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Beach Fales at Lalomanu

"Where in the South Pacific can I rent a little grass shack by the beach?" people often ask me. The answer is here in Samoa, and it's known as a beach fale.

Although included in many accommodation listings, many of these rustic structures belong in the camping category, as they are miniature Samoan fales, with oval thatched roofs covering open-air platforms with mosquito nets, foam mattresses, and pull-down canvas or plastic sides to afford some privacy and protection against the elements. A growing number have enclosed bedrooms. Guests share toilets and showers (usually cold-water) in separate buildings.

The best on Upolu are beside the great Lalomanu Beach, 1 hour by car from Apia on Upolu's southeastern corner. Taufua Beach Fales (tel. 41-051; www.samoabeachfales.com) is the largest and most popular, with more than 60 fales and a lively beachside restaurant and bar. Next door, Litia Sini Beach Resort (tel. 41-050; www.litiasinibeach.ws) has wooden sides on its fales, a few of which have bathrooms attached. Expect to pay about S$65 (US$26/£13) per person for an open fale, S$70 to S$80 (US$28-US$32/£14-£16) for one with pull-down sides, and S$180 (US$72/£36) for one with private bathroom, including breakfast and dinner. Both accept MasterCard and Visa credit cards.

At the base of the cliff in nearby Saleapaga, Steve and Ana Harrison's Boomerang Creek Beach Bungalows (tel. 40-358 or 73-202; www.samoa-resorts.com/boomerang/Index.html is the fanciest of the lot. It has two bars and a hillside restaurant, where you can order sandwiches, steaks, local lobster, and other simply prepared fare from a blackboard menu. Its fales -- eight on the beach, seven on the mountain side of the road -- are fully enclosed and much better equipped than the others. The beach units have private bathrooms. Prices range from S$60 to S$120 (US$24-US$48/£12-£24) double, including breakfast.

Based at Taufa Beach Fales, Moanalei Dive 'n' Surf (tel. 41-015; www.moanaleidivensurf.com) rents snorkel gear, kayaks, and bikes, and it will arrange fishing charters, boat trips to nearby islands, and mountain hikes. You can get a Samoan-style massage here, too.

Beach Fales at Manase

Like Upolu, Savai'i has scores of beach fales, especially in Manase village on the north shore. The best share the white-sand beach with Stevenson's at Manase .

The most comfortable are at Vacations Beach Fales (tel. 54-024; www.vacationsbeachfales.com), where two have air conditioners and bathrooms. Other beach units are enclosed for privacy. The communal toilets and showers here are more modern than at the others. The restaurant and bar extend out over the beach -- great for a sunset cocktail. Rates range from S$90 (US$36/£18) per person for an open beach fale to S$300 (US$120/£60) double for an air-conditioned unit, including breakfast and dinner. MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted.

Jane's Beach Fales (tel./fax 54-066; sbec@samoa.ws), are a bit more luxurious -- if that word can be applied to these rustic accommodations. Her 22 fales are larger than Tanu's. Each is about half front porch, half bedroom; they are thus much more private, and you can lock them. Most of her fales sit among palms and breadfruit trees on a lawn, as opposed to sand at Tanu, but one of them actually sits on stilts above the lagoon. It's the most private and romantic. Another has a kitchen and its own bathroom. The others share toilets, cold-water showers, and a communal kitchen. A restaurant here serves simple local-style meals daily and stages a fiafia on Friday or Saturday night. Jane charges S$50 (US$20/£10) per person per night, including breakfast and dinner, but she does not accept credit cards.

Largest and most basic is Tanu Beach Fales (tel./fax 54-050), whose 32 huts sit beside the lagoon or in a grove of tropical trees. They all have electric lights, mosquito nets, linen, mattresses, pillows, and pull-down side mats for privacy. Guests share toilets, cold-water showers, and a communal kitchen. Rates are S$50 (US$20/£10) per person, including breakfast and dinner. No credit cards.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.