The Solomon Islands are a group of islands just east of Papua New Guinea. They cover some 11,100 square miles (28,900 sq. km), making them just a bit smaller than the state of Maryland.
The Solomon Islands were first settled about 30,000 years ago by travelers from nearby Papua New Guinea. The Spanish were the first Europeans to discover the islands, and upon finding some small amount of gold, decided this was one of the places where the Biblical King Solomon found his gold — hence the name Solomon Islands.
The Solomon Islands remained independent for the next few centuries, although some trading and a few permanent trading posts did occur. Germany eventually claimed some of the islands as a protectorate in the late 19th century. Britain followed suit with the rest of the islands a few years later, and a few years after that Germany ceded their interests to Britain in exchange for Western Samoa.
During World War II the Japanese occupied the Solomon Islands. This led to the United States attacking the Japanese forces stationed on the islands. These battles raged on for three years, and included some of the most intense conflicts of the Pacific theater. The war took its toll on the people of the Solomon Islands, as most of the existing colonial-era plantations were destroyed, and modern society and technology was introduced to the islander’s way of life. Independence was achieved for the Solomon Islands in 1978, after years of democratizing reforms.
The Solomon Islands underwent a civil war from roughly 1999 to 2003. Approximately 100 people were killed in fighting related to the civil war, and an additional 20,000 to 30,000 were forced to evacuate their homes. A joint peacekeeping force, requested by the government, restored order in 2003, and the country is recovering steadily. Some violence did break out in capital in late 2006, however, and it is possible that further bouts of sporadic violence will continue to occur.
From a scenic perspective, however, the Solomon Islands are about as close to a lush paradise as a traveler can hope for — at least during the proper times of year. Cyclones make certain times undesirable, as do inhospitable heat waves and humidity. Most visitors find it ideal from mid-June onwards.
The Solomon Islands offer what many claim is the best diving on Earth. An astounding array of fish and underwater creatures await snorkelers and divers. Surfers also find a great deal to love about the Solomon Islands, particularly from mid-October through April.
Getting to the Solomon Islands is most easily achieved by taking a flight from Australia. Regular flights leave Brisbane and fly in to Henderson airport. A small number of cruise ships also make port in Honiara.