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Sleepy-Town Feeling on 'Your Island'

November 08, 1987|KEN SMITH and NANCY SMITH | Ken and Nancy Smith are free-lance writers living in Newbury Park, Calif

ALOFI, Niue — If you're looking for sandy beaches, luxury hotels and wild night life--don't come here.

All that Niue (noo-way), 350 miles south-southeast of Samoa, has to offer are spectacular caves and chasms, coral reefs, friendly and fun-loving people, and a sleepy town atmosphere, with nary a stop sign in sight.

A population of fewer than 3,000 and few tourists makes it feel as if it's "your island" and that you're not just one of the horde that descends on most tropical resort areas.

No matter how beautiful the New Zealand-owned island is and how much you do here, it's the people who make the place special.

Pleasant memories linger of Patrick Jacobson and his wife, Vive, who manage the Niue Hotel and prepare the meals. And of their indomitable 5-year-old daughter, Rangiola, who taught us how to count in Niuean .

Also, of the friendliness of hotel employees Lyn, Vaine and Ida, and the singing and dancing of the ebullient Constitution Day talent show participants, especially Saliga's comedy routine.

Explore to Heart's Content

To see the island, you can take various tours, rent a car or motor scooter. Get a map and drive the 36-mile coral road around the 100-square-mile island on your own, exploring as you go.

Using the map, we found an overgrown trail (track), followed it through the jungle (bush), climbed down a steep coral cliff, went through a small cave and came out on the reef to discover a larger cave with a crystal-clear pool full of colorful fish.

For the sports minded there is a nine-hole golf course, two tennis courts, scuba diving and fishing. Plant enthusiasts can arrange to visit a small botanical garden on the property of the New Zealand representative.

Niue is a flat-topped coral island 19 degrees south of the Equator, between Fiji and Tahiti.

The inhabitants are British subjects and New Zealand citizens, but the island has been self-governing since 1974. New Zealand currency is used. Prices are set--no haggling and no tipping.

A U.S. passport is all that is required for a 30-day visitor status.

Although Niueans usually converse in their native language in daily life, almost everyone speaks English.

The climate is pleasant, with prevailing breezes and cool evenings most of the year. The best months are April to November. The summer months, December to March, can be rainy, hot and humid, and high winds and occasional hurricanes occur.

A Secluded Hideaway

One reason Niue is a secluded hideaway is that it's off the main travel lanes. Air New Zealand flies to Tahiti and Rarotonga, Cook Islands, then Air Nauru completes the trip.

The cost from Los Angeles is about $1,200 round trip. You can also fly in via Honolulu and Rarotonga on South Pacific Airways, or if you're visiting New Zealand, you can go via Auckland.

Because of flight schedules, you'll have one or more days stopover at each landing place--not too harsh a penalty. You can stay on Niue a minimum of two, seven or nine days, depending on which way you're traveling. Seven days is ideal to see the sights.

The two-story Niue Hotel has 20 motel-style rooms, clean and comfortable, with refrigerator, fan and patio or balcony, with a swimming pool a few steps away.

A New Zealand $70 double figures out to about $40 a night U.S. Credit cards are accepted by the hotel, but nowhere else.

Hinemata Motel and Peleni's Guest House are modestly priced at about $10 double a night--share bathroom and kitchen.

Niue Hotel has the only restaurant and has good food ranging from New Zealand steak to island grilled fish. Dinner with appetizer, entree and dessert costs about $10, plus wine or beverage.

Island night barbecue is a good introduction to local culture. Fish and chips, hamburgers and meat pies are available in town.

There are several grocery stores and a bonded government liquor store well stocked with New Zealand wines and beer. Gift shopping is limited to the handicraft store in town that offers modestly priced basketry and needlework on a par with any throughout the Pacific.

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For information about Niue, contact the New Zealand Government Tourist Office, 10960 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1530, Los Angeles 90024, phone (213) 477-8241.

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