Ipak Bay, Vanuatu

Photo: Rockwater Resort

You still feel like a little kid each time you board an airplane. You greet the pilot with gratitude and respect (she does have your life in her hands). You grab a window seat and pull the shade all the way up, so you can watch the vessel taxi down the runway. Then you alternate your focus between the horizon and what’s directly below. You’re certainly not a nervous flyer.

This excitement always grows when you’re heading to a new destination. It’s particularly heightened today. After not being able to travel for so long, you wanted your first real trip—overdue visits with family don’t count—to be a big one. A really big one. So you scoured the map for somewhere distant, somewhere exotic, and somewhere unexplored. Vanuatu fits all your requirements.

You spent the first few days in Port Vila. The little capital has a European vibe with French street names, a Roman Catholic cathedral, an old World War II airbase, and an impressive cafe culture. The ring road around Efate, the main island, lead you to waterfalls, surfing waves, and gorgeous beaches. Yet it wasn’t remote enough. That’s why you boarded another airplane bound for Tanna.

Tanna is in Tafea, the island nation’s southernmost province. It’s a mountainous island covered by a thick jungle and lined with underwater caves. Mount Yasur, a continuously active volcano, is considered one of the most accessible craters in the world (watch out for lava bombs as you make your ascent). The Tannese people have managed to retain their traditional lifestyle—in large part by dismissing the Christian missionaries who arrived in the 19th century—more than most Melanesians. Plus there’s a new resort that won’t force you to give up little luxuries in exchange for such a unique island.

That beachfront resort, Rockwater, is about to come into view out the lefthand side of the airplane. After passing Erromango, Vanuatu’s fourth-largest island, the white coral cliffs on Tanna’s northwest coast start to appear. As the airplane dips to approach tiny Whitegrass Airport, you have a clear view of Rockwater’s coral gardens, bountiful fruit trees, turquoise pool, stone buildings, and alfresco restaurant. It looks more like a Mediterranean villa than a normal resort. Your adult side is already wondering how long your reservation can be extended.

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