Coral-ringed beaches, smouldering volcanoes and rainforest-covered mountains set the stage for unforgettable adventures in the Solomon Islands. We've hand-picked the very best experiences from the brand-new edition of Lonely Planet's Papua New Guinea & Solomon Islands guide book to show you why these tropical islands are on our list of unmissable destinations for 2013.
1. Diving in the Solomon Islands
Papua New Guinea and the Solomons both rank among the best destinations on Planet Scuba, with an irresistible menu of underwater treasures: luscious reefs festooned with huge sea fans; warm waters teeming with rainbow-coloured and bizarre critters; eerie drop-offs that tumble into the abyss; and a host of atmospheric WWII wrecks – not to mention the thrill of diving uncrowded sites. A handful of beautifully set dive resorts provide the idyllic gateway to your undersea adventure. To reach even more remote and pristine environments, sign on to a live-aboard vessel. Learn more in our diving guide to the Solomons.
2. Marovo Lagoon
A visual feast awaits you at Marovo Lagoon. A profusion of dive sites at South and North Marovo offer excellent fish action, suitable for all levels of proficiency. The reefs are blanketed with sea fans and act as a magnet for marine species, from tiny creatures to marauding pelagics, including manta rays and sharks. South Marovo rewards divers with scenic sites off a cluster of three islands – Kicha, Mbula and Male Male Islands – while North Marovo has a vibrant assemblage of dramatic walls, exhilarating passages and uncomplicated reef dives.
Honiara’s expansive Central Market is a wonderful and largely hassle-free place to experience a typical Melanesian city market, with its fruit and vegetable stalls watched over by colourfully clad women and surrounded by the pungent odours of the fish section at the back. Gizo boasts another intriguing market on the waterfront. Villagers from neighbouring islands arrive each morning by boat to occupy stands under the shade of tall trees. Soak up the atmosphere, feast on sweet bananas, chat with the locals and quench your thirst with coconut water.
4. Mataniko & Tenaru Falls
Magnificent scenery lies within a half-day’s travel of Honiara, including Mataniko Falls and Tenaru Waterfalls – both with lovely natural pools perfect for a refreshing dip. A guide is required for both. If you’re fit, opt for the two-hour hike to Mataniko Falls, which are in fact little cascades that tumble into a small canyon. The stunning Tenaru Waterfalls – an easy four-hour walk (return) – rewards visitors with a dreamy tropical ambience and the offer of a refreshing swim in its snug natural pool.
5. WWII relics
The Solomon Islands has everything in spades. Above the surface, plenty of WWII relics scattered in the jungle will captivate history buffs. Outside Honiara, the capital, you can visit poignant battlefields and memorials, as well as abandoned amtracks, a Sherman tank, Japanese field guns and the remains of several US aircraft. West New Georgia also has a fantastic collection of WWII relics, including a sunken Japanese freighter, several large Japanese anti-aircraft guns and numerous museums featuring WWII debris and memorabilia.