Barrier Beach House, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

When choosing where we will have our annual family holiday, we select the destination first and then look for accommodation, hoping there will be something suitable for all five of us.

Just off the dirt road is the entrance to a patch of paradise

Just off the dirt road is the entrance to a patch of paradise

After we’d decided we wanted to revisit Espiritu Santo after spending a magical day there while on a cruise at the beginning of 2014, I started to google accommodation options and read the reviews.  (Imagine going back in time 20 years and not being able to read on-line reviews!)

Sunset

Twilight

Anyway, I was really smitten with the look of Barrier Beach House as its position on Barrier Beach just looked like a touch of paradise.  And can you believe, I could only find positive reviews.  In the 40 or so reviews I read, not one had anything negative to say.

Barrier Beach

Barrier Beach

Barrier Beach House is part-owned and managed by Aussie couple, Shane and Shendel.  This is a boutique resort that originally just had three beachfront individual fares however last May they completed the build of three additional garden fares.  Children are welcome although if you are looking for your child to be entertained with water slides, swim-up bars, play stations and 24-channel TVs, this is not the place for you.

Coming in from a snorkel

Coming in from a snorkel

Transfers from the airport are included in the tariff and the drive from Pekoa-Santo takes around 15-minutes on a road that was a dirt road until it was tar-sealed in 2011.  As you approach the Beach House from the crest of a hill you will be stunned by the view of swaying coconut palms that lead to the brilliantly turquoise waters that fringe Barrier Beach.

Outdoor dining

Outdoor dining

Our driver took us down the driveway that leads to the Beach House where Shane emerged to greet us.  You are arriving at a beach house and so you will not be greeted by anyone in a starched, pressed uniform.  Shane appeared dressed in a buttoned-down shirt with a pair of shorts and thongs and a very relaxed smile.

The path to Fare 6

The path to Fare 6

The children were shown to Fare 6 which is one of the new garden fares.  These fares are larger than the older beachfront fares and come with a wide covered verandah with outdoor lounges and a plunge pool.  These fares have louvre timber shutters but are also air-conditioned.

Fare 6

Fare 6

Drew and I were led through the main house and along a wooden path to Fare 2, one of the three beachfront fares.  Definitely 1 and 2 are closest to the beach and have more privacy than Fare 3.  Our beachfront fare had timber floors, the natangura thatched roof, timber louvre windows, a king-sized bed and a very close and incredible view of the white sand leading to turquoise waters.

All relaxed at Fare 6

All relaxed at Fare 6

Fresh water plunge pool

Fresh water plunge pool

A complimentary welcome drink is offered on your arrival day and any drink from the bar is available except sparkling wine as due to there being a maximum of 12 guests at any one time, sparkling wine is only available by the bottle.  A glass of wine from the bar costs 800 vt ($10.00) and a cocktail 1200 vt ($15.00).

Fare 2

Fare 2

The accommodation is very comfortable and adequate and the fares are serviced every day.  The rooms are more spartan than overly-luxurious but perfected suited for a holiday on a beach.  There is a small wardrobe area in the bathroom section with a mini-bar fridge.  We found the mini-bar prices to be surprisingly reasonable with only a small mark-up between what you’d pay in one of the Luganville supermarkets and the in-room price.  Bottles of filtered water are complimentary and available at any time from the main house kitchen.

Good ventilation with ceiling fans and louvre windows

Good ventilation with ceiling fans and louvre windows

After a couple of days I did wonder about the laundry situation but you can give bags of laundry to the women working at Barrier Beach House and they will do the washing for you.  Your clothes won’t be returned pressed and ironed but they will be folded and there is no additional charge for the laundry service.  Your clothes also will not be returned that day but you’re now on ‘Island Time’ and they will return – some day.

Bathroom in Fare 2

A wide shot!

Nothing is too much trouble for Shane and when I apologised for asking him to take me and Arabella to the medical centre for her non-emergency, he said, ‘Don’t worry, you are my job, that’s what I’m here for’.

All the entertainment you need

All the entertainment you need

There were many times when we leaned on Shane’s laid-back nature and generosity for lifts into town, for assistance with changing money from one currency to another, for travel advice, travel bookings, bikes, kayaks, snorkeling gear, medical supplies (Archie developed asthma, Arabella was a drama Queen and Alfie had an attack of very high temperatures), and he even took me into town to see a selection of shops within a shop where local women sell their handmade wares.  In the shop I tried on a dress and as there wasn’t a mirror, asked the women how it looked.  They looked at Shane and said, ‘Just ask your husband’, which had us in stitches and I’m sure Shane was thinking the women must think he prefers cougars.

Dining is on the outdoor verandah

Dining is on the outdoor verandah

On the night we decided to dine at the local Chinese restaurant in Luganville we of course had no transportation for getting there.  Shane said, ‘Look, if you put a thousand vatu ($12.00) into the staff Christmas fund, you can take my car; just leave the keys in it when you bring it back’.  No worries.

Fun on a tyre swing

Fun on a tyre swing

Shane and Shendel became more like friends than hosts.  They were at all times relaxed, smiling, accommodating and generous.  And we’re not the sort of family to slip into a guest house quietly.

Rope swing

Rope swing

The beach that is just a few steps from your fare is a very soft white sand beach that leads down to water that is around 28C (82F).  Bring your snorkeling gear because you can swim out to some of the most gorgeous coral and fish life I’ve ever seen.  Drew and I snorkeled out to a little island and fringing that island is amazing coral of every colour in the rainbow.

The most beautiful coloured water in the world

The most beautiful coloured water in the world

Like all other reviews, I haven’t yet said anything negative about our time at Barrier Beach House.  But here goes.  It’s just one word – Weather!  You can choose your holiday but you can’t choose the weather and of course, there is nothing anyone at Barrier Beach House or on the island of Santo can do about it; it is what it is.

A perfectly blue ocean

A perfectly blue ocean

And yes, I do realise that we traveled during the wet season but typically, the kind of weather we experienced is usually only experienced in February, the quietest tourism month on Santo.  On the day we arrived the weather was windy but sunny.  Every day after that was cloudy with light showers, then medium showers, then heavy showers followed by torrential downpours where we couldn’t hear what each other was saying over the noise of the rain.  I can vouch for the fact the natangura thatched roofs are waterproof.

A brief moment with the moon

A brief moment with the moon

We did have one super-sunny perfect morning on our third day but that was the morning I took Arabella to the medical centre.  By the time Shane drove us back and by the time I’d changed into my bikini and rushed down to the sun lounge with my beach towel, the clouds had come over.  It was a week before we ever saw another patch of blue sky.

Drew having an early morning swim

Drew having an early morning swim

But even though we couldn’t have had worse weather, the kids all said it was the best holiday ever.  And we didn’t let the weather bother us.  In upcoming posts I’ll be sharing about the amazing island of Santo and all the incredible places you can go and things you can do, even when it’s wet (practically flooding).

Reclining before dinner

Reclining before dinner

We had a thoroughly enjoyable holiday at Barrier Beach House.  We loved the individual fares and how Drew and I slept in one that was separate from the children’s accommodation.  We loved staying in natangura fares that are so close to such a special beach and lying in bed listening to the waves as they spilled onto the sand (and listening to the rain) and the peace, quiet and tranquility.  The staff are relaxed, polite, friendly and obliging and can’t do more for you – but just not quickly – you have to remember, ‘Island Time’.

The little guy

The little guy

Tipping is not expected however we told Shane we would like to tip the seven staff who had looked after us so well.  The average pay in Santo is $1.50/hour and while the staff at the Beach House are paid above that rate, some bonus earnings wouldn’t go astray.  Shane collects the tips and then these are distributed equally at the end of the year at the staff Christmas party which I think is a lovely idea.

Sunrise

Sunrise

Included in the tariff:  wifi, continental breakfast, filtered water, DVD’s, books, beach towels, laundry service, complimentary arrival drink, daily room service, snorkeling equipment, kayaks, bicycles, airport transfers and trips into Luganville.

Looking up to the main house

Looking up to the main house

In tomorrow’s post I will bring you the Barrier Beach House dining experience.

View from Fare 2

View from Fare 2

Verdict:  Paradise

Rope swing

Rope swing

Barrier Beach House:  Barrier Beach, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

Ph:  + 678 7105360

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Comments

  1. That sounds like, just what I need right now 🙂 glad you had a lovely holiday! Liz x

  2. This is such a cool place! What a terrific vacation — I’d thoroughly enjoy this. Thanks for introducing me to the Barrier Beach House. 🙂

  3. Looks excellent!

  4. I am absolutely loving this vacation you are enjoying–and we, your readers, are with you every step. What an utterly appealing place in every way. And how wonderful that you have the entire family with you.

  5. What a fantastic place!! I loved my time in Vanuatu and would love to go back and explore different areas, like this one. And you, Charlie, look bloody fantastic. 🙂

  6. What an absolutely amazing place. No wonder you couldn’t find any negative reviews! This sounds far more appealing to me, given the setting, than an ultra formal, starched shirt welcome. The villas still look beautiful but you get the laid back air that matches the setting – and a family! It looks like everyone is having fun (around the medical visits…) and I hope you continue to enjoy yourselves.

  7. Rest and relaxation and a tire swing for the kids. What more could you need? Looks lovely and peaceful. I think sometimes people don’t bother to go back and evaluate an establishment unless they have very poor reviews or if they were just blown away by customer service. People are just lazy that way… So glad your family had an amazing time. I have sent a request for my hosting company to look at why you are having issues leaving comments. Thanks for letting me know. Take Care, BAM

  8. What incredible service! That can really make or break a place can’t it and it sounds like they truly understand hospitality there 🙂

  9. Sounds like just my sort of place – simple and friendly. Shame about the weather though but you got some great photos.

  10. Like a piece of Heaven! I was relaxed just reading your descriptions and looking at your lovely photos. The weather is a bummer, but to still have such a relaxing, peaceful, time is wonderful. Kids no matter what their age, always seem to get sick with something on vacation!

  11. What a lovely spot and with that sort of service and friendliness, it must be booked out all the time. I’d love to spend time there.

  12. Shane certainly knows how to treat his guests. This looks like an absolutely wonderful retreat. And it sounds like you had a wonderful time despite the weather and the medical drama.

  13. Spectacular Charlie, what a find! We had a similar experience in Morocco, not even one bad review of our guest house and the people were incredibly friendly too. We haven’t had a beach vacation in quite some time, not sure if I could do it—I’m so used to vacationing in a city with lots to do and see. The photos are incredible, I’m always in awe of the colour of the water particularly on a sunny day, I’m sorry you didn’t have many of those. Our last time in Europe was cold and rainy too but we’ve had such good luck with weather over the last 28 years that it was bound to happen. The resort looks really nice but I was surprised not to see a weekly rate, it’s a long way for us but we could certainly dream. I can’t wait to see what shenanigans you were up to on the island.

  14. Wow – I am stunned at all that was included in the Tariff! Shane and Shendel sound like they were amazing hosts – and I would love to be on on island on “island time” right now – specially seeing we are in the middle of winter!

  15. I would love to escape the overcast and cold New York for a beach house like that!

  16. Sounds, and looks, like paradise! Absolutely gorgeous. So glad everybody had such a wonderful time.

  17. Wow what an incredible getaway. Weather can always hamper holidays but great company and a cheerful disposition can solve anything!

  18. Those white sand beaches, the moon over the water and your child swinging on the tire…Aren’t those the joys of life? And, yes, it helps when our hosts are so very kind…Wondering if you bought that dress =)

    Last and not least, thank you for making me look up Vanuatu…Finally found a map and see that it’s near Fiji! =)

  19. Looks like you had a great holiday charlie. That sea looks divine- such a glorious colour. I actually really like a beach with a grey sky but maybe not so much rain.
    Cheers
    Sherry

  20. Just went through your vacation posts and it looks like y’all are having a wonderful trip and what fabulous places! I could spend a year at that beach house!

  21. What a lot of extras are included that would normally cost a fortune Charlie. It all looks so gorgeous and idyllic – what a shame about the weather 🙁 So lovely that you found such a friendly home away from home xo

  22. Oh wow! That just looks like paradise! Gorgeous photos!

  23. What a wonderful holiday Charlie! You all look like you had a fabulous time in paradise.

  24. This sounds like the perfect beach house for your relaxing vacation! Not too frou frou, but definitely filled with lots of character. 🙂

  25. Oh I would love to swing on that tire, although I think the poor tree will have a broken branch by then hahaha. Seems that Shane and Shendel are very friendly hosts. Thanks for sharing your vacation with us.

  26. Vanuatu seems like the most relaxed place in the world, tire swings and snorkelling – ultimate holiday destination 😀

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  27. Gah…. reading your blog today is like taking a bullet, take me back to my holiday. 🙂 What a beautiful holiday you are having. Good you are all still getting up in it and enjoying, even tho the weather aint great. PS: You all look amazing! 🙂

  28. I am so glad you’ve introduced me to this incredible part of the world. I would love the pace and the unplugging! What a wonderful family experience, Charlie. Loved the photos!

  29. oh that place sounds amazing – and if you are going to get caught in the rain it sounds like just the place. though I know what you mean about a little bit of sunshine wouldn’t go astray

  30. Such a shame about the weather, Charlie but this looks like a little piece of heaven … you must have come home so relaxed!

Trackbacks

  1. […] walked into our room to see the staff had decorated the room to celebrate our anniversary which we thought was very nice but surprising seeing as we […]

  2. […] one of the managers of Barrier Beach House is a home cook who has trained two of her staff, Sylvia and Flavia to cook for guests.  Being […]

  3. […] one of the managers of Barrier Beach House is a home cook who has trained two of her staff, Sylvia and Flavia to cook for guests.  Being […]

  4. […] Barrier Beach House, Riri Blue Hole is very easy to get to.  We cycled around 5kms to get there, traveling along the […]

  5. […] our first night at Barrier Beach House, I was studying a map of Santo where some of the Island’s attractions were listed.  Shane […]

  6. […] do some exploring.  Shane, the manager at the Beach House, told us that just 6kms up the road from Barrier Beach House is a turn-off to the right where you head down a dirt road until you come to the water’s […]

  7. […] restaurant had come highly recommended.  Shane from the Barrier Beach House told us we absolutely must spend a day at Velit Bay and enjoy the restaurant.  He loves the […]

  8. […] Barrier Beach House does make up picnic hampers for guests heading out for the day and that’s what we should have done in this instance or dine at Little Paradise Restaurant that’s further along the beach.  However, we were supporting a local village and that thought alone did cheer us up. […]

  9. […] pick-up and drop-off service from your accommodation.  Lope Lope is just a five-minute drive from Barrier Beach House and had I known how close it was I would have suggested we just take the bikes and cycle […]

  10. […] some part of the ship she hasn’t discovered before.  There was a young couple staying at Barrier Beach House and they did three dives including a night dive and felt they still had plenty more to experience […]

  11. […] devastated Vanuatu.  Our family was fortunate to holiday in Santo in January.  We stayed at the Barrier Beach House and became friendly with Shane and Shendel who own and manage the boutique […]

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