• Solomon Islands!

    Solomon Islands: Looking up at palm trees. Go Now!

    Solomon Islands
    This Melanesian country is best known for its many islands and beaches... and this natural landscape (pictured) is why most people go. Don't miss out on the unique Melanesian culture and foods though! Begin Your Journey!

  • Tonga!

    Tonga: Coastline. Go Now!

    The heart of Polynesian culture is rooted in Tonga, but most visitors just come for the natural beauty. Explore Tonga!

  • Vanuatu!

    Vanuatu: Jetty into the ocean. Go Now!

    Picturesque serenity is a good way to describe Vanuatu, but the culture offers much more, including the inspiration for bungee jumping, which remains a rite of passage for young men. Explore Vanuatu!

  • Palau!

    Palau: "70 Islands!" Go Now!

    Few people have even heard of this small Micronesian country, but those who have often return with stories of beauty unmatched elsewhere, such as view of the "70 Islands" (pictured). Go Now!

  • Explore the: Federated States of Micronesia!

    Federated States of Micronesia: Overlooking some islands. Go Now!

    Federated States of Micronesia
    This diverse country stretches for thousands of miles and has the diversity to prove it, including the people from Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Yap among others. Begin Your Journey!

  • Samoa!

    Samoa: A traditional home. Go Now!

    Among the most famous of the South Pacific's many countries, Samoa sits in the heart of Polynesia and has a culture to match. Begin Your Journey!

Food, Dining, & Drinks in Vanuatu

Historic Diet

The historic diet on Vanuatu is quite limited since few plants or animals are native to the islands. Prior to the arrival of the first people few edible plants existed and there were almost no land animals either. Despite this, a few foods arrived via water prior to the first people and with the first people came many other foods, which grew well on the islands since most are volcanic in origin, giving them fertile soil.

The most important edible plant found in Vanuatu prior to the arrival of the first settlers was the coconut, which made its way to the islands by water. The coconut was and still is a staple food for the people as this food is used for its milk and flesh. Other than the coconut, most of the foods the first settlers ate were brought with them to the islands, which made up another significant part of the historic diet.

Although there were few plants available on the islands of Vanuatu, and even fewer land animals, the sea life in the surrounding waters was and still is quite significant and the people of Vanuatu have always used these sea animals to make up a large part of their diets. These sea animals include crabs, turtles, fish, and even water fowls.

Culinary Influences

The first culinary influence to reach Vanuatu likely came with the first wave of people to the islands. Either this group of people or a later group brought with them pigs, rats, and dogs, all of which they used for food. One of these early waves of people also brought plants including taro, rice, yams, breadfruit, bananas, lemons, and sugarcane. Since there were numerous early waves of people to the islands, reaching back as far as 4,000-6,000 years ago, it is unknown when or with whom these foods arrived, but they were definitely present by the 1200s.

Through these various waves of settlers to the islands the diet changed, but to what extend and with what additions is unknown. By the time the last large migration took place the traditional diet on the islands was well established and has continued for centuries. This diet, both then and now, is primarily based on pork, fish, yams, taro root, coconuts, rice, and the many fruits found on the islands.

Although the Spanish arrived in the 1600s, there was little European influence on the islands until the 1800s when settlement began. The British and French both settled to a degree and they brought with them foods that they were familiar with, including both plants and animals. This included cattle, chickens, wheat, potatoes, and pineapples among others. Some of these introduced foods, primarily the fruits, have been incorporated into the local diet, including papayas, pineapples, and mangoes.

Today the diet remains somewhat divided between the local people and the foreigners. Throughout the islands most of the people maintain their historic diet along with the new additions over time, but few people have abandoned their historic diet for a more European-styled one. However, Port-Vila is quite multi-cultural and these foreigners (primarily Europeans) demand foods they are more familiar with, giving rise to a large number of ethnic restaurants in the capital, including French, Italian, Chinese, Thai, Indian, and others.

When & Where to Eat

Most of the people in Vanuatu start the day with coffee or tea and a small breakfast, such as a bread of some sort, fruit, or even fish and rice. Breakfast is usually eaten at home prior to school or the workday.

Lunch was traditionally the largest meal of the day in Vanuatu and for some people this is still true. For these people, lunch is a large feast at home with family, which can last a couple hours. The foods served for lunch tend to be local foods and generally include vegetables, fruits, rice, and perhaps a protein, like fish. For the people who have a more rigid work schedule, most commonly in the larger towns, lunch tends to be smaller and is eaten at work, often times consisting of the previous day's leftovers. For the many foreigners who live in Port-Vila, they also tend to have a small lunch at work, but the foods tend to be more international in flavor as they may bring their own lunch or buy one at one of the city's many restaurants.

For those who have large lunches, dinner is the secondary meal as it tends to be much smaller, often just consisting of leftovers from lunch. For those who eat lunch at work, dinner tends to be the largest meal of the day and can go on for hours as many of the above mentioned foods are served. For most of the locals, dinners are often eaten in the home, but the large international community in Port-Vila often times prefers going to a restaurant for dinner and this has contributed to the city's large restaurant scene.

Staple Foods

Breadfruit (ulu): this fruit is very common
Coconut: coconuts are used for their milk and flesh
Rice: a common base or side for many meals
Taro: taro root is prepared in numerous ways; it is one of the main staples in the South Pacific
Yams: yams, a member of the potato family, are found in many meals

Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes

Coconut crab: this specialty is now becoming quite rare or expensive as the species is plummeting in numbers
Lap Lap: yams, bananas, or another food covered in coconut cream and cooked; often cooked with chicken, fish, or bat

Dining Etiquette

Dining in Vanuatu is generally very relaxed as rules are scarce, dress is usually casual, and tardiness is expected. More importantly, the dining experience differs greatly between dining in a village with a family and eating in a restaurant catered to tourists. Due to these extremes the most important thing to remember is to follow your host.

Many people arrive a few minutes late (or later) so you may do the same as time is less important than the conversation once you are seated. Let your host show you a seat and follow their lead, but little fuss will be made for mistakes, although there are a couple rules that should be followed. The most important of these is that you will notice most locals will go out of their way to cater to you and your needs; return this favor by trying everything served to you and graciously accepting their hospitality.

How you eat is again a question and one of the areas where you will provide little offense if done incorrectly, but if dining with others foreigners (especially in a business setting), try to follow their dining rules, or be safe and just follow standard international dining etiquette rules. For the locals, many eat with their hands, but in restaurants you are expected to use utensils (cutlery), including eating in the continental style (knife in the right hand, fork in the left). If in a restaurant be sure to indicate you have finished eating by placing your fork and knife together pointing at the 10:00 position. If eating with an ethnic Chinese also be sure to leave a little food on your plate when you're finished. Elsewhere the rules are more relaxed and you can eat everything or leave some behind, but remember you should try everything offered and don't eat more than others dining with you.

Generally, if eating in a restaurant, the host is expected to pay for everyone present. If you are the host, do not leave a tip, no matter how good the service was. This is a request commonly made by the people of Vanuatu as well as tour companies based in the country; tipping creates jealousy and is not a healthy practice in the country and they prefer to keep it that way.


Vanuatu imports many beverages from nearby Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere so nearly every internationally popular drink can be found, from tea and coffee to juices and soft drinks. However for a more authentic taste of the South Pacific try kava, which is made from the kava plant's roots, which are ground to release liquid, then water is added and the juice is drank. This drink gives a very relaxing effect and in Vanuatu tends to be stronger than in other countries of the South Pacific.

Vanuatu offers many major international alcoholic beverages including beers, liquors, and wines, however they are expensive and their availability is limited. Many locals prefer to drink beer, most commonly the local beer "Tusker."

Generally speaking, the tap water is not safe in Vanuatu. There are exceptions to this, most particularly in the larger towns and cities, but in the water is not consistently safe anywhere. Check with locals before consuming the water and if you do decide to drink the water, remember that many people may have troubles adjusting to the local tap water as it will most certainly be different from what your system is used to.

This page was last updated: April, 2013