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Vanuatu Vs New Caledonia: A Guide To Choosing Where to Go


Vanuatu and New Caledonia are two of the most beautiful island nations in the South Pacific, each with its own unique culture, natural beauty, and attractions. In this blog post, Vanuatu vs New Caledonia go head to head to unpack their key differences including culture, cuisine, cost, and things to do. 

While both destinations offer travelers the chance to enjoy stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and a range of adventurous activities, there are also many differences between the two that make them stand out. 

If you are a first-time traveler to the South Pacific this guide will help you decide which of these two incredible destinations is right for you.

✔️ Flights: Book your flights on Skyscanner 

➡️ Car rental: Rent your car on DiscoverCars

✔️ Travel insurance: I recommend World Nomads

➡️ Accommodations: Book your stay at booking.com

✔️ Activities: Arrange your adventure trips and tours

Vanuatu vs New Caledonia: Should you visit both?

While Vanuatu and New Caledonia are both stunning island destinations with unique offerings, visiting both can make for an incredible South Pacific experience. Combining the two destinations can give you the best of both worlds, allowing you to discover a variety of attractions, cultures, and activities.

One of the easiest ways to visit both Vanuatu and New Caledonia is by taking a cruise that stops at both destinations. Enjoy visiting both islands without having to worry about transportation and logistics.

If a cruise is not quite up your alley, you can plan a multi-island trip, where you can explore New Caledonia, the different islands of Vanuatu, or even venture out to nearby destinations such as Fiji or the Solomon Islands.

Keep in mind that visiting both destinations will require a longer trip and a bigger budget. But, the unique experiences and memories you will create from exploring both Vanuatu and New Caledonia can make it well worth it! 

Below I am going to unpack Vanuatu Vs New Caledonia for those who are set on picking one destination, so keep reading to find your perfect destination! 

Ultimately, whether you choose to visit one or both destinations depends on your travel style, interests, and budget. Regardless of what you choose, both Vanuatu and New Caledonia are incredible destinations that offer a taste of South Pacific paradise.

Explore Vanuatu & New Caledonia

Next up we are going to compare Vanuatu vs New Caledonia attractions and things to do.

I often find the best way to pick a destination to travel to by researching the top attractions, anyone else?! 

What to do in Vanuatu

Let’s start off with the top things to do in Vanuatu to uncover if it is a good holiday destination for you. 

Tanna’s Blue Cave

The blue caves in tanna is an attraction that can't be missed. Vanuatu Vs New caledonia travel guide

Starting off with my personal favorite attraction in Vanuatu! The Blue Cave on Tanna Island is a natural wonder that will leave you in awe. Sunlight filtering through the cave’s entrance illuminates the crystal-clear water, creating a brilliant blue glow. Join a guided tour with Whitegrass Resort for an unforgettable experience.

✔️ Mt. Yasur Volcano full day Tour including blue Cave ✔️

The Blue Holes of Santo

Vanuatu blue hole snorkeling

A close second on the list of favorite things to explore in Vanuatu are the Blue Holes on Santo. The deep freshwater Blue Holes are a must-see attraction. The clear dark blue water is nothing short of spectacular. Swim, snorkel, and take gorgeous photos at one of the blue holes, my personal favorite is Nanda Blue Hole.

Champagne Beach and Port Orly

is vanuatu a good holiday destination. Vanuatu vs new caledonia compared.

Champagne Beach is one of Vanuatu’s most stunning beaches, boasting pristine white sand and bright blue waters comparable to those found in the Maldives and French Polynesia. However, the equally stunning Port Orly, which is free to access and offers excellent dining options should also not be missed.

✔️ Book a Full Day Santo Blue Hole, Champagne Beach, Million Dollar Point & Port Olry Tour ✔️

Yasur Volcano

Yasur Volcano on Tanna Island is one of the most active and accessible volcanoes in the world. Whitegrass Resort organizes guided tours that include hiking up to the crater, where you can witness the red glow of lava contrasting against the night sky as the sun sets.

✔️Book Now! Mt Yasur Volcano Tour ✔️

Discovering Local Culture

Vanuatu is renowned for its well-preserved rich culture, and exploring the traditional customs and practices of the island is an opportunity not to be missed. From attending a local dance performance to visiting a village, there are plenty of ways to immerse yourself in the unique culture of Vanuatu.

✔️Book Now! Vanuatu Full-Day Culture Tour ✔️

What to do in New Caledonia

Next, we have the top 5 attractions in New Caledonia, to determine who wins out of Vanuatu Vs New Caledonia on things to do.

Isle of Pines

isle of pines beach in new caledonia

When people think of New Caledonia, the first thing that comes to mind is often The Isle of Pines. The Isle of Pines is a stunning tropical paradise known for its stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush pine forests. Swim, snorkel, hike, or simply bask in the island’s stunning natural beauty.


noumea is a top attraction when comparing vanuatu vs new caledonia

Nouméa is the capital city of New Caledonia and is a  vibrant cosmopolitan city that blends French and Melanesian cultures. The city offers a range of attractions, including museums, shopping, and dining options, plus it’s the gateway to the country’s outer islands.

The Barrier Reef

New Caledonia’s Barrier Reef is the world’s second-largest coral reef system, after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The reef is home to an abundance of marine life, including turtles, sharks, and colorful fish. Enjoy incredible diving and snorkeling on your trip to New Caledonia. 

Amedee Island

amedee island lighthouse is a must visit in new caledonia

Next, we have, Amedee Island a small coral island located just off the coast of Nouméa. The island offers pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and an iconic lighthouse. Climb to the top for panoramic views of New Caledonia.

✔️ Book your tour to Amedee Island ✔️

Tjibaou Cultural Center

Last but by no means least is The Tjibaou Cultural Center, a popular museum located just outside Nouméa. The center is dedicated to showcasing the traditional culture of the Kanak people, the indigenous inhabitants of New Caledonia. Immerse yourself in exhibits, events, and performances, it is a must-see attraction for travelers interested in the island’s rich cultural heritage.

I have to give the crown to Vanuatu due to the diversity and one-of-a-kind experiences on offer. It’s pretty rare to peer into an active volcano or swim in a gorgeous blue hole as stunning as the ones on Santo.



Vanuatu Vs New Caledonia: The Details 

To truly unpack Vanuatu Vs New Caledonia as travel destinations let’s get into the detail. 

We will now compare the two island nations based on budget, accommodation, food, transport, culture, language, dive sites, and beaches. 

Which is More Expensive: Vanuatu Vs New Caledonia?

Is Vanuatu or New Caledonia cheaper?

In general, Vanuatu is considered to be a more affordable destination compared to New Caledonia. 

This is due to New Caledonia being a French territory, and therefore, the cost of living and travel expenses can be higher. 

However, the cost of travel and accommodations can vary based on the time of year, specific locations, and individual preferences. 

It’s always a good idea to research and compare prices before planning a trip to either destination.

Expect prices in both Vanuatu and New Caledonia to be pretty similar to prices in Australia, particularly at the touristy spots and major resorts.

For a detailed breakdown of the cost of my trip to Vanuatu, check out my detailed Vanuatu expenses guide. 

Which Has Better Accommodation Vanuatu or New Caledonia?

Breakas resort port vila

New Caledonia and Vanuatu offer a range of accommodation options from budget to luxury.

In New Caledonia, you can find a mix of luxury resorts, mid-range hotels, and budget-friendly guesthouses. Noumea has several upscale hotels and resorts with swimming pools, spas, and restaurants. Many of these places offer beachfront locations and stunning views of the lagoon.

But if you are on a budget you can find a range of guesthouses and hostels scattered throughout the island.

In Vanuatu, you can also find a range of options, including resorts, hotels, guesthouses, and bungalows. Vanuatu is known for its eco-tourism, and many of the accommodations are designed to be environmentally friendly.

Many travelers stay in bungalows or modern resorts.

In terms of pricing, Vanuatu is generally considered more affordable than New Caledonia, particularly when it comes to budget-friendly accommodations. However, luxury resorts in both destinations can be expensive.

That being said New Caledonia has a larger supply of accommodation so it can be a little easier to find places last minute.

Whether you’re seeking a luxurious beachfront resort or a cozy guesthouse in a local village, both destinations have something to offer.

But I did find New Caledonia to have more options, better amenities, and more comfortable rooms, so New Caledonia takes the prize for accommodation.

Check out my Vanuatu travel guide if you’re interested in finding out where I stayed in Port Vila, Santo and Tanna.

Accommodation: Winner

New Caledonia

Which has the Best Food? Vanuatu or New Caledonia

breakfast at turtle bay lodge

Vanuatu vs New Caledonia cuisines have some distinct differences due to their unique cultural backgrounds.

Vanuatu’s food is heavily influenced by Melanesian culture, as well as French and British influences. The staple foods in Vanuatu include yams, taro, cassava, coconut, and seafood. The locals also consume various types of meats, including wild game like wild pig and chicken, as well as imported meats such as beef and pork.

If you are a foodie, Vanuatu is likely not on the top of your list. It’s not really a place you go to for the food. I found most restaurants, particularly at resorts to serve mainly Western and Italian foods.

New Caledonia’s food has a mix of French and Melanesian cultures. French dishes like baguettes, cheeses, and pastries are common, as well as seafood, including prawns, lobsters, and various types of fish. A popular unique dish called “bougna,” a Melanesian dish made with chicken, fish, or lobster, wrapped in banana leaves, and cooked in an underground oven is an iconic dish in New Caledonia.

Both countries have a wide range of tropical fruits, including bananas, mangoes, and papayas that can be enjoyed fresh from the garden.

As you can probably, New Caledonia tops Vanuatu cuisine. Who can pass up French bread and cheese?

Food: Winner

New Caledonia

Which Has Better Transport Options?

Vanuatu and New Caledonia have quite different transport systems.

In Vanuatu, you can get around via buses, taxis, and flights. The buses are often run by private companies and only service major cities and towns. Taxis are also available, but they can be quite expensive, especially since they aren’t metered and you get ripped off.

Renting a car in Vanuatu is often one of the best options for getting around, particularly on the islands. It’s worth noting that the roads in Vanuatu are in pretty poor condition, with large potholes and poor signage, and don’t expect a rental car to be cheap. I rented a car for a day and it came with an empty tank of petrol, so it ended up costing me over $250 for the day!

Lastly, to get between the islands in Vanuatu you usually have to take a flight. Air Vanuatu operates flights to and from the islands from Port Vila. Flying drives up the cost of your trip, plus it’s wasted time spent at an airport.

Let’s now take a look at New Caledonia which has a more developed transport system.

The country has a modern road network, and buses are the most common mode of public transport. There are also taxis and car rental services available. In Noumea, you can take a tram that links the city with the suburbs and ferries also connect the mainland with the surrounding islands.

You should have no problem renting a car on the main island of New Caledonia. It is very convenient not to depend on having a driver or finding a taxi. If you don’t want to drive, hiring a driver for the day is possible, but expensive.

While both countries have similar modes of transport such as buses and taxis, New Caledonia has a more developed transport system with modern roads, trams, and trains. 

Transport: Winner

New Caledonia

Which Has The Best Cultural Experiences?

new caledonia vs vanuatu

Vanuatu and New Caledonia have distinct cultures due to their different histories and cultural influences.

Vanuatu is home to over 80 indigenous cultures, each with its own unique customs and traditions. These cultures have been passed down through generations and are still celebrated today through music, dance, and art. The country is known for its “kastom” which includes traditional ceremonies, rituals, and beliefs.

Vanuatu culture has been incredibly well-preserved over the years, making it the perfect trip for culture seekers and history buffs. 

New Caledonia also has a diverse culture, with a mix of French and Melanesian influences. The Kanak people, who make up just under half the population, have their own unique culture and traditions. They have a strong connection to the land and sea and are known for their weaving and carving skills.

French culture is also evident in New Caledonia, with French cuisine, fashion, and language being prominent.

While both Vanuatu and New Caledonia have distinct cultures, they both have a strong connection to their indigenous roots and still celebrate their customs and traditions today.

Vanuatu’s culture is heavily influenced by its diverse indigenous cultures, while New Caledonia has a mix of French and Melanesian cultures. Either way, you’re in for a new cultural experience however Vanuatu just comes out on top due to the preservation and diverse culture that differs on each island.

Culture: Winner


Which Has The Most Diverse Languages?

vanuatu culture is incredibly rich and unique
Port Vila Markets

In Vanuatu, there are over 100 indigenous languages, including Bislama. English and French are also official languages.

On my trip to Vanuatu, they would often translate things into English, Bislama, and French. Talking to some of the locals, I discovered that most people from Vanuatu are bi-lingual, usually fluent in English and Bislama. Language is a huge part of their education system. 

In New Caledonia, there are two official languages: French and a Melanesian language called “Drehu,” spoken by the Kanak people. You may also come across other languages spoken including Tahitian, Indonesian, and Vietnamese on your trip.

Overall, as an English speaker both Vanuatu and New Caledonia are great places to travel, with minimal language barriers. The winner of languages goes to Vanuatu due to their greater diversity of spoken languages.

Languages: Winner


Which Has Better Diving and Snorkeling?

Vanuatu vs new caledonia snorkeling and diving

Vanuatu Vs New Caledonia in terms of snorkeling and diving is tough, as both South Pacific islands offer spectacular marine ecosystems.

Vanuatu has a variety of snorkeling and diving sites, including coral reefs, shipwrecks, and underwater caves. In my personal opinion, it trumps the sites in New Caledonia.

One of the most famous dive sites in Vanuatu is the SS President Coolidge, a World War II wreck. The coral reefs around the islands of Espiritu Santo and Tanna are also popular spots for diving and snorkeling.

New Caledonia also has many snorkeling and diving sites, including one of the largest lagoons in the world, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The lagoon is home to a huge variety of fish and coral, making it a popular spot for underwater exploration.

The island of Lifou also has excellent diving spots, including the famous “Shark Hole” where divers can swim with reef sharks.

Snorkeling and Diving: Winner


Which Has Better Beaches: New Caledonia or Vanuatu

isle of pines is one of the best beaches in the world. Vanuatu vs New caledonia guide

You’re in luck, both Vanuatu and New Caledonia are known for their stunning beaches!

Vanuatu has a variety of beaches ranging from white to black sand beaches. Many of the beaches in Vanuatu are secluded so you soak in the relaxing atmosphere in peace.

Some popular beaches in Vanuatu include Champagne Beach and Port Orly, two stunning white sand beaches with turquoise waters on Santo Island. For a more unique beach experience, head to the black sand beaches of Efate, which are known for their excellent snorkeling.

New Caledonia only just trumps Vanuatu Beaches, as they are mostly situated along the barrier reef, offering world-class sandy beaches with clear waters.

The beaches in New Caledonia are nothing short of spectacular, with long stretches of white sand and turquoise waters.

You simply can’t beat the Isle of Pines. They call it the “closest thing to heaven”. A picture is worth a thousand words so see above to understand why it is so heavenly.

Beaches: Winner

New Caledonia

Vanuatu vs New Caledonia: the winner is…


It was nearly impossible to decide! 

After unpacking both Vanuatu and New Caledonia, Vanuatu only just comes out top!

I think the tiebreaker between the two has to be the incredible natural attractions Vanuatu has on offer including the Blue Holes, Blue Cave, and Mt Yasur.

But both Vanuatu and New Caledonia are worth a visit and do not provide the same kind of experiences. So how can you make the right choice for you?

Select what’s the most important factors of a destination and go with that! If you would rather bask by the stunning beaches, perhaps New Caledonia is more up your alley but if you are after world-class snorkeling and diving, check out Vanuatu. 

No matter which of the two South Pacific Island nations you choose, they both offer incredible natural beauty, adventurous activities, and relaxing resorts to unwind at. 

Summary of the scores Vanuatu vs New Caledonia:

Below I have popped the winners of each category to help you decide what destination you should visit. 

  • Attractions: Vanuatu
  • Budget: Vanuatu
  • Accommodation: New Caledonia
  • Food: New Caledonia
  • Transport: New Caledonia 
  • Culture: Vanuatu
  • Language: Vanuatu
  • Snorkeling and Diving: Vanuatu
  • Beaches: New Caledonia

The Wrap Up: Vanuatu vs New Caledonia

Both Vanuatu and New Caledonia offer unique and diverse travel experiences for visitors. While both nations share a colonial past and have a significant French influence, they differ in many ways including culture, language, and attractions

Vanuatu’s pristine beaches, lush jungles, and rich cultural traditions make it a popular destination for adventure-seekers. The volcanic landscapes, blue holes, and coral reefs are stand-out attractions that draw thousands of travelers each year.

On the other hand, New Caledonia’s blend of French and Melanesian cultures, stunning lagoons, and sophisticated cuisine make it a favorite among luxury travelers. Travelers can indulge in water sports, bask by the beaches, explore the capital city of Noumea, or discover the traditional Kanak culture.

Both destinations offer a range of accommodations, from budget-friendly guesthouses to upscale resorts. However, Vanuatu is generally considered more affordable than New Caledonia.

Overall, whether you are seeking an off-the-beaten-path adventure or a luxurious island getaway, Vanuatu and New Caledonia are both excellent travel destinations that are sure to provide unforgettable experiences.

Let me know in the comments which of the two destinations you would pick!

For me I have leaned towards Vanuatu, I simply can’t go past the gorgeous blue holes and the blue cave.

new caledonia vs vanuatu pin for later template

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