Guadalcanal is one of the Solomon Islands.
The island was the scene of fierce fighting during the Second World War; see Pacific War.
Honiara is the capital of the Solomon Islands.
In the months following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the Japanese drove the Americans out of the Philippines, the British out of British Malaya, and the Dutch out of the East Indies. The Japanese then began to expand into the Western Pacific, occupying many islands in an attempt to build a defensive ring around their conquests and threaten the lines of communication from the United States to Australia and New Zealand. The Japanese reached Guadalcanal in May 1942.
When an American reconnaissance mission spotted construction of a Japanese airfield at Lunga Point on the north coast of Guadalcanal, the situation became critical. This new Japanese airfield represented a threat to Australia itself, and so the United States as a matter of urgency, despite not being adequately prepared, conducted the first amphibious landing of the war. The initial landings of US Marines on 7 August 1942 secured the airfield without too much difficulty, but holding the airfield for the next six months was one of the most hotly contested campaigns in the entire war for the control of ground, sea and skies. Guadalcanal became a major turning point in the war as it stopped Japanese expansion. After six months of fighting, the Japanese ceased contesting the control of the island. They finally evacuated the island at Cape Esperance on the north west coast in February 1943.
Immediately after landing on the island, the US Navy Seabees began finishing the airfield begun by the Japanese. It was then named Henderson Field after a Marine aviator killed in combat during the Battle of Midway. Aircraft operating from Henderson Field during the campaign were a hodgepodge of Marine, Army, Navy and allied aircraft that became known as the Cactus Air Force. They defended the airfield and threatened any Japanese ships that ventured into the vicinity during daylight hours. However, at night, Japanese naval forces were able to shell the airfield and deliver troops with supplies, retiring before daylight. The Japanese used fast ships to make these runs, and this became known as the Tokyo Express. So many ships from both sides were sunk in the many engagements in and around the Solomon Island chain that the nearby waters were referred to as Ironbottom Sound. The Battle of Cape Esperance was fought on 11 October 1942 off the northwest coast of Guadalcanal. In the battle, United States Navy ships intercepted and defeated a Japanese formation of ships on their way down 'the Slot' to reinforce and resupply troops on the island, but suffered losses as well. The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in November marked the turning point in which Allied Naval forces took on the extremely experienced Japanese surface forces at night and forced them to withdraw after sharp action. Some Japanese viewpoints consider these engagements, and the improving Allied surface capability to challenge their surface ships at night, to be just as significant as the Battle of Midway in turning the tide against them.
- 1 Honiara International Airport (HIR IATA Henderson Field) (11 km (6.8 mi) east of Honiara). The only international airport in the Solomon Islands. Fiji Airways (once weekly service from Nadi). Air Niugini (twice weekly to Port Moresby and twice weekly to Nadi). Solomon Airlines (4/5 times weekly service to Brisbane). Virgin Australia have flights to Brisbane every Tuesday and Thursday. There are also flights between Port Vila, Nadi, Port Moresby, and Sydney.
Taxis are relatively plentiful and cheap in Honiara. They can be either ordered or flagged down. There are also frequent minibuses that operate along the coastal strip from Henderson to White River making numerous stops along the way (SBD$3 any distance).
- Honiara contains a wealth of World War Two sites: most of the hills in the Honiara area were the sites of fierce battles during World War Two.
- 1 Guadalcanal American Memorial.
- 2 National Museum (Located across from the Mendana Hotel).
- 3 Aola Bay. A key location during the Battle of Guadalcanal
- 4 Tenaru Falls. 60 m (200 ft) waterfall in the rain-forest.
- 5 Matanikau River. A 20.5 km river mouth in palm-fringed tropical forest.
- Take a guided trek to one of the waterfalls nearby, such as the beautiful Matanikau Falls, about a two-hour walk from the starting point a short bus-ride from the city centre.
- Check out a service at one of the many churches. South Seas Evangelical Church has an easily-found location next to the central markets and beautiful singing. Its main Sunday service is at 9:30am. There is also a smaller evening service there most Sundays at 5pm.
- Beach it.
- Wander through the bustling Central Market. It is a site to behold, in particular on Saturday mornings where you can pick up flowers and hand-made jewellery and crafts.
- And dive, explore, make plans or see the rest of the country...
There are many craft/souvenir shops located along the coastal strip. Handicrafts such as wooden carvings are also often sold in the covered area of Panatina Plaza carpark. Additionally, the central market is a great place to buy local handicrafts, jewellery and lavalavas (sarongs). The latter come in a range of fabrics and brightly-coloured dip-dyed designs.
There are a number of shops selling secondhand clothing, which can be found easily along the main street and elsewhere. Handmade kids' clothing such as skirts can be found at the Central Market.
Solomon Island Newbie Guide: SHOPPING (What to buy part one) is a helpful guide to shopping in the Solomons, includes some great gift ideas.
There is surprising variety in Honiara with many restaurants catering to expats. This includes hotels listed below. There are a number of eateries near the museum, to its left if you are facing it from the main road. A range of lunch foods and drinks are on offer, including fish 'n' cassava chips and green (drinking) coconuts. The Central Market, located on the main road, is a great source of fresh fruit and vegetables. Fish and chips, as well as uncooked fish, are also sold there.
- 1 The Taj Mahal (Located downtown). Has good Indian and Sri Lankan food though a little pricey and only open at certain times of the day.
- 2 Point Cruz Yacht Club. The favoured hangout of expats in Honiara, the yacht club has a variety of simple and inexpensive meals available nightly.
A helpful list of places to purchase groceries can be found here: Newbie Honiara Guide: Food
- United Church Resthouse, Lower Vavaya Ridge Road, ☏ +677 20028. For budget accommodation
There are many hotels in Honiara, mainly catering to expats.
- 1 Honiara Hotel (Located overlooking Chinatown). Has several restaurants; an excellent French restaurant, a Chinese restaurant (planned) and a general restaurant serving sandwiches and burgers.
- 2 King Solomon.
- 3 Iron Bottom Sound Hotel.
Note that there have been civil unrest and riots in this city. It is worth keeping up-to-date with travel advisory warnings, such as those provided by the Australian or New Zealand governments.
Take care whilst at the Central Market for pick-pockets.