There are hotel experiences and then there are experiences that define your trip due to a hotel. This is the latter.
With a sudden hiccup in my visa application process for Nauru, I was forced to change my itinerary. This led to my revisit of the Solomon Islands. For the week that I was suppose to be in Nauru, I would instead be staying at Hotel Honiara and exploring the island.
Due to the last minute change, I couldn’t even get in touch with the hotel before I arrived. I had no idea if they had rooms available as they were not expecting me. “Weren’t you suppose to come awhile ago?” I explained my situation to the receptionist who quickly processed my check-in. For my first night I stayed in a standard room which I was already happy with. It was basic but had the necessities for a comfortable stay.
A staff member took me for a tour of the property. It was massive. With stairs, winding paths, sculptures, and hidden buildings, I thought I was in an amusement park!
The next morning I stumbled into the bar area and met the mastermind of the hotel, Sir Thomas Chan. I’m use to meeting asians throughout the world, but I was still caught off guard with “Tommy”. With origins from Hong Kong and the UK, Tommy has been based in the Solomons for much of his life and is now as local as any. He asked me to join him for a beer. By the second draft he was reading my palm and giving me personal life advice. I felt like I was chatting with a long lost uncle rather than the GM of a hotel in Honiara. We immediately connected and it was great. He told me about the Queen’s visit to his hotel and other fascinating stories. He also upgraded me to one of their best rooms. All this before breakfast.
So embarked one of my most interesting weeks in the Pacific all thanks to choosing the right hotel.
The actual property of the hotel has been designed and built by Tommy. His concept was to create a dragon on the mountain which is why it is such a “long” hotel. The reception building is the head and it curves around the mountains to the tail where the suites are located. Lush gardens featuring local species of frangipani and coconut palms weave through the property. The pool, the largest in town, is located near the main restaurant and bar.
Handmade sculptures of mermaids, dolphins, parrots, and other animals located all over are a hallmark of the property. Tommy’s an artist at heart and the hotel has become a gallery of his many works.
The suite I stayed in was beautiful. It had a stunning view of the sea and town from its large private terrace. The room had a king sized bed, comfy couches facing a flatscreen TV and even a kitchenette. The bathroom had a bath/shower and even a washing machine. This place would be great for long term stays as well which I’m sure many of the guests opt for.
In terms of facilities, this place has it all. Three distinct restaurants make the dining experience exciting. Mandarine Restaurant serves Asian fare with a focus on traditional Chinese food, including Peking Duck! Club Havana is a popular French restaurant with delicate fresh fish dishes. Oasis is the main restaurant serving international food and has the breakfast buffet. The long bar next to Oasis is a classy place to sip on a drink.
Near the entrance is a nightclub, cafe, gift shop, and massage center. A gym is at the other end. There’s also a basketball court and many options of activities.
I spent my days touring the sites I missed on my last visit and my evenings at dinner with Tommy and his wonderful family.
During the course of our conversations I learned about a popular seaside resort they once operated. This was burned down during the ethnic tensions that started in the late 90s. Tommy wanted me to experience what it was like, so he organized a day tour full of activities and sightseeing with his staff and family.
This tour day was amazing. We went fishing as dolphins swam around the boat. Then at the ruins of the resort we had a barbecue picnic as we took turns going waterskiing and kneeboarding. After that, we sped to Savo Island and went around it stopping at different points of interest. One village farms eggs from the megapode, a bird that lays an unusually large egg. I ate one for breakfast the next day.
At the next village we hiked into the jungle to find the base of a semi active volcano. The children from the village all came along. At the end of the day we had a massive banquette with the fish we caught and other fresh seafood while watching two groups performing traditional live dancing. What a day!
The week flew by and soon it was time to go. I was actually quite sad to leave. After traveling solo for weeks in the Pacific, briefly belonging to a loving family felt wonderful. I was so honored to be welcomed at Hotel Honiara and I note that Tommy treats all his guests in the same manner. For travelers looking for a really unique and local experience in the Solomon Islands, stop by and ask for Tommy. Tell him I say hi.
PO Box 4 Honiara, Solomon Islands
Telephone: (+677) 21737, 23412