Country guide: Solomon Islands


Bronwen Gora discovers the Solomon Islands, a paradise of palm-fringed golden beaches, friendly Melanesian people and some of the best diving, swimming and surfing in the world.

Credit: Visit Solomon Islands

The Solomon Islands is a classic tropical paradise, virtually untouched by commercial development.

The archipelago stretching between Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu is known for being one of the world’s best scuba diving and surfing destinations, uncrowded and awash with palm-fringed golden beaches, lush rainforests, exotic orchids, abundant marine life and spectacular coral reefs.

Fully independent since 1978, the Solomon Islands comprises six major islands and over 990 smaller islands.

The main island, Guadalcanal, is home to the capital, Honiara.

Visitors usually spend a few days here before visiting other popular areas such as Gizo, Munda, Uepi and Tulagi.

The Solomon Islands is famous as a major World War 2 battleground between US and Japanese forces. About 1200 aircraft and 60 planes ended up ‘lost’ below the ocean, a legacy that has helped create the destination’s prosperous diving industry.

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The nation is again being thrust into the spotlight but this time by a recently launched government campaign aiming to double international visitation to 60,000 by 2025.

Getting around

Honiara’s CBD is small and easy to walk around (the tallest high rise is 12 storeys). Taxis are plentiful and can be flagged down easily. All are unmetered, so strike a fare before you ride. Public mini buses are used mostly by locals.

Hire cars are available, though the best option is hiring a private driver or booking a tour with Tour Solomons the main tour operator in central Honiara.

Domestic flights service around 20 smaller airstrips across the archipelago, while getting around in the outer islands is done by ferry, with Go West Transport, MV 360 Discovery or MV Pelican Express.

If sailing a yacht, be aware each province requires notification of a visit before going onshore and kastom fees are generally required to be paid.


Honiara highlights include the Central Market, Chinatown and the impressive World War 2 Guadalcanal American Memorial.

The memorial is five minutes by taxi from the CBD on a hill overlooking Honiara and has four directional walls pointing to the four major battle areas; each wall is inscribed with detailed descriptions of the battles between Allied

Forces and the Japanese in the 1942 Guadalcanal campaign. Battlefield tours also offer great insight.

‘Scuba diving and snorkelling here are legendary. Blessed with exceptional marine diversity, stunningly healthy reefs and hundreds of spectacular World War 2 wrecks, divers are spoilt for choice.’

Central Market is the country’s principal food market, sprawling an entire block between Mendana Avenue and the seafront, and overflowing with colourful produce from outlying islands, plus traditional crafts.

Tenaru Falls is one of the most accessible and spectacular of the many waterfalls and reached by a flat, shady four-hour walk (return) from Tenaru village, near Honiara.

More challenging is the hike to Mataniko Falls from Lelei village in Honiara’s hinterland.

The Western Province (including Gizo, Munda and Uepi Island) is a major destination for superb snorkelling and scuba diving, as are Tulagi and Savo, a two-hour boat ride from Honiara.

Tulagi, the Solomons’ former capital, is renowned for fabulous wrecks close to shore.

Nature buffs are spoilt for choice: one is to visit Savo, a 45-minute drive and short boat ride north of Honiara, to see its wild dolphin nursery, active volcano, and coconut groves, to soak in hot springs and marvel at a megapode field where hundreds of birds lay eggs in the thermal sands.

Solomon Islands special

Discovering the Solomon Islands. Credit: Tourism Solomons

Scuba diving and snorkelling here are legendary. Blessed with exceptional marine diversity, stunningly healthy reefs and hundreds of spectacular World War 2 wrecks, divers are spoilt for choice.

Surfing too comes a close second, with many uncrowded pristine breaks.

Some of the most famous dives are in Iron Bottom Sound, between Honiara and the Florida Islands, so names for its multitude of sunken war ships and aircraft. Bilikiki Cruises in Honiara and Tulagi Dive offer liveaboard and day trips.

This is an excerpt of the story ‘Country Guide: Solomon Islands’, which was first published in the July-August edition of Paradise, the in-flight magazine of AirNiugini.

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