Coconuts Beach Resort Rebuilds, Begins New Chapter
In April 2020, Coconuts Beach Club Resort and Spa in Maninoa closed its doors for an indefinite period following the world wide border shutdowns to help slow down the spread of the Global Pandemic.
Last year in another stroke of bad luck, the staff housing was destroyed in a fire which also damaged 3 guest rooms.
Now after nearly 2 years of hibernation, the lights are slowly but surely coming on again as the resort prepares to rebuild and continue the enduring labour of love started 32 years ago by its American owners, Barry and Jennifer Rose.
Returning from the United States in July last year, Resort proprietor, Brian Rose, was happy to be back on Samoan soil after being stranded in the US for over a year due to Covid travel restrictions.
“It was very strange coming back to Coconuts without any guests and very few staff around but it was wonderful to enjoy the beauty of Samoa again” said Brian.
After some time assessing the damage and evaluating the vulnerabilities, Brian decided it was a good time to re-imagine and renovate the front area of the resort where the staff house was once located and enlisted the services of their long time architect, Robert Ross to redesign the front entrance.
“We are now in the process of re-doing our main entrance area and with Robert Ross having created the new design and it will be much more beautiful than before. I can tell you that it will make quite a statement and create a mood which will greet all our future guests who venture into Coconuts.”
With the possibility of borders re-opening sometime this year, General Manager, Lina Bell says that while they are keen for a travel bubble arrangement with New Zealand, they also want to keep the Corona Virus out of Samoa and their village if they can help it, which is why they have been working with village matai to push vaccination.
”We’ve been working with the village to make sure everyone gets vaccinated” said Lina. “We explained to them that once we re-open the hotel, we will not allow anyone (guests and villagers included) who has not been vaccinated onto the property for everyone’s safety.”
“When we put it that way to them it motivated the village council to mobilise everyone to get vaccinated. We don’t want the virus to be brought in or taken out if we can help it.”
She added, “Coconuts will also be implementing a new policy once we re-open and we’ll require all guests to have their shots done in advance of 3 months.”
Lina is one of the longest employed staff at Coconuts having started off as a driver for the resort in 1993 and gradually worked her way up to General Manager in 2014. During her 27 year career she has lived and worked through many disasters that have struck the resort.
If you ask Lina to describe what is so special about Coconuts that keeps the institution re-inventing and rebuilding even in times of disasters, chances are she will go quiet and her eyes will well up with tears conveying a depth of emotion that cannot be expressed through words.
“This is more than a place of work, it feels more like a family unit where you’re surrounded by good people and that’s why Coconuts is still going. We have good staff that are humble and treat guests well. This place is very special to me and we hope we can keep it going.”
“It’s almost like we will be starting from scratch again. We know there will be challenges when we re-open but so long as we have some of our long time employees we know we can work together to overcome them. Even though many of our employees have found other jobs in town, we still keep in touch through our group messenger and they are waiting for when we re-open to return back to the resort.”
From several severe tropical cyclones to the catastrophic tsunami of 2009, the Resort has demonstrated remarkable strength and resilience by rebuilding over and over again, always coming back bigger and better again.
Brian credits the spark and driving force behind the resort’s resilience and evolution to his father and Coconuts Founder, Barry Rose.
“Dad’s determination and devotion to this slice of paradise he found in Samoa over three decades ago is unwavering even in his old age” said Brian. “If he wasn’t stuck in Hawaii due to his health, he would be here right now at Coconuts.”
“We have definitely been through a lot of disasters before with cyclones and tsunamis. After the 2009 tsunami totally destroyed the resort – I thought for sure Dad was going to close the place down especially since he was getting old.”
“But no. He decided we were going to rebuild bigger and better. He’s someone that keeps it coming. For that reason we will continue to rebuild this place but I’ll be honest it’s going to be challenging because unlike the other disasters we have lived through, the Covid pandemic is unlike anything we’ve come across because we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Recently Brian sent out a newsletter to their clientele which included a continuation of what’s known to fans and admirers of the 32 year institution as the on-going “Coconuts Story” – a tradition Barry Rose started decades ago to document their journey since it was founded. The story is updated online every few years to recount the events, developments, successes and challenges along the Coconuts journey.
“I had been putting off adding to the Coconuts story because I mistakenly thought I should wait for the pandemic to be over and travel to start again so I could write about it in the past tense. But it’s still going and my father told me, you can’t wait any longer, you’ve got to write a new story now.”
While the future remains uncertain, Brian is reluctant to confirm a firm date of the resort’s re-opening but he assures their loyal clients and all potential visitors that Coconuts will be ready and waiting for their return once borders re-open.
“We have always been an establishment that is constantly updating furnishings, renovating and maintaining the rooms so we feel we are in a good position to be ready in a timely manner once we get the official announcement that borders are re-opening with a set date.”
“Things might be a little different when people return but the things that won’t change is the Coconuts experience or the quality of our service” said Brian. “Our restaurant will carry on its reputation for being one of the best in Samoa. We will always be about peace and quiet relaxation, a place you can escape to and recharge your batteries. We also continue to place a strong emphasis on the Samoan culture which inspires everything in this hotel.”