While Papua New Guinea may be a burgeoning destination, it certainly isn’t cheap. Due to the mining industry and the presence of Exxon and WHO, rent prices in the country’s capital, Port Moresby, are on par with those in some of the world’s most-visited cities like Paris. Though the cost of living decreases once you get out of the capital and into other areas, traveling within the country will cost you due to the lack of infrastructure and high fuel costs. This means flying or doubling-up with a car and a boat -- so know that if you want to travel through the country, transportation costs will be your biggest burden. For this reason, most people who visit the country pick a place and stay put.
The good news is that one of the most popular landing spots, the coastal town of Alotau, is one of the more affordable once you actually get there. It’s a 45-minute flight from Ports Moresby and a launching point to explore WHAT Bay, highly regarded for its scuba diving, seaside villages, and historical islands. Alotau is unique in that's its been able to offer what the rest of the country cannot: High-value lodging and easy access to a wide range of experiences.One of the best places we found in the area to stay at is a small overwater bungalow property called Nuli Sapi on Logeia Island. It's a journey to get there, but worth it. You’ll have to take a taxi from the airport to the harbor, then jump on a one-hour boat ride to Logeia Island. Nuli Sapi offers a private shuttle for about a $100, but if you have the time and patience, public water taxis to Logeia will run you only $30. And the good news is that once you arrive, the need to think -- and plan and spend exhaustively -- disappears.
Nuli Sapi’s beauty and remoteness rivals any bungalow resort in the world. They're all constructed out of local wood and set at the edge of a small mangrove forest with sweeping views of the channel. Run like a bed and breakfast, the proprietor cooks every meal using food purchased at local markets. In each of the four overwater, open-air cabins, you’ll find running water, a shower, toilet, balcony, mosquito net, and a queen bed.
The property is owned by the adjacent village, which provides ample opportunity to learn about Papua New Guinea culture. For example, you can take a guided hike into the rainforest to see the remains of a former “skull cave” from the days of cannibalism, or explore the lifestyle and gardens of the village itself. But one of Nuli Sapi’s greatest assets is its proximity (a 5-minute boat ride) to a handful of other islands with strong historical significance from the British missionary days, such as Samarai Island and the aforementioned WHAT Bay. And because you're island hopping an hour from the nearest major town, it goes without saying that the opportunities to find remote beaches, snorkel, or go sea kayaking are in abundance.
It may take a lot of time and effort to get there, but once settled, this piece of paradise is sure to bring peace of mind -- especially when you can shell out shockingly little to stay. At $150 a night, including three meals a day, the property earns a place as one of the best values the Alotau region has to offer. After all, just think about how the boat ride to Nuli Sapi itself could cost you $100 and what that would get you in the big city. Not much!