ve had quite a tumultuous history in the Solomons, being one of the main battlegrounds between the USA and Japan during WW2 and also periods of civil tensions and fighting in the late 90’s/early 00’s.
I was invited by Visit Solomon Islands to experience Solomon Islands tourism with my friend (aka instagram husband) Dana of The Wandering Donut, and they planned a jam-packed week for us both. Our trip started off on a high note when we were upgraded to business class on Solomon Airlines (woo!), and that high note maintained the entire week. After a few weeks of bad weather, we apparently brought the sun with us from Australia and we had an almost-seamless week of lovely weather, fascinating history, incredible photo ops, beautiful locations, and LOTS of my two favorite things – adventures & sunsets! 😉
Pssst – PIN ME to your Pinterest boards to save for later – this is a loooooong Solomon Islands Tourism Guide!
Quick Solomon Islands Facts:
Solomon Islands Capital: Honiara, on the island of Guadalcanal (famous for a WW2 battle of the same name)
Solomon Islands Population: 611k (and rising steadily but slowly)
Solomon Islands Religion: 95% Christian – however, there were prevalent headhunting tribal traditions before the arrival of Christian missionaries.
Solomon Islands Climate: There are basically two seasons in ‘the Sollies,’ the dry (and cooler) season April to October and the wet (and warmer) season the other part of the year. The temperatures remain quite temperate year-round, with averages of 27 degrees Celsius (about 80F) year round.
Solomon Islands Language: The official language in the Solomon islands is English. However most of the population speak a fascinating dialect of English called Solomons Pidgin. This language is a mixture of Creole languages (of which a few more are spoken in certain parts of the country as well) with a largely phonetically spelled/pronounced version of English. A lot of words/signage can make sense in English if you sound them out. See a photo + explanation down the end of this post!
Solomon Islands Economy: The main exports/foreign exchange from the country are timber and fisheries, with lots of palm oil and copra as well. Solomon Islands tourism is growing industry as well with a ton of potential, but still requires government support for infrastructure.
Solomon Islands People: The people of the Solomon Islands are thought to have first migrated to the area around 3,000 years ago from Southeast Asia, forming the predominantly Melanesian archipelago which includes a few surrounding countries as well. There are also significant populations of Micronesian and Polynesian people as well.
One of the most interesting qualities about the people of the Solomon islands is their unique gene to produce blonde hair alongside dark skin – which is thought to have evolved from a diet rich in seafood and lifestyle rich in sunlight. About 10% of the population have naturally blonde hair. See below for a brief Solomon islands history!
- Betelnut: one of the fascinating cultural traditions of the Solomon Islands the the use of betelnut, a nut grown locally and chewed. You’ll notice that many people of the Solomon Islands’ teeth and gums are stained red with the stuff. It’s something that is done socially with friends, and is a slight stimulant much like coffee.
Looking over a submerged WW2 plane – one of many surreal dive sites in the Solomon Islands.
A Solomon Islands sunset from the sky in Gizo
Solomon Islands History (In Brief)
The Solomon islands were home to indigenous tribes and peoples since they were first settled around 2000BC. In the mid 1500’s, a Spanish explorer ‘discovered’ them and named them the Isles of Solomon, thinking he had found the source of the riches of the biblical figure of the same name. This is why many islands still have Spanish names.
The islands were left mostly alone until the late 1800’s, when the occasional missionary or trading ship would make contact. Also during this time, many ships from Australia and Fiji began ‘blackbirding,’ or abducting Solomon Islanders to labour on plantations (which laid some of the foundations for the pidgin dialect of English that made it back to the islands).
In 1893 the Solomon islands became a British Protectorate, which it remained for decades. The islands were then occupied in 1942 by Japanese WW2 troops, and American troops soon after – leading to several years of intense and crucial battle which exploited and damaged the nation, but left it with a new identity. After the war the new capital, Honiara, was established next to USA’s Henderson airstrip, and the Islands became independent from British rule in 1978. They remain close with British rule and are a member of the Commonwealth.
Infrastructure was improved at a slow rate until ‘the tensions’ of 1998-2003, which was a period of battle and civil unrest between the islands of Guadalcanal and Malaita. Many residents of both islands were displaced or forced to flee conflict, and there were periods of violence until 2003 when the RAMSI (Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands) or ‘Helpem Fren” (‘help a friend’ in pidgin) arrived. RAMSI was a force of a few thousand soldiers from Australia, New Zealand, and many other Pacific Island Nations who arrived to help restore order and disarm militias, which was hugely successful.
The Solomon Islands are known as ‘the Hapi Isles’ because people are so happy and welcoming. These happy people were at the Honiara market.
What to Know Before Considering Visiting the Solomon Islands
Before considering visiting the Solomon Islands, there are a few things you must know. The islands are still very untouched, and receive under 25,000 visitors per year (many of which visit on business or research purposes). Although they still lack the complete infrastructure to support mass tourism, they are very well suited to the off-the-beaten-path traveler who seeks some authenticity in their ventures.
You won’t find massive bus stations, decked-out resorts, tourism-directed advertisements and signage, or travel agencies all over the place eager to sign you up for your next tour. Most excursions and transport will be booked for you through your hotel, and Solomon Islands tourism leaves a bit more of your trip up to your own interpretation.
There aren’t many gift shops, touristy malls, or souvenir markets. I couldn’t find many places to get souvenirs/arts/crafts outside of Honiara, and most of the shopping malls and crowded food markets were simply stocked with necessities for locals and no tourist bait.
Essentially, what I am saying is that it’s certainly no Hawaii, but that’s what makes the Solomon Islands so intriguing, authentic, and alluring.
Spotting islands from the plane, and little reef sharks from the pier!
Who Should Visit the Solomon Islands?
Because ‘the Sollies’ are more suited to a certain type of traveler and not really for others, I’ve made this handy dandy little chart listing out the types of people who would love Solomon Islands tourism and those who may not.
DEFINITELY COME IF YOU ENJOY:
- Scuba Diving – some of the best in the world
- Fishing – Amazing fishing and sport fishing, prolific sea life
- Surfing – Remote + untouched reef breaks with perfect waves
- Wildlife Spotting/Bird Watching – some of the most biodiverse places in the world (especially certain islands) and popular for birds
- Eco and rustic travel and experiencing the true identity of a place
- Adventure Travel – snorkeling, scuba, fishing, helicopter, hiking (volcanoes), jungle/rainforest walks
- Culture – visiting communities/villages and interacting with locals to learn their customs and traditions
- Being remote + in nature without much contact with the outside world (e.g. wifi)
- Fascinating World War II history, memorials, ruins, museums, and artifacts
- Potentially being the only people staying at an island hotel for a few days – getting to know the locals and workers
- (Truly) untouched island paradises with clear blue water, sandbars, dozens of tiny white sand islands with jungle vegetation
- Freshly prepared seafood- lobster, squid, shellfish, white fish, and more
- Interacting with kind locals who would love to chat about where you’re from
MAYBE DON’T COME IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR:
- A luxurious five star resort experience with people waiting on your hand and foot
- A cheap party travel destination/a cheap place to go and get wasted for the weekend
- Busy cities and populated resorts with lots of other international guests
- Infrastructure on par with the Western World
- Being able to constantly connect to wifi and stay in contact with the outside world/stream movies/upload photos/etc
- Lots of options to go out and socialize at night
- Big cities with lots of amenities/being able to access all food/drink/convenience/entertainment needs at any given moment
I was having far too much fun, clearly!
How to Get to the Solomon Islands (Solomon Islands Airports)
The Solomon Islands have two international airports – one of which actually just opened in late March 2019. Before the Munda International Airport opened its doors, you could only arrive in the Solomon Islands via a flight through the capital, Honiara. Brisbane is the main international hub through which most flights to the Solomon Islands will pass. There are a couple flights per day from Brisbane to Honiara (and vice versa – usually two). There are only a few other international flights out of Honiara to other South Pacific Islands such as Fiji, Kiribati, and Vanuatu, but other than that all must pass through Brisbane.
However, the recent opening of the Munda International Airport has and will continue to open up many new doors for Solomon Islands tourism. The flights from Brisbane to Munda were still in the trialing phase as of March 2019. But, they will continue to expand and proliferate through the year, in hopes that it will expand visitation and potentially investment in Solomon islands tourism and infrastructure. The main thing that must be established is the immigration system, but all plans are in place to have even cheaper flights to this part of the Solomon Islands soon.
The international flights to the Solomon Islands will have both business and economy class. Business class seats come with higher caliber meals and alcohol, however the meals in the economy class are also quite good with (lower quality) wine and drinks as well. See below for a Solomon Islands budget/pricing section.
An unforgettable sunset in Munda
Getting Around in the Solomon Islands
The Solomon island chain is much larger than it may seem. As I mentioned earlier, it covers a distance of over 900 miles from Papua New Guinea to Vanuatu. Let me repeat that – nine hundred miles. This is no small feat to cross, folks! You can’t exactly get from one side to the other via small motorboat, and the infrastructure does not yet support large-scale ferry services to bring people around, especially in times of storms/rain.
So, as of now, you can get around the islands themselves by car/van of course, between some of the closer islands via small motorboat, and the rest is left up to tiny internal flights run by Solomon Airlines.
Solomon Islands Internal Flights
From Honiara you can take short flights to just over twenty islands/airports in the Solomon Islands. These flights go through the smallest airports you’ve ever seen, with singular check-in counters and one-human-looking-in-your-bag security checkpoints (if anything), and board onto the cutest little propeller planes on single-lane runways. Some flights have slightly larger propeller planes, while the shortest flights take tiny prop planes without much more than a few dozen seats.
My Experience/What to Know About Solomon Airlines
I couldn’t stop giggling about the tiny size of everything at the island airports. They were essentially one-room buildings with a counter and back door that lead right out to the tarmac. Baggage claim at Solomon Islands airports is nothing more than a cart of everyone’s bags being rolled out to the building, and leaving everyone to work together/scramble a bit between each other to find their bag.
The Honiara Domestic Airport was the only one with a security check, which was comprised of a woman checking inside everyone’s bags. This was also the only one with multiple rooms, with a waiting room and another with a few chairs (far less than the amount of seats on the plane, ha) after security.
The Gizo Airport is one of the most unique in the world; it’s literally an airstrip that is an island itself, and the only way to get to the mainland/other islands from it is by motorboat. It’s the type of thing where you’re looking out the airplane window seeing the sparkling blue ocean getting closer and closer as you descend, and momentarily getting slightly worried that land actually won’t appear because you can’t see land/the airstrip until you’re a mere few meters off the ground.
Picture locals selling coconuts on a grassy patch just outside the open ‘terminal,’ with a couple airport baggage carts laying beside them waiting for the chance to be used. You then make your way to a small pier where motorboats from various hotels are waiting to pick up their next patrons, for quite possibly the coolest airport taxi ride you’ll ever take.
The Munda Airport is at the end of a tiny main road of town, bordered by a single bar, a couple small hotels, some Chinese shops, market stalls, and a grocery. It’s a single room with a check-in counter and a bench around the outside, with tons of informational posters (likely made on Microsoft Word) on the walls about different hotels and islands to visit in the area. Planes from here back to Honiara will come from Gizo, so when you hear the plane land you’ll know it’s time to board. After some people have deplaned and entered the small building from the tarmac, you’ll jump on the small plane which will have patrons still on it from Gizo. Your ticket might even be written by hand.
What to Know about Internal Flights on Solomon Airlines:
- These flights will have some of the best airplane window views you’ve ever seen. Make sure to keep your eyes fairly glued to the windows… by doing your best to get a window seat.
- The seats may be assigned on the tickets (sometimes), but it’s essentially a free-for-all on all internal flights. This means the seats are first-come-first-serve. Make sure to try and line up first to have your pick of seats so you can get one with a window for the epic viewage.
- Make sure to pack your camera(s) in your carry-on so you can take photos out the window. Trust me.
- The snack we got was a fascinating ‘butter cracker sandwich’ that tasted a bit lemon-y to me. Make sure to try this interesting local snack.
- There will be lots of locals flying too. It might be a great opportunity to have a chat with someone who lives in the Sollies to get a fresh/authentic perspective on what it’s like and where they’re going.
Bonegi shipwreck on Mbonege beach
A traditional cooking display in Lumatapopoho village – cooking local cabbage in coconut milk by using hot stones to boil the milk.
Where to Travel/Things to Do in the Solomon Islands
Phew! Now that we have gotten the logistics out of the way, I assume if you’re still reading that you are the adventurous/getaway type of traveler. Great! There are LOADS of places for you to explore, all over the Solomons. I’ll begin with a brief outline of what each place has to offer, but I have specific guides and posts in the pipeline which will be coming out very soon with more in-depth specifics for each individual destination.
Guadalcanal Island is the largest of the Solomon Islands and home to the capital city, Honiara. The name Guadalcanal may be familiar to many due to a large and decisive World War 2 battle of the same name, between the US and Japan. As I mentioned above, battles in the Solomon Islands were some of the most crucial of the War, and just barely ended with US control over the Pacific rather than Japan moving closer toward Australia.
The Henderson Airstrip of Honiara (which is now the international airport) was the most crucial capture for the US Army; if control of that very airstrip was lost to Japan, the world may actually have ended up very differently today! Either way, there is a LOT of WW2 tourism in Honiara. There are many War sites, memorials, ruins, and museums to visit. The island was essentially ravaged by the war, and remnants can still be found to this day.
Honiara is also of course the capital and financial/governmental center of the Solomon Islands. It has the highest population and the hustle and bustle of a busier city. However, the Solomon Islands are one of few countries where the majority of the population still lives in rural communities (rather than most people gravitating to bigger cities for work), which is another reason it’s so authentic. This also means that the capital city is not as big as one may imagine. There are a few main roads, a couple restaurants, a cafe or two, a central market, a yacht club (pretty much the only form of nightlife), some bigger hotels, and quite expansive suburbs around the city as well.
Posing with one of the many planes of the Vilu War Museum
What to See and Do in Honiara + Guadalcanal
- US War Memorial and Japanese War Memorial – There is both a US and Japanese hilltop War memorial around the hills of Honiara. Here you can learn about how the War effected both countries, pay tribute to lives lost, and see lovely views.
- Art Museum – The Art Museum in the city center houses two rooms of local art. Art from the Solomon Islands, in my opinion, tends to be very vibrant, abstract, and ocean/nature focused. I adored some of the paintings here – one of them is still the background on my phone!
- National Museum – This museum was quite comprehensive, with Solomon Islands history all the way from prehistoric times (when the first humans are assumed to have arrived in the South Pacific), to the first people in the actual country, to the Spanish occupation and British Rule, to WW2, to the times of tension and RAMSI help. You could really learn everything you need about the islands at this museum if you had enough time.
- Vilu War Museum – This museum is a bit of a drive out of town, but is fascinating. It’s a ‘museum’ comprised of all the remnants of the War that a local man found (with some items he bought from others), which are laid out aesthetically in a field scattered with trees and flowers. You can see broken-down skeletons of both US and Japanese cannons, bombs, many different types of airplanes, propellers, artillery, tanks, and more. You can also learn about what each thing was and how it was used in the war.
- Honiara Central Market – This busy market is right in the city center and has locals selling every kind of food you can think of, and some crafts/jewelry too. It’s vibrant, bustling, and definitely worth a wander.
- Mbonege Beach Bonegi Shipwreck – at Mbonege beach you can see the rusty remains of an old Japanese War ship. This is a lovely beach on a nice day, and if the tide is low enough you can get a quite good view of the old ship. You can also snorkel around the wreck because it’s just a few dozen meters from the shore.
- Tenaru Falls Hike – Quite a bit farther into the hills outside the city, you’ll find a 1-2 hour waterfall hike. This adventure is perfect for having a quick getaway and experiencing more of the rainforest and nature of Guadalcanal.
- Lumatapopoho Cultural Village – you can visit this small traditional village to learn about how tribes used to: cook cabbage, make different food recipes, make clothing, thatch palm for building roofs, make fire, peel and eat beetlenut.
Where to Stay in Honiara
Our Honiara hotel was called Heritage Park. This hotel has a lovely property comprised of multiple two-story buildings with balconies overlooking the pool, palm trees, and even the sea. It’s right on a rocky shoreline with a beach bar, very high quality restaurant (and even quicker bar meals), buffet breakfast, and events during the week (such as movie night/parties at the bar).
Heritage Park had all we could have asked for – large spacious rooms with hot water, air conditioning, and even a small TV. Properties in Honiara will definitely have more fixings than in the islands – make sure to remember that!
Catch-Ups at the Honiara Central Market
My Experience on Guadalcanal/Final Thoughts
Guadalcanal was the first stop on our Solomon Islands trip, as I’m sure it will be for most people. Here Dana, Michael and I (the other travel writers/bloggers on the trip) did all the classic ‘touristing’ and visiting of memorials, museums, and well-known sites. It’s the best place to get a feel for the history and city-life vibe of the Solomon Islands.
We drove around in a van and ticked off the main sites, getting our first feel for the island nation. We spent a day going around the main city, and one a bit farther out of the city to sites farther away. The drives were bumpy but scenic, and I took in the tropical foliage that reminded me of something between Hawaii and Southeast Asia (which makes complete sense I suppose! 😛 )
I wandered alone around the central market, stopped at a cafe for coffee, slinked in and out of shops on the main road, and chatted with locals here and there. I appreciated the view of a rainbow from the rocky coast near the hotel, and picked at a burger in between swims in the hotel pool. We tried some delicious seafood and enjoyed the extremely warm hospitality of nearly everyone we interacted with.
Guadalcanal/Honiara is not going to be what many people picture of the Solomon Islands – which is pristine beaches and islands. Guadalcanal is the more grungy city where you learn more about history and how people really live and go about their days.
An adorable little nugget in one of the villages we visited. Precious!
Savo is right off the coast of Guadalcanal Island and can be seen as one of the many adventure capitals of the Solomon Islands. It’s a small volcanic island with prolific wildlife and adventurous activities, and is quite easy to visit from a small village on Guadalcanal outside Honiara on one of your days there. Savo is best done as a day trip from one of the hotels in Honiara, and bookable from most hotels also.
What to See and Do on Savo Island
- Volcano Hikes – Savo is home to some easy (1 hour or less) and some harder (3+ hour) scenic treks up the volcano.
- Wild Dolphin Nursery – a stop on the way to Savo Island from Guadalcanal – spot some dolphins in the wild!
- Megapode Hatchery – Locals maintain hatcheries for megapode birds, which will lay their eggs on the sand at sunrise.
- Waterfall walks -there are many up in the rainforest
- Local Culture – There may be cultural displays and dancing in the villages
If you love the island, you can even stay at Savo Sunset Lodge for a few nights.
My Experience on Savo
Soooo, the weather was acting up like crazy the night before our Savo tour, causing us to have to make the tough call to cancel it. Unfortunately this is a reality of a tropical destination (especially in the wet season), and we got to see some extra spots in and around Honiara instead. However I have recommended the awesome activities that we were supposed to do with the Tourism Board above, plus a few more!
Simple and elegant views from the Gizo area
Ghizo Island, Gizo Town, + Surrounding Sites
Gizo is where you’ll reach the parts of the Solomon Islands that you may have imagined or seen in catalogues. This is where the best diving and fishing in the Solomon Islands are located, along with lots of surf breaks, tiny pristine islands, white sand beaches, palm-topped landscapes, and pretty-much-perfect sunsets.
The main larger island is called Ghizo, the capital of which is called Gizo (confusing, I know!). But, the tiny surrounding islands dotting the coastline are where the magic really happens. Surrounding the main island, you’ll find remote rustic resorts, private rentable homes, reefs perfect for snorkeling, untouched surf, and some of the clearest blue water in the world.
What to See and Do In Gizo
- Gizo Town – This is the main town of Gizo, with locals out and about near a few restaurants, a main strip of shops and restaurants, and a central food market. Grab a fresh coconut for sure!
- Diving – The Gizo Dive Shop is owned by an American/Australian couple who have lived in the Sollies since the 80’s. They started it up from scratch, scouted out most of the dive sites themselves, and have built the region into one of the top dive areas in the whole world! Many dives and trips book up early these days, so get in early to make sure Danny is your dive guide.
- Fishing – With some of the most wildlife-rich dives in the world come some of the best places for fishing, as well! Fishing trips will be conducted from most resorts, with the hope of being able to catch a fresh seafood dinner.
- Boating – Many yachts sailing the south Pacific will stop from the Solomon Islands, and there are also sailing trips going around the islands as well. It’s a must to boat around the islands, especially in Gizo, and there are many multi-day diving and fishing boat trips too.
- Snorkeling – Also an absolute must, snorkeling in and around Gizo is incredible. Diving still takes the cake in terms of clear water and amazing views, but there are some stunning shallow reefs among the islands to check out as well.
- Sunsets – There are plenty of western-facing sand bars and beaches where you can catch a magnificent Solomon Islands sunset. Many hotels will have sunset boat trips – make sure to jump on one!
- Kennedy Island – Kennedy Island is just off the coast from Fatboys Resort, and is actually the island that JFK and his crew landed on after their ship was hit by a Japanese missile. It’s a tiny circular island with spongy white sand and and a jungle landscape – perfect for snorkeling and taking beautiful photos.
- Njari Island – The owners of Dive Gizo also own this island, which has one of the top-ranked dive sites in the entire world! It has lovely beaches and snorkeling as well.
Just a few of the products from Dana and my MANY photoshoots – sipping wine on the shore at sunset, and having fun with the Go Pro dome in the clear waters of Njari island!
Where to Stay in Gizo
We saw so many beautiful island resorts and convenient accommodations in Gizo. Here are a few:
- Fatboys Resort – This is where we stayed! There’s an overwater restaurant, beachside bungalows, kayaks, boat trips, kayaks, adventure sports, and more.
- Sanbis Resort – This resort is on the other side of the island that Fatboys is on. More amazing beachside bungalows, overwater pier/bar/restaurant, and amazing views.
- Imagination Island – This resort is an entire island in itself. It’s a few kilometers off the coast of the airport, and is a quaint and perfect little getaway with a few rooms, great food, and plenty of adventure + fishing trips.
- Gizo Hotel – If you don’t want an island resort and prefer to be in the town, the Gizo hotel is the choice for you. It’s right across from the market as has convenient facilities and a restaurant balcony over the town.
- Oravae Island Cottages – located on a tiny private island, the Oravae cottages are the best getaway you can possibly get! Think – rustic wooden houses right on the water, with an over-water swing as well.
Those tiny little houses you see are the Oravae cottages!
My Experience in Gizo
When we arrived in Gizo, got off the plane, and immediately got on another boat and skimmed over beautiful blue water, I felt like the trip had finally begun. Arriving at the picturesque Fatboys resort was like something out of a dream, and Dana and I were squealing as we were greeted with colorful leis and fresh lemonade. It was the true island experience, and we felt so welcome and ready to explore.
We had so much fun taking photos, snorkeling, and having a traditional meal on Kennedy Island. Later that afternoon, we went on a fishing trip and were astounded to find (after a massive struggle) that we had actually hooked a reef shark – which we let free, of course! We boated between the islands, snorkeling at every stop, and flew my drone and captured moments in each place we stopped. We woke up each morning with a delicious breakfast and finished each night with a fresh dinner, and even fed a few resident reef sharks off the overwater balcony.
One of my favorite moments from Gizo was our ‘ sunset wine-down,’ where we had a few glasses (bottles?) of wine on a pristine sand bar facing the sunset. After fiddling around for ages with cameras and tripods to get the perfect photo (and putting the drone up as well, of course!) we enjoyed a few too many glasses of wine with the water lapping up at our bare feet.
Gizo is a place you could spend lots and lots of time. It’s a true rustic island getaway, with attentive seaside accommodation and delicious food. If you can – spend the most time here!
A cultural display in Ughele village, near Titiru Eco Lodge on Rendova Island
A few of the skulls of skull island
Munda, Roviana Lagoon, + Surrounding Areas of New Georgia Island
As we jetted down a channel in our small open speedboat from Gizo to Munda, I noticed quite a big change in the landscape. We had gone from the sandy beaches of Gizo to a mangrove-bordered channel of New Georgia Island, with more of a deep green color than sea blue. The vegetation was a bit different, with trees growing all the way to the water on many of the islands. This was our arrival to Munda – a small town on the Southern half of New Georgia Island. This is where I realized how varied the landscapes are on these islands – there’s truly a bit of everything, from mangroves to beaches to volcanoes to waterfalls.
Munda is surrounded by the Roviana Lagoon, which is home to some tiny sandy islands, some wildlife rich reserves, some mangrove-laden channels, and more. It’s yet another great hub for adventure, and we got up to plenty of activities here as well.
What to See and Do in Munda
- Munda Town – The main town is a few tiny streets with makeshift markets, a couple hotels, and a few stores.
- Roviana Lagoon – this lagoon may be mentioned on many Munda tours, and just refers to the calm sea area and islands between Munda town, Roviana Island, and almost all the way to Vonavona island. This area has a certain dialect and culture.
- Skull Island – this is a fascinating historical island on the way from Gizo to Munda. In brief (because I have more comprehensive posts coming soon!), it’s where they have left quite a lot of skulls from when the tribes here practiced headhunting. This ended with the coming of Christianity, and it was decided that the skulls would need to be moved somewhere more remote.
- Peter Joseph Museum – This began as a single man’s passion for searching/digging/finding artifacts from the War, and has turned into one of the most impressive War Museums in the Solomon Islands. It’s an entire building/room filled with everything from dog tags, lighters, coke bottles, soap boxes, and bullets to canteens, helmets, rifles, and even toothbrushes. It’s amazing to see what he has found and learn some stories from the artifacts.
- Scuba Diving– there are still plenty of places to dive in Munda as well as Gizo.
- Rainforest Walks, Rivers, and Waterfalls – hotels can also organize day-long treks through the island’s jungles, to waterfalls and viewpoints alike. You can even see crocodiles in the island’s rivers.
- Fishing Trips – This region is also great for fishing, and trips leave from the hotels regularly.
- Local Villages – many day tours from the hotels will include visits to local villages, and some tours include cultural villages only.
- Rendova island – About a 30-45 minute boat ride away is a stunning mountainous island called Rendova. It’s got a fantastic eco-lodge and a very visitor-friendly village with locals eager to share their traditions.
Scenes from the Peter Joseph Museum
Where to Stay in Munda
- Qua Roviana – We stayed here. It was a block back from the water in Munda town, and had fine facilities, a kitchen, a living space, and more, with air conditioning in each room as well (huge plus!)
- Agnes Gateway Hotel – This is the biggest hotel in Munda town, right on the water. There’s a fantastic restaurant where we had all of our meals (helllooooo fresh lobster!) and they have both private and cheaper dorm options.
- Zipolo Habu Resort, Lola Island – Lola Island is closer to skull island, between the Roviana and Vonavona regions. The beachside resort here is also beautiful and rustic, with a great restaurant and reef sharks visible from the pier.
- Titiru Eco Lodge – We spent a full day here at Titiru and visiting the local village. The lodge is beautiful, with kayaking and SUP’ing possible right from the balconies of the rooms, amazing gardens, delicious food, and proximity to Ughele village. I would LOVE to come back and stay longer here.
My Experience in + Around Munda
At first, Munda area seemed a bit less tropical and more swampy than Gizo, but I was quickly proved wrong after visiting Skull Island, Rendova, and two other tiny islands off the coast of the town which are perfect for sunset (Kuru Kuru and Kundu Kundu, I believe). Munda is different in that it’s more diverse, with both mangrove forests, waterfall-dotted mountains and jungles, AND beautiful beaches (albeit a bit more overgrown).
Upon arrival, I had a quick walk around town. There really wasn’t too much to look at, but I did my best. I wandered through the market stalls made from makeshift tied tarps and sheets, and smiled at locals selling beetlenut, potatoes, and other roots and leaves. I wandered past the town pub, coffee shop, and in and out of a Chinese grocery store, and all the way to the small airstrip before turning back around. The whole thing wouldn’t have taken me much more than ten minutes! I returned to the Agnes hotel where I enjoyed a coffee and watched local fisherman traverse the Roviana Lagoon on their long wooden canoe boats.
Outside of Munda Town we had a few fantastic excursions. We saw Skull Island from Lola Island, which was both eye-opening, sad, and fascinating. Our trip to the Peter Joseph museum really hammered into us even more the significance of the War in this part of the world – the thousands upon thousands of left-behind artifacts each told their own unique and heart wrenching story.
Our trip to Rendova was also a highlight – we saw the beautiful Titiru Eco-Lodge and got to kayak in the harbor – but I adored being able to walk through the nearby village. It was like the locals had stations set up to display cultural practices to us. It started with a traditionally-dressed tribesman jumping out of the bushes and yelling at us at the top of his lungs; we were SO startled we nearly screamed, but soon realized that it was an (albeit extremely well-done) demonstration of painted men showing what it would have been like to land on this island a few hundred years ago. We saw an old woman traditionally washing her baby in the river when we first walked up, followed by catching eels in the river, making traditional clothing, shaping wood, making toys, and even making and sampling local food recipes.
One of the most memorable moments of the trip (and our last activity) was watching sunset from the tiny islands off the coast of Munda town. After Dana and I (obviously) had one last beachy photoshoot, the sky turned red and pink with swirling colors within the clouds. Our jaws dropped to the floor and we knew that the Solomon Islands were sending us off in the best way possible – with my two favorite things, adventures & sunsets of course!
Aerial view of beautiful Njari Island
Roviana fisherman doing their thing
Solomon Islands Budget Notes
So – what should you budget for the Solomon Islands? The main thing to keep in mind is that, unfortunately, the Solomon Islands aren’t cheap. This is no Southeast Asia; the Hapi Isles are quite remote, difficult to get to, and have quite high prices that keep the economy going. I would say the restaurant prices are about on par with Australia. For basic meals/breakfast/lunch you’ll be looking at around $10-15USD, whereas for nicer meals and dinners you’ll be looking at around $15-30USD. This is at hotels/restaurants, however, and you can always shop at the markets to cook for yourself when you see fit.
For hotel rooms, you’ll be looking to pay about $120-$200USD/night. Some of the cheaper rooms will be a bit more basic, but for $200 you’ll get some nicer (although still often rustic!) beachside bungalows. For the more budget traveler, there are a couple cheaper simple twin room/dorm options on some of the islands for around $35-$50 per person.
Getting to the Solomon Islands may be the costliest part of the journey – flights are a bit fewer and far between, and therefore are pricier. However, the opening of the Munda international airport is showing a lot of promise for lower flight costs from Brisbane. Currently, the flights go for about $800-$1200 round trip to Honiara from Brisbane, depending on when you book. Add on whatever flight you’ll need to get to Brissy, and you have your budget! Just make sure to look out for the first flights from Brisbane to Munda, which are set to be cheaper.
A quick glimpse into what a delicious lobster dinner might look like in the Solomon Islands
a casual pose in front of our beachside bungalow at Fatboys resort
Final Solomon Islands Tourism Tips – What to Know Before You Go
Lastly, I’ll leave you with a few final, yet extremely important notes on things to know before your Solomon Islands trip:
Passports + Visas
You must have at least 6 months validity on your passport to enter the country. Most visitors are granted visas upon arrival to the Solomon Islands, but make sure to check up about your country before you go. People from many European countries, the US, and the Commonwealth do not need a visa prior to arrival.
It is recommended to take Malaria pills during your visit to the Solomon Islands due to small pockets of malaria. Consult your doctor before your trip to stay up to date with the latest travel notices and injection recommendations. If you don’t have malaria pills, be SURE to bring strong bug spray!
Wifi in the Solomon Islands
Wifi in the Solomon islands is best described as a lack thereof. You’ll find much better (read: slow yet functional) wifi in Honiara, but as you get out to the more remote islands, wifi will be few & far between. Some resorts (such as Fatboys) have a wifi code that can only be used by one person at a time, and you may hear “the wifi isn’t working” more often than not. But – this is not the kind of place you want to be spending connected to wifi, the Sollies are really a place to disconnect from the internet world and connect with the real world, amazing landscapes, other people, and wildlife.
Solomon Islands Food
Food in the Solomon Islands is, as I’m sure you can guess, very seafood-based. There will be tons of fish and shellfish, complimented by a lot of taro and potato for starch, rice, and local cabbage cooked in coconut milk. They cook up lots of home-grown veggies and have a bit of chicken and beef as well.
Money + ATM’s
The Solomon Islands currency is the Solomon Islands dollar. There’s about 8 SBD to 1 USD, just under 6 to the AUD, about 9 to the Euro, and just over 10.5 to the (current) GBP. There are ATM’s and currency exchanges in Honiara and a few solar-powered ATM’s in the islands. However, these ATM’s will always charge a fee, so if you can get some currency out before your trip you might be able to save a bit of money.
Tipping is not a part of the culture here and not necessary.
You should only purchase and drink bottled water here – no tap water, unfortunately!
Lastly, a few final Solomon Islands photos:
ONE MORE PIN! Don’t forget to pin this Solomon Islands tourism guide to your Pinterest Boards.
See if you can sound out any of these signs in Pidgin english. I think the middle one should say ‘making you and me proud’ and something along the lines of ‘rice belongs to you and me’ in the Solomons, along with the final poster on the right saying ‘good taste fit in your pocket to feed the family.’ (please correct me if I am wrong – I was wandering around reading posters and was fascinated trying to sound out the words).
A local fisherman showing off his gear
One of my favorite things to do in the Solomon islands was find incredible shells. Each beach and snorkeling site was full of them! My inner mermaid was mesmerized 😛
Well, I think that’s about it on Solomon Islands tourism – for now! I hope you have learned everything you need to know, but if I missed anything, go ahead and leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you!
Thanks so much to Visit Solomon Islands for hosting me – as always, all words are completely my own, and I look forward to quite a few more articles on one of the most intriguing and alluring countries I’ve had the pleasure of visiting.