The Solomon Islands are an archipelago of 992 islands in the South Pacific, only 147 of which are currently inhabited. Since gaining independence from Britain in 1978, the islands are considered a unified sovereign state.
Travellers interested in diving, hiking and getting off the beaten path to learn about different cultures will undoubtedly enjoy a trip to the Solomon Islands archipelago. In addition to the countless stunning beaches and traditional villages, there is a lot of war history to learn about as well.
Since visas are not required and everyone can speak English, visiting is incredibly easy. Plus, the flight into the capital city of Honiara is only three hours from Brisbane, Australia. If you’re looking to escape the constant WiFi and take a digital detox, the Solomon Islands couldn’t be more ideal.
Wondering which islands you should go to, and what you can discover and explore there? Here are the top 15 things to do in the Solomon Islands.
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If you’ve heard anything from fellow travellers about the Solomon Islands, you may already know about Skull Island. It is perhaps the most sacred area in the region and one of the most popular spots for tourists to visit. The small island showcases the fascinating local history of headhunting, and features a collection of skulls, coral shrines and shell money.
These skulls, believed to date back to the 1700s, belonged to tribal chiefs and enemies. They were originally displayed on poles in front of the homes of headhunters. As local customs were not permitted during British colonization, missionaries ordered the skulls to be moved to this island.
Nusa Kunda, the local name for Skull Island, is near the coast of New Georgia Island. It can be reached via a 30-minute boat ride from Munda, where you’ll pass many other uninhabited islands. Only the local chief is permitted to take you here, as they will perform a short ritual before you begin exploring.
On Guadalcanal, the main island in the archipelago, you’ll find the tranquil Tenaru Falls. Some say this hidden gem is the best waterfall in the South Pacific. As the area is so remote, you will need a guide to take you to them. Luckily, all you need to do is visit the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau where you will have a guide selected to lead you.
The water cascades down a 60-metre-high cliff face surrounded by luscious green foliage. The hike to reach the area is mostly flat and very shaded from the sun, although you will need to bring suitable shoes as the terrain can be quite slippery. Departing from Tenaru Village, walking will take you around four hours there and back. Once reaching the falls, you can enjoy a peaceful and well-deserved swim to cool down.
Despite being uninhabited, Kennedy Island is a top attraction. During World War II, however, the crystal-clear waters surrounding the island were full of battleships. Originally called Plum Pudding Island, it was renamed after John F. Kennedy’s boat was wrecked by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri in 1943. Kennedy and his fellow surviving crew members swam to this nearby island for refuge.
The tiny island is a 15-minute boat ride from Gizo, the capital of the Western Province. Among the shaded palm trees and white sand beaches are pieces of war memorabilia and information about the events in 1943. It’s an excellent location for a day trip of swimming, snorkelling, and digging into a barbecue lunch.
Solomon Islands National Museum
The Solomon Islands National Museum and Cultural Centre in Honiara is the perfect place to learn more about the region. Although the museum is small, it provides some great insights into the development of the Islands, the impact of war, and the influence of missionaries during the 19th century. Open since 1969, it houses over 2,000 cultural items including audio-visual materials. You’ll find World War II relics, weaponry, old photographs, and natural history specimens.
The museum is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Weekdays, closing for an hour-long lunch at midday. You can also visit between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturdays, or between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Sundays. Private tours are also available by appointment outside of these hours. It’s free to visit, although donations are accepted.
Honiara Central Market
Want to experience daily life in the Solomon Islands? Head to Honiara Central Market on Mendana Avenue, the largest outlet of fresh produce and fish in the country.
The Central Market holds incredible social and cultural significance and is a melting pot of diverse ethnic groups. There are over a thousand vendors both inside and outside the covered market, with the majority of stalls run by women. Produce from throughout the islands is transported to this market, and many women will move to Honiara just to sell their products here.
Boats pull up at Iron Bottom Sound, the stretch of water at the front of the market, to unload their catches. You can see how much freshness of fish is valued by those living here! In addition to fish, fruit and vegetables, flowers, clothing and other crafts are sold. While here, you can enjoy a local meal at an affordable price.
Tavanipupu Private Island Resort
Wondering where to stay? You won’t regret booking a bungalow at Tavanipupu Private Island Resort. It’s widely regarded as one of the best places to stay in the Solomon Islands, hosting such guests as Prince William and Princess Kate in 2012.
This tropical paradise is located in the Marau Sound, a four hour boat ride and a 25-minute flight from Honiara. The resort is ideal for romantic getaways, honeymoons and even weddings. Experience the height of relaxation and indulge in a four-hand lomilomi massage on the beach, followed by a cocktail at the over water bar.
Once a week, dinners are prepared using traditional cooking methods. A motu, a stone oven heated by fire, draws out unique flavours in your food that you won’t forget. It’s the best way to enjoy fresh ingredients like seafood, sweet potato and cassava, which are wrapped and roasted in banana leaves.
The Solomon Islands happens to be home to the longest saltwater lagoon in the world. Marovo Lagoon on the east side of New Georgia is 700 square metres of pristine turquoise waters. The volcanic islands of Vagunu, New Georgia and Gatakae protect the lagoon, which has numerous small islands itself.
The double barrier reef system and its complex marine life make the lagoon an outstanding spot for scuba diving and snorkelling. As a bonus, there are typically few tourists here other than the guests of Uepi Island Resort or Marovo Sea Lodge.
Peter Joseph WWII Museum
Continue learning about the history of the Solomon Islands at the Peter Joseph WWII Museum. This private museum in Munda opens at six in the morning, perfect for an early visit before a day of relaxing. All World War II relics on display here were left behind by the Americans and the Japanese. See genuine machine guns, shells, helmets, knives and bullets, all from the battlefields.
Alphie Barney Paulsen, who runs the museum, has personally scoured the jungles for these artefacts. The museum is named after the first dog tag he ever found, belonging to infantryman Peter Joseph Palatini. Paulsen has many fascinating stories to share with you about his discoveries and can tell you about the history behind many of the items.
Santa Cruz Islands
The Santa Cruz Islands are 400 kilometres southeast of the main Solomon Islands chain. In fact, they are so far away that they are considered a part of the Vanuatu eco-region. The flight from Honiara to Nendo, the largest island in the area, takes two hours.
From Nendo, a popular place to visit is the Reef Islands. These densely populated islands are pristine and untouched, perfect for snorkelling, swimming and scuba diving.
To the north of the islands is Tinakula, an active conical stratovolcano rising 851 metres above sea level. Following an eruption in 1971, the volcanic island was completely evacuated and remains uninhabited. As eruptions are regular, tourists enjoy sailing past to watch the volcano in action. Swimming to the shore and exploring on foot, however, isn’t recommended.
Vilu War Museum
To the west of Honiara is the Vilu War Museum, an open-air space hidden amongst the forest. Once you locate the museum, you’ll quickly notice the wrecks of aeroplanes, machine guns and vehicles abandoned by Japanese and American soldiers. A Japanese Betty bomber, a Corsair, and well-preserved F4F Wildcat from the Battle of Guadalcanal are some of the pieces you will come across as you wander the grounds.
Anderson Dua, the owner of the museum, speaks with passion and detailed knowledge about each of the artifacts. In fact, he helped his uncle collect many of them as a child. If you wish, he is happy to walk around and have a chat with you.
Njari Island may be tiny, but it is undoubtedly one of the best places in the Solomon Islands for snorkelling. Close to Ghizo, it is among the New Georgia Islands. Due to the labyrinth of coral reefs, swimming up to the shore and approaching by boat can be tricky. Fortunately, there’s a wooden jetty that has you covered, and you can enter the water via the snorkel platform near the shore.
The natural landscape here is so incredible that you will find it difficult to leave! It is reported that up to 279 different species of fish have been spotted during a single dive here. Why not find out how many you can see during your visit?
Looking for a unique scuba diving experience? You will absolutely love exploring Bonegi, only a 12-kilometre drive from central Honiara. Two Japanese freighters, named Bonegi I and Bonegi II, sunk right offshore in 1942 and remain in the same location today. Parts of Bonegi II can be seen poking up above the surface of the water, so you will know exactly where to begin your dive. You can easily descend 50 metres deep without realising, so be sure to keep track of how far down you are going.
Imagination Island is one of the most impressive Solomon Islands resorts. Take a 10-minute motor canoe ride from Gizo and you will reach the secluded paradise.
The island has just four reef bungalows built over the shallow waters. They can fit up to four people, ideal for both couples and families. The bungalows are environmentally friendly too, with complimentary mineral and plant-based beauty products and compositing facilities.
Game fishing and reef trips are available, where you can catch such fish as tuna, marlin and mackerel. From November to April, nearby Pailongge and Titiana have excellent waves for surfers. If you’re a beginner, you may prefer starting with stand up paddle boarding along the crystal clear waters. Even with your head above water, you’ll be able to spot turtles, manta rays, and maybe even some dolphins.
On land, learn about the local culture on a village tour and enjoy a cold beer, a cocktail or a fresh fruit juice at the Reef Bar.
Also known as the Trenches Creek Falls, the Kahove Waterfall is made up of stunning rock formations and canyons. The 40-metre-high waterfall can be located by following the river from the village of Kakambona, east of Honiara. Although the walk begins very straightforward, you will begin to climb over many rocks and shallow pools as you continue. The 14-kilometre hike makes for a wonderful day trip, made even better by the opportunity to stop and take a swim at any point.
A visit to Rendova Island will show you what a self-sufficient community looks like. The 5,000 or so residents of this tropical bushland have lived the same way for many centuries, fishing and growing their own food and carrying out the same day-to-day activities.
The Titiru Eco Lodge gives you a chance to experience this lifestyle with the friendly Islanders. The lodge doesn’t cater to Western expectations like WiFi, television, air conditioning or fancy cocktails. Instead, your entertainment on the island takes the form of a cultural village tour, where you will see women weaving baskets from palm fronds and preparing food using traditional methods. You can also spend your time here bird watching, wandering the mangroves, night crabbing, and watching a bamboo music performance.
As most of the people on this untouched island remain here their whole lives, the children are particularly excited to see and meet tourists. Their smiling faces will certainly make it hard to leave!