Culinary Vacation

What is a Culinary Vacation?

Food is one of the great reasons to travel, with many travelers wanting to make food the main experience of their vacation.

Instead of setting yourself up for yet another touristy sight-seeing trip, why not try something different for a change? Book in for a stay that will include cooking lessons and an immersion into local food culture and dishes. Experience local produce and ingredients that you might only find in the islands!

Discover the Vanuatu islands through the cooking pot. It has been richly influenced by the Portuguese, the French and of course the local ni-Vanuatu people. A culinary vacation will introduce you to the traditional ingredients such as coconut, taro, manioc, sweet potato, island cabbage, plantain bananas, organically grown vanilla beans, monstrous pink grapefruits, Pacific lobsters and poulet fish.

The Caribbean of the South Pacific

There are some similarities in the food between the Caribbean Islands and the Vanuatu Islands.  Mostly in the key ingredients and historical influences. Ingredients that are common in most island dishes are rice, plantains, beans, cassava, cilantro, local hot peppers and chillis, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, coconut, and any of various meats that are locally available like beef, poultry, pork or fish.

Caribbean food also has its roots with the Portuguese, Brazilians and Spaniards. Lots of local seafood including fish, crabs and lobsters find its way into the recipes. Local spices and amazing dishes cooked over coals or fire are an experience to prepare as well as to eat. The tropical fruits are second to none and you will learn about the magic of coconuts and how to use different types of bananas in both sweet and savory dishes.

Like the Caribbean, grilling features. The beef is organic and is perfect for BBQ, and local spices make for a great Vanuatu styled jerk seasoning for chicken. I like to use the seafood for tacos and paella, both of which feature on our menus at Papaya Villa.

vanuatu immersion

Vanuatu Immersion & Culinary Vacation

One of the best ways to get to know the Vanuatu Food Culture is through shopping the local markets and getting instruction from local cooks. Learn how to use taro, manioc, plantain bananas and local lobsters.  Best of all you will experience the ever friendly ni-Vanuatu people.



Papaya Loco

The Papaya Loco Cooking School operates from the villa. As part of your Culinary Vacation experience, you will join private classes run by Papaya Loco.  With over nine years of running classes, your culinary vacation is lead by well experienced operators.

“Class here is a relaxed fun session making some great food and having a whole lot of laughs,” says Marcus. “There’s nothing formal about it. It’s about getting to know the local food and having fun.”

culinary vacation

Why Bed & Breakfast?

Bed & Breakfast in Vanuatu

Why bed & breakfast rather than a resort?

Choosing a bed and breakfast over a resort is a great way to personalise your stay, get to know the locals and find a warm, unique room for a better price than a major hotel chain or resort.

If this sounds like you below, then you are in the right place;

  • You prefer smaller, more intimate accommodations than a large hotel
  • You appreciate rooms that are individually decorated, especially with real artwork and local furniture
  • You enjoy getting to know your hosts personally
  • You enjoy personally prepared meals made just for you with care and attention
  • You like staying in private hard to find locations that only locals know about
  • You’re looking for adults-only accommodations and enjoy your well earned privacy
  • You enjoy the experience of a “home away from home” — including quirky touches like the hosts little puppy curled up in a corner somewhere, and your host wearing board shorts or a sarong (we are on the beach!)
  • You like having the personal attention and local knowledge of your hosts at your disposal
  • You appreciate great pricing where your tariff is not supporting a whole bunch of infrastructure and administration that has no bearing on your stay

Papaya Villa Bungalow


The New Bed & Breakfast

Bed & Breakfasts have come a long way from the old room under the house shared with a bunch of people that you don’t know. Shoran and I have taken great care to ensure that our guests can experience a tropical island stay in comfort and privacy.

papaya villa eton reef2
Explore a reef

A base to explore from

There is nothing like the convenience of having a ‘home away from home’ base to explore from. After a great nights sleep you can have a personally prepared breakfast to your bungalow and then get some local advice where to explore for the day! Why pay resort tariffs when you are heading out to explore the island? Your hosts can prepare a picnic for you to take for the day, and also have dinner ready for when you return from your day’s expedition. There nothing like sharing those pics from the day with someone who is actually interested, over a cool drink on your return.

Bed & Breakfast is Value for money

The luxury of a modern bed & breakfast doesn’t mean paying more. In fact it is quite the opposite. The savings aren’t just in the advertised rate either, when you compare B&B vs hotel. You already know about the free breakfast. But what you might not realise is just how many other things you’ll get at a B&B for free. For example bottled water, wifi, parking, local advice, home cooked meals at reasonable prices — even the occasional free happy hour with wine and cheese. Hotels will charge you for a lot of these services, meaning you’ll end up paying a lot more than that advertised rate in the end.

How is it that you can get so much more at a Bed & Breakfast

The answer is simple:  our Bed & Breakfast is personally operated by your hosts whose goal is to offer you the best possible experience. You’re not just another room number.  You’re a true guest, and you’ll never feel more welcome than at our bed & breakfast

Your hosts Shoran & Marcus
Your hosts Shoran & Marcus

Village Bread

Looking for freshly baked bread?

Our local village at Eton has its very own baker. She generally only bakes one day a week and doesn’t open the doors until about 4:00pm in the afternoon to serve up freshly baked bread.

freshly baked bread

Good to know if you are looking for some local bread. And who wouldn’t? Nothing like freshly baked bread. The consistency is a little like a ciabatta… delicious and all ingredients are natural… not a preservative or bread improver in sight.

wood fired oven



The ovens (yes there are two) are wood fired. The dough is mixed and  moulded by hand. If you are in the village on a Thursday afternoon, and the sign is out… it is an adventure. I picked up two loaves for the princely sum of 240 vatu ( just under $3:00)

I see the kettle in the background… a cup of tea and a thick slice of fresh bread with jam is a favorite!

Us Portuguese boys love our bread, so having a local artisan baker is treasure. If you are staying at Papaya Villa, you should do a drive through our village and if you see the sign out, then pop in and pick up a loaf, have a chat to the baker (she is lovely) and definitely check out the ovens.

Now there’s a unique experience while you are here.

Cooking Class

Cooking Class is In

One of our favorite activities for our guests is our cooking class.

Its a great way to spend an afternoon having a laugh, making decadent food and listening to cool tunes!

if you are into naughty food then check out these churros our guests made last weekend. We added luscious orange zest to the churros to give us a jaffa with the chocolate sauce.









I guess the plate tells the story.

Taco Time

Taco Time

It’s summer, its warm and it hot, hot , hot… so what better dish to make then a fresh taco.

Check these babies out… lobster and lime (of course) plus locally made chorizo with a pineapple and red onion salsa. The pineapples here are to die for.

The year before last we were in Hawaii and tired the pineapples at the famous Doles Pineapple Farm, and I have to say that these local pineapples are so sweet and delicious, you just have to keep eating them. Season is almost finished here,,, so I am adding them to everything…  That little one in the picture is from our garden!

A late afternoon in the nakamal with a few icy beers is heaven for our guests. These tacos find their way into the meals package for our guests who come to stay… good fun and just plain delicious

Local lobster paella

Lobster Paella

These beautiful lobster tails are from our own reef. Traditional method paella with loads of saffron and bay leaves with fresh lobster tails.

I make these as a treat for guests staying with us. Some of our guests like to hang about the kitchen in the afternoon while I prepare dinner, so I put on some of my favorite mambo tunes, pour a glass of red and cook away…

Tomatoes from our housekeepers garden… Anniese brings in all sorts of surprises depending on what is ready to harvest.

But when the boys bring in some live lobsters from our reef, then it’s lobster paella time!



The Coconut Plantation

Cocolossal Coconuts

Coconut cream

Papaya Villa is set in one of the original coconut plantations on the island of Efate. The local NiVan people have an affinity with coconuts, using them for everything from water in times of drought, to moisturiser to their national dish lap lap. Our housekeeper has passed on so many ‘secrets’ for using coconuts since she joined us in 2014. coconut macaroons

Nothing is wasted; the cream is squeezed out through muslin and I use the remaining shreds to make the most amazing coconut macaroons. A few eggs with some sugar and a little butter and voila!

The local girls boil up the cream to make moisturiser; 100% natural and their skin is nothing short of amazing. Don’t let that secret get out. The rest of the world seems to be catching up with them and are ‘discovering’ the incredible health properties of coconuts. Sammi brings in green coconuts from the plantation most days. He takes the tops off them, and leaves them in the fridge for us. Perfect hydration and simply delicious.

coconutWe use the coconut cream for flavoring vegetable dishes as well as the lap lap.

One of our favorite things to do late in the afternoon is to stroll through the plantation and look for any coconuts that have dropped through the day. If they are green and have not split in the fall, we take them home to the villa for coconut water. It takes around 3-5 years for the coconut trees to bear their fruit; once they do they will keep bearing for decades. Really the tree that keeps on giving. I haven’t mastered scaling up the mature trees yet. I think I will leave that for our younger boys from the village.

Just working out how to turn that into a pina colada! stay tuned…


Magnificent pineapples


Magnificent Pineapples!

Sweet Sweet pineapples!

The pineapples grown in Vanuatu are like nowhere else. We have tried them from Queensland in Australia and Doles Plantations in Hawaii and they don’t compare. At one point doles supplied almost 80% of the worlds pineapples … but we could not believe how sweet and juicy they are in Vanuatu.

Every market has these fabulous pineapples for sale. You can buy them from roadside stalls also. In Port Vila you will see locals on roundabouts with big plastic tubs of sliced pineapple. you can pick from sweet to extra sweet!

We decided to plant some in  the orchard at Papaya Villa. This year we trialed with 15 plants in the ground. They have been going well and we expect our first crop by December 2017. If they go well then we will add a further 15 plants. The good news is that these will be served up at villa … breakfast ! Our Orchard

Marcus has a fantastic pineapple salsa that he serves up with fish tacos … using local poulet fish of course… Check out our first planting … amongst the bananas and passion fruits… sounds like fruit salad!


Our own lobsters


Lobsters from our reef …


You can’t beat fresh lobsters!

The Vanuatu islands are well known for their abundance of lobsters. We are located on 1.6 kilometers of pristine coastline, which provides us with amazing access to lobsters. Whilst they are not always around, we do frequently catch them. Of course they do find their way onto the table at Papaya Villa. These ones to the left are from our own reef.

I have two favorite ways of preparing them.

Grilled over coals with lashings of butter and maybe even a little garlic (in case there are vampires around!) you never know so it is best to be prepared…

The other is in a butter and saffron sauce served with freshly made and hand cut pappardelle pasta… I like to season this with a little fresh sage when I can get it also..

I generally have some lobster legs in the fridge to crack in the afternoon with a nice glass of French Champagne or maybe an icy cold beer. Either way it is a gift from the gods!

We dispatch them as humanely as possible. A short sleep in the freezer generally does it.  You just can’t beat the fresh lobster in Vanuatu.

Lap Lap – The national dish of Vanuatu

Traditional Lap Lap

Lap lap – Vanuatu’s National dish

Filled Lap LapLap lap is the dish most commonly associated with Vanuatu.

The basic recipe is made from a grated starch base – usually taro or plantain – and some kind of meat or vegetable ingredient with loads of coconut cream and wrapped in leaves from the lap lap or banana leaves.

It is traditionally cooked in coals or hot stones, although it can be baked in an oven. I prefer in coals as it does gather a particular smokey flavor which is truly delicious. Learn how to make Lap Lap as part of our Vanuatu Food Adventure. when you visit the Port Vila Markets you can see a number of vendors that specialise lap lap. Mostly they will be slabs of  yam, taro or plantain starch topped with chicken, fish or vegetables and of course lashing of coconut cream.

I’m not sure which is more interesting, the range of colorful Aelan (Island) dresses worn by the vendors, or the range of delicious versions of their lap lap.

Given my Portuguese background I love to make ‘filled lap lap’ with local pork or chicken. My version does of course include the use of tomatoes and paprika!

How about a pulled pork lap lap …