7 Jewels of the Pacific
We all have our favourite places to travel and favourite waves to surf. The Pacific Ocean has literally hundreds of accommodation options to go with their smorgasboard of quality waves. It can be a little daunting knowing where to go and what to look out for. So, we have analysed 7 of our most loved. We know you will love them too!
1. SAVAII SURFARIS – SAMOA
One of the most picturesque settings on the lesser populated island of Savaii in Samoa. Sit in the main lounge and watch the waves peel left and right, less than 200 metres in front of you. Almost all the breaks in Samoa pack some punch. So it is a good choice for surfers with reasonable experience, looking for hollow, powerful waves.
Savaii Surfaris was established by the former Sunshine Coast surfer Keith Martin and his wife Lau. They are wonderful hosts and Keith has pioneered many of the surf breaks throughout the island. The time of year for your visit will determine where you mostly surf. Swell is not usually an issue in Samoa (especially on outer reefs), so it tends to be the wind direction and force that determines the day’s surf location. The break out the front is consistent, is surfable in small conditions and will hold a very solid swell. Both Keith’s sons have it wired and will show you where to sit. If the winds are unfavourable for the home break, you will be taken to another part of the island. Nowhere is more than an hour’s drive away.
Samoa is easy to get to for Australians – just 5 hours direct flying from Brisbane (a bit more from other East Coast capital cities). The cost of living is cheap in Samoa, which is reflected in the price of a stay with Savaii Surfaris. The fales (beach hut) accommodation vary in size and are comfortable without being luxurious. All have ceiling fans and a couple have air-conditioning. The food is prepared by local chefs, with local produce (especially fish) featuring prominently.
We love Savaii Surfaris, which is just as well, cos it is the only real surf resort on Savaii.
2. SAMOAN SURFARIS – SAMOA
More like a boot camp than a holiday, Samoan Surfaris is best suited to those who wish to go surfing. For most of the day. Every day. The dynamo behind Samoan Surfaris, ex-pat aussie Brent Ross, runs a simple daily schedule. Yes, it’s a fairly basic approach (in keeping with the low profile of this surf camp), but it works and it’s absolutely value for money.
For the 5 (maximum) lucky surfers who are staying with Brent, it goes like this –
Up before dawn, light breakfast, short car ride to his boat.
Depart the mooring as sufficient light to see starts to creep into the day.
Check the first of many breaks as the sun is peaking over the horizon.
Decide which break to surf and drop anchor there.
Brent will take usually take photos and perhaps do a little fishing during the first couple of hours. Then, just as you are thinking what a marvellous time you have had in such gorgeous, uncrowded surf and really, you could go back to the boat at any time very happy, Brent jumps in the water and goes surfing with you.
A couple more hours go by and it is now late morning.
Brent finally lets you get back in the boat, takes you back to the mooring and then back to his place.
The luncheon adjournment is then taken. Fresh, filling food is provided and then it is afternoon rest time, till around the 2.30pm mark.
Then you repeat the morning program.
By the time you return from surfing in the afternoon to the boat mooring, the light is usually fading and the darkness of night is starting to creep across Samoa.
By the time you get back to the surf camp, it is dark.
And by gee, does that first beer taste good. So does the second one too.
Food, a few more beers and all of a sudden, it’s bed-time. After all, it will probably be close to 8.00pm by now.
Then you get to do it all again tomorrow.
And the next day.
And the day after that………
If you are the type for whom too much surfing is not enough, then you will love Samoan Surfaris. As we do.
3. TUPIRA SURF LODGE – PNG
We love PNG for lots of reasons. It is just 3 hours flying time from Brisbane to Port Moresby, there are lots of waves, it’s warm water surf, the Surfing Association of PNG runs a surf management program which ensures no over-crowding, the people are fabulous – the list goes on.
Tupira Surf Lodge is a stand out location in PNG. Established by the first local villager to attend University and become a lawyer (Patron Nicholas Kirriwom – now the third most senior judge in PNG), Tupira is owned and run by the villagers. Judge Kirriwom had the vision and the energy to help kick the loggers and miners out of the area and replace it with sustainable surf tourism. So you are genuinely made feel very welcome and greeted with service that is honest and friendly. And when you know that any surplus income is reinvested back into the village and the local area, it’s pretty easy to have that extra beer or 2 most nights. If indeed, you need an excuse.
The wave directly out the front of the Lodge is a lovely right hander that will hold quite a big swell. It breaks into the start of a river mouth, so paddling out is easy. It is a reef break and quite rocky, so it’s not an absolute beginner wave. But at it’s standard, consistent size (3-5 feet), it is quite user-friendly even to those with relatively limited experience. On the beach, just behind the seawall, there are several long wooden benches, at which you can enjoy a beverage and watch the surfing action. It is pretty special. Just ask the WSL Longboard Pro Surfers, who enjoyed a fantastic event with outstanding waves at Tupira in March 2017.
There are a couple of other good quality waves in the area. One is called the Long Left-Hander. It needs a slightly larger, rather than smaller swell, to work. But it does provide a genuine 400 metre ride and is very suitable for beginners. The other major break is a bit further away from the Lodge. It is set against a most magnificent mountainous backdrop and provides good power and performance.
4. Nusa Island Retreat – PNG
The PNG magic continues at NIR. You fly into Kavieng from Port Moresby (the flight takes about 90 minutes, as there is a quick stopover in Rabaul – so quick in fact, that you don’t even get off the plane). From there, it’s a short 10 minute drive to the Kavieng Port and an even shorter boat trip to NIR.
The bad news is that there is no surf on the island that houses NIR. All surf breaks need to be accessed by boat, so there is no paddling out from your bungalow. The good news is that there are a lot of breaks nearby and none are more than a 20minute boat ride away. The even better news is that one of the breaks, Ral island, is a true swell magnet. The PNG surf season is unfortunately way too short, running from late October to early April. Ral breaks almost every day (in some manner), but as the swell increases, so do the other surf options around NIR. And some of those options are brilliant. Long peeling reef/point breaks, both lefts and rights. Lovely. And there is always the option of a road trip down the north coast of New Ireland, heading towards Rubio Surf Camp – but that’s another story.
The accommodation at NIR is excellent but the food is even better. Dinner is a blue -ribbon event every night. It starts with soup, followed by a wide variety of main dishes and always finishes with a gorgeous dessert. There is also a well-stocked bar and an espresso machine. The creature comforts are nicely catered for at NIR and non-surfing partners can find plenty to do. There are local markets, both on the island itself, as well as in Kavieng, offering a large variety of locally made handicrafts. Be careful if you make any wood or dried frond artefact purchases. You need to ensure they are well fumigated before you return home or you will fall foul of the Customs requirements. There are also snorkeling, diving, stand-up paddle boarding, canoeing and swimming options.
NIR is a slightly more expensive adventure than some of the other PNG destinations. But well worth it, especially if you have a non-surfing partner and/or the family with you.
5. MATANIVUSI RESORT – FIJI
Matanivusi is a magnificent eco-resort. Designed by ex-pat Gold Coast couple Donna and Brian McDonald, Matanivusi was to be environmentally sympathetic from the start. While the Resort has been developed in several stages over a couple of decades, it remains true to the original concept of minimal impact on the environment. The rooms are simply magnificent, luxuriously comfortable and well appointed. Matanivusi is deservedly one of very few Stoke Certified surf resorts in the world.
As is the case with most Fijian surf breaks, you need a boat to access them. Matanivusi run a large, twin-engined beast that will get you to Frigates in comfort in less than an hour. They also have other smaller boats for the nearby local breaks. Brian has instituted a very strict and disciplined code of conduct, especially regarding safety in the surf. Even if you are the only surfer staying at the resort, one of the surf guides will share the water with you. And a boat will always be anchored at the break, with another staff member at the helm, regardless of where it is or how long you want to surf for. The surf service is impeccable.
Another nice aspect of staying at Matanivusi is that everyone eats dinner together a night. They set a long table for dinner, the service is super friendly and the bar is well-stocked. There are always a couple of options for entre and mains, which you order at some stage during the day. Dessert is usually a special creation. Just before dinner is served, the head surf guide provides an overview of surf conditions for the next day and preferences are debated and decided. Not everyone has to surf the same break. There are enough surf guides and boats to allow options, including start times. It is extremely civilised.
There are lots of non-surfing things to do during a stay at Matanivusi on the Coral Coast of Fiji. Things like dive trips, dive-with-sharks trips, snorkeling, horse-riding, visit a wildlife park, rafting, bird-watching and hiking. Matanivusi is not the cheapest resort in the area but it is probably close to the best on many of the points that matter to surfers. Excellent and safe surf protocols, wide variety of quality uncrowded surf breaks, great food, good beverage selection, espresso coffee, sustainable footprint and wonderful staff. You can relax at Matanivusi.
6. HA’ATAFU BEACH RESORT – TONGA
Tonga can provide world class surfing year round but let’s say it from the outset – it is not suitable for beginner surfers. There are no sand-bottom beachbreaks anywhere in Tonga, just coral reefs. Most breaks require intermediate to advanced skill levels and booties should be considered mandatory when surfing Tonga. Tonga is goofy-foot heaven, with some outstanding lefts either directly in front of the Haatafu Beach Resort or within a short walking distance and then a 100 metre paddle across the lagoon.
There are 2 distinct surf seasons. The North Pacific Winter Swell (the same stuff that hits Hawaii) sees Tonga firing from November to March. The Southern Hemisphere winter swell season runs from April to October, with waves generated by storm activity off Australia and New Zealand.
Tonga is well suited to a family holiday, as there are lots of non-surf activities available during a stay at Haatafu. The fishing is fantastic for both sport fishing and spin-casting enthusiasts. The Resort has a couple of solid runabouts that are available for both offshore bluewater and inshore spincasting fishing trips. You do need to take your own fishing gear (bring heavy tackle and plenty of spare lures) and the staff will put you into the action.
Snorkelling inside the lagoon is perfect for beginners and children but only strong swimmers and experienced snorkelers should venture beyond the reef. The annual migration of Humpback whales occurs during July to November. It is possible to watch whales from the Resort. Experienced snorkelers can swim with them beyond the reef (your own gear is recommended). And whale watching boat trips are also available.
7. POHNPEI SURF CLUB – MICRONESIA
P-Pass has been dubbed the best right-hander in the world. A fast, hollow reef break, it is located on Pohnpei, in the Caroline Islands, which is part of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). Pohnpei is the largest and most wind friendly island in the Caroline Islands archipelago. While P-Pass is on the bucket barrel list of many surfers, the surf season only runs from October to April. Fortunately, P-Pass is the wave magnet of the region and you can surf all day, at any tide. You can also surf on Sundays, whereas on some Micronesian Islands, Sunday is a sacred day and you cannot work or surf – it’s the law!
As Pohnpei is not the easiest place to get to and accommodation options in the FSM capital Palikir (the full name of P-Pass is Palikir Pass, in case you were wondering) with the necessary associated surf guide experience (and boats) are limited, good forward planning is required. FSM has a total population of less than 120,000 people and Palikir about 7,000 residents. So this is not a surf adventure with extensive shopping or fancy restaurant options. Indeed, most of the non-surfing things to do on Pohnpei revolve around natural attractions, both land and sea based.
Former Hawaiian hard-charger Allois runs the Pohnpei Surf Club in Palikir and is an awesome host. He has the knowledge and the fast boats to get you into your bucket list barrel. While some of the pro surfers jet in when P-Pass is fully sick under a pumping, cyclonic swell, don’t be fearful about the P-Pass reputation. You may choose not to surf the biggest of the big days, but in the lead up to, and after, such swell events, P-Pass will be magic. And the Pros are amazing to watch up close and personal in gnarly surf and they don’t stay that long anyway.
P-Pass is on the bucket list for good reason. Go see why.