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Vanuatu serves up feasts for the senses

Vanuatu serves up feasts for the senses

As Kiwis dream of tasting food from different places and cultures again, here’s a destination that deserves to be on their holiday menu.

Vanuatu serves up feasts for the senses

Wondering where to escape when we’re allowed to use our passports again? It’s hard to go past a necklace of lush South Pacific islands where the people are said to be the happiest on the planet, the temperature rarely drops below 23°C in midwinter and the cuisine is out of this world.

That would be Vanuatu – and on top of all that, it’s only three-and-a- half-hours’ flying time from Auckland and one of only 12 nations in the world without a single case of COVID-19.

Rich volcanic soil and year-round showers have given the beef from the island of Espiritu Santo a worldwide reputation, while the coffee grown on Tanna island is globally sought after. Markets overflow with the fresh ingredients of traditional feasts: taro, yam, banana, coconut and seafood. Gardens burst with mangoes, papayas, plantains and sweet potatoes. The waterfront fruit, vegetable and flower markets in the easy-going capital Port Vila are a great experience, and one of the best places for a first taste of the local cuisine.


Every visitor must try the national dish, lap lap, made by grating manioc, taro roots or yam into a paste, topping it with seafood, meat or chicken and wrapping it in coconut-soaked leaves. It’s then baked in an earth oven.

With warm, pristine waters shimmering around Vanuatu’s 80-plus islands, seafood is at the heart of the country’s diet – local fish such as ‘poulet’ or the famous coconut crab. This beast is the world’s biggest crustacean – it can weigh 4kg and grow to one-metre long – but it’s becoming endangered so we’d recommend another of the delicacies.

Vanuatu is famous for its adventure tourism, but if you’re an adventurous eater you can sample exotic delicacies such as flying fox stew or wild pigeon with a selection of creamy sauces.

Before becoming independent in 1980, the islands were known as the New Hebrides and were jointly administered by Britain and France. In many fine-dining restaurants, chefs take their cues from French cuisine, blending the fresh seafood, vegetables and tender beef with escargots or foie gras.

But Vanuatu has blossomed into a multi-cultural nation and its eateries’ menus extend to favourite dishes and contemporary fusion imported from the US, Australia, Italy, India, Mexico and Asia – even Aotearoa.

In Port Vila, K2 Café is a must- visit destination with strong Kiwi ties: Kelly Phillips, co-owner and front-of-house, is from Greymouth; while Kandy Tamagushiku, co-owner and chef, is Vanuatu-born and Christchurch-trained.

K2’s industrial-style interior wouldn’t look out of place on Ponsonby Rd or Cuba St and the menu puts a modern Kiwi spin on traditional Vanuatu flavours and ingredients – such as their best-selling meal ‘Fush and Kumala Gnocchi’.

So as soon as Air Vanuatu’s modern jets are back in the air, plan to take that short flight with the intention of kicking back and luxuriating in the warmth of the South Pacific climate and welcome.

Just don’t be surprised – be delighted – when you discover enticing tropical tastes, flavours and aromas that drag you away from the sun lounger.

For more information on your next adventure in Vanuatu, visit

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