Visiting a blue hole from Luganville is one of the best things to do in Santo. There are a few to choose from, including one reputed for being Vanuatu’s best blue hole. But if you have limited time, you will have to make a choice. I have selected my three favourite blue holes in Santo and a list of questions to help you pick which Santo blue hole is the best for you.
What to expect from the blue holes in Espiritu Santo?
Unlike Tanna blue holes that are in the ocean, the blue holes in Espiritu Santo are inland. The three I selected all came from fresh underwater sources. They look like an oasis surrounded by the jungle. They get their stunning blue colour from the depth, the purity of the water and the minerals it contains.
You don’t need to get wet to admire the beauty of the place, but you can have a lot of fun if you jump in the water.
Anyone can visit Santo blue holes. You can make it adventurous if you wish, but just standing on the platforms looking at the mesmerising colours is already stunning.
It was allowed to swim in all the blue holes we visited. If the ocean water stays warm all year round, the freshwater blue holes in Santo are a lot colder. It’s refreshing in summer when it’s hot and humid outside. But be warned: it’s very refreshing in winter!
Responsible Travel Tip: These blue holes have their fantastic colour thanks to the purity of the water. Make sure you help preserve them by not putting chemicals inside: avoid sunscreen and insect repellent before you jump in!
You need time to visit the blue holes from Luganville.
If you are in a hurry and imagine you can have a quick visit to a blue hole in Luganville just for a picture or two, maybe you should reconsider your timetable. Although some tourists refer to “Luganville blue hole”, none of these blue holes are in Luganville. They are halfway between Luganville and the famous Champagne Beach, on the east coast of Santo.
You will need to hire a car or a scooter, join a tour or book a taxi to get to Santo blue holes. So allow at least a couple of hours to visit the blue holes, and half a day is ideal.
Riri Blue Hole is the closest to Luganville, and Nanda Blue Hole is the furthest. But there is only a 10-kilometre difference between the two. It takes approximately half an hour to drive to Riri Blue Hole from Luganville.
Routes for public transport in Santo are limited and do not go all the way to the blue holes. Taxi is the most common method of transportation, and it seemed there were set prices to take visitors to the most popular attractions. These are the taxi fares we were quoted when we visited in 2018:
- Return trip from Luganville to a blue hole – 4,000 VT
- Return trip from Port Olry to a blue hole – 6,000 VT (included a second stop at another blue hole)
- Return full day trip from Luganville with three stops – 8,000 VT
You need cash to visit Santo blue holes.
We had to pay entry fees to the landowners for each of the blue holes we visited.
Nanda Blue Hole was the most expensive blue hole in Santo with an entry fee of 1,000 VT per person. We paid 500 VT per person to visit Matevulu and Riri blue holes. When we hired a canoe, the entrance fee was included in the price. It was cash in hand only. Some may accept Australian dollars but try to have the right amount as they may not have change.
How to choose which blue hole to visit in Santo?
We visited three blue holes in Santo:
- Nanda blue hole (also known as Jackie’s),
- Riri blue hole,
- Matevulu blue hole.
If you have time, I recommend visiting all of them. They each had their special charms. But if you have to make a choice, here are a few questions that could help you differentiate one blue hole to another.
There are a few other blue holes in Santo, but they are not as popular.
Do you want to visit the most reputed Vanuatu blue hole?
We heard a few times that Nanda Blue Hole was the best blue hole in Santo and even the best blue hole in Vanuatu. It is bigger and more transparent than the others we visited, and the vegetation around it looks sensational. With a bar and covered areas, it seems developed to entertain tourists for longer than a quick dip. But none of these was opened when we visited.
However, Nanda Blue Hole was not my personal favourite. Our quiet trip on the transparent Riri River seduced me more than any other activities at the other blue holes. Plus, I found the turquoise blue colour of Riri blue hole particularly mesmerising.
Even if these blue holes are very reputed, we were the only tourists visiting at that time. It made our visit even more memorable. It’s one of the perks of travelling during the low season!
Do you want to go off the beaten track?
The three blue holes we visited had facilities to receive tourists. Buildings are limited and go well with the natural landscape, but it wasn’t lush nature, and we were lucky to be by ourselves. If you are looking for a totally natural blue hole off the beaten track, you may be interested in visiting Malo blue hole. We didn’t have time for that as it is not as easy to access as the other blue holes. You’ll need to take a boat to reach Malo Island and find a local to drive you to the blue hole. The other option is to paddle there by renting a kayak from Ratua Resort* or Bokissa Resort* on nearby islands.
Locals also mentioned a couple of other blue holes in Santo: Cirad blue hole and Hog Harbour blue hole. We didn’t find these on the tourist map. If you choose to look for them, make sure you ask locals for permission as they may be on private property.
Do you want sensations with a big jump?
Matevulu Blue Hole has the most impressive swing. You can reach it by climbing a banyan tree, so climbing to get the rope is already an adventure! The swings at Riri Blue Hole are good too, but not as high.
Nanda Blue Hole doesn’t have any swings.
Do you want to see fish?
Nanda Blue Hole was the best blue hole to see fish from the shore and for snorkelling. We saw a few fish while kayaking on the Riri river too, but not at the blue hole itself.
But if you want to see fish during your stay in Santo, the blue holes are not the best for marine life. Although the transparent water makes it easy to spot them, there aren’t many around, and they aren’t colourful or special. I recommend snorkelling in the ocean instead.
You cannot hire snorkel gear at the blue hole so you will need to bring your own. Click here for tips to choose the best snorkel gear.
Do you want to canoe?
You can get a ride on a traditional canoe to go up Riri River all the way to Riri Blue Hole for 1,000 VT per person (which includes the 500 VT entrance fee). It is not entirely authentic as the canoe is not made of steel and not of wood, but it makes it a lot manoeuvrable. The very relaxing ride lasted almost one hour. The guide can paddle it quicker if you need, but we wanted to be as slow as possible to enjoy the place as long as we could. The transparent water in the river looks unreal. We had a great time listening to birds and sharing stories with our guide from the nearby village.
If you prefer to paddle yourself, you can hire a kayak at Matevulu Blue Hole. If you feel like making efforts, you can even go down the river all the way to the Bay of Islands.
Do you need easy access?
Not everyone can happily jump in with a swing!
I found Nanda Blue Hole was the easiest blue hole in Santo regarding accessibility. The ladders to go in and out of the water were in good conditions. However, it seems deep everywhere, so it may not be the best option for small kids.
They worked hard at Matevulu Blue Hole to make it easier to access but, unfortunately, it is incredibly slippery.
The last step of the ladder at Riri blue hole was broken, making it harder to go into the water slowly. But if you are wearing reef shoes, you can walk on the rocks to enter from the shore. Among the three blue holes we visited, it was the only one with shallow areas.
Do you want to meet local people?
We chose not to join a tour as we wanted to be flexible with our itinerary. However, we regretted not having a local guide with us as signage isn’t well developed in Vanuatu for independent travellers. Luckily, ni-Vanuatu people are very welcoming and happy to have a chat with foreigners.
We were lucky to exchange with a few locals while visiting Santo blue holes. As independent travellers, our best opportunity to chat with a local and learn more about the blue holes was during the Riri River canoe cruise. Our young guide paddled for us and shared stories about his land, his village and his life. It made the place a lot more interesting.
We also appreciated seeing local kids having fun at the Matevulu blue hole. They were too busy splashing around to pay attention to us, but it felt good to see tourists were not the only ones visiting the place.
Have you visited a blue hole in Santo? Which one did you choose? Share your experience in the comments below!
Where are these blue holes in Espiritu Santo?
Espiritu Santo is the biggest island of the Vanuatu archipelago. Some of the best things to do in Vanuatu are located in Santo. You can fly to Santo from Port Vila, Vanuatu’s capital. There are also direct international flights from Brisbane to Luganville (the principal town in Santo).
The Santo blue holes we visited (in blue) are approximately 15km north of Luganville.
We didn’t go to the other blue holes in Santo (in grey). Their location is approximate from the directions given by locals and the satellite map. They aren’t made for tourist access so please seek local information before heading there.
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