It’s night you’re on the balcony of your banyan tree house watching crazy fireworks from Mount Yasur volcano. It’s perilously close to where you’re perched! If you love living on the edge then Tanna Island accommodation is for you. You can even feel the ground rumble and groan from the roars of the volcano. Tanna island is one of Vanuatu’s tiny remote tropical paradises in the South Pacific and a popular destination for adventurous travellers of all ages. You won’t regret jumping on a plane to get here! Here’s why…
What’s Coming Up:
- Getting to Tannna Island
- Tanna Island Accommodation and Airport Transfer
- Mini Guide to Tanna
- What’s the Volcano up to?
- Interested in the Culture of Tanna?
- Get to know the Tribes
- What you need to know first
- Stay with the Locals – Yasur View Bungalows, Volcano Island Paradise Bungalows, Volcano Eco Tree House.
- Stay at the Beach – Friendly Beach
- Stay in the North – White Grass Ocean Resort
- Things to do on Tanna Island
- What is the John Frum Cargo Cult?
- Things to take to Tanna
Getting to Tanna Island:
Your flight from Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, to Tanna Island takes only 45 minutes but once there you’ve stepped back in time thousands of years to an ancient culture with a rich and complex history. And now the adventure starts! You’ll ride in a four-wheel drive (4X4) to your accommodation over rough roads through jungle. Ahead of you is adventure – waterfalls, volcano trips, caving, snorkelling, hiking and visits to tribes who still live very traditional lives….
Tanna Island Accommodation
A few tips first: The airport is in the north of the island but the volcano is in the south. In heavy rain these roads can be impassable and that means if you stay in the north you could miss out seeing the volcano.
There’s accommodation all around the island but most people stay:
- in the north for the more upmarket White Grass Ocean Resort.
- on the west coast at one of the low-key beach resorts
- in the south east near the volcano in a family homestay in the jungle.
- FYI: The resorts cost more than the homestays so you can stay longer if you choose the jungle!
The ride from White Grass Airport to the south on the 4-wheel drive roads can take 1.5-3 hours depending on the conditions. Be prepared to pay around US$50 for the drive to the accommodation in the south.
Mini-Guide to Tanna:
I’ve put together this mini-guide to the island so you’re prepared for what life is like on a small remote island far from all the mod cons. You want positive experiences not negative ones so with that famous motto – ‘be prepared’ for anything – you’re all set for a very unique encounter.
What’s the Volcano up to?
Mt Yasur has been active since Captain Cook observed the ash clouds back in 1774. The volcano is one of the easiest to visit and remains at level 2 alert. There’s a permanent exclusion zone within 395m radius of the volcanic crater. But the volcanic ash and gas can extend beyond that depending on the trade winds. Hope that sounds exciting!
For keen Volcanologists you can read more about the current state of the volcano on the Smithsonian Volcanism Program here. The best time to see the volcano is in the dark (sunset or sunrise) when it glows, otherwise during the day you’re more likely to see just smoke. FYI: the rumbles are loud when you’re at the top!
Interested in the Culture of Tanna?
Culturally you’ll get to experience authentic traditional Melanesian island life plus the chance to overload on a range of awesome adventures across this volcanic landscape. Of course, climbing the volcano to the fiery crater is top of the list. But if you prefer to enjoy the volcano from below then there’s more peaceful activities for you, like a visit to a local tribe, the John Frum Cult, or market day. For a small island there’s a lot to do! Read on…
Get to know the Tribes:
Tanna Islanders don’t have much money so staying with one of the local families is a great way to support the community, get to know the families and their tribe, and enjoy life in the jungle. Read on for my Tanna Island accommodation recommendations which also include some awesome tree houses with views of the volcano.
Get close to the Volcano!
What you need to know first:
- Hot water, electricity, passable paved roads, these are all luxuries on the island so come prepared to step back in time and enjoy a slower pace of life.
- Tanna is low-tech living with limited ATMs on the island so bring plenty of cash.
- A lot of the homestays have Solar panels and generators to supply power but don’t expect 24 hour power or any power.
- No WIFI but you can buy a SIM card in Lenakel Town
- Let your hosts know if you are vegetarian before or at least as soon as you arrive.
- Most of the bungalows and tree houses are remote and nowhere near any shops.
- Getting Around: You can do a lot of walking on the island but you’re dependent on the local trucks to get further around the island. Or you can organise all your tours with your accommodation.
- Further on I’ll give you a list of things to bring so you’re prepared for the trip of a lifetime!
Stay with the Locals!
The options for Tanna accommodation include overseas-owned and low-key resorts on the west coast beach or you can also stay with the locals in a homestay and support the local economy. They’re still recovering from the devastation of Cyclone Pam that occurred in 2015.
Why Not Stay Close to the Volcano!
Some of the accommodation options I recommend in the south are only a 30-90 minute walk away from the mighty Mt Yusur and that’s really close so you get to enjoy the volcano’s pyrotechnics every few minutes! The homestays are around 1.5-2 hours away from the airport (depending on state of roads) so don’t get a shock since this ride can cost quite a lot but petrol is expensive for the locals.
Yasur View Bungalows:
Feel the heat because you’re super close to the volcano at these traditional and simple bungalows set in a beautiful rainforest on the south-east side of the island. These are backpacker-priced jungle huts and a tree house run by a very helpful Mike and his family. Double rooms cost around US$40 and include tropical or vegetarian breakfast.
- Cool down in the crystal clear river that’s only a minutes walk away from the bungalows.
- Very remote if you’re a woman travelling alone but your hosts will look after you.
- Very simple huts and shared bathroom facilities but amazing views of the volcano.
- Walk to Mt Yusur at sunset on the easy path that takes 90 minutes.
- Don’t miss the trek to the hot springs. Go caving in nearby Port Resolution. (see more activities below)
- Mike can organise tours for you.
Volcano Island Paradise Bungalows:
Experience life in the jungle with this friendly and lovely family – Morris and Suzie and their 6 kids. Morris helps guests with tours and Suzie cooks delicious food for everyone. Great value for money – you get to stay in a simple rustic hut in the jungle. You have a wonderful of view of Mt Yasur erupting and you’re only 30 minutes walk to the volcano entrance. Electricity via solar panels. You can take a cool swim in the nearby river.
- Bedding is pillow, light blanket and sheets.
- Breakfast included in price.
- The family can organise tours for you.
- Solo travellers are welcome.
- Mike can pick you up from the airport.
Volcano Eco Tree House
Not far from Yasur View Bungalows this homestay is very popular and you get to sleep in a tall tree house! You’re close to the volcano, living with the Ni-van tribe, so you get to experience authentic Tanna Island.
Staying at Volcano Eco Tree House was a rich cultural experience. Everything was so genuine and sincere.Guest comment
John and his family have created an amazing retreat in the jungle. They’ll look after you well and can take you out on guided tours of the island. You’re only a 30-40 minute walk to the volcano from the homestay.
The home cooked meals are delicious and huge. Your room is cleaned daily with fresh sheets and towels. The toilet is flushable – that’s a big thing when you’re in the jungle! Running water and electricity is 24/7 with usb chargers and AC chargers available.
- Walk at sunrise or sunset but if you can manage sunrise then that’s your best bet.
- Don’t miss a dip in the nearby hot springs at sunset.
- Walk around the jungle and visit the local villages.
- Don’t miss one of the cultural dance shows.
Want to stay at the Beach?
Friendly Beach 3.5 Stars
North of Mt Yasur at Lowalcas Cove sits these popular traditional beachfront bungalows. Each beach house is made from local natural materials (wood, stone, coral, and bamboo) and has a sea view balcony with a hammock. Friendly is in a very remote location with no internet, telephone or TV make the most of this timeless place. You’re close to Mt Yasur on the north side and it’s easy to book tours with the friendly staff.
FYI: some guests have mentioned that their hosts weren’t expecting them so make sure you have a confirmed booking. Electricity is only available for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the afternoon.
Stay at White Grass Ocean Resort and Spa:
Things to Do on Tanna Island:
Hot Tip: Double check what the tour does or doesn’t include: Transportation costs, guide, entry fee. FYI: keep your volcano entry ticket if you plan to visit again – it will be cheaper the next time.
- The no. 1 activity is climbing the volcano and walking to the rim of fire – but why not try it at night too when you get to see live fireworks!
- Visit the traditional village of Yakel who live an ancient lifestyle. They reject outside influences and wear traditional woven fibre skirts.
- Drink Kava with the local chief
- Trek through the lush jungle
- Swim at tropical waterfalls and rivers. 4WD trip to Louniel Waterfall.
- Visit coffee plantations
- Near the entrance of the volcano is a Cannibal Tour where the locals show you what’s it like to be the first foreigner to arrive in Tanna and learn about the ancient customs.
- Watch cultural tribal dancing
- Snowboard down the volcano – called ashboarding
- Visit the ash plane
- Swim and snorkel at the beaches and coral reefs of Port Resolution and Sulphur Bay (also hot springs).
- See dolphins, whales, turtles and other marine life.
- Swim and snorkel in underwater caves (see video below)
- Lenakel Market Day
- Nekowiar (Toka) festival – hundreds of men and women in traditional grass skirts and vividly painted faces, 3 days of incredible dancing and ceremonies.
- Visit the John Frum Cargo Cult
- If you would like to go on a tour of Tanna Island and have everything organised for you then Viator run a 4-day Tanna Island tour. You get to stay at the White Grass Ocean Resort and activities include 4WD to Louniel Waterfall, Volcano excursion, and lots more. You can read more here.
Check out the incredible Blue Underwater Cave here:
What is the John Frum Cargo Cult?
If you’ve studied anthropology then you’ll know about Cargo cults. This movement gained in popularity during the 2nd world war when US soldiers brought supplies (cargo) to the island and conducted military drills. The islanders connected this ritualistic-type behaviour with the arrival of cargo so they created their own belief system.
Today the John Frum Cargo Cult is still strong on Tanna Island and you can visit the group on a Friday and watch them march around and raise flags in the hope that cargo will magically appear just like it did in World War II. (Wikipedia)
There is also a more modern cult on the island and that is the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh Cult!
Watch this video about the John Frum Cargo Cult:
What to Take to your Tanna Island Accommodation?
- Limited ATMs on the island so take plenty of cash which you can get in Port Vila before you fly to Tanna Island.
- Take mosquito repellent
- Take a mosquito net if you are concerned about bites
- Take a flashlight/torch
- Good walking shoes and reef shoes
- You’re in the jungle so there’s plenty of bugs – you might like to sleep in your own sleeping bag
- Rain jacket, umbrella
- Take a warm jacket if trekking to the volcano at night
- Your accommodation will provide meals but take snacks and drinks
- Tell hosts you are vegetarian when booking or when you arrive
- The locals are very poor so you can take take t-shirts for kids, balls, medicine, and school books if you would like to donate to the local tribe.
I hope this gives you a good overview of Tanna Island accommodation and the amazing opportunities you’ll have to experience a wilderness adventure and an insight into an authentic and traditional way of life.
Now it’s Your Turn!
Happy Travelling! Thanks for visiting this page all about Tanna Island Accommodation and Things to Do. Do you have any questions, ideas, thoughts or reviews? Please leave your comments below…