If you imagine the lush greens and shimmering sapphires of an archipelago landscape, no doubt white sandy beaches, tangles of jungle, and sparkling oceans crashing on the shore come to mind. As the perfect picture of a tropical paradise, the Solomon Islands is the ideal destination for any traveller looking for a calming retreat, searching for a sense of adventure, or scouting out historical nautical wrecks. As a result, this stunning collection of islands truly has something for everyone.
As soon as you feel the warmth of the sand and the cooling sea breeze, your mind will be taken to a feeling of tranquillity that is hard to find anywhere else. As a country containing nine individual islands amongst many other pockets of flora, visitors are spoilt for choice as each provides a beautiful green metropolis and an unforgettable experience.
The Solomon Islands is further characterised by a rich and diverse culture where modernity and tradition sit side by side to create a rare experience of intrigue for many travelling tourists. A particular gem is Santa Isabel Island, which has houses built on stilts, skull shrines, and panpipe concerts, alongside exquisite leaf houses and gardens, with annual festivals that let you truly immerse yourself in the local life.
The Solomon Islands’ charm can also be found in its other-worldly marine life that lets you witness a kaleidoscope of colours which are unlike anything seen on Earth. Although on the surface it looks still and peaceful, the island’s waters are home to over 100 species of reef fish, dolphins, manta rays, and turtles. Therefore, situated within the infamous Coral Triangle, the Solomon Islands provides the ultimate once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the reefs in all their outstanding natural beauty.
In particular, divers travel far and wide to catch a glimpse of the magnificent cuttlefish who possess the unique ability to change colour as they serenely swim amongst the reefs. Additionally found in the Coral Triangle is the pygmy seahorse, the smallest of the seahorse species. Little is known about the diminutive creature, making sightings of the dazzling animal even more special.
As Asia Pacific’s best-kept secret, the Solomon Islands resides as the epitome of relaxation, with a unique culture and a marine life of dreams – you owe it to yourself to go.
FOR AN INDULGENT BITE OF CHOCOLATE…
Guadalcanal chocolate is a staple of the Soloman Islands’ artisan chocolate scene, as the country’s organically grown cacao is internationally sought after by the world’s leading chocolatiers. Solomon’s artisan chocolate is forging a new path in the confectionary world, thanks to freshly harvested cacao beans from over 20,000 smallholder farmers across the islands. Named after the mountain, Guadalcanal chocolate has a velvety texture and rich flavour, showcasing the country’s growing culinary culture all in a single indulgent bite.
TO PLAN THE BEST TRIP POSSIBLE…
FOR A TRUE SENSE OF ISLAND LIFE…
Wagosia Festival, known as the Santa Catalina Spear Festival, is a thriving tradition which dates back to the islands’ ancient culture, in which the agricultural practices of spearfishing and yam harvesting are kept alive in the celebration. As a four-day event occurring every year between the months of May and June, both visitors and residents come together to listen to the local chants of ancestors and celebrate the vibrancy of the islands’ tradition.
FOR REACHING RELAXING INDULGENCE…
TO GAZE UPON THE SOARING ANIMALS OF THE SKY…
In counterpart to the bustling marine life, the creatures of the sky also can’t go unmissed, with the Solomon Islands heralding some of nature’s most exquisite birds. Any avid twitchers will adore the archipelago’s unique spots, including the mountain of Guadalcanal and the heights of Kolombangara.
Each fluttering species is unique, with many species only being found on one island. Species found exclusively in the surrounding area of Honiara include the swaggering, White-billed Crow, the vibrant Chestnut-bellied Monarch, and the Duchess Lorikeet, amongst many more delicate creatures.
Some of the most-loved bird-watching locations include Maringe Lagoon Lodges on the beachfront, Milkfish Bungalows tucked away on Marapa Island, and the Ropiko Beach Resort.
FOR SOURCING THE PERFECT CATCH…
If you have a passion for fishing, then the Solomon Islands is the place, with long stretches of unspoilt water in some of the most remote lakes teeming with exotic fish. Thanks to the favourable weather conditions throughout the year, the islands remain untouched by mainstream fisheries and tourists. Cast out your bait in the shallow crystal-clear water and behold a plethora of local marine life, including the Spanish mackerel, the striped wahoo, the sprightly yellowfin, and the dogtooth tuna – the fishing opportunities are endless.
FOR AN URBAN RECLUSE…
Honiara Hotel boasts a stylish, but comfortable interior. Be taken back to the older days of the South Pacific, as Honiara oozes the region’s rich history of every turn. Find your happy place having breakfast on the balcony or taking a dip in a pool, and indulge in one of the many delectable dining options.
FOR THE HEIGHT OF SOLOMON LUXURY…
Heritage Park Hotel creates the optimum environment for a decadent and lavish stay, situated in the centre of the Rhondda Valleys. Reap the benefits of the sumptuous recent refurbishment that strikes the ultimate balance between elegance and cosiness, whilst indulging in the hotel’s plethora of facilities, restaurants and function spaces.
DIVING SPOTS IN FOCUS
Often said to be indescribable, the diving opportunities afforded by the Solomon Islands are endless as the underwater paradise spans five square kilometres (sqkm) of the Coral Triangle, catering to both diving experts and scuba diving beginners.
To witness the majestic movement of sting rays amongst many other underwater residents, the Western Province has to be seen, with both diving and snorkelling opportunities available. The diving expeditions in Munda are particularly special for spotting hammerheads, eagle rays, dogtooth tuna, reef sharks, moray eels, and much more.
Any budding divers cannot miss Gizo, in which manta rays can be witnessed amongst the wrecks in the months between November and April. At the top of the daring diving list is also Mary Island, known as Mborokua to the locals, in which adrenaline junkies can catch a glimpse of barracuda, sharks, and the unusual humphead parrotfish.
However, as probably the most famous spot in all of the Solomon Islands, Russel Island offers the most out-of-this-world experience; as a long sapphire corridor cutting deep into the side of the cliff, the dive has a total depth of 12 metres (m), and upon reaching the surface, you’ll be at one with the swaying jungle.
Finally, Florida Islands showcase the fantastic Twin Tunnels amongst many other spectacular dives. Originally named after two vertical lava tubes, the Twin Tunnels hold particular dominance in the local diving scene as experts and first-timers can travel down to the joining point of the two volcanoes on the side reef wall. Draped in blankets of coral, pygmy seahorses, hairy squat lobsters, cuttlefish, and even octopus are found wandering amongst the Twin Tunnels.
World War II Wrecks
Embedded deep on the ocean floor of the Coral Triangle exists a multitude of WWII shipwrecks, where the islands once hosted the scenes of some treacherous fighting. Many different guides across the archipelago offer insightful and moving information on some of the historical sites, such as the rusting jeeps and tanks buried deep in the jungle alongside the foxholes tactfully used as Japanese observation plants.
Take to the sea and through a guided tour, look upon deep underwater relics like oil tankers, seaplanes, and submarines. Although many relics can be seen via snorkelling, some deeper depths are best accessed by more experienced divers.
In the heart of Honiara lies a lively market like no other, spanning an entire block between Mendana Avenue and the seafront. Gorge on the impressive selection of fresh produce and treat yourself to some delectable seafood in the fish market. For the authentic experience of buying, eating, and immersing yourself as a local, this is an unmissable experience that perfectly epitomises the charm of the island.
Amongst an array of stunning waterfalls, the Tenaru Waterfall really goes the extra mile at 63m tall, with crashing waters that dazzle even the most avid waterfall lover. The waterfalls are fairly accessible via a two-hour walk (each way) from the tiny village of Tenaru, as the path follows the natural ways of the river valley, crossing the riverbeds many times before reaching the waterfall – but we promise it’s worth it.
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
Characterised by its blissful and far-removed location, the Solomon Islands may seem difficult to access. And yet, there are plenty of options for you to reach the islands. For example, the world’s best-kept secret is just a three-hour flight from Brisbane, Australia. Travellers can also catch flights from Nadi in Fiji, Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, and Port Vila in Vanuatu.
This is all thanks to Solomon Airlines, the islands’ national airline that provides weekly flights to each location on a regular basis. Once you touch down on Solomon soil, minibuses and taxi services are available from the airport just 12km outside Honiara, as well as car hire opportunities, making your journey as smooth as possible.
As an emerging eco-tourism destination, unspoilt by commercial culture and modern infrastructure, the Solomon Islands offer an authentic and incredibly environmentally friendly mode of transport around the archipelago. As such, one of the most convenient ways to travel is by air, not to mention that this is best for the most stunning of views. Solomon Airlines is located in the capital and offers 20 domestic flights, but do be warned that the luggage allowance is only 16 kilogrammes (kg) – pack light!
When travelling out and about on each island, public minibuses are readily available and incredibly affordable (an extra bonus). For a more private travel option, taxis are also a great way to see the islands. Additionally, the road network between Guadalcanal, Malaita, and Makira is easily driveable, with rental cars available for visitors who must drive on the left-hand side of the road.
Finally, and most unsurprisingly, the abundant sea is a well-loved way to get around the archipelago. Although adventure-seekers may prefer to go by kayak, there are regular passenger boat services throughout the different regions. Another popular vessel is the outboard-powered dinghy, which offers a fun but private experience.