Jane Jeffries checks into Return to Paradise Resort and Spa, Samoa
Getting there: Air NewZealand flies direct to Samoa daily, straight into the new Faleolo International Airport.
Check-inexperience: Clearing Customs was a breeze and we were soon greeted by staff from Return to Paradise Resort and Spa and transported to the resort in a new, air conditioned people-mover.
Our home away from home: Return to Paradise staff consider guests family. In their eyes the resort is their guests' "home away from home". It's one of the few resorts in Samoa owned and operated by Samoans, employing aiga from the local villages. Income from the leased land, and wages earned by the locals goes directly back to the villages. The staff work hard to provide great service and above all they really wanted us to have a great holiday.
Our room: Our bungalow, right on the beach was spacious with a comfortable king-sized bed. Behind the bed, separated by a dividing wall was the wardrobe, safe and fridge. The room also had a large bathroom with double basins and shower. With high temperatures and humidity, air-conditioning is important and thankfully it was fantastic.
Value for money: Our beach-front room for two was 400 tala (NZ$200) per night. Great value for money.
Beach: Twenty metres from our room, the turquoise water and blindingly white sand created the perfect tropical backdrop. At high tide the waves rolled in, but as the sea receded it turned into a millpond, perfect for snorkelling. The coral is healthy, and the fish are abundant. Snorkelling gear is available at reception.
Breakfast: The simple, tropical, continental breakfast was complimentary with an additional la carte menu for the big breakfast lovers. I highly recommend the Pacific omelette.
Dinner: Served in the Paradise Kitchen Restaurant, a beautiful elevated open space. Throughout the week the restaurant offers an a la carte menu. The food is good and reasonably priced, with some delicious seafood options. There is a buffet on cultural nights.
Drinks: My favourite place in the resort is the Rock Pool Bar, notjust because I could get a delicious cocktail, but because it's so connected to the ocean. Two seating areas are cantilevered over the ocean creating an exhilarating place to sit, especially at high tide. A snack menu is also served from late morning till late.
Spa: I treated myself to a massage at the Sparadise Day Spa. With the balmy temperature, the smell of the frangipani and the soothing feel of a magical hand, there is a lot to love about a tropical massage.
Tours: Though we hired a car for a couple of days, there is actually no need to when staying at the Return to Paradise Resort. As well as an airport transfer, they run a number of tours that will ensure you get to see most of the island. A full-day tour of Apia, a tour of beaches and waterfalls on the island and a giant clam snorkelling experience are just a few of the excursions on offer.
Cultural shows: Every Saturday night the award-winning Maeva Band, made up ofthe resort's gardeners and waiters, down tools to sing for the guests in the Paradise Kitchen Restaurant. During dinner on Wednesdays the talented family cultural
group perform traditional songs and dance, ending with a spectacular fire and knife dance.
Weddings: Recently a beautiful chapel was completed on the resort property, overlooking the water. Several packages are available.
Perfect for.. Couples or families, as there are several two and three-bedroom villas. It's great value for money, with outstanding hospitality.
Best time of the year to go: Samoa has two seasons, wet and dry. The dry season is the best time to visit, from May through October.