What Famous History Happened in Honiara, Solomon Islands?


On August 7, 1942, the Battle of Guadalcanal began and it was a turning point in World War II. I wanted to explore this area and learn more about the people, the culture and the history for this important 75th anniversary.

Where are the Solomon Islands?

The Solomon Islands are an archipelago of 900 islands between Papua New Guinea and  Vanuatu. Most Americans would fly from Los Angeles to Nadi, Fiji on Fiji Airways and then to the Solomon Islands. Another choice would be to fly to Brisbane, Australia and then to the Solomon Islands.

VIDEO: Fly from LAX to Fiji On the Way to the Solomon Islands

What is the Lumatapopoho Cultural Village?

At Lumatapopoho Cultural VillagePrimo and his wife, Paula, shared their traditions with me at their Cultural Village.  First we had a welcome betel nut ceremony and then Primo showed me the kitchen and their homemade bowls from hard wood. When he showed how they make cloth, I had to try that. He showed me how they make an entire house from local materials in the jungle. He was able to sew the roof together using sharp pieces from the palm tree. It looked like staples when he was done. Using bamboo and vine, they make a colorful weaving pattern for the walls. Inside the building they had spears so I asked if I could hold one and then we took photos together. Primo, the village chief, told me that I am a warrior now.

VIDEO:  Want to Visit Lumatapopoho Cultural Village in Honiara?

What is the Vilu War Museum?

The Vilu War Museum is an outdoor arrangement of planes, cannons and bombs from the battles of World War 2. There are Japanese Betty bombers and a plane called Zero. I also saw Wildcats which were in dogfights and SBD Douglas Bombers.

VIDEOWonder about the Vilu War Museum outside Honiara in the Solomon Islands?

What Monuments can you see in Honiara?

The US Memorial on hill 73 overlooks Mataniko River and panorama of Iron Bottom Sound and the famous battle ridges of Galloping Horse and Sea Horse.

VIDEOThe American Memorial from World War 2 Guadalcanal

Drive up to Kolo Ridge on Mount Austen to see the Japanese Memorial. There are incredible views of Henderson field and the Eastern Battlefields.

VIDEOThe Japanese Memorial on Mount Austin from World War II, Solomon Islands

VIDEO: Exploring Honiara and the Coastwatchers and Solomon Scouts Memorial Solomon Scouts

VIDEOTetere Beach World War II Tank Museum in Solomon Islands

Did you meet any local artists?

I met a local carver named Ken from MarovoVisit at the colorful central market in downtown Honiara. He uses kerosene wood, ebony and rosewood for his carvings. They are sometimes inlaid with nautilus shell. He explained that it can take two months to carve and sand one piece. Depending on where the kerosene wood grows it can be many different colors; this is his favorite wood to carve as it is strong. Rosewood is more red if it is near a river and the sediments and soil around it determine the final colors of the wood. My favorite piece was called the Spirit of Solomon and was one of the most traditional carvings created in the Solomon Islands.

I also liked the Nguzunguzung which is one of two gods placed in the front of a canoe. If the god is holding a bird, it is the god of peace and the canoe is arriving for a ceremony like a birthday or a marriage however if the god is holding a skull, then it is a war canoe arriving. It was important to know when the conch shell blew if the canoe should be met by the ladies for a celebration or the warriors for a fight. It used to be that everyone knew how to carve and especially to make a canoe. Now only some people focus on the skill of carving wood.

VIDEOKen the Carver and the Spirit of the Solomons Craft Market in Honiara

Did you learn about Shell Money?

Creating Shell Money requires many steps from breaking up the shells into small pieces, to rounding the edges, sanding and even drilling the holes so the pieces can be strung. Some shells have to be heated to change the color. The men sand the strands to make the pieces more evenly sized. The threading patterns are handed down from the ancestors. It could take a year or more to make all the shell money for one bride. Only the people of Langa Langa Lagoon can make Shell Money. They do not create it anywhere else in the entire South Pacific and it has been in use for 18 generations. It is the very first money that was in existence, is the official ceremonial gift of the Solomon Islands and can still be used in certain shops today. Thank you to Atkin, Margaret, Adrianna, Katherine, Esta, Joseph, Olosi, Bernard and Ben for sharing their craft with me.
I tried to learn more sayings but there are many languages to speak in the Solomon Islands. Good Morning is: “Rraff-leh. Ok a”  or “Ahucchh deng leah” in Malaita or “Moon moon Leana” in Western Gizo but during my travels I mainly said: “Leannna ho-la”
VIDEO: Let’s Learn how to make Shell Money

Did you go diving in Honaira?

VIDEOUnder the Sea in the Solomon Islands with Tulagi Dive

I dove for two days in Honiara with Tulagi Dive. The first day we went to the Japanese submarine I-1 and the B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber. Troy Shelley from Tulagi Divers told me to the story about the wreck of the I-1 Submarine “which was used by the Japanese forces from the 14th January to the 7th February 1943 for Operation Ke to evacuate troops from Guadalcanal. At that time the I-1 Submarine was on station in the area of Cape Esperance, where she was detected by the New Zealand ships RNZN Kiwi and Moa and sunk.” Remarkably, divers were able to recover two rice paper code books which were in an air pocket in the submarine. The US Military had broken half the code and with these books, which should have melted from contact with sea water, the military were able to now understand all messages from the Japanese forces. Where previously they knew the movement of the troops but not the size and location, now they understood where Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto would be flying to inspect a new airstrip and sent a mission to intercept and shoot down his plane. 

On the second day, I went diving at Hirokawa Maru (Bonegi 1 or B1) and Kinugawa Maru (Bonegi 2 or B2) and I went to 130feet. Tulagi Dive is the only technical dive shop in the Solomon Islands. If you are ready to go deep, this is your shop! I loved diving wrecks and learning history in the Solomon Islands.

VIDEODeep underwater at Bonegi 1 and 2 with Tulagi Dive

Video: Flying from Munda to Honiara

Where did you stay in Honiara?

I stayed at three hotels in Honiara.

VIDEOWelcome to Honiara and Heritage Park Hotel

Heritage Park opened in August 2009 and is the original location of the home of the Governor General of The Solomon Islands.

VIDEOWhere to stay in Honaira? Solomon Kitano Mendana Hotel

Solomon Kitano Mendana Hotel is located on the water and has two restaurants “Capitana” International Restaurant and “Hakubai” Japanese Restaurant with the only Japanese Cuisine in the islands. I loved the outdoor patio.

VIDEO:  Join me at the Coral Sea Resort in Honiara

Coral Sea Resort and Casino
 is a brand new property with five luxury villas each with its own private terrace and hot tub. Another 30 guest rooms will be added in 2017. I loved having my own kitchen so I could have breakfast in my room. High-speed internet is included (there was a charge for wifi at my other Honiara hotels). There is a pool, casino and Haydn’s steakhouse which has live music at night.

Thank you or “Taggio okah rasuah” to the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau for arranging my trip and helping me learn about the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal. 

Want to know more about the Solomon Islands?

Read my articles:

Saturday Evening Post: A World War II Hero Remembers Guadalcanal

Where to Go in Gizo, Solomon Islands?

Discovering Marvelous Munda in the Solomon Islands

See my segment for The Jet Set TV on the Solomon Islands.

Thank you! Lisa Niver 

Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 102 countries on six continents. This University of Pennsylvania graduate sailed across the seas for seven years with Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Renaissance Cruises and spent three years backpacking across Asia. Discover her articles in publications from AARP: The Magazine and AAA Explorer to WIRED and Wharton Magazine, as well as her site WeSaidGoTravel. On her award nominated global podcast, Make Your Own Map, Niver has interviewed Deepak Chopra, Olympic medalists, and numerous bestselling authors, and as a journalist has been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist twenty-two times. Named a #3 travel influencer for 2023, Niver talks travel on broadcast television at KTLA TV Los Angeles, her YouTube channel with over 2 million views, and in her memoir, Brave-ish, One Breakup, Six Continents and Feeling Fearless After Fifty.

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