Volcano Island Paradise has the best views of the volcano. I’m glad I stayed and saw those views. At night however there is nothing to see and nothing to do. Getting there is a challenging drive up some very steep tracks which will be impossible after heavy rain.
If you were travelling with someone, have the right attitude, enjoy roughing it, and can make your own entertainment, then you might enjoy the quiet environment with just you and the chickens and the rumbles from the volcano.
It would be a stay you’d probably label “interesting’ rather than awful, but you probably wouldn’t want to stay more than one night. It’s a good authentic island living experience, but you have to go in understanding what “authentic” really means.
With the right expectations, you could have a lovely relaxing time sitting on a simple plastic chair outside your hut, with a can of beer in one hand and a camera in the other, watching the smoking volcano while the chicken and her baby chicks scratch and peck around your feet.
There are some other bungalows that claim to have volcano views, but I think Volcano Island Paradise is the only one that really does. The “treetop” lodging is not high enough to have a clear view.
Rooms and facilities
Volcano Island Paradise is very basic. It’s not far off camping. The bungalow is a decent size and there is a double bed, and they’ve made an effort to make it look nice, but you have to bear in mind what facilities they have.
Up here in the hills of tiny little Tanna Island there are no laundries or furniture shops.
No drinking water. A bed, a table, a chair. If you’re used to homestays in remote villages in places like Tajikistan or Sri Lanka or Mongolia then you’ll know what to expect, but if you’re expecting a hotel you’ll be surprised and dismayed.
The bungalow is hand-built with materials from the local environment. When you look at the bedding you might wish you’d brought a sleeping bag liner to use, but then you’ll also wonder if the owners actually have mattresses in their cabins.
Electricity comes from a car battery, with a small solar panel on the roof outside. This is enough to charge your phone and run a small lamp at night, but that’s all.
Again you’ll be wondering how the owners live, when the eldest son of the family who has been showing you around the place asks if he can charge his mobile phone from the battery.
Electricity, like water, is a precious commodity here.
This is the kind of place that makes you realise how easy we have things back at home, and that also makes it hard to be critical. It’s hard to decide whether you’re being harsh if you write a review that points out that the sink and toilet are unpleasant.
I hope that rather than sounding unfairly judgmental you understand that my goal is to let you know what to expect.
I wonder if the owners use western-style sinks and toilets, and I doubt it. They’ve been installed for the benefit of tourists, and you wonder where the water comes from and goes to. Perhaps best not to know.
Clearly they have no access to bathroom cleaning fluids like we do, so you can forgive the condition of the bathroom, but that doesn’t mean you want to touch it.
If you’re familiar with homestays in poor and remote places where the toilet is a hole in the ground then you’ll know the score. This is just basic country living for Pacific islanders, not a hotel in a developed urban area.
Take a sleeping bag liner. Pick up plenty of bottled water before leaving Lenakel. Take wet-wipes and hand sanitizer. Take a positive attitude and expect an authentic experience. Join the hosts when they invite you for dinner with them, and you’ll be telling stories about this part of your trip for a long time.
Take the wrong attitude and the wrong expectation and you’ll be bitching and moaning about it. This is down-to-earth travel, not an Instagram influencer photo opportunity.
OK, let me get to the reasons why I wouldn’t give it more than 3 stars out of five. The first is that the trails up to the bungalows are very steep and rough. In the dry season, the 4-wheel drive truck can easily handle it.
However, if it has been raining those trails will be very tricky and you could find yourself having to hike up the hills on foot, through the mud.
The second issue is the rats.
I’ve slept in a lot of very basic places. Homestays in Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. Wood cabins in Siberia. I’ve wild-camped in Mongolia, slept in the desert in Uzbekistan.
I’ve slept on a motorbike at the side of the road in far-eastern Russia and on a pile of gravel at the roadside in Turkey. (Overland travel by motorcycle does things like that to you from time to time.)
On the roof of a pick-up truck in Botswana. Lots and lots of strange and rudimentary places. I camped wild around the world for 6 months on my motorbike journeys, I’m not soft.
When you’re woken up in the night by rats scurrying over your bed right behind your head, it puts you off a bit. Lizards and insects usually stay away from you but these rats had no fear. Instead of the gentle rumbling from the volcano, your nighttime sound track is the scratching and scurrying of the rats.
Expect to pay around £40 per night.
Be aware that not all the bungalows have direct volcano views, but you can walk through the garden to see the views.
The price you pay for the room is insignificant compared to the cost of transfers from the airport.
The host, Morris, will arrange the transfers but expect to pay 5000VUV / £35 per person each way.
There’s also the entry fee for the volcano, which like the volcano is quite steep at 10000VUV per person.
On the map below, click the icon to change to satellite photo view. It will give you an idea of how remote and unpopulated this place is.
Address: Imayo Village, Tanna Island, 6787717460, Vanuatu
Volcano Island Paradise is basic. But the view is great. But it’s dirty. But it’s very cheap. Hmmm.
Yep. Conclusion – the only reason to pick it is the view, but you won’t be missing a great deal if you’re visiting the volcano up close anyway, and the views from down on the ash plain are possibly better.
It’s worth it for the experience, but now I’ve been and I’ve had that experience I don’t think I’d choose it if I went back to Tanna Island.
I’d pick a west-coast hotel near Lenakel next time. It would be a lot more expensive, and wouldn’t give you the wooden hut jungle living experience, but with all the travelling and the time spent at the volcano you’ll be quite tired and perhaps you’d prefer having a shower.
The view is the main selling point, but once the sun goes down there is no view of anything.
The hosts, Morris and his family, are friendly and speak some English.
Best Vanuatu tours
There are numerous tour options from the usual good quality services like Viator and Get Your Guide. Sadly some of them include visits to turtle sanctuaries but not all of these are well-managed. If you\re invited to interact with turtles such as by feeding or touching them, you should refuse.
Best books and guides
The best and most comprehensive guide book for Vanuatu is the Lonely Planet Guide to Vanuatu and New Caledonia.
A better value option is the multi-country Lonely Planet South Pacific guide.