By no way is this a comprehensive guide to Samoa but just some of my favourite places I visited while living there for twelve-months. There are so many things to do, places see and resorts to stay and eat that I would be here all week writing a list. If I’ve missed anything major please leave a comment for other readers. Malo Lava!
Upolu Island (The main Island)
The epitome of paradise. On Namua island you are forced to do nothing. Your host picks you up from the main island and delivers you to your fale (the traditional Samoan home)
Your ‘grass hut’ is set amongst a dozen or so other fales on a deserted island that has no power or hot water. Your fale is literally on the beach with a mosquito net for protection and a tarp that drops down on the ocean side for the tropical squalls that might drop by briefly. The bathroom is a communal outdoor shower that backs onto thick jungle (Beware: the jungle has eyes!) peeping toms aside, this is the ultimate Samoan experience and my favourite place in all of Samoa.
All your meals are provided and there is a short-steep hike up to a spectacular look out over the Eastern Reef, if you’re lucky sometimes it’s so clear that you can see American Samoa on the horizon. The beach is stunning with some great snorkelling just off the shore. For me, this is hands down the best spot in Samoa. It costs around $150T per person, per night.
Always worth checking out, this insane sink hole is worth the climb down the ladder. You can swim in the trench and sometimes be lucky enough to get the entire place to yourself. At high tide it’s possible to swim through to the ocean but everytime we were there it was too rough with lots of surge coming through. Be careful and select your timing well. Spearo beware: Michael saw a big mangrove jack in here.
There are so many waterfalls in Samoa but I think this one is the most impressive on Upolu, mainly due to the fact that you can swim at the top of the falls and if you are fearless enough – peak over the edge.
4.Piula Cave Pool
Another spectacular feature in Samoa, this fresh water cave will not disappoint. Not only does it look amazing but it is also refreshing because unlike the ocean that is the same temp as the air (28-30c) the spring sits at a refreshing 21c, the perfect escape from the tropical heat of Samoa (Especially after too many Vailimas the night before!) there are some swim throughs here which are awesome to explore, just be sure to look back out of the cave for a vibrant blue glow like the pic above.
5. Manono Island (Sunset View Fales)
You will sleep easy in what I like to call “tsunami proof fales” as they are located a short walk up a hill which also provide you with a beautiful view over the shallow lagoon on Manono Island.
At Sunset View Fales you can experience Fa’samoa (The Samoan Way of life) on a Sunday they will ask you to roll up your sleeves and get you to help prepare the Sunday Umu, Samoan style. You will learn how to squeeze coconut milk, weave baskets and prepare the hot rocks for cooking. By far one of the funnest places to stay, the owners Leote, Margaret and Paulo will be sure to have a chat and answer any of your questions.
6. Falease’ela River Hike
For the adventurous types I would highly recommend this walk. The experienced guides will take you on a river walk through the gorgeous dense jungles of Samoa. They will point out and demonstrate all the best spots to jump off the cliffs with a huge jump to end the walk. Unfortunately I don’t have any pics from this hike as we had to bail due to a friend injuring her ankle mid hike. For more info check out:
7. Coastal Walk
I never made this walk because every time we went there the gate was locked so learn from my mistakes and phone ahead! Michael assures me it is well worth the hike and found out that it isn’t actually that far from the gate (Just don’t go at midday as you might melt)
8. Taufua Beach Fales (Lalomanu)
Taufua Beach Fales are located on the world famous Lalomanu beach, they have open fales and secure rooms option for all types of travellers. The fales are literally a step away from the ocean and the main fale serves cold beer and good food.
When you stay here all of your meals are included, friday night is Siva night where you will watch the local dancers perform their traditional knife dance on the beach front, dinner usually includes fresh lobster 🙂
Smashed by the tsunami yeas ago it is not a great snorkelling spot but perfect for a relaxing cocktail with a stunning backdrop. This beach has made the cut on numerous ‘best beach’ lists around the world. You can see why…
9. Matareva Beach/Virgin Cove
This is where it pays to know a local, very rarely will you read about this one in the travel brochure but for me this is one of the best beaches in Samoa and also has some beautiful snorkelling.
10. Vavau Beach
A better known beach but it still makes the cut for its downright stunning land formations. Beautiful big limestone rocks jut out of the ocean and make for a spectacular swimming spot at high tide. We had the entire place to our selves when we went there, try and time it so you are there at the top of the tide.
11. Papase’ea (Sliding Rocks)
Again I never made it because it was closed both times I tried to go and by the third time I had seen bruises on friends that were enough to deter me.
Beware: Severe bruising can and probably will occur.
Savaii (The Big Island)
1. Afu Aau falls Waterfall
My favourite swimming hole in all of Samoa, this beautiful crystal clear waterfall is stunning. You can climb onto the rocks under the waterfall and chill out in the cool pocket of air found here or jump into the deep clear water that will take your breath away in the tropical heat. Worth the stop and very needed when you find yourself overheating while waiting at the ferry terminal.
2. Alofaaga Blowholes
Definitely worth the stop but BYO coconuts because you will pay a premium for coconuts from the local land owner, throw a coconut at the right time and run because it will shoot the coconuts out high into the sky when the swell is pumping. Thrower beware, stand up wind and lookout for the holes through to the ocean in the rock platform .
3. Lava Tunnels
Definitely a fun side trip to break up the drive around Savai’i, a quick walk in and you have been in a lava tube. Look up and you will see all the roots growing through the roof, pretty different if you haven’t been in one before.
3. Lava Fields & Church
Without a doubt worth a stop and the 5tala entry fee, by the time you get here you will be well and truly over looking at churches but this is definitely the most exciting one you will find in Samoa. The Virgin’s grave is a little underwhelming but seeing how this lava flow has consumed this church is awesome.
4. Vai Moana Resort
My favourite resort in Samoa, its the perfect setup of luxury and Samoan culture. They have a budget for all types here, when my parents visited they stayed in an air conditioned, hot water fale while Michael and I stayed in an open beach fale. There is a bunch of kayaks here which you can paddle out to some of the best snorkelling in Samoa and there is a nice beach with a floating pontoon and wharf to jump off. Easily to laze the days away here. You can also charter the boat to take you spearfishing or paddle out in the kayaks like Michael did, they even cooked the fish up for us afterwards.
5. Canopy walk
Something fun to do however I was told a few years ago that this was structurally unsound and was being closed the following year, I believe it is still open. Adventure at own risk. There are a lot of ‘average’ tourist attractions around Savai’i, so be warned.
If you find yourself in Apia overnight I would highly recommend checking the following places out.
1. Samoan Fire Knife Dance @ Ooh La La (An Ice Cream shop) While most of the performers do all of the shows in Samoa, I find this the most authentic experience. The others have some really corny MCs and others have terrible food that you pay a fortune for. This one you can eat close by and come here for the show and ice cream, this is where visiting Samoans come.
2. Divas of Samoa
I’d rather not spoil the show, just go. You will thank me later.
Check the link above for the location and time and prepare yourself, buy a large tower of Vailima and settle in because if you haven’t heard of ‘Fafafine’ then you are in for a big BIG surprise. For such a conservative country it is very surprising to find that locals are welcoming to what is a big part of Samoan culture that is “Fafafines” which to be honest we don’t have an equivalent but if I had it explain it would you could vaguely compare it to a Transvestite in our society which is funny given the extremely conservative values of Samoan culture.
3. Ace of Clubs Night Club
If you want a ‘taste’ of Samoan night life check this place out, but be warned, safety in numbers. I have spent my fair share of time at this club and for the most part it was great. We had a dance, had a lot of Samoan men ask if I had a Samoan boyfriend. It can get fairly messy so I would recommend going earlier in the night.
4. “The Edge”
Is the yachties bar overlooking Apia harbour, they serve cheap yummy food and cocktails. It is the perfect place for a sundowner and a great place to start your night out.
Getting around: A few tips for getting around Samoa, the buses can be full so if you do use this option don’t be surprised if someone stands you up takes your seat and sits you on their lap (It is standard procedure) Hire cars are usually the best way to go but it is also very easy to hitchhike and jump in the back of a ute pretty much anywhere in Samoa, everyone wants to help. Taxis are also a great and very affordable way to get around and I would highly encourage you to use this option in Apia after dark and avoid travelling alone after dark.
What to wear/Bring: Ladies, unfortunately it is a very conservative country and ALSO very, very humid and hot. Prepare to sweat because it is unavoidable. Around the resorts it is completely acceptable to wear a bikini but you are expected to cover up when in villages and town. My standard dress code was a shirt or wide shouldered singlet with shorts and a sarong to wear over my shorts when in town. Men, its completely OK to walk around with no shirt no as you will quickly notice board shorts and a t-shirt or singlet will suffice. Lava Lavas (Sarongs) are the most commonly worn item, men and women both wear these and can be purchased for about $10tala in town on every corner. Thongs are acceptable everywhere. If you do go to church you are expected to dress in your best clothes with shoulders covered and a skirt to your ankles for both men and women. During my twelve months there I never wore a jumper or jacket but would recommend bringing one warm jumper to wear on the plane.
What to bring: Sunscreen, bug spray, medication, sarong and bikini. While it is possible to get pretty much anything on the island you will pay more, especially for ‘Palagi’ items like sunscreen and it will most likely be expired.
Safety: Assaults do occur but very rarely are they against foreigners. Samoans are very welcoming and love to share their culture, most will do everything they can to keep you safe and happy. We had a few items go missing (speargun bag fell off our car roof, a phone was stolen from a friend’s hotel room and my colleagues laptop pinched from her car) they were all returned. Pretty much all of downtown is said to be a little dodgy after dark however we never had any issues but I would recommend taxis after dark, they are super cheap and are EVERYWHERE just be aware though that these taxi drivers are quite commonly weekend released prisoners who have to earn their keep to pay their way in prison during the week. As a safety precaution always travel with another person and don’t walk alone in isolated areas such as beaches or bush tracks.