The Solomon Islands, a stunning archipelago of nearly 1,000 islands, is probably best known for its world-class diving and as one of the battle grounds of the Second World War. But it’s also ideal for couples looking for a romantic Pacific Island getaway, says Jacqui Gibson.
Why go to the Solomon Islands?
Love the idea of no TV, no shops, no traffic – and absolutely no distractions? Just crystal-clear waters, pink-tinged sunsets and guaranteed balmy temperatures. Then the Solomon Islands is your spot. The Solomons is spread across 500,000 square miles of ocean and sits approximately 6,000 miles southwest of Los Angeles. It’s just a stone’s throw from Papua New Guinea and a few hours’ flight from Brisbane, Australia.
It’s here that you’ll find about 500,000 mostly Melanesian people, whose culture is steeped in a mix of ancient tribal lore and Christianity. Their history takes in a bloody chapter of World War II, as well as recent peacekeeping to dampen ethnic conflict. These days, though, the Solomons is recasting its image as a peaceful country and a must-see destination for loved-up tourists.
What to do in the Solomons
For couples, this Pacific Island destination has a super-laid back, gentle feel. The first thing that strikes you as you get off the plane is the tropical heat; it’s the kind of welcome warmth that steers you quickly towards a relaxing cocktail by the pool or an afternoon snorkel over a pristine reef. The location says it all. The Solomons is barely miles from the equator, which means daytime temperatures rarely dip below 80 degrees and average surface sea temperatures range between 75 and 85 degrees.
Make sure you stay in Honiara for a day if sightseeing is your thing. The United States memorial on Skyline Drive provides incredible views over the city and is your chance to honour the US soldiers and their allies who lost their lives during the Guadalcanal Campaign of World War II. There’s Central Market on Mendana Avenue for the Solomon’s freshest, cheapest market fare or you can take a boat from Honiara to the volcanic island of Savo for a day hike.
Ready for romance? Then jump on one of the island’s tiny commuter planes and head to the Western Province. There are dozens of world-class dive sites in and around the province’s main villages of Gizo and Munda, ranging from manta ray dives to coral dives to war relic dives. Western Province sunsets are to die for. Swimming and snorkelling are great year-round. And there are hundreds of tiny islands to explore during the day or to visit for bubbles on dusk.
Where to stay in the Solomon Islands
Beach bungalows and family-run eco resorts are the staple in the Solomons. Though there is the stunning luxury resort of Tavanipupu Private Island Resort – the Solomons only luxury resort – located in the Marau Sound, a 25-minute flight from Honiara.
In the Western Province, there’s the open-plan wooden bungalow, Oravae Cottage, for couples keen to get away from it all. Built over a pristine lagoon, Oravae is an ideal, secluded honeymoon spot accessed by boat from the main village of Gizo.
Fatboys Resort on Mbabanga Island, also a quick boat trip from Gizo, has a more social vibe, with a bar and restaurant and a selection of waterfront bungalows. Snorkel the reef during the day, then head to the bar on sunset to watch the sky turn pink over the majestic Kolombangara Island. It’s easy to organise activities like a day’s surfing from Fatboys. Your best time to try out Fatboy’s local break is between November and April.
Upei Island Resort, located in the Marovo Lagoon, is geared towards diving couples and couples keen on sampling delicious island produce. Australian hosts, Jill and Grant Kelly, are experienced, knowledgeable divers who pride themselves on running a high-quality eco resort with a low-key vibe and an ever-changing menu.
Where to eat and drink
Like your fish fresh? Then the Solomons will not disappoint. It’s a fixture on the menu at most restaurants – and will vary according to what the locals have caught that day.
For something extra special, organise a romantic beach barbeque. Swim while your dinner is prepared under swaying palm trees. Expect taro, fresh salads and fish plucked straight out of the ocean served on fresh palm leaves. Self-caterers staying in the Western Province should go to the Gizo markets to select from stunning island produce. Grab a fresh thirst-quenching coconut milk (still in the coconut) from a street stall for less than a dollar.
If you’re staying in the Western Province, organise a village visit to Mbabanga Village to meet the locals. They’re happy to show you through their homes and talk to you about life in the Solomons. Go on a Sunday to join the kids at church. Take some pens, pencils or books – the villagers have few material possessions and are always grateful for anything that helps their kids to learn.