I’m not typically one for the bed and breakfast type of place. I primarily travel for business, and I accrue points during this business travel. Then I redeem my travel points for free vacations. Repeat. As great of a system as this is, it often limits us frequent travelers from going a bit off the beaten path and exploring new experiences. When my wife and I had the opportunity to plan a trip to a couple islands in the South Pacific, we decided to spend some time on Espiritu Santo, more commonly just called Santo, one of the islands of Vanuatu. There are no major chain hotels to redeem points at on Santo. In fact, there aren’t really many quality roads either. The biggest town of Luganville is barely a town. There are a multitude of boutique lodging options available, all with very few total rooms. After some research on Tripadvisor, the one we settled on was Moyyan House by the Sea.
Moyyan has only five rooms, and each one is actually a free standing structure, called a faré. The typical comforts us frequent travelers are used to like air conditioning, a potential suite upgrade, and an HDTV aren’t available here. Rather, the room is simple yet classy, with a bed, a table with two chairs, and a side table. There’s a book shelf as well, and behind the sleeping area is the bathroom and shower. The layout is actually pretty similar to the standard aLoft floor plan, but a bit more compact. Instead of air conditioning, 3 of 4 wall panels are made of slats that can be opened to let the air in. While there were some times we wished for air conditioning, in general the breeze was nice, and we were comfortable in our faré. There are screens on the other side of the slats to keep the bugs out, and with plenty of exceptions, they seemed to work :-). Just make sure to close the door behind you after you enter!
The farés are situated about fifteen feet from the beach. Between the close proximity and the open air nature of the structures, that meant that every morning when we woke up and every evening when we went to bed, we got to hear the soft waves lapping against the sand. The sun rised pretty early everyday we were there, and waking up to see the sun rise in front of the ocean at Moyyan never got old.
Moyyan House has a full spa, but we never made use of it. I read great things about it online, though. There isn’t a fitness center, but I’m not sure I saw a gym on all of Santo. Continental breakfast is included in all of the rates, and it was quite good. You’re first served a selection of fresh fruits, and there’s a slight day to day variation, depending on what fresh fruits they have on hand each day. There’s a cereal bar, and you’re also offered a selection of toast and jam. We found it to be quite substantial, but if you want eggs, bacon, etc, you can add these things on a la carte.
The sun rose early every day we were there, and it was always a treat to see the sun reflecting on the water right in front of Moyyan. As I mentioned, there are only 5 farés, and so there aren’t many dining tables either. I believe there were 6, and they are all set up outdoors on the patio, which is fully covered, in case of rain. The awning above our head didn’t keep the flies away, though, so get used to doing a bit of swatting. In fact, there are a good amount of Mosquitos and bugs on Santo in general. If you are the type the gets bitten (my wife!), they won’t spare you here!
Moyyan has a wide variety of things you can do for free right on the property. You can paddle board, glass bottom kayak, snorkel, rent bikes, and more! We actually did all of them. We rode bikes to the nearby blue holes, and we enjoyed teaching ourselves to leisurely paddle board around the cove as well.
I think the best part about Moyyan, though, is the friendly staff and service. Every morning we had the same waitress who tended to all of our tables, and every evening we had the same waitress as well. She learned our preferences, was very charming, and really made our trip special. Tracy, the manager, really ties the property together nicely to put the finishing touches on our trip. For example, on our first day there, it was pouring rain. I knew about all the activities in Santo from Tripadvisor, but I didn’t really know where to begin in terms of booking things. I also didn’t know how to prioritize our activities, and as I was browsing the brochures and folders in the lobby, I also saw one about the SS Coolidge, a famous shipwreck off the coast of Santo. It is widely considered to be one of the best shipwrecks to dive in the world, as you can access a majority of the ship and it is not far from shore. Katy and I were not dive certified. I wasn’t sure how to plan the week, and Tracy stepped in with suggestions immediately: “How about we pack you a bag lunch now, you take the bikes to a couple blue holes now, and then I’ll set up a dive certification course for you two starting tomorrow. You can then have a day off in between dives to go to Champagne Beach and Million Dollar Point, and you will still have free time at the end of the week, and you will leave as certified divers. You may even have a chance to dive the Coolidge.” Great service! Within minutes, we were on our bikes (that’s another story entirely!), off to blue holes, and by the time we left our trip, we were indeed certified divers and we had an amazing time in Santo.
I mentioned that the rooms are free standing farés that are essentially open air villas, protected by shutters and screens. They have pros and cons. The primary con is that there were a few times we wish we had air conditioning. It’s also a bit easier for the gnats to get in when there are no fully sealed walls. On the positive, though, they are only about ten feet from the beach. With only shutters and screens keeping us from the beach, we went to bed every night to the water lapping against the shore. We kept the top shutters open for breeze, and this also served to let the sunrise shine in and wake us in the morning. Once we let go of our notions that a hotel room must include and HDTV, air conditioning, and a logo pad of paper, we were able to relax and really appreciate the environment that we were in. The farés all have porches with chairs, tables, and a hammock as well. Moyyan definitely creates an environment of relaxation. The only thing that annoyed me, which Tracy told me would soon be taken care of, is wifi access to the farés. Internet in Santo is SLOW. Everywhere. This isn’t Moyyan’s fault, but the wifi signal being incredibly weak certainly is. Wifi worked okay in the main area, but checking email before bedtime and in the morning was a challenge. I hope they soon invest in a couple high powered 802.11n routers.
We ate all of our dinners at Moyyan. We could have gone to visit some of the other hotels. Santo isn’t exactly the kind of place where you would want to have dinner at the local restaurants, and none of them are near Moyyan either. In any case, we never felt compelled to try anywhere else for dinner! Our meals were all excellent. The menu is not overly extensive, but it changes every other day. All meals start with a fresh loaf of bread, and there are appetizers if you choose, but we typically skipped the appetizers to save room for dessert! Here are some pics of our meals.
We had a wonderful time on Santo, and Moyyan certianly had a lot to do with that. Read our full trip report here! If you happen to be planning a trip there, I can wholeheartedly recommend staying at Moyyan House by the Sea!