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Peter de Graaf stays at Taumeasina Island Resort, Apia, Samoa.
Getting there: Taumeasina Island is about five minutes by taxi or shuttle from downtown Apia and 45 minutes from Faleolo International Airport.
Check-in experience: When did you ever experience a bad welcome in the Pacific? I’m draped in a lei of fresh tropical flowers even before I climb aboard the airport shuttle; check-in at the resort is relaxed and friendly, with a gorgeous fa’afafine receptionist named John (those eyelashes!) who for some reason upgrades me from a room to a villa. The arrival of another guest minus lei causes mild consternation at the reception desk; John rushes out the back for a fabulous flower garland, only to discover she isn’t wearing one because she’s allergic to flowers.
Room: Villa 11, which is more an apartment than a villa on the ground floor of a two-storey building. It has full cooking facilities, two bedrooms (a king and a twin), a lounge/dining area, a big-screen TV, spacious bathroom, a dishwasher and even a washing machine and dryer. The patio has views across an inlet and, beyond that, the spine of hills that runs down the centre of Upolu. Everything looks brand new, which it is — the resort only opened in 2016. The exterior is decorated in steel panels with laser-cut traditional Samoan motifs, a nice meeting of old and new.
The resort: It occupies a 6ha partly reclaimed island connected to the mainland by a causeway. It has 80 rooms plus a mix of two- and three-bedroom self-contained villas. It has two restaurants, a grill, two bars, a ballroom for conferences and weddings, a pool, and modest beach with free kayaks and Hobie cats. The fia fia evening, a traditional dance show every Saturday, gets good reviews.
Price: Oceanview rooms start from $420 or $475 for the deluxe version. Two-bedroom villas start from $873, the three-bedroom version from $1095. Breakfast is included; alas, I don’t get to test it because I have just one night and my flight leaves at sparrow fart.
What’s in the neighbourhood? You could spend your entire holiday lounging around on the island, but if you want to explore, tour company Samoa Scenic has a desk in the reception area offering all sorts of excursions around Upolu. The resort puts on a regular minibus to downtown Apia but it’s close enough to walk if the heat isn’t too much. Possibly the best thing in the neighbourhood is Palolo Deep Marine Reserve, which covers part of the shallow reef near the resort and features a deep blue hole teeming with marine life.
Food and drink: Plenty to choose from at the resort restaurants (mains start from $18, locally-brewed Vailima beer is $6) but you can also head into town or, if you’re in a villa, self-cater. There’s also 24-hour room service.
Wi-Fi: 1GB free per 24 hours.
Noise: The island has its own power supply; the downside of that is generator noise. Fortunately you can’t hear it in the rooms or in any of the areas you’re likely to be chilling out.
Exercise facilities: There’s a spa, sauna and gym, tennis court, outdoor exercise stations, a playground for the kids, and of course the sea.
Perfect for: An escape from the Kiwi winter if you want a chilled-out holiday with everything you need in one place, or a self-catered holiday with family or friends if you book one of the villas. Because it’s on an island you can let the kids run free without worrying they’ll wander too far. It would also be ideal for conferences or weddings — I bumped into a couple of wedding guests on the flight home who raved about the service.