In north and central Vanuatu, the nakamal generally takes the form of a large building, assembled from traditional materials with the help of the entire community, under the direction of a particular chief. Entry to the nakamal is often restricted to men, and the building may be used as a sleeping and living area for unmarried men and boys and for male visitors to the village. Significantly, most nakamals lack a lockable door, indicating that all friendly visitors are welcome, although there may be a low barrier across the entrance to keep out animals.
In front of a nakamal there is often a flattened clearing, or nasara, used for dances and outdoor gatherings.
In southern Vanuatu, a nakamal may be a large, sheltered outdoor space, such as under a banyan tree.