Dining & Nightlife in Vanuatu

With its French influence, Vanuatu has made a name for itself throughout the South Pacific for its superb cuisine. In and around Port Vila, there are some 50 eateries offering everything from succulent Santo beef steaks to traditional delicacies such as coconut crab served with chilli, garlic or coconut and curry sauces. Other local specialties include nautou (ground pigeon), escargots (snails), rousette (flying fox or fruit bat), crevettes (prawns) and poulet or chicken fish, mangrove oysters and nems (spring rolls). Tahitian raw fish salad (poissin cru) marinated in lime juice and coconut milk is another delicacy.

Coconuts © John NichollsLocal Food
Laplap is the country’s national dish, made by pounding taro or yam roots into a paste. The mixture is placed on taro or spinach leaves and soaked in grated coconut mixed with water. Pieces of pork, beef, chicken or fish are added, the mixture is tied up in leaves from the laplap plant and cooked in an underground oven. You can sample fragrant laplap slabs at the markets for about 150VT. In some villages, flying fox is still used to make this dish. Other island dishes include tuluk, a pork-filled package prepared and cooked in the same way as laplap, and nalot, a vegetable dish made from boiled or roasted taro, banana or breadfruit mixed with grated coconut and water.

For a refreshing drink, try fresh coconut juice or, for something a little stronger, you can indulge in kava, an intoxicating liquid made from pounded or ground pepper root mixed with water. This pungent and muddy drink is sometimes referred to as ‘aelan bia’ (island beer), and is an evening ritual throughout Vanuatu. There are plenty of kava bars in both Port Traditional Food, Port Vila Harbourside © Poppys on the LagoonVila on Efate and Luganville on Espiritu Santo, although in traditional parts of Vanuatu, women are forbidden to drink kava. You can also sample the rich Tanna coffee and the locally brewed Tusker and Vanuatu bitter.

For visitors who want to start their evening with kava, check with your hotel reception for a reputable kava bar, most often frequented by the staff. Popular kava bars include Ronnie’s Nakamal in Nambatu, Chief’s Nakamal, Mark Reginald’s next to Mango Resort. Major resort and hotels organise Melanesian feasts once or twice a week with custom dancing, kava drinking and traditional food. Solo’s feast, The Melanesian, Crow’s Nest, Mele Botanical Garden and Cultural Centre at Mele Bay, Ekasup and Iarofa Cultural Village offer an authentic Melanesian experience. Enquire at your hotel reception for bookings. Popular haunts for a night on the town include The Port Vila Pub, Vudu bar at the Olympic Vanuatu Visitor GuideVanuatu Visitor MapHouse, Saloon Bar, Anchor Inn, Shooters opposite The Sebel Vanuatu, Hemisphere Bar at The Sebel Vanuatu, Rumors Night Club at Nomads Mooring, Sunset Bar at The Melanesian and Maximillion at Club Vanuatu.  Club Vanuatu offers bars, snooker, darts, Satellite TV and live bands at weekends. Palms Resort & Casino has blackjack, roulette, baccarat and poker machines, and stays open till early morning. The popular Club21 and Jungle Bar gaming lounges also has a casino with a variety of table games including blackjack, baccarat and the popular Texas Hold'em poker. And Jupiters Casino at the Grand Hotel & Casino has regular international acts performing.

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