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by Santorini Dave • Updated: September 1, 2018
What is the best time to visit Vanuatu?
- Best Time to Visit to Visit Vanuatu: May, June, September and October.
- Best Time to Visit Vanuatu for Good Weather: May to September.
- Best Time for Sightseeing: June to September.
- Best Time for Honeymoons: May, June and September.
- Best Time for Diving & Snorkeling: May to October.
- Best Time for Outdoor Activities: June to September.
- Best Time for Saving Money: Obviously, avoid the peak seasons, which are mid-December to late January (major school holidays in Australia and New Zealand) and July and August (prime time for visitors from Europe).
- Best Time for Sightseeing: Like most island countries in the region, Vanuatu is just a few degrees south of the equator, so there are only 2 major seasons: the ‘wet’ and the ‘dry’. While some locals swear the seasons are less defined these days, rain is certainly heaviest from November to April. During these months expect frequent, and sometimes, prolonged downpours and increased humidity, which can be tempered by ocean breezes. And always be alert for possible cyclones. So, the best time is June to September, ignoring the changeable months either side of the wet season, but July and August are busy with European tourists.
- Best Time for Diving & Snorkeling: The underwater delights around Vanuatu are legendary among divers. Like elsewhere in the region, the marine life is abundant and reefs colorful, but there are also underwater caves and, uniquely in Melanesia, shipwrecks. The prime time to plunge underwater is from May to October, when the rains, waves and winds are less likely to stir up the water, but within calm, sheltered and non-tidal lagoons, diving and snorkeling is always good.
- Best Time for Outdoor Activities: Vanuatu probably boasts the widest and most exciting range of things to do in the region, from kayaking and sailing to trekking among rainforests and mountains – even as far as the crater lip of a rumbling volcano. Of course, these activities are far less enjoyable during the wet season, with access along roads and hiking paths possibly hindered by floods and/or deep mud. And flights and boat trips may be delayed in bad weather, or cancelled entirely during a cyclone warning. So, the best time is the driest months of June to September. Kayaking around the lagoons is fine all year, while sailing is optimal from May to October.
- Best Time for Beaches: Locals refer to the dry season as the ‘winter’, which can be ‘too cold’ for some. Water temperatures remain reasonably stable throughout the year (24°C to 27°C), but average daytime temperatures of 22°C to 25°C in the dry winters can fall in the late afternoon and evening to about 18°C. So, swimming may be more inviting in the ‘summer’ or wet season, when the days are hotter and more humid. In the shallow calm lagoons, water temperatures are higher and more appealing all year round, while freshwater pools sheltered by rainforests can be downright chilly at times. Obviously, avoid beaches during really bad weather (particularly lightning storms) and always use sunscreen, even if it’s mild or cloudy.
Vanuatu Travel Seasons
- High Season (mid-December to end of January & June to August): One peak time is the major school holidays in Australia and New Zealand, which are both only a few hours away by air, so book way ahead and expect room rates to rise. But this is also the middle of the wet season, with heavy rain and possible cyclones likely to affect at least part of any holiday plans at this time. From June to August, visitors are attracted by the continually warm and dry days, with no real chance of a cyclone. In July, there are more school holidays (two weeks) in Australia and New Zealand, while this month, and especially August, are the main vacation times for European tourists.
- Shoulder Season (May, September, and October): This is the perfect time to visit, avoiding the wet season and peak times for tourists from Australia, New Zealand and Europe. Most days are pleasant, with little or no rain, and the chances of a cyclone are negligible. Hotels are cheaper and less busy, and planes and boats are almost never overbooked, delayed or cancelled.
- Low Season (November to mid-December; February to April): During the wet season (November to April), expect heavy rains, heightened humidity and looming cyclones. Outside the peak holiday times (mid-December to the end of January), look out for packaged deals, and negotiate hotel rates because so many rooms will be empty. But be flexible: allow time for delayed flights or boat trips.
Vanuatu Weather by Month
- Vanuatu Weather in January: In the middle of the wet season, and at the height of the school holiday peak period, heavy rains are definite and cyclones always possible, so check the local media, hotel announcements and official website. Temperatures are at their highest in January: about 28°C in Port Vila and up to 35°C in the more tropical northern islands. And annual rainfall averages between 2,000mm (78 inches) on the main Efate Island and 4,000m among the northern islands, so travel plans can be easily and quickly affected during the wet season. Be flexible.
- Vanuatu Weather in February: As much rain as January. Downpours are often short but heavy, usually preceded by humidity, and often followed by bright sunshine. Cloudy and drizzly days are very uncommon, but cyclones are increasingly possible. While rarely affecting tourist centers, the peripheral rains and winds of distant cyclones can still force people indoors, and cause the cancellation of flights and boat trips.
- Vanuatu Weather in March: The rainiest month (370mm/14 inches) in Port Vila, with downpours most frequent; even more so in the northern islands. By now, locals are heartily fed up with the rain, and after 3 or 4 months, some roads become impassable. Trips on boats and planes to far-flung islands can still be uncomfortable. And this is when cyclones are most prevalent: Severe Tropical Cyclone Pam, the second-worst ever in the region, wreaked havoc across Vanuatu during March 2015.
- Vanuatu Weather in April: The rains begin to noticeably reduce, marking the imminent end of the ‘wet’, much to the relief of locals. The official cyclone season finishes by late April, but don’t become too complacent. Hang on to the umbrella and wet-weather gear, and remain alert about cyclones.
- Vanuatu Weather in May: By now, the dry season, sometimes referred to by locals as the ‘winter’, has officially started. From now until the end of October, temperatures will fall to an average of 23°C. Cyclones are almost certainly unlikely for the next 6 months. Some of the outer islands may receive residual rains as the wet season lingers.
- Vanuatu Weather in June: Pleasant days of minimal humidity continue. It can still rain, of course, but these are brief showers rather than heavy downpours. Day temperatures are mild, and don’t be surprised to see locals wearing jumpers and jackets as the temperature falls to about 20°C when the sun disappears.
- Vanuatu Weather in July: The perfect weather persists, with the least rain across the islands. By now, all of Vanuatu is deep into the dry season, with minimal humidity and lower temperatures more conducive to sleep. But the main islands become busier as masses flock from Europe, where ironically, it may be hotter.
- Vanuatu Weather in August: Many locals might even grumble about the ‘cold’ temperatures, especially during the late evenings and nights – although European tourists are happily soaking up the sun. Water temperatures reduce a little (to about 24°C), but the sea is still very swimmable and the lagoons rarely become cooler. The dry days continue; August vies with July as the months with the least rain across all islands.
- Vanuatu Weather in September: Another month of ideal weather, with dry, mild, and even cool-ish days continuing throughout the islands. If that’s not enough reason to visit in September, the peak season has now finished, so hotels become less busy, planes and boats are not as packed, and prices start to fall.
- Vanuatu Weather in October: Between the gradual end of the dry season and the fast approaching wetter months, October is hard to predict. Expect more rain as the month progresses, but it probably won’t affect travel plans too much. Locals start to become more anxious as cyclones become more possible during the next 6 months. Hotels are empty and yachties head elsewhere.
- Vanuatu Weather in November: The beginning of the wet season or what the locals call ‘summer’, which lasts until April. Temperatures start to rise, but only by a few degrees (Celsius) in Port Vila. The increased humidity may be tempered by ocean breezes – less so, however, in the northern tropical islands. And the official cyclone season now commences, so always keep alert.
- Vanuatu Weather in December: The commencement of the wettest part of the year, with almost double the rain of November. Downpours become heavier, while the mountainous terrain on some islands can also affect local weather patterns. Be alert for cyclones over the next few months, and don’t be surprised if strong rains, winds and waves affect outdoor activities and travel plans.
Vanuatu Holidays, Events and Festivals
- New Year’s Day – celebrated by everyone as a public holiday. Particularly grateful are those recovering from the previous night’s revelry.
- St Paul’s Day (25th) – one of several Saint’s Days across this religious country. This day is celebrated on Mota Lava Island in the far northern Banks Islands.
- John Frum Day (15th) – commemorates the strange and charismatic preacher who introduced various cult-like traditions on Tanna Island.
- Father Walter Lini Day (21st) – public holiday celebrating the death of Vanuatu’s first Prime Minister.
- Custom Chiefs’ Day (5th) – public holiday to remind ordinary folk about the importance of tribal chiefs across the islands.
- Easter (March/April, changeable) – celebrated with passion throughout the islands. Easter Sunday is the best time to visit a church, while many shops and restaurants are closed for 4 days, sometimes for the entire Holy Week. Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays.
- Yam Harvest Day (1st) – Tanna Island gives thanks for the first harvest of the all-important crop: yam (like a sweet potato).
- Traditional Land Diving (weekends throughout April, May, and June) – traditional version of bungee-jumping called ‘nagol’. Jumpers clamber up rickety 20m-high wooden towers, and plunge to the earth with vines wrapped around their ankles. For watching, not participating, on Pentecost Island.
- Anzac Day (25th) – commemorated in Australia and New Zealand as a reminder of military involvements and sacrifices. Dawn services also held in Port Vila.
- Labour Day (1st) – public holiday (which could move to the nearest Monday).
- Ascension Day (changeable) – public holiday occurring 40 days after Easter Sunday.
- Vanuatu Open Water Swim (changeable) – part of a series of swimming contests throughout the islands. This one is 3.2km long, and in the harbour of Port Vila.
- Sand Drawing Festival (changeable) – honors an ancient and unique tradition, once both an art and language, on Malekula Island.
- Vanuatu Marlin Classic (usually early June) – serious competition for local and international fishers. Held for about 1 week throughout the islands.
- St Barnabas Day (11th) – another religious festival celebrating an honored saint. Again on Mota Lava Island in the Banks Islands.
- Shefa Day (18th) – public holiday in the Shefa province, which includes Efate, the main island.
- Fête de la Musique (21st) – celebrated worldwide as World Music Day, with street performances, mostly in Port Vila.
- Santo Agriculture Festival (changeable) – parades, displays, food demonstrations, dance and music at Luganville, on Espiritu Santo Island.
- Yam & Magic Festival (changeable) – dance, magic, music and traditions, all about the valuable yam, after which the island of Ambrym is named.
- Santo Rodeo (last weekend of July) – bull-riding and horse races on Espiritu Santo Island.
- Children’s Day (24th) – public holiday.
- Rom Dance Festival (late July) – at Fanla Village on Ambrym Island, with 2 days of non-stop dancing, music and magic.
- Maskelyne Canoe Race & Arts Festival (changeable, late July) – 2 days across the Maskelyne Islands, near Malekula. Traditional dances, canoe races, and the making (and drinking) of kava (a strong alcoholic drink).
- Luganville Traditional Kenu Festival (changeable) – newish event extolling the traditions of outrigger canoes. Over 3 days on Espiritu Santo Island.
- Independence Day (30th) – public holiday observing the day that Vanuatu gained freedom in 1980 from twin colonial rulers, Britain and France.
- Vanuatu Round Island Relay (changeable) – popular running race around Efate Island, starting and finishing at Port Vila. Ties in with Independence Day.
- Lamap Art Festival (early August) – 2 days of painting, dancing, music, and ‘pig-exchanging’ at Lamap in southern Malekula.
- Assumption Day (15th) – public holiday.
- Lakona Bay Festival (changeable, late August) – carving, music, food, and dancing at Lakona Bay on Gaua in the Banks Islands.
- Nalint Big Nambas Cultural Art Festival (25th) – widespread carnival of traditional practices and tribal customs on Malekula island.
- Back to My Roots Festival (late August) – on Ambrym Island, with 3 days of magic, music and dance.
- Nalawan Festival (changeable) – long-established event to placate the gods while hoping for a plentiful harvest. Pigs sacrificed, and traditional weaving and sand-drawing. For 2 days on Malekua Island.
- Luganville Day (changeable) – anniversary of the founding of Luganville on Espiritu Santo Island, with pageants, music, and dance.
- Vanuatu Golf Open Tournament (changeable, late August or early September) – at the course near Port Vila.
- Vanua Lava Arts Festival (changeable, late August and early September) – 4 days of fire-making, magic shows, dancing, and canoe races on Vanua Lava Island in the far-flung Banks Islands.
- Penama Day (16th) – public holiday in the Penama province.
- Sanma Day (23rd) – public holiday in the Sanma Province, which is mostly Espiritu Santo Island.
- Twin Waterfall Festival (changeable) – poems, music, and canoe races. Popular for the gorgeous setting on Vanua Lava Island in the Banks Island.
- Colourfest (late September) – newish event of local and international dance and music at Le Life Resort on the eastern side of Efate Island.
- Torba Day (2nd) – public holiday in the Torba province, which includes the remote Banks and Torres Islands.
- Constitution Day (5th) – public holiday commemorating the signing of Vanuatu’s constitution in 1979.
- Tafea Day (8th) – public holiday in the Tafea province, which includes Tanna. Features the Tanna Island Fire Music Festival.
- Malampa Day (10th) – public holiday in Malampa province, which includes Malekula and Ambrym Islands.
- Port Vila Rodeo (changeable) – horse-riding, games, eating, and drinking in the capital.
- Fest Napuan Festival (changeable) – celebrates contemporary and gospel music in Port Vila and elsewhere around Efate Island.
- All Saints Day (1st) – celebrated with fervour on Vanua Lava in the Banks Islands.
- St Andrew’s Day Festival (changeable) – on Mota and Mota Lava in the Banks Islands, with cultural displays including dancing, cooking and fishing.
- Vanuatu DJ Festival (25th) – it’s all about the beat. In Port Vila.
- Unity Day (29th) – public holiday to stimulate goodwill and harmony among the various tribes, with parades, music and dancing across the islands.
- Christmas in the Park (changeable) – week-long family event of parades, music, shopping, and food in Port Vila.
- Christmas Day (25th) – celebrated fervently around the islands. A public holiday, with most shops and restaurants closed for several days.
- Boxing Day (26th) – Christmas celebrations continue on this public holiday.
- St John’s Day (27th) – religious and cultural event on Mota Lava in the Banks Islands.
- New Year’s Eve (31st) – drinking, eating, dancing and singing, most raucously in Port Vila.
Vanuatu Events in January
Vanuatu Events in February
Vanuatu Events in March
Vanuatu Events in April
Vanuatu Events in May
Vanuatu Events in June
Vanuatu Events in July
Vanuatu Events in August
Vanuatu Events in September
Vanuatu Events in October
Vanuatu Events in November
Vanuatu Events in December
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