This beautiful little resort on Samoa’s Southern coast was named after the movie, ‘Return to Paradise,’ was filmed on the resort’s beach in the 1950’s. The land and beach remained untouched until the local chiefs agreed to lease the land to a local Samoan, Ramona and her family around 2009.
The resort opened in 2014 and over the past five years it has grown with a beautiful wedding chapel completed in 2018 and additional family units are now under construction. The resort is rustic with beautiful gardens, three small pools and a stunning beach. While it’s not ‘picture perfect’ like many resorts there were two things I really love about this place.
Firstly, it’s one of a very few resorts that are 100 percent Samoan owned and operated. Ramona does not see herself so much as the owner of the resort, but a guardian of the land. Every dollar including the income from the leased land, plus the money the guests spend at the resort goes to creating incomes for these soulful and humble folks.
The second thing I love about this place are the Samoan’s. There is a genuine warmth from the local staff and they treated us as if we were one of their own. I felt we were staying at an extension of their village where everyone is related in some way. ‘Aunty Pisupo’ writes a daily broadsheet, funnier than a spiel from a comedian, while ‘uncles’ wait in the restaurant and ‘cousins’ and ‘cousins of cousins’ are employed in the resort. The highlight of our breakfast each morning was reading Aunty Pisupo’s newsletter. I will place an excerpt at the bottom of this blog.
The resort had everything we needed. A large, clean, comfortable bedroom with king-size bed, ensuite, excellent air conditioning and it was right on the beach.
The turquoise water and blindingly white sand make for a stunning beach. With waves at high tide they retreat to a mill-pond at low tide providing the perfect environment for snorkelling. There is great under water viewing of very healthy coral and many fish species. Snorkelling gear can be borrowed from the resort.
The Rock Pool Bar was my favourite place in the resort, not just because you can get a drink, but because it’s built over the rocks and is very connected to the ocean. They also serve food from mid-morning until evening.
‘Paradise Kitchen’ Restaurant’s food is good with delicious buffets served on the two evenings a week there is cultural entertainment. Every Saturday night the award-winning Maeva Band made up of the resort’s gardeners and waiters, put down their tools and come and sing to the guests in the ‘Paradise Kitchen’ Restaurant. We were treated to the vocals and guitar of nine strapping young Samoans with renditions including Hallelujah, Hotel California and Holy Night that bought a tear to our eyes.
On a Wednesday night the talented family cultural group perform more traditional songs and dance over dinner, ending with an award-winning spectacular fire and knife dance.
The resort also offers a number of tours including a full day Apia Tour, a tour of beaches and waterfalls, a giant clam snorkelling experience and many more. They are a great way to see the island and get an understanding of the culture if you are not keen on driving. However, if you decide to hire a car driving around the island is easy. Despite the narrow roads the locals are very courteous and a slow speed limit ensures the kids, dogs, chickens and pigs are safe. The colour of the well-maintained gardens and road frontages is striking. One of the locals told us they are the pride and joy of the village women who secretly try to out-shine their neighbour’s gardens. Whatever their incentive the reds, yellows and green and of course the tropical flowers are stunning.
You will notice this is a deeply religious nation with a church on every corner. They are conspicuous because there are so many of them as well as the open-sided buildings used as meeting places. The village families gather so the village chiefs can pass their thoughts and wisdom to the family chiefs who in turn pass the information to their family members.
This resort is honest, comfortable, but not fancy. I had an authentic Samoan experience and made personal connections with my South Pacific cousins. As Aunty Pisupo says, ‘We are all related, so to see family again ‘Return to Paradise.’
An excerpt from Aunty Pisupo newsletter:
Tolofa dearies and welcome to Thursday 21stMarch 2019. It is lovely to have you with us here in Paradise. I trusted you enjoyed you Return to Paradise Culture Group last night. These are the same nephews and nieces you will see cleaning your rooms, serving your table and carrying your bags today. We are proud of them and they work hard to make you feel welcome. Enjoy watching our fire dancers, but girls, listen to Aunty – don’t let your menfolk try this at home. It is real fire. He will only end up setting fire to the plumbing fixtures in his nether regions and then make a big fuss about nothing and just want sympathy.