The Solomon Islands' most populous island - Guadalcanal - is home to the capital of Honiara
, the centre of commerce, communications and government in the Solomon Islands. Known for its traditional villages, lush tropical forest, fertile plantations and spectacular waterfalls, Guadalcanal saw some fierce fighting during World War II when the allied forces engaged Japan. There are many historic battle sites and wartime relics to be found, particularly on the western and eastern coasts of Guadalcanal. The northern coast is the heart of the province, while the southern coast has a much slower pace of life and is less accessible.
Guadalcanal offers superb dive sites, in particular the Iron Bottom Sound. It is littered with World War II relics including the sunken wrecks of the Bonegi I and Bonegi II. The nearby island retreats of Tavanipupu and Vulelua make an ideal getaway for those in search of relaxation. The province is well known for its artisans and visitors can buy wood carvings, bukaware baskets, trays, bamboo panpipes and lime containers at the colourful markets and souvenir outlets. Population:
100,000 Capital city:
On the western fringe of the Pacific and bounding the Coral Sea at a latitude 5º-12º south of the equator and longitude 155º-170º east. Climate:
Tropical, with an average daytime temperature of about 29ºC and high humidity. Evening temperatures may drop to 19ºC.Wet season:
November to May are the wetter months and squalls and cyclones may occur. Time zone:
Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) plus 11 hours. Major attractions:
Historic Battle Sites, Diving, Guided Walks, Betikama High School, Velula Island, Waterfalls, Marau Sound, Vulelua Island, Vilu War Museum, Giant Clam Farm, Vauluma Posori Cave, Cape Esperance, Savo Island. Attractions:
- Historic battle sites
The bloody Guadalcanal Campaign claimed 38,000 lives during World War II, and was the turning point of the war in the Pacific. On the east coast visitors can see Red Beach and Tetere Bay, where the US Marines landed in 1942. On the west coast is the Japanese War Memorial at Poha River, Vilu Village War Museum and Cape Esperance, where 13,000 Japanese soldiers were evacuated. Local guides can provide a tour.
With its virgin coral reefs, Guadalcanal offers some superb natural diving sites, as well as submarine, transport and B17 bomber wrecks dating back to the war. The main operators are based in Honiara, and offer fully-equipped boats and qualified divemasters. The live aboard boats offer trips to local villages and land excursions as well.
- Guided walks
Guided walks and treks are available to see local villages, tropical jungle and cascading waterfalls.
- Betikama High School
East of Honiara, the school offers a fine selection of wood carvings, handcrafts and World War II relics.
The island has some spectacular waterfalls including Mataniko Falls - one of the finest in the South Pacific and just a two hour walk from Honiara. There are some good swimming holes and a stalgamite-covered cave where thousands of swallows live. The 60m Tenaru Falls, east of Tenaru, are also an impressive sight.
- Marau Sound
At the eastern end of Guadalcanal, this coral paradise is home to schools of tropical fish, giant clams and some of the world's rarest sea shells. The diving is excellent.
- Vulelua Island
East of Honiara, this beautiful island resort is a peaceful place to enjoy good snorkelling and diving. Dive sites include the nearby Moresby Shoals, Thrower Reef and Neil Drop Off.
- Vilu War Museum
About 25km west of Honiara, the museum contains US and Japanese war relics.
- Giant Clam Farm
Visitors are welcome to view the clams and pearls from 9am to 4pm daily. The farm, about 22km west of Honiara, was established in 1988.
- Vauluma Posori Cave
About 1.5km from Poha, the cave contains petroglyphs on its walls dating back to 1000BC, including fish and snakes. The cave is protected and permission is required from the National Museum.
- Cape Esperance
Named by D'Entrecasteaux in 1793, this was the site where Japan evacuated its 13,000 troops at the end of the Guadalcanal Campaign.
- Savo Island
In the neighbouring Central Province (about 14km from Guadalcanal), Savo Island is an ideal picnic spot with sleepy villages and crystal clear waters. It's a paradise for divers, and there are several sunken ships from the Battle of Savo. The island also has an active volcano with hot springs and mud pools.