Espiritu Santo (also just Santo) is in the largest island in Vanuatu.
The local people make their living by supporting the tourist trade, by cash-crop farming, mostly copra, but also some cocoa beans and kava, as well as peanuts, or by subsistence farming and fishing.
Most of the people are Christians, but for almost all of Espiritu Santo's people, custom plays a large part in their lives, regardless of their religion. The chief system continues strongly in most areas.
In 1980 the island was the site of a rebellion during the transfer of power from the British/French condominium to the independent Vanuatu. Jimmy Stevens' Nagriamel movement, in alliance with private French interests and backed by the Phoenix Foundation and American libertarians hoping to establish a tax-free haven, declared the island of Espiritu Santo to be independent of the new government. The "Republic of Vemerana" was proclaimed on May 28. France recognized the independence on June 3. On June 5, the tribal chiefs of Santo named the French Ambassador Philippe Allonneau the "King of Vemerana", and Jimmy Stevens became the Prime Minister. Negotiations with the Vanuatu government failed, and from July 27 to August 18, British Royal Marines and a unit of the French Garde Mobile were deployed to Vanuatu's capital island, but they did not enter Espiritu Santo as the soon-to-be government had hoped. The troops were recalled shortly before independence. Following independence, Vanuatu requested assistance from Papua New Guinea, whose army invaded and conquered Espiritu Santo, keeping it in Vanuatu.
- 1 Santo-Pekoa International Airport. (SON IATA), direct flights from Brisbane, provided by Air Vanuatu.
From Luganville, three "main roads" emerge. Main Street leaves the town to the west and winds along the south coast of the island for about 40 km ending at the village of Tasiriki on the southwest coast. Canal Road runs along the southern and eastern coasts of the island, north through Hog Harbor and Golden Beach, ending at Port Olry. Big Bay Highway splits off from Canal Road near Turtle Bay on the east coast, runs generally west to the mountains, and then it leads north to Big Bay.
- 1 Lonnoc Beach (about an hour north of Luganville by road). One of the most scenic places on the island. Crystal clear waters, ideal for snorkelling.
- 2 Champagne Beach (adjacent to Lonnoc Beach, about an hour north of Luganville by road). Often quoted as being the most beautiful beach in the South Pacific. Watch out since it gets invaded when the cruise ships come to call. There are many other beautiful and isolated beaches. Sharks have been known to attack swimmers and there are some dangerous currents so be sure to ask the locals before jumping in.
Espiritu Santo is a diver's paradise with a multitude of sites and wrecks. Its most famous wreck, the SS President Coolidge, is known for being the largest accessible wreck dive in the world. It is a fascinating ship with a dual history as a luxury cruise liner and a military transport vessel and the wreck retains evidence of both lives. It requires experience experience with deep dives and wreck penetration to safely explore. The wreck is so large that there is anecdotal evidence of divers getting lost inside and having to rely on strategically placed emergency oxygen bottles to escape.
Another famous (and less intimidating) dive site is Million Dollar Point where the United States military dumped all of its equipment into the sea after World War II. Divers and snorkellers can enjoy exploring sunken tanks, jeeps, aircraft and millions of 1940s Coke bottles.
Millennium Cave is another attraction. Only found in 2000, tourists can make the trek to this large bat-filled cave and then relax while tubing back to their starting point along a lazy river. Wear old clothing, sturdy shoes, and realise that there is an active bat colony which will crap on you. Remember that you can wash back at your bungalow and enjoy the experience.
Trekkers and nature walkers have numerous options, including several multiday treks. Ask around in Luganville for tour operators and guides.
Local foods include sweet pineapples, mangoes, island cabbage, flying foxes, and coconut crab, as well as local nuts such as natapoa and the sweet fleshy-fruit nouse. There is a market in Luganville where local food such as manioc, taro, yam, and cabbage; and other freshly grown island staples are sold. Several small supermarkets such as LCM, Unity Shell, and Au Bon Marche sell groceries and many packaged goods.
The people of Santo face some health problems, especially malaria and tuberculosis. Although there is a hospital, most local people consult either their own witch doctor or medical clinics set up by western missionaries. Kava is the popular drug of the island, although alcohol is becoming more prevalent. With the rising number of adults using alcohol, there is a rising crime rate, especially involving violence toward women, and tribal warfare.