There hasn’t been to many places in the world that have blown me away quite like Samoa, the scenery is absolutely incredible. I’ve been to islands in the Pacific before, but no where is as special as Samoa.
I was travelling with my partner Lawrence and his family, and Samoa being their motherland made this trip even more special. We spent a week exploring the Islands of Upolu and Savai’i.
Arriving into Apia international airport you’re greeted with a small group of locals playing music, that and the humid air made me feel instantly relaxed. Once you’ve collected your bags and cleared through customs, its about a 45 minute drive (allow an hour with traffic) to Apia.
The official languages are Samoan and English. On Savai’i English isn’t as widely spoken but this was never a problem, Lawrence could speak a little bit of Samoan or there was always someone around to translate. Everyone we came across on Upolu could speak English. The official currency is Tala and there are currency exchanges right out side the airport.
If you’re bringing new goods into the country, on arrival you’ll need to declare them and pay duty. My mother-in-law had to pay tax on a laptop she was bringing in as a gift. So if you’ve just brought a new camera or something for your trip, I recommend taking it out of the box before you arrive.
The Samoan way of life is simple, peaceful and very traditional. Locals live in close-knit communities and hold great respect for their elders.
A run down of our week:
We landed pretty late into Apia so spent our first night staying at Lawrence’s brother Hotel – Eden’s Edge. We got McDonalds for dinner, just because it was quick and easy, but I couldn’t believe how expensive it was haha so it was Islander food from then on.
The next morning we got the ferry over to Savai’i and spent a few days there before heading back to Upolu. We stayed with family for most of the week but did spend two night’s in traditional beach Fale’s (Details below)
Compared to Fiji, Samoa is so untouched and not over run by tourist. With the warm tropical climate it was easy to spend our week beach hoping, snorkelling and seeing the sites. We didn’t have access to WI-FI nor were we interested in getting it (local sims were widely available to purchase). One of my favourite things about travelling to Samoa is that everywhere you go it’s just simplistically at it’s finest. The natural beauty of the island is more than enough entertainment. It was easy to see how much pride the locals had for their land, clean beaches, well kept gardens and very rarely saw litter.
To Sua Ocean Trench (Upolu)
Chances are if you’ve googled Samoa a photo of Ta Sua Trench was high on the search result. We spent hours here and it was as awesome as I had hoped. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Apia and cost 20T per adult (kids were cheaper).
The whole area of To Sua is really big and runs along the coast line. It’s so beautiful with plenty of grass area’s or Fale’s to relax on. The trench it’s self is amazing, to get down you’ll need to climb a very steep, long and sometimes slippery ladder. Hopefully you’re not afraid of heights, but it’s well worth it. The water was clear and not to cold. It’s a big swimming hole but can obviously get very crowded, especially when big tour buses arrive!!
Piula Cave Pool (Upolu)
This is located just off a main road but I suggest having a map so you know the general area. There are sign’s near the main entrance and plenty of parking space’s (they charge about 20T per car).
Piula Cave Pool is a freshwater swimming hole located close to the ocean, so the whole area is really nice. The water was pretty cold but very refreshing and super clean. You should definitely take your snorkelling mask because the water is crystal clear and there are heaps of fish and a couple of big, friendly eels swimming around.
Alofaaga Blowholes (Savai’i)
There are heaps of blowholes along this lava shoreline. When the waves come crashing in, the water shoots up so high in the air (I’d say 100m but I’m not the best at judging distance).
Entry to the blowholes is in the Taga village and you pay them a small fee when you arrive.
We had been told before we left, about locals throwing coconuts into the blowholes and when the water shoots up the coconut goes flying. We never got to see this and were told to stay behind the white line because that’s a safe distance (booo, maybe next time). It was really cool to see though.
You didn’t have to drive very far before you’ll arrived at a beautiful beach, that is safe for swimming and snorkelling. The beaches are owned by the local villages, once we’d park it wasn’t long before someone would walk over and be asking us for payment. It was generally 20T per car. Some people I told afterwards were surprised that you’re charged for using the beach. I didn’t mind though as you’re helping the local community and with the money the villages always ensure that the beaches are kept clean and many had (working and clean) toilet facilities available.
My favourite beach was on Savai’i, called Lano Beach.
Most nights we stayed with family in their homes, simple, charming and comfortable. It was another way to experience the culture and I found it a really special experience.
We also spent one night on each island staying in traditional Samoan Fale’s. These are wooden structures with no real walls (some have roll-down blinds) but are simple and comfortable. You’ll get a bed covered with a mosquito net and perfectly located on the beach, right next to the waves.
Savai’i – Tailua Beach Fale’s (email:firstname.lastname@example.org).
This is a small family run business, located in the village of Manase.
This night wasn’t pre-booked, Lawrence knew there were a few beach Fale’s in the Manase area, so we went for a drive and came across this quite little property. All of their Fale’s are beach front and the staff were lovely and very accommodating. They charged 70T for adults and 35T for children under the age of 11. This price included dinner & breakfast and both meals were a set menu of local food.
It was super quiet when we were there, we had half the property to ourselves. The beach was great for swimming and snorkelling, even for the kids.
Upolu – Taufua Beach Fales on Lalomanu Beach (https://www.taufuabeachfales.com/welcome)
We didn’t pay for this night, the owner is friends with Lawrence’s brother Andy, so it was a beautiful surprise that we’d be spending the night. Taufua Beach Fales offers a number of different accommodation options, there was 5 of us and we all stayed in one beachfront open fale. There are also rooms with ensuite and air conditioning and all rooms come with breakfast and dinner.
We were lucky enough to be staying on Wednesday night, which is their Fiafia Night (they also have them on Saturday), after dinner members of the local village preform traditional dances and music. They loved involving the audience so if you don’t want to be pulled on stage, hide up the back. The dancers aren’t paid so a donation during or at the end of the show is appreciated.
Lalomanu is a big beach with plenty of tourist, packed compared with the beaches on Savai’i. It was so gorgeous, I didn’t know whether to sit on the sand facing the ocean or at the lines on palm trees and pastel coloured fale’s.
The snorkelling right off this beach was amazing, it’s relatively flat and the first day was very calm. But then the second day I thought I was going to die (slight exaggeration)!! I was out snorkelling by myself and there was a strong undercurrent and it got to a point where I could hardly control where I was going. I got my little legs moving and swam as hard as I could back to shore, I didn’t even care if I came across a turtle, I just needed to get out. So be careful! But in good conditions still go because it’s beautiful out there.
I loved staying in the Fale’s but couldn’t have done it every night. It’s very similar to camping and after a night or two I need a room with walls and a proper bathroom (not a shower block). Also waves in the dead of night are actually really noisy and kind of annoying haha.
I’d highly recommend hiring a car while in Samoa, regardless of what island you’re on. The other options are booking tours or private transport to show you around or public buses. Having your own car will give you freedom to explore the islands, there are so many beautiful places to see and it won’t cost you too much. We hired an eight seater van, for 7 days and it cost 840T, plus 60T for insurance. You’ll also need to get a international drivers licence, which cost just 21T (valid for one month) and the car hire company will be able to get that done for you.
For travelling between Upolu and Savai’i there are a few different ferry options, we got the big one called Lady Samoa. This cost 190T for 1 car & driver return / 24T adult return /12T kids return. We booked the tickets when we arrived at the ferry terminal. If you’re taking a car across with you, you’ll need to arrive really early, like a couple of hours before the departure time. All the vehicles are required to park lined up and it’s basically first in best dressed. Once all the car spaces on the ferry are full thats it, everyone else can wait for the next one, even if you had a ticket.
It’s about a 1 hour trip and I’m very susceptible to seasickness but the boat was so big I hardly noticed the motion. Shortly before arriving they’ll make an announcement to advise people we’re close and to start heading down to your vehicle. Now I never actually heard this announcement in English but you’ll get the idea when most people start to get up.
In Apia food is easily available, restaurants, cafes, takeaway and supermarkets, it’s never a problem.
On Savai’i it’s a little different and a lot less options. If your staying in a hotel the chances are you’ll eat there as they all have restaurants onsite. If not, you’ll generally have to have dinner organised early-ish. One night we went driving at around 7pm and everything was closed! Eventually we found a take-away burger place open.
This holiday was more than just a holiday, it was a time to meet family and for Lawrence to relive childhood memories. I’m thankful for having been able to experience Samoa how I did and having the balance between village life and being tourist. Anyone that loves the ocean and relaxed vibes, I’m sure you will love Samoa just as much as I do.
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Thank you and Happy Travels