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Hotels of South Tarawa
A hotel in South Tarawa is an establishment that provides lodging paid on a short-term basis. Facilities provided may range from a basic bed and storage for clothing, to luxury features like en-suite bathrooms. Larger in South Tarawa hotels may provide additional guest facilities such as a swimming pool, business centre, childcare, conference facilities and social function services. Hotel rooms in South Tarawa are usually numbered (or named in some smaller hotels and B&Bs) to allow guests to identify their room. Some South Tarawa hotels offer meals as part of a room and board arrangement. Hotel operations vary in size, function, and cost. Most South Tarawa hotels and major hospitality companies that operate hotels in South Tarawa have set widely accepted industry standards to classify hotel types. General categories include the following:
Upscale luxury hotels in South Tarawa
An upscale full service hotel facility in South Tarawa that offers luxury amenities, full service accommodations, on-site full service restaurant(s), and the highest level of personalized and professional service. Luxury South Tarawa hotels are normally classified with at least a Four Diamond or Five Diamond status or a Four or Five Star rating depending on classification standards.
Full service hotels in South Tarawa
Full service South Tarawa hotels often contain upscale full-service facilities with a large volume of full service accommodations, on-site full service restaurant(s), and a variety of on-site amenities such as swimming pools, a health club, children's activities, ballrooms, on-site conference facilities, etc.
Historic inns and boutique hotels in South Tarawa
Boutique hotels of South Tarawa are smaller independent non-branded hotels that often contain upscale facilities of varying size in unique or intimate settings with full service accommodations. South Tarawa boutique hotels are generally 100 rooms or less. Some historic inns and boutique hotels in South Tarawa may be classified as luxury hotels.
Focused or select service hotels in South Tarawa
Small to medium-sized hotel establishments that offer a limited amount of on-site amenities that only cater and market to a specific demographic of South Tarawa travelers, such as the single business traveler. Most South Tarawa focused or select service hotels may still offer full service accommodations but may lack leisure amenities such as an on-site restaurant or a swimming pool.
Economy and limited service hotels in South Tarawa
Small to medium-sized South Tarawa hotel establishments that offer a very limited amount of on-site amenities and often only offer basic accommodations with little to no services, these facilities normally only cater and market to a specific demographic of travelers, such as the budget-minded South Tarawa traveler seeking a "no frills" accommodation. Limited service South Tarawa hotels often lack an on-site restaurant but in return may offer a limited complimentary food and beverage amenity such as on-site continental breakfast service.
Guest houses and B&Bs in South Tarawa
A bed and breakfast in South Tarawa is a small lodging establishment that offers overnight accommodation and inclusive breakfast. Usually, South Tarawa bed and breakfasts are private homes or family homes offering accommodations. The typical South Tarawa B&B has between 4 and 11 rooms, with 6 being the average. Generally, guests are accommodated in private bedrooms with private bathrooms, or in a suite of rooms including an en suite bathroom. Some homes have private bedrooms with a bathroom which is shared with other guests. Breakfast is served in the bedroom, a dining room, or the host's kitchen. Often the owners of guest house themselves prepare the breakfast and clean the rooms.
Hostels in South Tarawa
South Tarawa hostels provide budget-oriented, sociable accommodation where guests can rent a bed, usually a bunk bed, in a dormitory and share a bathroom, lounge, and sometimes a kitchen. Rooms can be mixed or single-sex, although private rooms may also be available. Hostels are often cheaper for both the operator and occupants; many South Tarawa hostels have long-term residents whom they employ as desk agents or housekeeping staff in exchange for experience or discounted accommodation.
Apartment hotels, extended stay hotels in South Tarawa
Extended stay hotels are small to medium-sized South Tarawa hotels that offer longer term full service accommodations compared to a traditional hotel. Extended stay hotels may offer non-traditional pricing methods such as a weekly rate that cater towards travelers in need of short-term accommodations for an extended period of time. Similar to limited and select service hotels, on-site amenities are normally limited and most extended stay hotels in South Tarawa lack an on-site restaurant.
Timeshare and destination clubs in South Tarawa
South Tarawa timeshare and destination clubs are a form of property ownership also referred to as a vacation ownership involving the purchase and ownership of an individual unit of accommodation for seasonal usage during a specified period of time. Timeshare resorts in South Tarawa often offer amenities similar that of a Full service hotel with on-site restaurant(s), swimming pools, recreation grounds, and other leisure-oriented amenities. Destination clubs of South Tarawa on the other hand may offer more exclusive private accommodations such as private houses in a neighborhood-style setting.
Motels in South Tarawa
A South Tarawa motel is a small-sized low-rise lodging establishment similar to that of a limited service hotel, but with direct access to individual rooms from the car park. Common during the 1950s and 1960s, motels were often located adjacent to a major road, where they were built on inexpensive land at the edge of towns or along stretches of highways. They are still useful in less populated areas of South Tarawa for driving travelers, but the more populated an area becomes the more hotels fill the need. Many of South Tarawa motels which remain in operation have joined national franchise chains, rebranding themselves as hotels, inns or lodges.
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Travelling and vacation in South Tarawa
Main article: Tarawa
Map of South Tarawa
/ 1.433; 173.000 (Tarawa)
15.76 km (6.08 sq mi)
3 m (10 ft)
50,182 (2010 Census)
3,184 /km (8,247 /sq mi)
South Tarawa (in Gilbertese Tarawa Teinainano) is the capital and hub of the Republic of Kiribati and home to approximately half of Kiribati's total population. The South Tarawa population centre consists of all the small islets from Betio in the West to Bonriki in the East, connected by the South Tarawa main road; with a population of 50,182 as of 2010.
South Tarawa is home to most of the Government, commercial and education facilities in Kiribati including the Port and the High Court at Betio, the State House, Government Ministries and foreign High Commissions in Bairiki, a University of the South Pacific campus in Teaorereke, the House of Assembly in Ambo, the Kiribati Teacher College and King George V and Elaine Bernachi School, the Government High School, is in Bikenibeu, and the central hospital in Nawerewere. The Roman Catholic diocese is based in Teaorereke, the Kiribati Protestant Church (Congregational) in Antebuka, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Eita.
South Tarawa: Administration
At the local government level, South Tarawa has two administrative subdivisions:
Betio Town Council (or BTC), on Betio;
Teinainano Urban Council (or TUC), from Bairiki to Tanaea (The meaning of Teinainano is "down of the mast", alluding to the sail-shape of the atoll).
Buota, which is part of North Tarawa and administered by the Eutan Tarawa Council (or ETC), is linked by road to South Tarawa and is experiencing many similar issues of rapid population growth, urbanisation and environmental degradation.
South Tarawa: Geography
South Tarawa is a narrow strip of land between the lagoon and the ocean
South Tarawa is a string of islets between the Tarawa Lagoon to the north, with a maximum depth of 25 metres (82 ft), and the Pacific Ocean to the south, with a depth of up to 4,000 metres (13,000 ft). The island has been built from sediments from the lagoon. The process of soil accumulation is driven by the dominant easterly trade winds, and can be reversed during extended periods of westerly winds during El Niño–Southern Oscillations. All of these islets are now joined by causeways, forming one long islet on the reef along the southern side of the Tarawa Lagoon. Most of South Tarawa is less than 3 metres (9.8 feet) above sea level with an average width of only 450 metres (1,480 feet).
South Tarawa: Population
Children in Bairiki Square, Tarawa, Kiribati
Loading copra at Betio port, South Tarawa
At the time of the 1978 Census, South Tarawa had a population of 17,921 with most residents living in the main population centres of Betio, Bairiki and Bikenibeu. Since Kiribati became independent in 1979, the population of South Tarawa has almost tripled, and now stands at 50,182 people. All of South Tarawa is now urbanised, and is effectively one continuous settlement from the Northeastern end of the island, Tanaea, to its Southwestern end at Betio. Buota in North Tarawa is also connected to the South Tarawa main road and is also growing rapidly.
South Tarawa: Places and population
South Tarawa total
South Tarawa: History
Main article: Tarawa § History
Tarawa island is central to Kiribati mythology and culture, but life on South Tarawa was little different to on other islands before the island was selected as the seat of colonial government for the Protectorate of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands.
Betio was the location of the Battle of Tarawa.
South Tarawa: Environment
Impacts of coastal erosion and drought on coconut palms in Eita, South Tarawa
Households on South Tarawa do not have the option to retreat from coastal erosion, as the atoll is narrow and already crowded.
The highest point on South Tarawa is only a few meters above sea level, making the island extremely vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters. Already the effects of rising sea-levels and associated soil salination are starting to threaten limited fresh water supplies.
South Tarawa: Climate
The weather in South Tarawa is warm and humid all year round and average rainfalls are relatively high. However rainfall is very unpredictable, varying with the El Niño–Southern Oscillation, and South Tarawa can go for many months with almost no rain during La Niña cycles.
Climate data for Bairiki
Average high °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Average precipitation mm (inches)
Source: World Weather Online
South Tarawa: Water
South Tarawa has very limited water resources for its rapidly growing population. During the frequent droughts, the only source of water is the shallow freshwater lens which permeates the coral rock of the atoll. The water lenses at Bonriki and Buota have been declared as water reserves, and have a combined sustainable yield of 1,300 m per day. Other previously declared water reserves have been relinquished for urbanisation, or abandoned due to over-pumping and pollution from human settlement.
Water from the Bonriki and Buota reserves is distributed via a reticulated network to South Tarawa households, however the poor condition of the network and the limited water supply mean that water can only be supplied to each village for around 2 hours every two days. Most schools and community buildings have no water supply at all, and many households rely on polluted groundwater due to the shortage of treated water.
Because of the shortage of fresh water, sanitation systems must use saltwater for flushing. The current sanitation network on South Tarawa is performing very poorly, and a major project is underway to rehabilitate the system and improve sanitation and public hygiene.
South Tarawa: Coastal erosion
The Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agriculture Development (MELAD) is involved in the replanting of mangroves in selected sites to help against coastal erosion; however, a lot more is required to protect many of the sites already eroded away on South Tarawa including islets that once were protected with mangrove and iron-wood (tengea) trees. It is unclear how much of the erosion currently being experienced on South Tarawa is due to sea level rise and how much is due to human activities, such as building inappropriate seawalls, and mining sand and gravel from the beaches and foreshores. However coastal erosion will accelerate in future, due to climate change related sea level rise.
South Tarawa: Land availability and overcrowding
The land area of South Tarawa is officially recorded as 3,896 acres (1,577 ha) or 15.76 square km. However much of this land is not available for use, including the water reserve and runway, the causeways, and a large area of reclaimed land at Temwaiku, the Eastern corner of the atoll, which is too swampy and low-lying. If these areas are excluded, the land area of South Tarawa is only just over 1,000 hectares (10 square km or 2,500 acres) and the population density of 49 people per hectare or 4,905 per square km is almost equal to the density of London (5,100 people per km) and twice the density of Sydney, Auckland or New York.
Multi-storey buildings are very uncommon on South Tarawa. The high population is accommodated through large household sizes, with an average of 7.3 people per household, on small land plots. Most land is owned by the original families or kain Tarawa, although in the main centres of Betio, Bairiki and Bikenibeu there are large areas of land on long term lease to the Government. Without access to family lands or Government housing, many South Tarawa residents have no choice but to become squatters, and disputes over land are common.
South Tarawa and especially Betio have high rates of respiratory infections, diarrhoea, and dysentery, all of which have been linked to overcrowding. Unsustainable development in South Tarawa is a concern to the Government and to Kiribati's aid partners. Anote Tong's administration aims to ease the problem in the country's main urban centre by encouraging people to stay and to resettle in outer islands, and has invested in facilities such as the South Kiribati Hospital to spread institutions and services out around the islands and relieve South Tarawa from overcrowding.
South Tarawa: Population and Land Area
Land area available
Land area, not available for residential, commercial or government use
Density, people per hectare
9 hectares (22 acres)
70 hectares (173 acres)
139 hectares (343 acres)
161 hectares (398 acres)
383 hectares (946 acres)
181 hectares (447 acres)
58 hectares (143 acres)
104 hectares (257 acres)
9 hectares (22 acres)
141 hectares (348 acres)
87 hectares (215 acres)
4.2 hectares (10 acres)
12 hectares (30 acres)
46 hectares (114 acres)
5.0 hectares (12 acres)
154 hectares (381 acres)
13.7 hectares (34 acres)
South Tarawa total
1,023 hectares (2,528 acres)
553 hectares (1,366 acres)
Reasons land not available for use:
Bonriki; Water reserve, airport
Temwaiku; Reclamation and fish ponds
Eita/Taborio; Abairarang (scout) Is.Abaokoro (Guide) Is. and Taborio Causeway
Naanekai-Bairiki causeway, Bairiki wharf and jetty
Betio; Sandspit, wharves, jetties
South Tarawa: Economy
Fishing for family consumption and for sale is essential to the economy of South Tarawa
South Tarawa is the economic hub of Kiribati, the location of the main port and airport and of most of the State Owned Enterprises and private businesses. Copra produced on the outer islands is processed on Betio, producing copra oil for the international market and other products which are sold locally. There is also a fish processing plant producing tuna for export. However imports far outweigh exports, and most households on South Tarawa rely on Government employment and remittances from relatives working overseas for their income. Unemployment and under-employment are a serious problem; in 2010 only 34% of urban adults (over 15) were engaged in cash work; the remaining two-thirds are either out of the labour force, unemployed or engaged in subsistence activities. Young people are especially likely to be unemployed.
South Tarawa: Visiting South Tarawa
South Tarawa: Transport
Fiji Airways flies to Bonriki International Airport on South Tarawa twice a week from Nadi, on Mondays and Thursdays.
South Tarawa: Accommodation
There is a range of accommodation available for visitors and for those working short term in South Tarawa, and details are available from Tourism Kiribati.
South Tarawa: See also
Bairiki National Stadium
Bonriki International Airport
Ambo Declaration (during Tarawa Climate Change Conference)
South Tarawa: References
"Kiribati Census Report 2010 Volume 1" (PDF). National Statistics Office, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Government of Kiribati. Retrieved 17 March 2013.
Country files at earth-info.nga.mil
"6. South Tarawa" (PDF). Office of Te Beretitent – Republic of Kiribati Island Report Series. 2012. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
"South Tarawa Island Report". Government of Kiribati.
Martin 2000, p. 152.
Schofield 1977, p. 533.
Chaoxiong 2001, p. 6.
Report of the 1978 Census of population and housing. Republic of Kiribati 1980, Vol. 1, S. 6–7
Kiribati 2005 census of population and housing.
"Kiribati Country Assistance Strategy (Press Release)". World Bank.
"Weatherbase: Historical Weather for Bairiki, Kiribati". Weatherbase. 2011. Retrieved on 24 November 2011.
Metai, Eita. "Vulnerability of Freshwater Lens on Tarawa – The Role of Hydrological Monitoring in Determining Sustainable Yield" (PDF). Proceedings of the Pacific Regional Consultation on Water in Small Island Countries Theme 2 Case Studies – 65.
"Kiribati Social and Economic Report". Asian Development Bank.
"ADB and Australia to Help Kiribati Improve Sanitation, Public Hygiene (Press Release)". Asian Development Bank.
"Largest cities in the world ranked by population density". City Mayors.
"Kiribati health information profile". World Health Organization – Western Pacific Ocean. World Health Organization. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
"Kiribati profile on New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade official Site". New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
Pareti, Samisoni. "Politics: Easing congestion and overcrowding". Island Business. Islands Business International. Retrieved 9 June 2011.