The Solomon Islands are a group of over 900 islands in the South Pacific east of Papua New Guinea and Australia. Below you will find a detailed overview of every island starting with Guardacanal.
I decided to use Couchsurfing while in the countries capital Honiara so I could get a better view of life in the Solomon Islands. I was lucky enough to be accepted by Sho, a Japanese Drone Pilot who was working for the Solomon Island Government assisting them during natural disasters like bushfires and earthquakes.
Solomon Island Highlights
- Buena Vista Island
- Tenaru Falls
- Snorkling & Diving
- Ghizo Island
- World War relics and history
Ok, so this isn’t actually a guide of every island that makes up the Solomon Islands, most of them are uninhabited so the below guide covers everything you need to see the best of the Solomon Islands. Most travellers go to the Solomon Islands via a 3-hour flight from Brisbane although it’s also possible to arrive by boat from Papua New Guinea.
Guadalcanal is the main island, home to the capital Honiara and is the gateway to most of the Solomon Islands’ attractions. It is a mountainous, jungle-covered island with vast areas of untouched tropical rainforest. Its rugged terrain includes lush valleys, waterfalls, hot springs and plenty of rivers. Guadalcanal offers plenty of activities such as snorkeling, diving, fishing and hiking. The island also has a plenty of World War II historical sites including a shipwreck which you can swim to from the shore.
Like most Pacific Island nations, the most beautiful places are outside of the capital cities or suburban areas. While you’ll most likely arrive in Honiara, you’ll get the best out of the Solomon Islands once you get out onto the islands. There are a few sites close to the capital and also some activities like diving and hiking which will keep you occupied for a day or two before heading off. Originally I’d planned to hire a motorbike to get around the island but after researching the roads and what there is to do on Guadalcanal I decided not to get the bike. There isn’t a ring road around the island but there’s a few roads in either direction out of Honiara however most roads inland eventually are overgrown by jungle.
This popular beach is only 30 minutes from Honiara and you can swim and snorkel around a shipwreck while you’re there. In 1942, the Japanese transport ship “Kinugawa Maru” ran ashore and was fired upon by the U.S. until it eventually caught fire. The ship has slowly degraded overtime but most of it is still close enough to the surface to snorkel around it and its close enough to swim to from the shore. Keep in mind it was the final resting place for the Japanese on board so be respectful when exploring it.
Honiara Central Market
The Central Market is filled with local vendors selling seafood, vegetables, fruit, clothing, flowers etc. if it’s in the Solomon Islands it’s either for sale at the Central Market or someone from the Market can get it for you. There’s also an art area next to it where I got a piece of art which is currently in my living room.
You can hike from Hailupa to Tenaru Falls through the jungle and down the river until you reach the crystal-clear pool. The 60-meter-high Falls have a sizable pool at the bottom where you can swim. I was lucky that Sho had planned to go to Tenaru falls with a friend of his during my stay so we spent the day travelling to the waterfall. He also shared with me some of his incredible drone footage of the Solomon Islands.
Vilu Military Museum
I went with Sho to visit this outdoor museum and while I’m not a big war history buff it was a great experience to visit because my grandfather fought in the Second World War in the Solomon Islands. Coincidently, Sho’s grandfather had also fought in the war in the Solomon Islands so it was nice that an Australian and a Japanese who had just met were able to spend the day together as friends as opposed to their grandparents generation who were at war with each other despite having never met.
The outdoor museum has a lot of artefacts and most of which are scattered across the grass in the museum. If old war planes are your thing you’ll love it here. For me though, it was nice to learn more about the history of the war and why Solomon Islands had been so strategically important. The Solomon Islands were the site of some of the bloodiest battles of WWII, and today there are a number of sites that have been preserved as war memorials. These battlefields provide an opportunity learn about this dark period in history and pay their respects to those who lost their lives.
DID YOU KNOW? The first Europeans to visit the Solomon Islands were Spanish explorers, who landed on one of the islands in 1787. Eventually the Solomon Islands became part of the British Empire in 1914 until gaining independence in 1976.
Buena Vista Island
A lot of the time the most beautiful place are the most difficult to reach and this is certainly the case with Buena Vista Island. There’s only one accommodation option on the island and it has temporarily closed since I stayed there. Due to the high costs of fuel in Solomon Islands it is also an expensive boat ride from Honiaria which rivals the cost of a flight to Munda. However, it is certainly worth it. Nugu Beach Resort is located directly on the beach surrounded by turquoise water on one side and lush jungle on the other. The ‘resort’ is more like a basic guesthouse on the beach with a few cabins on the sand for guests; definitely my preference over a resort.
The island is very rarely visited which means you can wander around visiting local villages getting a very authentic experience. A few of the locals were shocked to see me walking along the beach and into their village. As always, I made sure I was welcome before going too far. A couple of the local teenagers offered to show me around their village and the surrounding areas. While there’s not too much to do it was still the highlight of my trip to Solomon Islands because of the remoteness and chance to spend some time with the locals.
Ghizo island is reached by plane from Honiara and takes about 1.5 hours to get to it’s tiny runway. However, the ‘airport’ which is really just a runway isn’t located on Ghizo island but 2 kilometres offshore on another island. Surely one of the most interesting airports in the world. All accommodation options will offer airport pick up so either book in advance or at least arrange a boat transfer to align with your flight arrival. The island is known for it’s diving thanks to its marine life and shipwrecks from the Second World War.
There’s some great accommodation options on and around Ghizo Island catering for all budgets, generally those located off the main island are more expensive. Urilolo Lodge is one of the cheaper options and you’ll be able to spend time with the locals that live in the nearby Saeragi village. If you’ve got the budget for it, both Fatboys Resort and Oravae Cottages are spectacular bungalow style accommodation options off the main island but easily reached by boat. Fatboys is on Mama island which is only 10 minutes from the airport. You can also see Kennedy Island if you’re staying at Fatboy’s.
Couchsurfing is a great way to meet fellow travellers and I was lucky to have a great expereince meeting Sho and spending a few days with him on Guadacanal. I’ve been using Couchsuring for 15 years and have never had a negative experience. Sho’s place was located close to town so I was able to walk around Honiara and down to the market. His accommodation was provided by the Japanese government so he had a 3 bedroom house to himself.
I caught up with Sho in 2023 in his hometown Tokyo when he was visiting from Ethiopia. Sho has continued his career with the Japanese governments aid program and will soon go to Turkey to assist rebuilding after the 2023 earthquake. It was great to spend some time with Sho in Tokyo to see a local side of it while chatting about the weird time format that’s used in Ethiopia. Read about my time in Tokyo and Addis Abbaba.