Vila is the capital of Vanuatu, an archipelago of some 83 islands in the Coral Sea. Vanuatu is a new republic, having achieved independence from France and Britain in 1988. Before then the archipelago was better known as the New Hebrides, the name given the islands by Captain Cook. Cloaked in dense rainforest, these volcanic islands were little known until World War II, when the islands of Espiritu Santo and Efate served as Allied bases. Today increasing numbers of travelers visit Vila, drawn by its easy-going charm, superb white-sand beaches and pristine rainforest. The islands are also renowned for their excellent dive sites and for their big game fishing.
Vanuatu's visibility on the American scene increased when the CBS television series "Survivor" filmed in the archipelago. Vanuatu is also noted among anthropologist - its island of Tanna is home to the unique "John Frum" cargo cult.