A place where you can surf in warm water, with stunning tropical scenery, sunshine, epic waves, and no one else in the water – it sounds like a pipe dream, right? But this is what surfing the Solomon Islands is like.
In November, I got to surf empty breaks in one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. And so you can do the same, here’s everything you need to know to plan your own Solomon Islands surf trip.
How to get to the Solomon Islands
The Solomon Islands are located just off the east coast of Papua New Guinea and off the north-eastern tip of Australia.
The most straightforward way to get there is to take a direct flight to the capital of Honiara, either from Brisbane, Australia (3 hours) or Nadi, Fiji (2 hours).
Solomon Airlines, Fiji Airways, Air New Zealand, Nauru Airlines, and Virgin Australia all operate routes to the Solomon Islands. To give you an idea of cost, a return flight from Brisbane will set you back around AU$650 (£335 / US$440).
Getting to the surf
I’m not aware of any international routes that allow you to make a connecting flight on the same day so you’ll probably need to spend a night in Honiara and take a domestic flight to your chosen island the next day. We stayed at the Heritage Park Hotel which was really nice – right on the waterfront – and did a cracking buffet breakfast with good coffee.
Once you reach whichever island you’re flying to, you can arrange for your surf camp to pick you up and take you the rest of the way by boat.
We stayed at Vavaghio surf camp on Santa Isabel so flew from Honiara to Suavanao, which took about an hour, then got a boat to the camp which took somewhere between an hour and a half and two hours (how long it takes depends on the sea conditions).
Cost-wise, internal flights can be relatively expensive as there’s only one airline operating the routes. Our flight from Honiara to Suavanao cost about AU$600 return (£310 / US$400), but it’s worth checking whether your surf camp can offer a discounted rate as some do this as part of their packages.
Once you arrive at your surf camp, they will take you to the waves by boat. If you book a package, this will most likely be included.
Take a look at Chris from Stoked for Travel’s video below for a flavour of what you can expect:
When to go
The surf season in the Solomon Islands runs from mid-October to April with the biggest swells rolling through in January and February. The Solomons pick up the same swells that hit the North Shore of Hawaii, just a few days later.
Where to stay
The Solomon Islands are not geared up for mass tourism so don’t expect to plan your trip on Booking.com, but there is a good selection of places that cater specifically to surfers. Here are some of the top rated:
Vavaghio Surf Camp (Santa Isabel)
Approx AU$180 / £92 / US$120 per night
Capacity: 8 guests
The words “off the beaten track” get thrown around a lot these days, but this place is truly in the middle of nowhere. No wifi, no phone signal, no people, and no worries! This is where we spent most of our time in the Solomon Islands and I loved it.
The accommodation is comfortable but very basic – the rooms are essentially wooden cabins that have a doorway but no door and open windows. You fall asleep to the sounds of the jungle which is actually pretty magical and wake up with the sunrise.
The food was tasty and super fresh and the guys did an amazing job of looking after us. With a maximum capacity of only eight guests, it feels very homely.
Without a doubt though, the highlight was the surf. Less than 10 minutes away by boat we had a range of great surf breaks and the lineups were empty!
Papatura (Santa Isabel)
Approx AU$132 / £68 / US$89 per night (including return flights)
Capacity: 27 guests (maximum 14 surfers)
Certainly the most well-known surf camp in the Solomons, Papatura can handle a good size group and is available for private hire too.
It’s super close to Suavanao airport and with a heap of surf spots within a 20 minute boat ride from the camp, this is a great option for those seeking comfort and convenience.
Papatura is more of a surf resort style than the smaller, locally operated surf camps – so if you’re looking for some of the modern comforts of home its a good choice.
Kagata Village (Santa Isabel)
Approx AU$155 / £80 / US$104 per night
Capacity: 8 guests
This is the sister camp of Vavaghio and certainly the most budget friendly surf camp option in the Solomons Islands.
The camp is part of a local village so you’ll be trading western comforts for a more immersive, cultural experience.
It’s pretty close to Vavaghio too so expect to surf the same spots.
Solwata Surf Camp (North Malaita)
Approx AU$275 / £142 / US$185 per night (including return flights)
Capacity: 6 guests
Surrounded by the stunning vistas of Lau Lagoon, Solwata is another awesome camp based amongst a local village – giving you a unique and authentic experience.
Your base will be one of the stilted houses which offer ocean and mountain views. A variety of surf spots can be reached within a short boat ride from the camp, catering for all styles of surfing.
Elsewhere in The Solomon Islands
Gizo also has a few breaks but currently no surf camps. It’s easy enough to stay there though (at places like Fatboys) and grab a local boat out to the waves. It’s a bit more fickle than the spots around Santa Isabel though.
Surfing the Solomon Islands is not for complete beginners as all of the breaks are reefs, but early intermediates and up (i.e. confidently catching green waves and turning) will have a great time!
The breaks really vary depending on the time of year and the swell though so keep this in mind when planning your trip. Some of the breaks below are for advanced surfers only when the bigger swells roll through.
The majority of the popular surf breaks are around Santa Isabel, but this is a place where surfing is still relatively low key so you could even discover your own new spots. Here are some of the most well-known breaks:
- Kologhose – A long left-hander near Vavaghio. Super playful, but can handle a range of swell
- Marista – A right-hander again near Vavaghio. Fast and punchy, especially on a bigger swell
- Anchovies – A fast, barreling right-hander
- Dolphins – A fun, fast left
- PT’s – Can handle some BIG swell, so experts only
- Tai – An A-frame swell magnet
- Kummas – For those picture-postcard backdrops
- Gnali Nuts – Consistent left-hander which can be surfed by most levels of surfer
- Kofiloco – Long running right-hander, similar to Noosa in Australia
- Donuts – A long, mellow right-hander
- Skull Island – The longest right-hander in the Solomons, but notoriously fickle
- Piccininies – Right-hander close to a local village with friendly local surfers
Good to know
Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of those people who gets bitten wherever they go. But even for me the mozzies here were bad. Take a high strength deet repellent and use it religiously, especially at sunset.
While we’re on the subject of mozzies, the Solomon Islands is also classed as a malaria area, so take a good antimalarial. Make sure you get them well in advance as some have to be taken for a period of time before your trip starts.
The Solomons offer a free visa on arrival to many countries, including the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. Check entry regulations well in advance of your trip though as you may need to show proof of vaccinations for certain illnesses.
And as always, double check everything before you leave as visa requirements can and do change.
The Solomon Islands are quite close to equator so they’re tropical. The average temperature hovers around 27 degrees Celsius, and the water temperature isn’t far behind – it’s bikinis and boardies all the way. The country only has two seasons – wet and dry. Wet season coincides with the surf season and runs from November to April, with May to October being the dry season.
I was there at the end of November and although we had a bit of cloud and rain for the first couple of days, the rest of the week was sun, sun, sun!
The islands are super remote so you’ll need to get any cash you need before you leave Honiara. Some surf camps do offer packages and card payments on site, but these usually incur a fee and double check before you arrive!
When we were on Santa Isabel, I didn’t feel like safety was an issue at all, both from a personal and a theft point of view.
In the capital of Honiara though you do need to be a bit more vigilant, but again, I didn’t feel unsafe. Just take the usual precautions of not flashing your valuables, don’t walk alone at night, use common sense, etc and you should be fine.
When you’re packing for this trip, bear in mind that you’re going to be travelling on a small plane for your domestic flight (think Twin Otter) plus travelling a portion of the journey by boat. I’d strongly advise you to pack light, and for the boat, maybe put anything valuable or electronic in a dry bag as it could get splashed.
On the internal flight, there’s a possibility that your surfboard might not make it on the same flight as you, so don’t put anything you desperately need in your boardbag.
It’s worth packing a well-stocked first-aid kit. You’re going to be surfing in the arse-end of nowhere with medical assistance several hours away, so go prepared.
You’ll also need to take any spare surf gear with you as you won’t be able to buy it there. At a minimum, take a decent ding repair kit, plus a spare leash and fins.
Other than that, take the usual stuff you’d pack for a tropical surf trip, including a good, high factor sunscreen, zinc, and tropical surf wax.
Is surfing the Solomon Islands on your bucket list?
If there’s anything else you want to know about surfing the Solomon Islands, just leave a question in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer it. As always, feel free to share this post / coerce surf buddies into surf trips using the social buttons below and for more photos from the trip, follow me on Instagram.