In Vanuatu (formerly New Hebrides) the climate is influenced by the trade winds, and it's equatorial in the northern islands, ie hot and rainy all year round, while it's tropical in the central and southern islands, ie hot and rainy from December to March, and cool and with less rainfall from May to October.
The islands are in fact scattered, in the Pacific Ocean south of the equator, over an axis oriented from north to south, about 900 kilometres (550 miles) long; the southernmost islands are located at a latitude of 20 degrees south (but there are also two small uninhabited islands, Matthew and Hunter, which are at the 22nd parallel).

Vanuatu, climatic zones

Many of the islands are volcanic, and have inland slopes which enhance precipitation. The rains are most abundant in the northernmost islands, where even 4,000 millimetres (157 inches) of rain per year fall (see Vanua Lava), including 200 mm (8 in) per month even in the least rainy months (which are July and August), and more than 450 mm (17.5 in) in March (the rainiest). Proceeding south, the rains gradually decrease, down to 2,200/2,500 mm (80/100 in) in the southernmost islands, even though in the smallest and flat islands they go down to 1,500 mm (60 in).
The period from December to March is hot, humid and rainy across the country, with highs around 29/31 °C (84/88 °F), and lows around 23/25 °C (73/77 °F). The rains come in the form of intense downpours, which do not last long, so that soon the sun shines again.
The winter season, from July to September, is warm in the northern islands, with highs around 27/28 °C (81/82 °F), as we can see from the average temperatures of Vanua Lava.
Vanua Lava - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)232323232323222222222323
Max (°C)303030292828272727282829
Min (°F)737373737373727272727373
Max (°F)868686848282818181828284

The rains in Vanua Lava, as in general in the northern islands having an equatorial climate, are abundant throughout the year, although they decrease slightly in the austral winter. Here is the average rainfall.
Vanua Lava - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)4153604454253702452252353053902653003980
Prec.(in)16.314.217.516.714.69.68.99.31215.410.411.8156.7
Days201923201917151517181417214

In the northern islands, the sea is warm all year round, as we can see in the following table.
Vanua Lava - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)292929292928272727282829
Temp (°F)848484848482818181828284

Moving south, winter becomes gradually cooler, however in the islands of Espiritu Santo (see Luganville) and Malakula the minimum temperature remains above 20 °C (68 °F) even in the cooler months.
In the capital Port Vila, located in the central island of Éfaté, the daytime temperature is around 25/26 °C (77/79 °F), while in the southern islands it drops to 23/24 °C (73/75 °F). At night the average temperature is around 21/22 °C (70/72 °F) in the northern islands, and around 17/18 °C (63/64 °F) in the central and southern islands, where it can sometimes even drop to 13/15 °C (55/59 °F).
Port Vila - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)222322222018181717182021
Max (°C)303029282726252526272829
Min (°F)727372726864646363646870
Max (°F)868684828179777779818284

In Port Vila, as in general in central and southern islands, the decrease in rainfall from May to October is evident. Here is the average rainfall.
Port Vila - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)3202803652101351301101101051101751802230
Prec.(in)12.61114.48.35.35.14.34.34.14.36.97.187.8
Days181720171413121212121314174

The amount of sunshine in Port Vila, and in general in Vanuatu, is not great, but it's neither poor: the sun often shines, but some cloudiness, maybe associated with showers and thunderstorms, is always possible.
Port Vila - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours777766778888

For swimming, the sea remains quite warm also in the central islands, where the sea temperature drops to 26 °C (79 °F) from June to October.
Port Vila - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)282929282726262626262728
Temp (°F)828484828179797979798182

In the southernmost islands, the temperature becomes even cooler, so that from July to September the average daily temperature drops to 20 °C (68 °F), as we can see from the data of Aneityum.
Aneityum - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)212121201817161616181920
Max (°C)282928272525242424252627
Min (°F)707070686463616161646668
Max (°F)828482817777757575777981

Consequently, in the southernmost islands the sea becomes cooler as well, and from July to October the water temperature drops to 24 °C (75 °F), so it's still warm enough for swimming, as we can see from the data of Aneityum.
Aneityum - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)272828272625242424242627
Temp (°F)818282817977757575757981

Vanuatu

Tropical cyclones



The Vanuatus are affected by tropical cyclones. Cyclones are usually formed from November to mid-May, though they are most likely from late December to early April. Outside of this period, there has been Cyclone Xavier, which brushed the northern islands in late October 2006. A particularly intense cyclone was Pam, which hit the islands in March 2015.

When to go



The best time to visit Vanuatu is from July to September in the northern islands (down to Espiritu Santo and Malakula), because it is less hot and rainy. In the central and southern islands, which include the capital, the best time is from May to October; since from June to September in the central and southern islands it can get cool, you may prefer the period mid-May to mid-June, and even more the month of October, when it's a bit warmer and heavy rains are still to come. Even in the least rainy months, however, there is no lack of showers, especially in the northernmost islands.

What to pack



In winter (June to August): light clothes for the day, a scarf for the breeze, a sweatshirt for the evening, possibly a light jacket in the southern islands; light raincoat or umbrella. For the reef, equipment for snorkeling, water shoes or rubber soled shoes.
In summer (December to February): tropics-friendly, loose fitting clothing, sun hat, a scarf for the breeze, a light sweatshirt for the evening, light raincoat or umbrella.