Solomon Islanders share a diverse history and cultural background. The population is mostly of Melanesian descent but is also made up of Polynesians, Micronesians, Chinese and Europeans.
There are approximately 550,000 people living in the Solomons and about 70,000 live in the capital – Honiara. Here you’ll find a mix of modern technology and ancient traditions side by side. Most Islanders still live in rural villages with a traditional lifestyle far removed from the modern way of life.
English is the official language of the Solomon Islands but there are 63 local languages. Most locals speak Pijin or Pidgin English as their common language.
Kastom and Wantok
Kastom (the Pijin word for custom) represents the idea of traditional ways and culture that is central to village life. These kastoms are passed down from generation to generation.
Wantok easily translates as ‘one talk’. It describes the way Islanders feel a duty to those who speak the same language or come from the same village or area. This plays a most significant role in why kinship and clan ties are strong in the Solomon Islands. Under wantok, members of the clan will be well supported by their fellow clan members.
Best spots for cultural experiences
If you want to experience traditional village life and see houses built on stilts, head to Santa Isabel Island in Isabel Province. Santa Isabel is 200km long and the longest island in the Solomons. The province is famous for dance, skull shrines and panpipe concerts.
The local people are friendly, relaxed and peace-loving and speak as many as eight languages. They’d love to show you their beautiful leaf houses and gardens. To get you there, we fly to Suavanao and Fera on Santa Isabel Island.
Man-made islands, shell money and panpipes
Just a one-hour boat ride from Auki in Malaita Province you can meet the people of Langalanga Lagoon and see their centuries old culture. Malaita is where traditional shell money was created and is still used. The Shell Money Festival is held here each year. Malaita is also famous for the haunting sound of panpipes – make sure you visit the locals on Are Are Lagoon who are considered the best.
Malaita Province is beautiful up in the mountains too but may be difficult to access because tourism hasn’t taken off here…yet. To get you there, we fly to Auki and Atoifi in Malaita.
Arts and Crafts
The Makira-Ulawa Province is one of the most isolated in the Solomons. Be sure to visit Makira Island, Santa Ana Island, Santa Catalina Island and Three Sisters Island for beautiful arts and crafts.
You can have some experiences unique to this area – traditional fishing, crocodile wrestling and see a shark hole underneath a church altar at Suholo Village in Ulawa. And don’t miss the annual land crab harvest. To get you there, we fly to Kirakira and Arona.
Art, music, dance and storytelling are an integral part of life. Visitors can get hands experience at the following festivals:
Wagosia Festival: Santa Catalina in Makira Province
Wagosia is the Santa Catalina Spear Fighting Festival, held to cleanse the island of bad spirits, bad blood and bad energy of the previous year. Participation is not for the feint-hearted with real spear fights on the beach and fire runs at 2am. It is a spectacular sight to witness the Santa Catalina way of resolving differences and ending conflict – maybe from the sidelines! Once the women sprint into the ocean to officially end the festival, everyone sits down to a shared meal of smoked fish and vegetables. Visitor numbers for this festival are strictly limited.
Shell Money Festival: Langalanga Lagoon, Malaita
This festival is held annually in the village of Busu and celebrates the traditional currency of the Solomon Islands – Shell Money. This currency is still used today to settle disputes, as a bride price and for gifts. During this 2-day festival see how shell money is made, enjoy dancing, singing and local cuisine.
Lagoon Festival: Munda, Western Province
People from all over Roviana Lagoon gather in Munda to celebrate the local area and showcase their culture. The opening day’s colourful parade of floats is an unforgettable experience. The festival is held over 3 days and sees locals and visitors celebrating this beautiful part of the world.