It is impossible to visit Espiritu Santo without hearing about Champagne Beach, Vanuatu‘s most reputed beach. But you may be surprised to find out that you need to pay an expensive entrance fee on top of your transport costs to check it out. Add to your budget 2,000 VT per vehicle or 500 VT per person if walking in. Is it worth it? And what are the other options? Read on for more info on our experience at Champagne Bay and how we managed to visit Champagne Beach for free with our Champagne Beach accommodation.
Why is Champagne Beach Vanuatu’s most famous beach?
Vanuatu has many stunning beaches, but the name Champagne Beach comes back again and again. It’s not surprising that it’s a popular one, but why it is so much more famous than the other beaches in Santo?
Champagne Beach made it to at least two lists of the best beaches in the world:
- #9 in 2013 CNN’s 100 top beaches in the world
- #31 in The World’s 50 Best Beaches© from the opinion of 600+ of the world’s best travel specialists
With thousands of beaches in the world, it’s an amazing achievement to get featured in these lists and this has helped the popularity of the beach.
What’s special at Champagne Beach that put it on the list of the world’s best beaches?
Champagne Beach is a postcard-perfect beach: white sand, turquoise water and nothing around. The beautiful water is warm all year round. It is close to what many would associate with Paradise. Plus, turtles love hanging around in the bay.
The name is appealing to travellers too. Champagne Beach earned its name from a fizz that appears at low tide, caused by gas escaping from volcanic rocks.
My favourite special thing? I love how cows wandered freely on the beach. I never imagined I would be sharing one of the world’s best beaches only with cows around.
But is it really Paradise? And is Champagne Beach better than other beaches on Espiritu Santo?
Is the Champagne Beach entrance fee worth it?
A turtle popped its head out of the water a couple of times to say hello just a few minutes after we arrived on one of the most beautiful beaches you can dream of. So yes, Champagne Beach is indeed a special place. Still, that wasn’t enough to justify to us all the love that Champagne Beach receives compared to other beaches on the island.
But in an era when mass tourism jeopardises some of the world’s most beautiful beaches (see what happened to Maya Bay in Thailand), I don’t mind the idea of a fee to access a beautiful natural beach. It may reduce the number of visitors and ensures the locals benefit from tourism without the need to build and transform their territory.
Champagne Beach is beautiful indeed but to be honest I don’t think it is a lot better than Port Olry beach and Lonnoc beach.
It is true that there are fewer constructions at Champagne Beach. Unfortunately, the bright yellow toilets built for tourists it hard to miss. Plus, I found the wooden constructions – most probably used when there is a cruise with a crowd of tourists – look a bit sad and abandoned when they’re all empty. At least, they provide tables and seats in the shade for those who want to spend their lunchtime at Champagne Beach. If you didn’t bring your lunch, it’s only a five-minute walk to the Towoc restaurant.
Champagne Bay feels a bit more remote and natural than Port Olry beach and Lonnoc beach. But if you are looking for your private and pristine part of paradise, the best option on Espiritu Santo is to rent a kayak to explore the nearby Bay of Islands. There, you’ll truly be by yourself.
I appreciated being the only visitors when we went there. But you cannot always expect that. We visited in the morning before tourists from Luganville arrived, and on a day when there was no cruise on the island.
It is true that the sand at Champagne Beach seemed slightly purer and whiter than on other beaches we went to on Espiritu Santo. If the water clarity and turquoise colours were stunning, they weren’t better than at other places we visited on Espiritu Santo.
We were impressed by the source coming from the ground and going into the ocean at Champagne Beach. We had never seen this phenomenon and found it interesting. Although we were visiting at low tide, we couldn’t spot the champagne effect in the water, which was a bit disappointing.
With no other activities than swimming, we did not stay long at Champagne Beach. It only takes a few minutes to go from one side of the beach to the other. You can snorkel there if you bring your snorkel gear and try your luck with the turtles, but the reef isn’t big. Port Orly beach is a bigger beach that I find as beautiful, and it offers more activities. If I had a limited time on Espiritu Santo, I would prefer spending a couple of hours at Port Olry (free) and using 2,000 VT for an activity or a drink there than visiting Champagne Beach. But both are good choices, really.
How to visit Champagne Beach for free: Champagne Beach accommodation
We could not imagine paying 2,000 VT just to see a beautiful beach for a few minutes. We are lucky to have some of the world’s best beaches in Australia. It made us picky about the beaches we visit when on holiday. Plus, we never stay for too long on the beach when there are no other activities. We’re not into sunbathing and relaxing on the beach. So in our case, it didn’t seem worth it for just a couple of hours.
Still, we were curious about this Champagne Beach that everybody was talking about. Not going to Champagne Bay while travelling in Espiritu Santo seemed like not going to the Eiffel Tower when you’re visiting Paris. We knew we were off-season and there weren’t many people visiting the island, so we’d have the opportunity to experience Champagne Beach with no crowd at all. It was tempting.
By luck, we found a way to get free access to Champagne Beach. We spent the night in Towoc village at a Champagne Beach accommodation. It takes only five minutes to walk to the famous beach from there. And if you sleep at an accommodation in Towoc, you get access to Champagne Beach for free.
If you plan to visit Champagne Bay, I highly recommend opting for Champagne Beach accommodation.
We initially wanted to do a homestay with Unice in Towoc*. We found her number online, but no one picked up the phone when we called: +678 543 6878. Homestays are a great way to connect with local people and learn more about their culture. But it’s not for everyone as the level of comfort is very basic, and you won’t have as much intimacy as in your own accommodation.
As we could not get reach of Unice for the homestay, we opted for the Towoc Bungalows*. They’re the closest accommodation near Champagne Beach, you can even walk from there to Champagne Beach. We ate there the best lap-lap of our entire trip in Vanuatu, which was a real highlight as finding local cuisine in restaurants had been challenging. Again, it’s not for everyone, but we don’t mind basic comfort when we travel to remote places.
We also did their Coconut Tour for 500 VT but were disappointed as we expected more explanations for what they called a “must-do kastom tour”. Maybe we’ve already become coconut experts by asking so many questions during our trips to Vanuatu and New Caledonia! It was still nice to drink and eat coconuts anyway.
This Champagne Beach accommodation is in the same price range as other bungalows in the area. Hence, having free access to Champagne Beach comes as a discount that you should not miss.
If the accommodation in Champagne Beach is full, you may be interested in looking at accommodation options in Lonnoc (such as Lonnoc Beach Bungalows*, Lonnoc Ocean View Bungalows* or Lonnoc Beach Lodge*). You will be able to walk to Champagne Beach, and the entrance fee will be 500VT per person.
Have you been to Champagne Beach? How was it? Share your experience in the comments below!
The information in this article is from my experience visiting Champagne Beach in 2018. Please leave me a comment if you had a different experience recently so I can keep this article up to date!
Where is Champagne Bay (Vanuatu)?
Champagne Bay (and Champagne Beach) is on Espiritu Santo Island, the largest island of the Vanuatu archipelago. It takes approximately one hour to drive there from Luganville, the only city on Espiritu Santo.
We rented a car from Luganville to get there (10,000 VT per day). Most people opt for hiring a taxi driver for the day. A taxi is usually cheaper but slightly less flexible depending on where you come from. For example, we added a last-minute horse riding tour in Port Olry before going to Towoc. It was already the night when we finished horseriding. We may have had to stay in Port Olry that night if we didn’t have a rental car. If you are making a day trip to Champagne Beach, you can combine your visit with a couple of blue holes; they are worth seeing!
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