Fly just that little bit further than Fiji and you find the sacred heart of the Pacific, Samoa. Part of the region of the Pacific known as Polynesia, Samoa is less than four hours from Auckland and about five hours from Sydney and Brisbane. Samoa is renowned for its natural beauty, genuine hospitality and stunning adventures.
Her islands have narrow coastal plains with volcanic, rocky, rugged mountains in the interior. The two main islands are Upolu and Savaii and the capital, Apia, is where you will fly into the international airport.
The first thing you notice about the island of Upolu is it’s drenched in rainforests. The roads are limited, just enough to get you from one side of the island to the other. However, trek beyond those roads and the rainforests reveal hidden treasures. You will find an abundance of places to explore, swim and just relax.
Samoa is a destination ideal for active holidays and lazy beach breaks, with a wide range of adventures and serene resorts to tempt all types of travellers. Couples will love the secluded beaches and luxury fales offering waterfront views. Families will enjoy the safe and children-friendly beaches and activities around the islands. For those travellers who like to go solo and on a budget, there are fale stays for as little as $13 a night and friendly locals that are always happy to share their island paradise travel tips.
How to get to Samoa
Flights from Australia to Samoa will disembark at Faleolo International Airport. Faleolo International Airport (APW) is located 40km west of Samoa’s capital, Apia, and is the main gateway into Samoa. The airport consists of one relatively small terminal building. Qantas will fly a triangle route from Brisbane (BNE) to Apia (APW) and then return to Sydney (with connecting flights to Brisbane the following day. You can also connect on the same day from Sydney to Brisbane. Virgin Australia also has flights to Samoa from Australia while Air New Zealand operates non-stop flights between Auckland and Samoa. Domestic connections are available from Air New Zealand serviced airports and will also connect with flights from Australia. Fiji Airways will operate flights from Australia via Nadi to Samoa.
Where to stay in Samoa
Samoa’s remote location and stiff competition with neighbouring South Pacific nations keep Samoa accommodation prices competitive. From the luxury boutique resorts to the more budget-friendly beach fales, there is a Samoan stay option for everyone.
The more traditional fales are open-air beach huts are a fun way to stay in Samoa without breaking the bank, and they are available at many beach areas. Upolo Samoa is the more developed of the two main islands, is where all international flights arrive, and is home to a higher concentration of boutique and luxury hotels than Savai’i.
Top things to discover in Samoa
Samoa is the beating heart of Polynesia, where ancient traditions meet the modern world. You’ll find that contemporary Samoa still holds the same magical pulling power today. Here are the top 10 things to do for all types of travellers.
Learn the Fa Samoa way at a Cultural Village
The tradition is alive and thriving in Samoa, and visitors will often be invited to participate in Fa’a Samoa – the Samoan Way. Immerse yourself in the local culture by taking a trip to the Samoan Cultural Village in Apia on the island of Upolu to experience what life is like in a local village. Watch the men of the village prepare an umu, make fresh coconut milk with their bare hands and cook traditional Samoan dishes, including taro and Palusami. You can also see how traditional arts and crafts, such as carving and cloth making, are still important to everyday Samoan life.
Taste an Umu Feast
One of the best experiences to have in Samoa is to be accepted into a tribe and get invited to an ‘umu’ feast. Bonfires, traditional barbeques, songs and dances mark the night as unforgettable. It’s not a true Samoan escape if you don’t indulge in the delectable local fare that’s on offer, especially the seafood. Be sure to try oka, a Samoan raw fish dish that’s marinated with citrus and coconut milk. Also try Palusami, a moreish dish of baby taro leaves and coconut milk that’s cooked in the traditional way using an umu oven. Also remarkable is the ‘siva’ dance performed by the village youngsters, although visitors have to dance with the enthusiastic performers when asked. You have been warned.
Swim under Togitogiga Waterfall
Togitogiga Waterfall cascades into a refreshingly cool swimming hole. While it’s a popular swimming spot, there is also a recreation area ideal for games such as rugby and volleyball for those with their own equipment or a stunning place to have a picnic. Located in the village of Saleilua, it is situated a few miles away from the O Le Pupu Pue National Park. The fall is known to be used as a swimming area for the great warriors of Samoa in the past.
Dive into To Sua Ocean Trench
The pool is situated close to Lotofaga, which is a village on the south coast of Upolu island in Samoa. Affectionately named ‘The Trench’ this swimming hole is probably the most photographed in Samoa. Locally called To Sua, meaning a ‘Gigantic Swimming Hole’, it is believed that lava field blow holes made these tide pools. You need a bit of courage to get down to the water as there is a 30-meter ladder to climb down to get there. The climb is worth it though, as the view from the water looking up at the enclosed walls of the trench is breathtaking.
Hear stories at Robert Louis Steveson Museum
Robert Louis Stevenson is famous for his many writings including Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Originally from Scotland and he was known to the Samoans as the man with great ‘manas’. Due to his many positive interactions with the local community, he became very popular and also a well-respected figure to the locals that knew him. He passed away on December 3, 1894, at the age of 44. His colleagues and people that worked for him buried him on top of Mount Vaea (within Vailima) at a spot overlooking the sea. A visit to the museum will take you through the history of this famous author and you can even do the hike to his final resting place.
Lazy about on Lalomanu Beach
It’s easy to understand why Lalomanu Beach on Upolu is a favourite with tourists and locals alike. Voted by Lonely Planet as one of the top 10 Beach Destinations of the World, its bright-coloured fales and palm trees line the shore of this idyllic spot, where you can bask in the sun, play a game of beach cricket and cool off in the azure ocean. Snorkellers are in for a treat because the surrounding lagoon is a protected marine reserve and home to an array of tropical marine creatures. It’s a difficult spot to leave so why not live like a local and spend a night in an open-air fale.
Visit the island of Savai’i
Larger and less populated than the mainland of Upolu, the island of Savai’i is home to some of Samoa’s best natural attractions. There are two ferries that run between the islands two to three times a day and takes approximately one hour to reach its destination. A visit to Savai’i is a must, so break your journey and spend a few days exploring this island.
Be blown away by the Alofaaga blowholes
There are many things to see and do on Savai’i, but number one is seeing the Alofaaga blowholes on the southwest coast every swell delivers a massive display of vertical fountains. These impressive blowholes in the village of Taga on southwest Savai’i propel a roaring jet of water hundreds of feet up into the air. They are particularly worth watching when locals throw coconuts into the holes and these are blasted into the air as well. Another site of interest here at the blowholes is Pa Sopo’ia Cave. It is believed that this cave is an ancient pathway where the ancestors’ spirits travel to reach the Devil’s Haden at Cape Mulinu’u, the final meeting place before they enter the Spirit World known to Samoans as Pulotu. Ask the local Matais to show you the way.
Cool off at Afu Aau Waterfall
While white sand beaches and azure lagoons are always tempting, beaches aren’t the only natural attraction worth discovering in Samoa. The breathtaking Afu Aau Waterfall is surrounded by lush rainforest and is the perfect spot to seek respite from Samoa’s tropical heat. Dive into the crystal-clear pool and cool down under the cascading waterfall.
Explore the ocean by Diving and Surfing
There is something extra special about surfing around the islands of Samoa. Offering world-class waves, warm clear waters, and a stunning tropical island backdrop, Samoa should be on every surfer’s bucket list of places to visit. With so many top surfing spots around the archipelago, you’re guaranteed to experience something new every day – and better still, without the crowds. You’ll find great surf in Samoa all year round, but each season brings its own character which might affect where you choose to go at different times of the year. The diving is just as uncrowded with untouched reef waiting to be explored.
The best time to visit Samoa
Samoa enjoys warm, beach-friendly weather all year round. However, there is a distinct wet season between November and March. Therefore, the best time to visit Samoa is during the dry season which runs from June to September.
Top Tips for travelling Samoa
- Pack your sense of adventure as Samoa is all about the natural beauty which can be at times rugged.
- Also, pack your sunscreen and insect repellent – the sun just hits differently in the Pacific and at dusk, the mozzies can be vicious.
- On arrival at the airport, you can grab a local sim card and phone credits and there is an ATM to get cash out ready for your trip. Wi-fi and reception can be limited in parts of the islands.
- Pack some white clothes and visit a Church for Sunday Service (churches are everywhere). The experience is amazing even if you are not religious.
- Tipping in Samoa isn’t considered part of the culture, and therefore isn’t standard practice. This, however, doesn’t mean you never have to tip, as it is considered a nice gesture to leave a little extra when service exceeds expectations.
Entry requirements for Samoa
Samoa’s Borders have re-opened to international travellers with pre-departure Entry Requirements stating you must be fully vaccinated (12 years and above) and supply proof of vaccination. A Negative Covid-19 Test (Supervised RAT within 24 hours before departure or PCR within 48 hours of departure) is required.
Passengers with special medical conditions that warranty exemption from COVID-19 vaccination must email firstname.lastname@example.org 30 days prior to the planned travel date, attaching a written report from a registered medical officer stating reasons for exemptions. The Ministry reserves the right to deny boarding if it is not satisfied with the submitted medical report.
While in the country, passengers are advised to wear a face mask at all times. Passengers must submit to a nasal swab for PCR testing or RAT test upon request by Health Officials at the Airport. All passengers must complete the Health declaration form and provide a valid local phone number and email/facebook address. All passengers are strongly encouraged to take precautionary and preventative measures within the first few days of arrival.
All passengers are to arrange and have a supervised Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) done at any public health facility (listed below) or private clinic within the first 3 days of arrival and report results to the Ministry of Health via email address email@example.com. Self-Testing at home is NOT acceptable.
For more information visit samoa.travel/traveladvice
To discover more about Samoa visit samoa.travel
Disclosure: The writer Kate Webster travelled as a guest of Samoa Tourism. All images are credited to Kate Webster unless otherwise specified.