SAMOA: HOW TO SPEND 1 WEEK IN PARADISE
14 things to see and do in Samoa
Talofa! The Samoan word for hello and welcome... and the only word we could remember… It was repeated often from every islander we met on our gloriously memorable trip to this idyllic island paradise.
Samoa is the best value destination of the pacific islands, a breath-takingly beautiful location, friendly locals and a 3,000 year old islander beach culture. Thinking of heading over to Samoa for a few days? We've collated some information and tips for your visit, enjoy! Just remember, Samoa runs on island time...your watch is useless here!
We’ve put together a general overview of Samoa; History, Geography, Language etc over here. Make sure to check it out
Top things to do in Samoa
14 ideas to make the most of paradise
1. Enjoy the bliss of a Tropical island paradise
We arrived into Apia airport and as soon as we stepped off the plan were hit with warm, heavy samoan air. We visited during the end of wet season, so humidity was basically 100% - in other words, you could see it. As we were peeling off jumpers, a Samoan band wearing coconut leaf headbands struck up traditional music on ukuleles & drums - a proper island welcome. We've had worse airport arrivals! Its no exaggeration to say that the majority of local men are built like international rugby players - Nick was immediately bemused to feel so small!
The road from the airport had the expansive blue-green ocean on one side, with the distant waves marking the island's reefs, and the vibrant, dense, and impossibly green flora on the other.
Wherever we went we found vibrant tropical flowers, warm temperatues and good natured people happy to tell us about Samoan culture.
A walk or drive in any direction led to one or more of Samoa's natural wonders; deserted white sand beaches covered in coconut trees, tall waterfalls, lush palm forests, crystal clear swimming holes and blue lagoons. All you have to do is go for a drive to be struck by how bright & lush this island is. The Pacific light makes island colours burst.
2. The Samoan Way
In Apia, the capital city on the island of Upolu, visit the Samoan cultural centre. Here you'll get an in-depth guide to "Fa’a Samoa", the traditional Samoan way, which is still very central to every day life. The demonstrations are all with local experts and artisans will show you their skills whilst the guide expains the significance. We learnt how to weave bowls from coconut leaves, watched a live tattooing, and saw a traditional meal being made and then cooked in a coconut leaf, mud and stone oven (in Samoa the men are in charge of preparing the big weekly feast). We saw wood-workers carving intricate bowls and the creation of siapa or Tapa cloth, the traditional clothing material from tree bark and decorated with Samoan artwork. The morning finished with a demonstration of the Samoan fa'ataupati (slap dance) whilst we ate the fish and yam we had observed being prepared. All in all, a surprisingly thorough & facinsating introduction to the unique Samoan culture; "Fa’a Samoa". We would encourage everyone to attend.
3. Swim with fishes
Jump into the warm waters anywhere around the islands and you'll come across a wide variety of curious and colourful fish. The Palolo Deep Marine Reserve is just outside of Apia and worth the visit. Bring your own snorkel or hire one there, and spend an hour swimming around the colourful corals , then have a beer or a soda and admire the view.
The corals off the coast of this part of the island are some of the best we’ve ever seen (including vs the Belize Barrier Reef & the Great Barrier Reef). They are in excellent condition so make sure you do your part to keep them that way:
Be careful with what suncream you use (some chemicals can alter the PH of the localised water & damage the coral)
Be sure to rinse off insect repellent before entering the water.
Don’t touch the coral & mind your flippers when Treading water
Dispose of any litter properly
If you see a turtle (very possible) keep you distance and try not to swim above it - they re-surface to breathe & if you’re in the way that makes the whole staying alive thing tricky for them.
4. Jump from Waterfalls
A Samoan highlight! A product of the volcanic nature of the island, the islands are covered with hundred of waterfalls and lagoons. In the rainy season when the waters are high, the pools are deep enough to dive into and let all your worries float away.
The Best waterfalls in Samoa
Everyone loves Papase’ea Sliding Rocks near Apia. Here there are smooth rock surfaces where visitors can slide over smooth mossy rocks into deep pools and jump from small waterfalls. It's a must-do - Though if the water is low, make sure you check with a local where is safest to slide (actually, check with a local where you should slide regardless - it’s not particularly clear and you don’t want to cut your paradise holiday short with a broken limb!)
Togitogiga Waterfall is a popular attraction, along a short path you'll find the picturesque waterfall, swimming hole and waterslide.
Afu Aau falls is the most popular on Savai'i, a taller waterfall and a larger pool popular with tourists and locals alike.
5. Explore a swimming hole
On the south coast of Upolu you'll find the To Sua Ocean Trench, an inland volcanic pool filled with sea water (& of recent instagram fame). The swimming hole is deep below the surrounding gardens and requires a long descent on a narrow ladder - Not for the feint hearted! The trench provided beautiful views and some great photography opportunities.
Piula cave pool is east of Apia. A scenic crystal clear freshwater pool next to the ocean with an underwater tunnel connecting to another pool further along (not recommended to try swimming between the two!) There is a viewing platform overlooking the bay and fales to shelter from the sun.
5. Go to the market
The Apia fish market is a worth the early rise required, and is on every Sunday. Fresh catch from the boat at low prices, you'll see tuna, octopus, eels and a wide variety of local tropical fish.
The Flea market is on every day except Sunday, and provides an experience of Samoan handicraft at low prices. Supporting traditional Samoan crafts, you'll be able to buy souvenirs and gifts such as Lava-lava, the Samoan sarong, wooden bowls, bark mats and other items.
6. Go hiking
Samoa has so much natural beauty, sometimes the best way to see it is to strap on some shoes and go for a hike. The top reccomendations for hiking are the lava fields around the Tafua Peninsula and walking the base of the Tafua volcano rim. A longer trip is a walk out to Lake Lanotoo National Park, in the Upolu highlands and visit Samoa's largest lake in a volcanic crater; The walk will take around 5 hours return.
7. Meet turtles at Satoalepai
In most protected bays you might be lucky to find yourself swimming with turtles, but to guarantee an introduction head to Satoalepai Turtle Sanctuary on Savai’i. Here you can swim with the turtles kept in the reserve and help fund the sancturary who protect the baby turtles before releasing them when they large enough to protect themselves.
8. Go diving
The clear pacific waters, tropical fish and coral make Samoa a perfect place to jump into some deeper waters and explore; there around 900 fish species, including spinner dolphins, stingrays and whales known to be around the islands, as well as 200 types of coral.
Despite all this, Samoa is not a major diving destination and so you'll likely find your dive site to yourself. The best sites for diving are 'Juno' on Savai'i, 'Apolima gardens' on the island of the same name, and 'The Rock' on Upolu.
9. Find a deserted beach
On both islands there are the big commercial beaches suh as Lalomanu and Manase Beach. For more beach-life serenity, jump on a bus heading along the coast and jump off in any village next to the ocean. You'll likely find a village representative selling the entrance to their beach, or if not, be sure to ask politely if you can use it. If you're lucky you'll find a deserted stretch with white sand, clear waters and coconut trees. Extra points if you manage to crack open a coconut for a tasty treat! If you don't want to risk searching for your beach, we found perfect beach by chance called Vavau just west of the To Sua trench.
10. Treasure Island
Robert Louis Stevenson, renowned 19th century author of Treasure island amongst other classics made his final home on the Samoan islands. His house is south of Apia and is now open as a museum. He had style, and a walk around the house gardens are worth the visit alone.
11. Get a tattoo
Did you know the english word tattoo actually comes from the Samoan word Tatau? Tattoing is an ancient cultural practice for both men and women; a full body tattoo signifies honour and respect in the community for those who have the them. This is because using the traditional method is an incredibly painful process taking 4 days and once started it is not acceptable to wimp out! Each session lasts 4 hours where the person must remain completely still as ink is literally hammered into the skin. Only the bravest put themselves forward to be tattooed and the designs covering their legs, groin, abdomen and rear set them apart. As a result the samoan tattooists are some of the most talented in the world. Modern techniques are also available for tourists not keen to put themselves through a week of agony!
12. Visit the blowholes
On the south-west side of Savai'i is a village called Taga near the ocean, here you will find the Alofaaga Blowholes. Old lava holes form narrow pipes connecting to the sea, as the waves hit the rocks, pressurised water is spewed hundreds of meter into the air. A local trick is to place a coconut on top of the hole and then run for cover as it shot like a bullet from the blowhole.
13. Sleep in a Fale
“In Samoa, there is no Samoan word for walls,”. A Fale is a traditional Samoan structure with a wooden frame and a straw roof, and it seems like every Samoan household has one. They are used for the family get together, sleeping in warmer nights, and for hanging out the washing, and anything else you can think of.
Sleeping in a traditional Fale, next to the ocean is possible and is probably one of the most Samoan things you can do.
We’ve a few recommendations:
Tailua Beach Fales on Savai’i
Matareva Beach Fales on Upolu
Litia Sini Beach Fales on Upolu
Sina PJ Beach Fales and Surf on Upolu
14. Do Nothing
Seriously, just do nothing. We came to Samoa with heaps of ideas and activities planned, but it turns out the best way to experience Samoa is to buy some beers, or a pina-colada, find a nice spot by the ocean, open a book, have a nap, just chill...Island style.
There two options to get around Samoa;
1) Jump on the local buses that circulate the island, they’re fun but be prepared to be sat between two of the largest men you’ve ever seen in 30 degree heat.
2) We decided to book a rental car to allow us to get around without a tour, which gave us lots of freedom to see Samoa’s best bits. If you want to do the same then book your car now using Rental Cars
Thinking of going to paradise? We’d love to hear from you, leave a comment below