The many islands that make up the Solomons are grouped into nine regions or provinces. Each region has their own provincial government and their own particular characteristics and customs. Honiara is the capital.
The city is also the international gateway to the Solomons and the hub from which to get out and explore the regions. Their beauty, remoteness, friendly people, stunning coral atolls and exotic jungle clad islands will have you going back for more.
Apart from being home of the country’s capital, Honiara, Guadalcanal is a mountainous tropical island. It was the scene of many fierce battles during the Pacific War form 1942 to 1945.
The largest Island in the Solomon Islands, Guadalcanal Province hosts the national capital, Honiara. Offering a smattering of cultural sites, including well-preserved WWII relics along the northern coast, as well as few modest beaches, Guadalcanal offers fantastic diving at Iron Bottom Sound, the famous undersea graveyard where dozen of WWII wrecks have lain since 1942.
Just off the northern coast, the island has the genuine look of a lost world. The hills behind the capital consist of a mighty mountain range rising to 2400m remains untamed and raw with. Tropical rainforest climate.
At the eastern tip lies Marau Sound, an area of turquoise waters dotted with lush tropical islands. From Marau you can access the south side of Guadalcanal, known as the Weather Coast. Here you will find remote villages nestled along a rugged and dramatic coastline.
The Guadalcanal campaign, also known as the Battle of Guadalcanal began on 07 August 1942 and lasted until February 1943. It was the first major land offensive by Allied forces against the Empire of Japan and during those seven months, 60,000 US Marines killed more than 20, 000 of the 31, 000 Japanese troops on the Island. The major objective of the fighting was a tiny airstrip the Japanese were building at the western end of Guadalcanal. The airstrip, later named Henderson Field, would become an important launching point for the Allied air attacks during the Pacific Island-hopping campaign.
Things to do
World War II Tours
There are many battle sites and relics of the war found in and around Honiara. Places of interest to visit include Bonegi Beach, Henderson Airfield, Vilu Museum, Red Beach and Betikama Museum. Iron Bottom Sound, the body of water between Guadalcanal, Nggela Islands and Savo is so-called because the sea channel is the watery graves for many warships and fighter planes – allied and Japanese alike.
The major birding site of Mount Austen is just 45 minutes’ drive outside Honiara. A morning here can be very rewarding with sightings of Solomons Cockatoo, Yellow-bibbed Lory, Cardinal Lory, Buff-headed Coucal, perhaps Guadalcanal (Woodford’s) Rail and Claret-breasted Fruit Dove. Mackinlay’s Cuckoo dove, Ultramarine Kingfisher, Brown-winged Starling, Long-tailed Myna, Chestnut-bellied Monarch, Cockerell’s Fantail and Midget Flowerpeckers can also be seen with luck.
The Botanic Gardens in the main town is also worth a look – Duchess Lorikeet and Black-headed Myzomela are two of the more common species to be seen.
The Betikama wetlands are also rich in birdlife and well worth a look.
There are number of dive sites along the western part of Guadalcanal, including the famous WWII sites at Iron Bottom Sound and Bonegi Beach. Local dive operator Tulagi Dive is very experienced with all dive sites and the best ‘go to’ organisation for divers looking to explore Guadalcanal’s underwater world.
Local guides can arrange fishing trips around Marau Sound in eastern Guadalcanal and good fishing spots can also found around the river estuaries of north-western Guadalcanal.
Surfable waves can be found at the western end of Guadalcanal. It needs a two-hour, 40-minute drive from Honiara but worth the journey during the wave season. Olotsara Retreat organises surfing tours – ask Tourism Solomons for more information.
Treks and Adventure
If you are an enthusiastic waterfall person, there are a number of inland treks that will take you to the best cascades in Guadalcanal – Matanikau cascade, Tenaru Falls, and Barana Waterfalls. Note a local guide is essential for such trips. These can be arranged through local villages or with assistance from Tourism Solomons office in Honiara.
Events & Festivals
Guadalcanal Second Appointed Day
The Second Appointed Day marks the establishment of local Provincial Government for Guadalcanal Province and is celebrated with annually.
Where to Stay
There are various accommodations types on offer in Guadalcanal with options ranging from resorts, guest houses, budget lodges, bungalows right through to the ‘big gun’ hotels of the capital including the Heritage Park Hotel, King Solomon Hotel, Honiara Hotel, Solomon Kitano Hotel, Pacific Crown Hotel and Coral Sea Resort & Casino.
Tavanipupu Wellness & Spa Retreat is located in Marau Sound, eastern part of Guadalcanal Province. A privately owned 4-star island resort in the South Pacific. Only 25 minutes east by plane from the Solomon Islands capital of Honiara. Another resort nearby, Milk Fish Resort is located at Marapa Island that offers 2 ensuite bungalows.
Food and Drinks
These days there is a surprising variety in good quality restaurants and cafes in and around Honiara with many catering to expats.
- Central Market, located on the main road, is a great source of fresh fruit and vegetables. Fish and chips, as well as uncooked fish are sold there.
- The Café Bliss located along common wealth street serving coffee, cakes, burgers and sandwiches.
- The Taj Mahal (Located downtown). Has good Indian and Sri Lankan food
- Point Cruz Yacht Club. The favoured hangout of expats in Honiara, the yacht club has a variety of simple and inexpensive meals available nighty.
- Palm Sugar (located at Art Gallery). Great coffee, burgers, soup and many more
- Heritage Park Hotel GG’s Restaurant, IBS Restaurants, Garden Bar & Restaurants ( Pacific Crown), Coral Sea, Break Water and Mambo Juice Bar.
There are very few roads beyond Honiara, which makes access challenging. For the intrepid traveller Guadalcanal abounds in natural wonders. Some buses services operate from Honiara to eastern (GPPOL 3) and western (Lambi) of Guadalcanal Province.
Local motorised canoes travel from Marau Sound along the weather coast to Honiara. There are irregular shipping services from Honiara to Marau Sound. MV Haura shipping runs weekly to Marau Station.
Travelling around Guadalcanal Province is a life time experience and an insight into a way of life that had remained unchanged across the years. For fullest information contact Tourism Solomons.
Come explore Guadalcanal Province.
Florida & Russell Islands
This group of islands comprises the Nggela (or Florida) group across Iron Bottom Sound from Honiara, Savo and Russell Islands, to the north east of Honiara.
Attractions are superb dive sites and natural wonders like the unique megapode birds breeding on thermal springs on Savo Island. Tulagi, the colonial capital of Solomon Islands, boasts historic tales and sites. Russell Islands has one of the largest coconut groves in the South Pacific.
Comprising 11 main islands including new Georgia, Vella Lavella, Kolombangara, Rendova, Ranongga, Vangunu and the Shortlands. Dubbed the mecca of Solomon Islands’ tourism, the province boasts magnifi cent aerial views of verdant islands and azure lagoons.
Perfect underwater visibility makes the west an excellent dive destination, teeming with marine life and corals.
Fierce battles during World War II left behind wrecks that are must dive sites now like the Toa maru in Kololuka Bay and the Grand central Station near Gizo. Kennedy Island named after the late US President J f Kennedy is about 10 minutes by speedboat from Gizo. The Kavachi underwater submarine volcano offers a rare display of nature at work, and the massive Marovo lagoon is a proposed World heritage site.
Eco-lodges dot Marovo and Vonavona lagoons, once home to the dreaded headhunters of the province. Skull shrines can still be found in the region. These bodies of calm water are great fishing spots as well.
Vella Lavella is – like Savo Island in the Central Province – home to megapode birds.
Provincial capital: Gizo Population: 62,739 airport: Gizo, Munda, Seghe, Ramata, Gatokae & Balalai. Seaport: Noro and Gizo are the main ones.
Isabel Province is made up of one main island lying to Guadalcanal’s north west.
Buala’s laid back atmosphere is a big draw card and the provincial capital has a lot to off er to those out for an adventure. Activities range from guided bush walks, visit to a village built on silts in Kia, breeding sites for the endangered hawksbill turtles or lessons in traditional dances.
Isabel is also famous for its unique dance for women, the story of its vanishing lake and numerous skull shrines depict a violent past. Bird and crocodile watching can be organised as well as attending a pan pipe concert.
Under-developed, Choiseul is an adventure’s haven.
Comprising one large island of 3294 square kilometers and lying north of Western Province, Choiseul’s main attractions are its virgin, untouched natural wonders like the nestling grounds of the endangered hawksbill turtles. Whales have also been sighted in the surrounding waters. Choiseul is home to rare pottery and weaving.
Did you know?
- The traditional name of the Islands was Lauru.
- In 1568m Alvaro de Mendana saw the islands from Santa Isabel on the day of Saint Mark. He called it San Marcos’. 1768 the French Explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville saw the Islands and named it Choiseul, after the French minister of Foreign Affair and Statesman at that time Étienne François, duc de Choiseul.
- A family in Sirovanga, north Choiseul still held on to the traditional art of pottery as handed down from their ancestors. The only surviving traditional art of poetry in the Solomon Islands.
- The commonly known to be endangered Dugong or Sea Cow can be found on Choiseul, in the lagoons of Choiseul Bay and Taro Island and in the waters off beautiful small islands around Rob Roy on eastern Choiseul.
- Choiseul Province produces largest quantity of sea weed in the Solomon Islands. On east Choiseul Particularly on Wagina Sea weed farming become the biggest commercial rural activity since 2002.
- Provincial Capital – Choiseul Bay (Taro Island)
- Airports – (1) Choiseul Bay (2) Kagau
- Main Islands – Lauru (Choiseul), Wagina & Rob Roy.
- Total Land area – 3,837 km2 (1,481 sq mi)
- Population – 36,719 (2020)
- Choiseul Province 2nd Appointed day – 25th February
A natural and cultural delight as its main attractions, Malaita comprises one main island to Guadalcanal’s east as well as atolls to the extreme north namely Ontong Java and Sikiana whose inhabitants are Polynesians.
Man-made islands in and near Auki, the provincial capital, are a must see. Malaita is also home of the traditional but still in circulation shell money. Ancestral worship ceremonies and other rituals as shark calling are still practised in certain regions. Some villages especially those up in the mountains are diffi cult to access. The province is also renowned for the haunting sound of its unique panpipe bands especially along ‘are ‘are lagoon. A more recent fi nd are the perfect surf breaks in Lau Lagoon and Suava Bay in northern Malaita. Through support from Surf Solomons, landowners are encouraged to open eco-lodges in the area.
Rennell, a World heritage site, is the main attraction with the South Pacifi c’s largest inland lake of lake Tegano.
The two-island province of uplifted coral lies directly south of Guadalcanal. The lake and its surrounds are home to numerous endemic birds and plants. Activities for visitors include land crab hunting, spear diving, night fishing and dolphin watching.
A number of rest houses are by the lake while Bellona offers cave accommodation. The islanders are Polynesians thus visitors get exposed to ancient songs and dances.
Visitors will fi nd this province lying south of Malaita and southeast of Guadalcanal is full of surprises.
Some cultural practices are unique to Makira and Ulawa like ancient fi shing methods, crocodile wrestling and the shark hole underneath a church altar at Suholo village in ulawa. Witnessing the island’s annual land crab harvest should be a highlight. It is where the rare Pacific Ridley turtle nests.
Comprising three main islands in the extreme east, Temotu o ers a historical and culturally unique experience for visitors.
The French La Perouse wrecks were found here and Spanish explorer Álvaro de Mendana entered the Solomons’ archipelago through Temotu, proven by sites of a Spanish village he attempted to build.
The country’s most active volcano is at Tinakula and the unique red feather money is found here. Ancient and massive Kauri trees grow at Vanikoro and Santa Cruz. In addition, if you are a surfer, perfect curls can be found at Carlise Bay.