Lonely Planet recommends the Central Market in Honiara as a top activity in the Solomon Islands... But there's more to it. MUCH more.
“Visiting the Solomon Islands and just staying in Honiara is like visiting Australia and just going to Canberra. You just don’t.”
1. Have a walk around the town
2. Go enjoy some reggae with the locals
3. War relics
5. Bonegi Beach
8. Get out of Honiara
9. Island Hopping in the Solomon Islands
10. Take it slow
Travelling the Solomon Islands reminds me a lot of travelling Bangladesh. I often use the postcard availability as frame of reference for gauging tourism in a country. As per my mother’s request, every country I go to I get a postcard, and either give it to her if and when I return home, or send it to her if I’m feeling nice.
Nowhere in Bangladesh did I see a tourist shop, let alone a shop that may have sold postcards.
In the Solomon Islands there were shops that looked like they could have sold postcards, but in the end didn’t.
The top sites to see in the Solomon Islands on TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet are really just fillers because there’s… Few real “sites” to see. Or at least, these sites are simply there to make a blog - when in reality discovering a country isn’t just about visiting the sites. Some countries are yet to be discovered, and the real sites you will have to go and look for and find yourself.
This is the Solomon Islands.
And - that’s why it’s brilliant.
The Central Market hits up at Number 2. on Lonely Planet’s list of things to do in the Solomon Islands.
Let’s consider that you’re fairly well travelled. To be coming to the Solomon Islands, I guess you have probably visited at least a few countries before (otherwise you’ll be in for a shock), so you’ll also have probably visited a few markets before. Grand Bazaar in Turkey? Food markets in South East Asia? Your local continental market?
My point is, in Turkey, you go to a Bazaar. Because they’re fun and a big culture shock to all of the senses - and unique to the culture. Sure, it’s touristy, but let’s be honest sometimes things tourists typically do are typical tourist activities for a reason; They’re great.
In the Solomon Islands, you don’t “go to a market”.
The Central Market in the Solomon Islands - I have nothing against it. It’s a functioning market with lots of life. It’s where the locals do their shopping, and there’s great cheap produce.
But it’s also… nothing special. At least not “No.2 special".
I love markets, actually. I love the shouting, haggling, and abuse of all of the senses. So I’m always keen to check out a market.
Maybe I’ve exhausted the market market..? Maybe my expectations are now too high from having visited the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul?
Nah, honestly - it’s not that great.
But I understand why it’s listed as Number 2 things you “have to do” in the Solomon Islands. In terms of tourist attractions, there isn’t much here. So bloggers desperate to get some content in fumble around for some words to try convince you that visiting Central Market is something you need to do in Honiara - when in reality they’re doing it all wrong.
(Or maybe they believe the words they’ve written since they haven’t actually been for themselves and they’re just taking information from other lost bloggers trying to up their Pacific Island SEO game).
There is 0 reason for me to convince you to visit Central Market.
Offering Central Market as a great tourist destination in the Solomon Islands will only leave you with disappointment.
Chances are, you’ve been to better markets.
There are many empty stalls, it’s relatively small, there are lots of flies, and (especially if you’re a foreign female) you’ll get starred at a lot.
Nevertheless, it’s a place to visit if you have 30 minutes to kill and you’re staying close by, or you want to pick up some cheap fruit and veg.
I’m not trying to talk badly about Central Market in Honiara, and certainly not the Solomon Islands either.
On the contrary, I want to try and show off that there’s so much more to the Solomon Islands than attraction no.2 on Lonely Planet.
As I mentioned at the start, the Solomon Islands reminds me of Bangladesh in that it is a raw country. There’s little to no tourism here. Indeed, the Solomon Islands is one of the top 10 least visited countries in the world.
There’s a big lack in tourist infrastructure, and to get around you have to do as the locals do.
In fact, in my time in the Solomon Islands, I saw more local people travelling than foreign travellers - which was both bizarre and refreshing.
There’s little information online, and almost even less information when you arrive here… The hotels won’t hound you with various activities they’ve added 20% commission onto, taxi drivers won’t convince you to go here or do this…
There is a tourist information office in Honiara (closed Sundays) that can point you in the right direction if you’re after doing a tour. They don’t sell tours there or have any affiliates, but they’re incredibly friendly and have lots of contacts they can put you in touch with. I’d recommend visiting here!
Tourism in the Solomon Islands just hasn’t kicked off yet. (Although they have started to learn to try to rip off tourists).
Embrace that. (Not the ripping off, the lack of tourism thing).
And one of the best things you can do in the Solomon Islands is to just… be in the Solomon Islands. Experience a raw country without too much outside influence. Meet the locals. Enjoy the lack of foreign faces around and, although it may be intimidating at times, appreciate the fact you may be the only foreign tourist walking around town.
Isn’t that the new hip thing to do? Hate seeing other tourists and want to get off the beaten track as possible?
Well, there are few tracks in the Solomon Islands yet for them to even have been beaten.
Of course, aside from just experiencing life in the Solomon Islands, there are a few things I would put on a real list of top 10 things to do in the Solomon Islands, and things that will guide you to experiencing the Solomon Islands to the full extent.
In no particular order, how you can make the best out of your Solomon Islands travel.
“Visiting the Solomon Islands and just staying in Honiara is like visiting Australia and just going to Canberra. You just don’t.” Garedd, officer at the Tourism Bureau in Honiara (great guy!)
These words convinced me to take a spontaneous supposedly day-trip to an island not far from Honiara. It ended up being an overnight visit that I could have easily extended to a few days had I had the time and funds.
Going for a walk around the area is the first thing I do when I arrive anywhere.
Walking Honiara city won’t take you long. Actually you’ll be hard-pressed to make it last any longer than 20 minutes. It’s not big, and there’s not much. There’s a few restaurants and bars, but a lot of the action happens in the various hotels and resorts that go along the coast in the town.
Reggae music, whilst not traditional music of the Solomon Islands, has been getting more and more popular - and a favourite activity of many locals is to go to a bar of an evening and listen to some live Reggae music.
A lot of things you will do in the Solomon Islands will have a war element anyway, since these war relics are everywhere, but even a walk through Honiara city centre will have you finding at least a couple.
If you want to go further afield, hiking is a great way to do this, or go even further to different islands or dive a shipwreck.
Because of the tropical weather in the Solomon Islands, you get lush rainforests with waterfalls and hills mixed with white sand beaches and beautiful clear waters. These varied landscapes make for some beautiful treks and hikes - not to be missed whilst you’re in the Solomon Islands, really.
Mataniko Falls is one of the most popular hikes in the Solomon Islands. The Mataniko River was a key site of the Battle of Guadalcanal, so there are many WWII relics along this hike.
Bonegi Beach is a great place to go to if you’re on the mainland. Whilst this is a popular diving spot, you can also snorkel a shipwreck here that is so close to the shore it pokes out of the water. The current isn’t strong here and there aren’t big waves so it makes for a pleasant snorkel. You could spend hours here around the ship alone.
It’s also a great escape from the town and a nice spot for a picnic!
It’s about 20-30 minute drive from central Honiara.
Beautiful reefs, sheer walls, shipwrecks, and World War 2 relics. The Solomon Islands has some of the world’s best diving spots, and some really unique ones at that. If you dive, you can’t miss diving in the Solomon Islands. And if you don’t dive, what better place to start…
I kind of regret snorkelling in the Solomon Islands. I LOVE the sea. Really, if there is water I’m probably in it. All the better if there’s a mask and snorkel around - you won’t see me all day and I’ll come back with suitably red British skin.
The reason I regret snorkelling in the Solomon Islands is the same reason no one can go back to drinking the same cheap cider you used to when you were 14. Never have I seen such clear waters, such beautiful fish, and such colourful coral. It’s ruined it for me.
Getting out of Honiara is the best thing you can do during your trip to the Solomon Islands. If you don’t, you just have not really experienced the Solomon Islands.
My only regret of moving out of Honiara was that I didn’t do it earlier. Honiara needs 1 night, 2 max. There’s a few sites and memorials you shouldn’t miss, but in reality there is so much more out there, and it’s cheaper to stay off Honiara! Bonus.
There’s around 800 islands in Honiara to choose from.
This may be a bit of an overwhelming number… But do some research and you’ll find an island (or several) to suit you!
As mentioned above, there’s a few islands to choose from in the Solomon Islands.
Hurry up and get off Honiara!
Florida Island was my first pick of choice.
And I have no regrets.
Florida island is home to about 800 villages, each with a population from approx. 70-100 people. Some more, some less. There are 7 districts in total. Each big village has their won primary school, and each district has a secondary school.
It is located about 1-2 hours from Honiara, depending on how choppy the sea is.
On a calm sea, it can take less than an hour!
Like many Pacific islands, “island time” is a thing. The Solomon Islands are no exception to this. Most tourists to Solomon Islands get 90 days visa upon entering, and if you can use all of this - do! \
Of course, for most of us, taking a 3 month holiday in the Solomon Islands is no more than a wild dream.
So for those that only have a limited time in the Solomon Islands, the key is to take it slow as much as possible and not only accept, but embrace “island time”.
This move slowly, people will be late, things might not happen, but that is travel in the Solomon Islands.
Go visit the Central Market in Honiara, and see if it’s your second favourite thing to do in the Solomon Islands. (Then go tell Lonely Planet they need to send more people on research trips before they write blogs).