The Havannah, Efate, Vanuatu
“We can do this later if you like…”
We have just arrived at The Havannah, and are being welcomed to the property by the charming General Manager Daniel. But over the bay, the sun is setting in a blaze of colour, and he has noticed our itchy trigger fingers on our cameras. Permission granted, we place our welcome drinks down, and make the most of the photogenic moment…
As the last of the iridescent light fades from the sky, we return to the reception area, where our complimentary welcome drinks have been refilled, and the ever-smiling Daniel is waiting for us: “Welcome to The Havannah.” It is a welcome that epitomises our stay - stunning, relaxed and serene.
The Havannah first opened in 2009 with just six villas. It now has seventeen villas, but with a maximum of just 34 adult guests, it is far from crowded, and each of the villas are private and secluded amongst the foliage. Our Waterfront Villa has a prime position just adjacent to the resort’s jetty, a photogenic foreground for the aquamarine lagoon and the forested islands beyond, particularly at sunset.
The villa itself is equally picturesque - modern Vanuatu chic, with crisp neutral decor interspersed with flourishes of colour. At the front, a sunken living area features a soft and expansive couch, perfect for lounging while admiring the view beyond. On the raised level above, the king bed and its multitude of pillows is also positioned to take in the vista. And behind the bed, the entire rear of the villa is occupied by the bathroom, with a double vanity, waterfall shower and oversized bath. In the bath area, a slatted wooden floor and transparent ceiling held to bring the outdoors in, and the amenities are locally sourced and fragrant.
At the front of the villa, there is a small but refreshing plunge pool. Two comfortable deckchairs look out across the bay, but there is also a secluded cabana, if privacy from passing boats is desired. And from the deck, private stairs lead down to the water’s edge, perfect for entering straight into the bay for swimming and snorkelling, or a quick walk through the shallows to the bar and restaurant beyond (dodging the many inquisitive crazy crabs).
The hotel bar is open air, and enjoys the perfect location for sunset cocktails and canapes. The bar staff are welcoming and friendly, with generous smiles and generous pours. A range of cocktails and spirits are on offer, and the bar snacks are particularly flavoursome and moreish.
Adjacent to the bar is The Point Restaurant, where the food is stylish and creative, with an emphasis on local produce, particularly seafood. And if the restaurant is somehow not romantic enough, you can also reserve the cabana on the jetty, for an intimate candlelit dinner for two. More photographically than romantically inclined, we instead booked in for breakfast…
Breakfasts at The Havannah were a particular highlight, with good coffee, freshly squeezed juices, a delectable bread basket, tropical fruit plates and a number of delicious hot choices.
Between eating and drinking, there are a number of activities available at The Havannah. The white sand beach extends the length of the resort, extending into a sandbar that projects into the lagoon, and beach-chairs and umbrellas can be set up anywhere along the beach. The channel of water here is protected from the elements here by the outlying islands, so the water is tranquil and clear (and warm enough that even the cold-blooded A was comfortable!). There is good snorkelling right off the shore, and while there is not a house reef, there are coral bommies, some colourful fish, moray eels, striped shrimp and impressive schools of small catfish, combing the shores for food.
For more water based activities, the enthusiastic team at the watersports hut can arrange everything, from reef shoes and snorkelling equipment, to kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and hobie cats. They can also arrange boat trips to the outer islands, such as to the Turtle Sanctuary on Moso (if you do plan to go here, remember to take some cash to sponsor a turtle, as you will inevitably be convinced to do so). Similarly, you can arrange for boats to take you to the best snorkelling spots in the channel, where colourful reefs are home an abundance of fish (and the occasional turtle and reef shark), and drift-snorkels are possible.
While it may be tempting (and very possible) to not venture beyond the gates of The Havannah once you’ve arrived, we would encourage you to use the prime location of The Havannah to your advantage, using the resort as a base to explore more of Efate’s beautiful, and under-visited sights. We would suggest hiring a car from the airport upon your arrival (and we can recommend World Car Rentals for their fantastic service) and taking your time for the scenic 30 minute drive to The Havannah, rather than utilising the hotel’s airport transfer (although we were certainly in the minority here, as our vehicle was routinely the only car in the resort car park). Then you can explore the island at your leisure, including the ring road, an easy 122 km journey around the whole island of Efate, taking in the entertaining WWII Museum at Havannah Harbour, the beautiful snorkelling and viewpoint at Samma, another WWII Relics Museum at Matanawora, which can include a boat trip through the mangroves to snorkel with an intact sunken Corsair fighter plane, and a multitude of picture-perfect beaches and bays. And while the food at The Havannah is excellent, we suggest venturing out for at least a few meals - just a short drive south of the resort, Francesca’s is an eclectic fusion of ni-Van and Italian cuisine, and when exploring the ring road, Orovy Restaurant, on Efate’s northern coast, is a hidden gem (try the divine fish mornay).
But when your adventuring is complete, there is no finer place to return to than The Havannah - incredibly welcoming and stylish, it is as charming as it is luxurious, and it is certainly our first choice for an indulgent stay on Vanuatu’s Efate.