Make hay and head to the Palm House on Efate in Vanuatu, where life slows down to island time and everything becomes a breeze. This beachfront bolthole is set on an organic farm, under an hour by car from the capital Port Vila. There are just four rooms in this Hamptons-style hideaway, which can be hired as a whole with a private chef. We’d wager you’ll want to stay put and be voluntarily marooned at this stylish smallholding, but there are reefs to snorkel, private beaches to build sandcastles on and locals just waiting to share some kava with you.
Get this when you book through us:
A jar of premium organic coconut oil made in Vanuatu
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £436.46 (VUV65,000), including tax at 12.5 per cent.
Rates usually include all meals, return transfers and the use of the house’s watersports equipment.
The house is part of a family-run farm, which has more than 2,000 cattle, as well as lamb and goats, and produces grass-fed beef and organic coconut oil, and catches its own prawns.
The hotel closes every February.
At the hotel
Beach, watersports, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: air-conditioning, minibar, Smeg minibar, Crosley record player, TV and Meraki bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Each of the four villas has a similar style, with two either side of the main house. The decor is classic and colonial (rattan chairs, ceiling fans), with Smeg minibars, Crosley record players and smart-box-set-loaded TVs. Each also has a veranda with a day-bed, lounge chairs and bar counter, and an outdoor shower.
There’s a saltwater Pacific-facing infinity pool with sunloungers and a bar, but the hotel also has 12 kilometres of private beaches to sunbathe on.
Come prepared to be marooned: bring your desert-island discs and all those books you’ve been meaning to read but never quite get round to.
Unfortunately, the house is not easily navigable for wheelchair users.
All ages are welcome, but the hotel is better suited to older kids. Rattan cots with handmade quilts can be added to all rooms for under-fours. Babysitting is available on request.
The Palm House sits on 3,800 hectares of organic farmland and is run on solar and wind power. Much of the food is locally sourced, especially the beef, prawns and coconut oil, which are all farmed, fished and produced by the family that owns the hotel. Food waste is composted and everything that can be is recycled.
Put the request in early enough and the staff will set up a special dining location by the sea and under the stars.
Totally tropical: Hawaiian shirts, banana-leaf patterns, and palm-tree prints to match the cutlery.
At the Palm House Vanuatu, paddock-to-plate takes on a whole new meaning: this 3,800-hectare organic farm rears its own beef, lamb and goat, makes its own coconut oil and catches its own prawns. Meals are surf ’n’ turf heaven as a result. Breakfast is a spread of fresh fruit, yoghurt, pastries, eggs and juices; and if it isn’t straight from this smallholding, it’s probably from somewhere nearby on the island. Lunches are two courses and dinners three; make sure you save room for the Oreo cheesecake. Children’s meals can be prepared on request, too. There’s a communal veranda, and a fire pit down on the beach for bonfires.
Drinks – classic cocktails, or with a tropical twist – are served in the dining and living area of the main house, or in your villa, until 10pm.
Breakfast hours are anytime you’d like it between 7am and 10am; lunch is served between 11am and 2pm; and dinner service is 5pm to 8pm.
Meals can be taken on your ocean-facing private veranda if you prefer.
The Palm House is in the Melanesian archipelago of Vanuatu, close to the capital, Port Vila, which is on Efate Island.
Port Vila’s airport is 20 kilometres away; the drive should take around 45 minutes. Hotel transfers are included in your rate. Air Vanuatu has domestic flights between other islands in the country, as well as from Fiji and cities across Australia and New Zealand. There are also light-aircraft options for those with sturdier stomachs.
It takes roughly 45 minutes to drive into the centre of Port Vila. Hotel transfers to and from the airport are included, but if you do want to explore the island in your own set of wheels, you can hire some in Port Vila – but beware that roads can get washed away during heavy tropical rains, there are potholes and AWOL road signs. There’s free parking at the hotel.
Passenger ferries connect Efate with other islands within Vanuatu, but don’t expect them to be speedy: the weekly one between Port Vila and Santo takes more than 24 hours. There’s also a route linking up Port Vila and Luganville, with stops at Epi, Paama and Malekula.
Worth getting out of bed for
The Palm House is on the west coast of Efate Island, north of the capital Port Vila, which is the place to head to stockpile handicrafts from the market stalls and join a kava-drinking ceremony with some enthusiastic locals in a nakamal (a traditional meeting place).
There are rock pools to swim in about a kilometre from the hotel, or stand at the shore and keep watch for passing marine life, which includes blacktip reef sharks and whales if you’ve timed it right (August has the most sightings). There’s a seashell-and-stone path on the eastern edge of the resort that leads to a cliff with endless ocean views. Pele Island, off the northern coast of Efate, is an excellent place to snorkel – the boat trip over only takes 10 minutes, so it’s doable as a day trip. For a peek at local village life, head to Ekasup just outside of Port Vila with Nafonu Tatoka Tours, who will facilitate a meeting with the chief, his warriors and their weaponry.
The Mele Cascades are everybody’s favourite waterfalls in Port Vila; go early to avoid the crowds. The hike takes about 15 minutes and you’ll be rewarded with the opportunity for a cooling rock-pool dip when you reach the top.
It’s a 45-minute drive into Port Vila, but if you do fancy venturing out, head to Bamboo Nakamal, in Port Vila’s Nambatu quarter, to try some of that kava (just not too much to make it home).
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this boutique hotel in Vanuatu and unpacked their swimwear and snorkels, a full account of their island break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside the Palm House on Efate Island…
Even whales love Efate Island in Vanuatu. These cetacean tourists like to swing by around August and they’ve been known to call right in at the Palm House’s waters. We can’t say we blame them. This four-room beach house, set on acres and acres of organic farmland, lined by endless stretches of sand and reef, is a place to call home. It’s run by a Portuguese couple, who sourced much of the furniture for their breezy, Hamptons-style, white-wood property from Bali. The house can be hired as a whole, with a private chef who has some serious raw materials to work with: the farm rears cattle, lamb and goat, has a nice little prawn-procuring subsidiary operation, and also capitalises on every tropical island’s favourite commodity to make its own organic coconut oil. The house is pretty remote, so if you want to maroon yourself in this private Pacific paradise, go crazy; but there are also blue lagoons, waterfalls, short flights to see the volcanoes on other islands, visits to meet local villagers and dives to rainbow reefs to encourage you out. We think the whales might be onto something.