Ever heard of Honiara? Better still – have you been there? Probably not; Honiara is the capital city of one of the world’s least-visited countries, and the kind of place that is so out of the way and out of whack with the rest of the world that it’s kind of hard to accidentally end up here.
Due to our least visited tour I was to end up coming here four times in a year, and thus able to decree myself self-styled expert of all things Honiara.
Here’s my crap city guide of what to do when you travel to Honiara.
How to get to Honiara
Whilst Honiara City – and its airport – might not be up to much, they’re at least less shit and sketchy than Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, which is next door and sadly the easiest way to travel to Honiara 5 days a week. There are also links to Australia, and it is served by the Nauru Airlines island hopper service.
There are also regular flights to Vanuatu; this, after PNG, is the nearest country to the Solomon Islands.
If you do manage to get yourself to Honiara Airport don’t take a taxi from the rank; either get your hotel to pick you up, or get a local to call you a metered taxi.
Accommodation in Honiara
There are enough tourists coming in and out of the Solomon Islands to warrant some decent high-end hotels. But for the best value, atmosphere and indeed story you need to stay at the Honiara Hotel.
The Honiara hotel rooms cost about $100 per night, but it has 3 restaurants, free massage, weird Pyongyang-esque finding Nemo sculptures, and a legendary owner called Tommy Chang who has met the Queen on numerous occasions and is even a lord to boot. Trust our judgement on this one!
What is there to see in Honiara?
Honiara city is hardly a bustling metropolis of stuff to see, but there are a few decent place to stroll around.
- Honiara Market – Located next to the sea with some greatly positioned shipwrecks you can piss about on. You get a real slice of Honiara life here, big fish and a few tacky souvenirs for home;
- Solomon Islands Museum – Free entry and a decent place to learn a fairly biased version of the history of the Solomon Islands;
- The football stadium – by ‘football’ I mean the kicking kind, rather than the egg-chasing kind. And who knew the Solomon Islands are actually pretty good at football? Well worth seeing a game if there’s one on when you are here.
- Snorkelling– there’s a few great spots where you can dive or snorkel around old Japanese wrecks.
What to eat?
Honiara is not exactly a culinary capital, but go exploring and there’s a few decent options to fight the hunger.
- Chinese food – There’s a fair bit of history of ethnic strife between the Chinese and the locals, but that hasn’t much affected the culinary scene with every third shop seemingly a Chinese restaurant;
- Honiara Street Food – I’ve written a bit about the street food of Honiara, a subject very dear to me, but lots of great fish and chicken abound if you go exploring. If only they could work out that serving drinks too would be a great idea;
- The Honiara Hotel – The aforementioned gem of a hotel has a decent menu, a buffet on some nights and extremely fresh tuna sashimi. Not cheap, but it’s not a cheap country.
Nightlife of Honiara
Judging by the people on WeChat’s ‘people nearby’ function, there are at least a few ladies here offering massage services of an evening. Aside from happy-ending-based evenings, though, Honiara becomes a bit of a ghost town when the sun sets.There’s a few bottle shops and local-style pubs, but they come across as the kind of places you’d like to be with a local. Oh: and there’s a casino if you want to practice your Chinese.
Is it worth visiting Honiara and the Solomon Islands?
Is Honiara a crap town? Yes. Is there much to do here? No. But Honiara and the whole of the Solomon Islands have an infectious old-worldy laid-back charm that makes it a great place to hang for a few days when in transit to more interesting locale of the Pacific Islands. After all, I’ve now been here 4 times.
Getting out of Honiara
Again, unless you have a big sexy boat getting out shall be the same way you got in: by air. Solomon Airways services the rest of the country, whilst your nearest stops are Vanuatu and Port Moresby.