Resort Hopping in São Tomé

I learned a lot about myself this week. I learned that I’m over “roughing it.” I learned that sometimes, when I want to relax, a resort will suit me just fine.

This year, we decided to spend spring break in São Tomé. If you’ve never heard of this country, don’t feel too bad. I hadn’t either before moving to Ghana. It’s a small set of islands (São Tomé and Príncipe) located west of Gabon and south of Nigeria.

We went with four other people, and to cut down on costs, decided to share an Airbnb. We thought we’d have a low-key, quiet week at the house. For anyone who’s ever spent any time in Africa (I hate to generalize, but for me this has usually held true), something will inevitably go poorly. Whether it’s power outages in Ethiopia, a city-wide day of rest in Djibouti, or Ghanaian food that can’t be made fish-free (a moment of truth: Nothing went wrong in South Africa).

In São Tomé, it was 24 hours without running water. And as much as I’d like to blame the Airbnb for this, it’s definitely a country-wide problem. Also, for as beautiful as the house was, it had been built by the ocean in 2002 and was, 15 years later, absolutely falling apart. The downstairs hosted every kind of bug imaginable, and our bathroom was even home to a very large roach and a very small crab.

That said, the upstairs was light and airy and had wonderful views. I read three books while on vacation here : )

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Eventually, however, a girl needs some water (and light to read by in the evenings – man that house was as dark as a dungeon at night!).

We ventured to Omali Lodge on our second day in São Tomé. As you can expect, island food isn’t very vegetarian friendly, but we were able to dig into some homemade mac & cheese, rice & veggies, chips, and of course, dessert – a brownie with peanut ice cream. However, the real reason to go to Omali is for their cocktails. Their passion fruit margarita was divine.

The lodge didn’t have any beach front, but it was by far the most relaxing setting. They created their own mini-grotto in the center and everything was calm and peaceful.

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The next day we decided to check out Club Santana. This resort had been recommended to us by some families at our school for snorkeling/diving. The director of the dive shop was only the second person on the island we had met who spoke English (after our Airbnb owner).

It had stormed the previous day, so the water was a bit choppy, but for 26 euros we rented a boat and two sets of snorkeling equipment and took a ride out to and around Santana Island. There’s a cave inside that’s pretty cool. And while there wasn’t a lot of sea life out and about that day, snorkeling around the island was pretty interesting.

We made our way back to the resort for some vegetarian sushi, pizza, and local beer (easily the most veg friendly resort on the island). If you want the option of pool/sea swimming and you still want privacy and quiet, this is absolutely where I’d recommend. Of the three resorts we visited on São Tomé, this was our favorite.

We finished the day off with some more swimming, a walk along the beach, and a good book in a breezy, secluded spot.

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Our last day on the island brought us to Pestana Hotel. Easily the most established of the resorts, it also seemed to have the least amount of life and vitality to it. Which isn’t to say it was deserted…it had more guests than the other two resorts combined, which is probably why we liked it least.

The hotel still had some quiet corners to it, but they weren’t anywhere near the pool. It was also the least veg friendly place we went – we only had two items on the menu to choose from: pizza and a white sauced pasta. And while it was on the water, I wouldn’t have recommended swimming in it.

It was still a nice place to spend the day – after a bit of exploring, followed by lunch, we curled up on some of the comfiest chairs I’ve ever encountered and read until the free (for guests? We just joined the crowd!) shuttle took us to the airport that evening.

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The only big resort we missed was actually located on Príncipe. Bom Bom Resort was recommended to us by Andy, the owner of Zaina Lodge (where we stayed in December). It was also where we planned to stay before our group went from two to six.

I loved our vacation, it was nothing like what we thought it’d be – all our time spent at the house or driving around to various sites (I’ll explain more in my next post), but I’ve definitely learned to trust my gut. If we ever find our way back to São Tomé, I have no doubt we’d make our stay at Bom Bom.

That said, I hope someone else can benefit from our tour of São Tomé’s resorts!

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One thought on “Resort Hopping in São Tomé

  1. Pingback: The Island That Doesn’t Speak English | Stand Where I Stood

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