WHEN WORLD LEADERS LIKE Australian prime minister John Howard visited Samoa for the 2004 Pacific Islands Forum, they stayed at the Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa. The locally owned resort, set on 33 manicured acres on the southern coast of Upolu, has open-air rooms with native teak furniture, giving the place an off-the-beaten-track Samoan spin.
THE GOOD LIFE: Each fale has three folding cedar walls that can be closed for privacy or opened for a 180-degree garden or beachfront view. Sinalei completed the most luxurious of the resort's 27 roomsincluding the Honeymoon Villa, which has a private spa pool framed between a large deck and the beachin August 2004.
SPORTS ON-SITE: Sinalei offers something most luxury resorts can't: world-class surf. More than a half-dozen surf breaks, including hollow lefts like Siumu and Nuusafee, break within a 30-minute boat ride. Maninoa Surf Camp (011-61-2-9971-8624, www.lineup.com.au), right next door, will take you wherever the surf is best.
BEYOND THE SAND: Begin the day scanning the horizon for whales at the South Pacific's first national park, O Le Pupu-Pue (translation: "From the Coast to the Mountaintop"). Then hike past an enormous swallow-filled lava tube and take a shower under the powerful cascade of Cedric Falls. Or head to Samoa Breweries, just outside Apia, for a taste of the island's award-winning national suds.
THE FINE PRINT: Doubles from $239, including breakfast, airport transfers, and various activities; 011-685-25191, www.sinalei.com. Air New Zealand (800-262-1234, www.airnewzealand.com) flies from L.A. to Apia, Samoa, starting at $848 round-trip.