When the Holiday Inn Resort Vanuatu triumphantly threw open its doors in June this year it was like bearing witness to the final piece of a very large puzzle being pressed firmly into place. After the longest of journeys the picture was now complete and what a beautiful and exciting picture it is for the future of tourism in Vanuatu. The buzz around town is electric and the mood is certainly one of positivity for the future of Port Vila and its people. After Cyclone Pam whipped through back in March of 2015 leaving a succession of chaos in her wake the tourism industry has taken hit after hit, the effects of which have been felt right throughout this idyllic tropical nation. However resilience and determination are all part of the island way and with the re-launch of two of the big guns, Iririki Island Resort and The Holiday Inn Resort things are moving onwards and upwards in beautiful Vanuatu.

With a passionate crew at the helm and a stack of fresh ideas the Holiday Inn Resort is on track to be Port Vila’s premier family resort. Featuring all the bells and whistles travellers have come to expect in a large modern resort The Holiday Inn has plenty on offer for every type of guest. The 148 rooms that make up the resort range from beautifully appointed standard guest rooms, to family suites, over-water honeymoon bungalows and the new addition of the family over-water bungalows.

My pick for families with small kids would be the brightly coloured and cleverly designed family suites. Word has spread like wildfire and these brand new suites have been incredibly popular since the re-launch. These cleverly designed rooms are a real point of difference when it comes to family accommodation in a resort and feature custom-made bunks inspired by the giant banyan trees that the pacific islands are known for. These fantastic banyan bunks also feature television screens, a play station and purpose built tables and chairs for the little ones. The suites cater comfortably for a family of 4 but there is plenty of living area to put an extra rollaway bed or cot if needed. As a mum who has spent many a night in the standard double room with my husband and kids in what ends up being a giant sleepover I love the fact that the family suites have 2 separate bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, so everyone has some breathing space and parents get a little bit of privacy in paradise.

For families with kids who just can’t get enough of the water, the family Over-water bungalows are located on their very own island called Erongo, which is just across the protected, sandy lagoon from the main resort. Once again a family of 4 would be very comfortable calling one of these island-style bungalows home and again there is that all important separate parents room. Once the kids are soundly sleeping off the day activities, parents can enjoy a quiet drink or two while taking in the view over the water from their private deck. Erongo island also has it’s own private beach area and picnic hampers, BBQ packs and a private chef can be easily organised for those wanting to soak up as much of the natural beauty as they possibly can. Who could ask for a more memorable breakfast than one delivered to your over-water bungalow by the resident Holiday Inn chief, Chief Sam via traditional outrigger canoe? It’s the special little touches like golf cart chauffer’s and buckets of fish food for the kids that keeps everyone happy and feeling very welcome and relaxed during their stay.

In the spirit of changing things up at Holiday Inn Resort Vanuatu, the crew have come up with some seriously fresh ideas to help your family create special holiday memories. There are still the traditional offerings that families are looking for in a big island resort like the kids club, 9-hole golf course and a quality day spa but with a fresh new look has come a vibrant new approach to what is on offer. I was given a sneaky peak of some of the fabulous new activities that are about to be launched and I have to say I was about as excited by these plans, as my kids were! The resort has purchased an innovative new product that is a type of biodegradable fish food golf ball and a shooting range will soon be added to one end of the lagoon, which is sure to be a winner with the golf lovers of your group. For those seeking a bit more action, like my teenage son, Holiday Inn hires underwater action cameras. Your discoveries below the surface can be put onto disc or USB for you to take home and share with family and friends, who will no doubt be jealous of your time in the tropics. Marine conservation is taken very seriously in this part of the world and coral is being carefully grown in the centrally located aquamarine lagoon. Not only will this provide a perfect environment for the colourful and prolific fish life that Vanuatu is known for but it helps preserve the fragile eco-system for generations of families to enjoy and discover together.

If food is the way to your heart while on holidays, cooking classes and market trips with a group of the local mamas is another part of the island cultural experience that Holiday Inn offers its guests. The island women are famous for their traditional recipes and with so much fresh, organic produce grown locally in the volcanic soil the food of the islands is always delicious and made with love. For the true gourmet traveller, specialised cooking classes are run by the resorts award-winning head chef and showcase some of the produce grown on site in the resorts vegetable gardens. There are several options when it comes dining at the Holiday Inn and the food and beverage team are an experienced bunch, each bringing with them snippets of their experiences cooking all over the globe. Buffet breakfast and A la Carte dinner are served in the stylishly decked out Verandah Restaurant, which enjoys a stunning view over the beach area and lagoon. I can enthusiastically recommend the wasabi king prawns, the pineapple fried rice and the classic panna cotta as a sweet way to finish a delicious meal; they also have an extensive wine list. For unforgettable special occasions a private dinner can be stylishly put together with care and attention to detail in your very own lagoon-side pavilion. Now I’m sure you’ve heard the expression ‘Happy kids, happy parents’, never is this more the case than it is with feeding those picky eaters in the family with Holiday Inn’s new kids menu. With traditional offerings to keep their tummies happy like beef burgers, cheesy meatballs, popcorn chicken and fish and chips, parents will love that the menu was developed in partnership with Nutrition Australia, encompassing reduced fat, salt and sugar but still maintaining taste and colour. Lunch is served at the poolside bar, which has a casual vibe and a great choice to suit everyone; they are particularly famous around town for their delicious wood-fired pizzas and icy cold local beer, Tusker. Specialty cocktails, tea and coffee and tappas are served in the lobby bar throughout the day. If a pre-dinner cocktail is your thing you can’t leave without trying the resorts signature offering ‘The Kava Lava’. Made with kava paste and traditional black honey, think Toblerone with a pinch of island flair to it, just heavenly!

Namele day spa offers facial treatments, massages and all types of relaxation packages that can be tailored to every member of your group. I was lucky enough to spend some time with the ladies who run Namale and the 90-minute aromatherapy treatment I had was just blissful and exactly what I needed to wind me down into island holiday mode. One of the most popular treatments they offer is hair braiding for the little ones and mother and daughter packages, they also do ‘Island Princess’ mini manicures and pedicures for tiny hands and feet who want some pretty holiday nails to show off.

The great thing about staying at the Holiday Inn Vanuatu is that there truly is something for everyone and depending on your vision for a perfect vacation, you can do as much or as little as you like. There is always a lot happening around the resort and activities change on a daily basis. There are 2 different pools to choose from, one of which is a dedicated quiet zone for adults who just want to soak up some sun in peace; the other is a giant interactive pool complete with a mini water park and disco lights at nighttime. Not to be missed is the Thursday night fire show, held on the beach area. These nights are always so much fun for everyone and usually finish with the whole audience up and dancing with a traditional island sway. At the resort hub Chief Sam will help you book any number of tours that are on offer around Vanuatu’s main island of Efate and there certainly are plenty to choose from. Take in stunning waterfalls, send a postcard home from the world’s only underwater post office or spend your day on a sailing ship, snorkeling with turtles just off the shore of a remote island. If you are looking for an adventure there is always off road buggy safari’s, game fishing and zip lining, all of which have been approved by the tourism board and have met rigorous safety standards. The staff at Holiday Inn are more than happy to organise a driver for the day if you would like to explore at your own pace the blue lagoons, roadside markets and deserted beaches that Vanuatu is famous for.

In the ever-changing world of family vacations Vanuatu has been sitting quietly in the background waiting to explode back onto the scene post-cyclone when the timing was just right. Change blows in the tropical island breeze and when it comes to family holidays in the Pacific, there is a fresh new paradise just waiting to be explored. The buzzing energy is all around and you can’t help but be swept away with the smiles of the Ni-Vanuatu people. There really is no better time to discover Vanuatu for your self and start creating family memories to last a lifetime at Port Vila’s Holiday Inn Resort.

For more information on the Holiday Inn Resort Vanuatu check out http://vanuatu.holidayinnresorts.com/

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