MY PARTNER AND I ARE INTERESTED IN AN ISLAND HOLIDAY, BUT NOT THAILAND OR BALI. WE ARE THINKING ABOUT SAMOA, WOULD YOU RECOMMEND IT, IS IT SAFE AND WHAT ARE THE ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS? C. HANCOCK, SYDNEY
Samoa consists of nine islands although for practical purposes you can discount all but the largest two, Savaii and its little brother, Upolu, where the capital, Apia, is located and where most of the population lives. At its centre, the volcanic peak of Mount Fito forms a waistband from which the island falls like a giant skirt, pleated with rainforest and ribboned with gushing streams, descending to a final frill of beach trimmed with coral reefs. Compared with other Polynesian hot spots such as Hawaii and French Polynesia, tourism has been slow to take root. Flights are limited and pricey and despite Samoa's abundant natural promise, brand name resort hotel chains have failed to establish a toehold since virtually all land is communally owned, which makes it difficult for foreigners to acquire real estate. In an effort to bring tourism dollars directly into the villages the government encouraged the establishment of fale-style guesthouses based on their own domestic architecture, and the coast is now ringed with these fale-guesthouses. Simple, basic and mostly open to the elements, the guesthouses are a natural extension of fa'a Samoa, the Samoan way.
From the top drawer of the island's accommodation, Coconuts Beach Club brings a dollop of style to the traditional palm and thatch architecture of Samoa, with a choice of overwater fales or handsome beach villas. The other deluxe choice, Sinalei Reef Resort, is small, sensuous and relaxed. There's the usual hothouse choice of watersports but if you want zippy nightlife, things to buy, beach massages and a local cuisine that will make your tastebuds do the tango, forget about Samoa. If you want the storybook version of a South Seas paradise, Samoa delivers. Personal safety is not an issue.
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