Guadalcanal covers more than 2000 square miles (5300 sq km) and is the biggest island. It is covered by thick, impenetrable forest. Mount Makarakomburu and Mount Popomanaseu stand at 8075 and 7695 feet (2447 and 2332 meters) respectively, the highest mountains in the country. The north lies in a dry belt; the southern beaches, which are exposed to the southeasterly trade winds, get far more rain, hence the name Weather Coast. In the central part of the northern coastal region is a large (184 square miles/460 sq km) inundation plain used for intensive agriculture. A 42-mile (72 km) road leads out of Honiara to the west all the way to Lambi Bay. To the east is another road that takes you to Aola 45 miles (75 km) away.
The Capital Honiara
The Americans established their most important bases in the north of Guadalcanal. They built an airfield and various other facilities. When the old capital of Tulagi was destroyed in the fighting of World War Two, it was obvious that the infrastructure set up by the US troops could be recycled. Honiara became the new capital. It quickly developed into a modern industrial center and also the center of Guadalcanal’s tourist industry. It now numbers 40,000 inhabitants.
Although Honiara has no impressive historical sights, the modern town, with its concrete buildings and greenery, is lively and friendly. Palm trees and blossoming hibiscus, frangipani and flame trees give shade. Bright colors and sweet smells bewitch the senses.
The most important street is Mendana Avenue, which runs near the coast. Here, you will find shops and banks. The parallel street inland is called Hibiscus Avenue where there are public buildings like the Parliament and the missions of Australia and of the United States, as well as the King Solomon Hotel. At the Central Market, about 200 meters (200 yards) from the Town Hall, one can buy mainly fruits and vegetables. The market is worth visiting, especially in the morning or on a Saturday: the fresh goods and the busy crowds offer a colorful picture.
Next to the Town Hall stands the Holy Cross Cathedral. Mendana Avenue branches off shortly afterwards to the right. The City Library is located here. The street crosses the Mataniko River and leads to picturesque Chinatown, where a totally different world opens up. The wooden houses have pretty verandahs, Chinese shops and restaurants offer their goods and services.
It is said that a Spanish sailor, Alvaro de Mendana, erected a wooden cross in 1568 on the spit of land called Point Cruz and declared that the islands he had discovered were the property of the Spanish Crown. On the east side of the little peninsula a harbor was built. A nearby fuel storage depot is to be moved to a new location outside town following a recent fire there. Further west along Mendana Avenue the tourist office will offer information and help. The Point Cruz Yacht Club, to be found right behind it on the shore, is a popular meeting place not only for yachting people. Travelers consider the Solomon Kitano Mendana Hotel the best and biggest in the country.
Opposite the hotel is the National Museum and Cultural Center, where curators have shown great commitment in assembling a collection dedicated to the culture and history of the country. On show are typical houses from the various regions of the Solomon Islands, canoes, woodwork, shells and cult objects. The museum sells books and artifacts. The nearby Central Bank has a permanent exhibition showing traditional money made out of feathers and shells, with an occasional temporary exhibition of woodcarving and paintings.
The Botanical Gardens, open permanently, lie a little outside the town to the west. They charm their visitors with typical plants of the country, a lake covered in lilies and a herbarium with thousands of dried plants. There are paths leading
into the surrounding rain forest for those who want to venture on longer walks.
Watapamu Village, not far away, is an idyllic Solomon village with houses on
stilts and roofs made from palm leaves. It is an absolute must for anyone visiting
From Honiara to Lambi Bay
The many crashed planes and sunken warships, testimonies to the dramatic
battles between the Japanese and Americans in the Second World War, give the
area the name of Iron Bottom Sound. The wrecks, overgrown with algae and
coral and surrounded by shoals of brightly colored tropical fish, are an at
traction for divers. The wrecks are often so close to the surface of the water that
even snorkelers can explore them easily. Water sports agencies and the tourist of
fice provide information about these underwater sights.
About 5 miles (8 km) from Honiara, near Poha, you’ll find the Vatuluma Posori Cave. Decorated with rock carvings, it represents the oldest archeological find on the islands to date. It is accessible to tourists only with a special permit issued by the museum and the villagers.
As is common practice in the South Pacific, an entrance fee must be paid for the beaches near Bonegi (8 miles/ 13 km) and Ndoma 14 miles/23 km). Further to the west, a bit away from the main road,
is the village of Vilu. The small Vilu War Museum shows relics from World War Two.
After another 6 miles (10 km), one reaches Cape Esperance, where at the secret evacuation of their troops from Guadalcanal following their defeat. The Tambea Village Resort (27 miles/45 km), with its Melanesian-style bungalows, is one of the few tourist developments to be found outside the capital. It is conveniently located for a break during the trip on this road. The road ends 15 miles (25 km) further at Lambi Bay.
From Honiara to Aola
Mount Austin road branches off in Kukum, the eastern district of the capital. Mount Austin (1353 feet/410 m) was one of the strategically critical positions of Japanese troops in the fight for Henderson Airfield. A road leads to the top. Halfway up the hill the Solomon Peace Memorial Park honors the fallen Japanese. The hill offers marvelous views of Honiara and the north coast.
Henderson, now the international airport, lies 6 miles (10 km) outside Honiara. Names like Bloody Ridge, Hell’s Point and Red Beach are testimony to the bitter fighting that once took place in this area.
The road continues across the Guadalcanal Plains, the largest flatlands on the island. Tetere (20 miles/34 km from Honiara) lies at the center of the oil palm plantations established at the end of the 1970s.
Two miles (3 km) off the main road is Tetere Beach, which has a cross in memory of four Austrian explorers who were killed in 1896 by locals. In the vicinity lies the sad wreckage of some landing craft from the Second World War.
If arrangements are made in advance, you can cross from Komuninggita (39 miles/65 km) to the island of Vulelua. There are day trips on offer from Honiara. The road ends at Aola (45 miles/75 km).