Marie and Louis run a great business at the Hibiscus Attraction Centre in Santo. They are wonderful local hosts who share their passion for Santo with their guests. Marie is the ultimate ambassador for Santo, introducing her guests to Bislama, local cuisine, and epitomizing the welcoming and friendly attitude for which Vanuatu is famous. She has an infectious smile and a warm greeting that makes you feel like you are 'home'.
The Hibiscus Attraction Centre, or Hibiscus Motel as it is sometimes known, is a lovely property located about 2 blocks up from the waterfront in Luganville, near the centre of town. A taxi from the airport should be no more than about 1,500 VT (for the taxi, not per person).
The motel is within a 5-minute walk of at least 3 ATM machines that are part of the global banking network and able to access international accounts (2 BNZ with a 600VT usage fee; 1 Westpac with a 450VT usage fee). It is 5 minutes in the other direction to access a large open-air farmers' market that is replete with locally grown tropical fruits and veges; across the street is a local butcher. There are numerous small groceries and dairies nearby, within blocks of the motel; prices are generally a bit less than in NZ and about on par with Australia. For comparison, there are many more consumer goods available here than in the Cook Islands.
A couple blocks away is an excellent cafe with espresso-based coffees, called Vittoria. For divers, Allen Powers' shop is near the coffee shop. Santo island divers (the one we used; currently the only operator in town that does boat dives) is about a 20-minute walk from the motel; but once you've sorted out your diving, they'll include motel pick-up/drop-off in their dive rates. There are several rental car agencies nearby; we used Henger which is literally around the corner from the motel (~6,500 VT for a 1-day rental). There are numerous restaurants and shops nearby within easy walking distance. If you want a resort meal, the Deco Stop is about a 20-minute walk or a few minutes in a cab; Coral Quays is a little further away in the other direction.
Although I wouldn't in good conscience recommend that people wander the streets of an unfamiliar town after dark, I never felt uncomfortable in Santo. It feels very safe and the people are very welcoming. That said, however, there are few street lights and so I recommend taking a torch to carry with you after sunset so that you can negotiate the sidewalks and sidestreets without peril - while the main street and sidewalks are in good general repair, there are some large ditches and some holes that you wouldn't want to get tripped up in at night (or during the day, for that matter).
The Hibiscus Attraction Centre is situated on a landscaped property that is shared with the owners' home, on-site. It is back from the main street and so very quiet at night. There are 5 rooms in two single-story buildings on either side of a thatch-covered courtyard, making for a total of 10 rooms (if memory serves and I've counted correctly). This courtyard is neat, tidy, and very pleasant, with a garden of potted plants, a walkway decorated with coral insets, and a feeling of seclusion. It is a great place to take meals out-of-doors, visit with other guests, chat with Marie and Louis, or pick-up their free wi-fi signal.
The rooms themselves are spotlessly clean. Marie cleans the rooms herself and she ensures that they are kept to a high standard. They are self-catering with a two-burner gas stove, sink, dishware, and a couple pots/pans, and a (very) small fridge. Our room had a table to the side of the kitchen with three stools, there was a large double bed and a single bed, plus a shelf unit to place clothes. The room was well-lit with a large fluorescent light over the kitchen area, useful to see clearly while cooking. There was a smaller light near the bed.
The bathroom had a large tiled shower with hot water, sink and small vanity, toilet. The water in Santo is very hard and so leaves marks on the faucets so they didn't necessarily shine, but everything was very clean. We had clean towels when we arrived and these were changed with fresh ones about mid-visit. Our room was cleaned regularly during our stay.
There are dry-lines behind the rooms where you can hang articles to dry. If you stay more than a week, Marie will also throw a load of laundry into her machine for you. While we were there, the weather was very pleasant and so Louis pulled out a wood-fired BBQ for guests to cook some of our meals.
Marie and Louis are incredible for suggesting things-to-do around Santo. We spent 10 days there and had more than enough activity to keep us amused. You can walk 10-minutes to the main pier where you can catch a free ferry over to Aore Island Resort and enjoy their sand beach and near-shore snorkelling; they very reasonably expect that you will purchase lunch during your visit. Marie will negotiate a good price for you to take a taxi to Oyster Island where you can take a free ferry across a small channel and spend the day. You can walk the island to secluded beaches, snorkel, or kayak the 45-minutes one-way trip to Matavulu Blue Hole (500VT/person entrance fee); on Sundays they put on an island BBQ for lunch, which is delicious. Again, be sure to buy lunch in return for using their amenities. Marie will ensure that you get the 'going rate' (rather than the tourist rate) for the cab fare to Oyster Island which, during our visit, was 3,000VT return for 2 of us. Marie will have all manner of other tips and suggestions, depending on the duration of your visit and your interests.
We loved it at the Hibiscus Attraction Centre and recommend it without hesitation for independent travelers who want to connect with the place they are visiting. That said, do not come here expecting to pay budget prices for a 5-star luxury resort. This is a self-catering motel in a tropical environment. You'll find ants in your room (eat outdoors to keep them down), you'll need to supply your own soap and shampoo, you'll have to do a little work to find a beach, and you won't be sleeping on a Sealy Posturpedic made up with Egyptian linens; the room is functional not fancy. That said, for the easy-going traveler, you will pay an exceptionally good rate for a spacious self-catering room that is clean, quiet, cheery, and comfortable, in a great location in the heart of Luganville, with attentive and enthusiastic (but not intrusive) local on-site owners.
For us, it was perfect.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.