The EA guide to Samoa holidays
This spectacular archipelago of Polynesian islands with a population of more than 195,000 people is truly worth a visit. While only four islands are inhabited, the others are accessible for day trips and adventures if you’re feeling that way inclined. Samoa holidays are hugely rewarding and we can share some of the reasons with you here.
Visitors arrive into the main island of Upolu and may spend a few nights here. Many also travel to Savai’i which is the biggest geographically yet the least populated of the larger islands so it feels more intimate. Only a handful ever reach the smaller, deeply traditional island of Manono. Those people that do get to Manono are truly rewarded in a meaningful, memorable experience.
Samoa’s tropical islands allow you the opportunity to explore and discover a beautiful nation of people, warm hospitality, rich culture and stunning natural beauty that sometimes feels like it defies reality.
The other smaller islands are Apolima, Nu’ulopa, Nu’uala, Nu’utele, Namu’a, Fanuatapu, Fatuanava, Lepuia’i and Nu’usafe’e. Landing at one of the uninhabited tropical islands to explore with not another soul around is like a Robinson Crusoe expedition. With a sense of adventure, great guide and boat or kayak, the islands are your oysters! Some of the islands are home to hundreds of flying foxes and a firm favourite amongst the local guides is visiting at sunrise to see these creatures return to roost.
Other islands offer iconic lighthouses worthy of a visit for that insta-photo. Of course conservation is important here and some of the tiny outer islands are nesting places for significant seabirds.
Exploring the islands by private yacht has to be one of our ultimate ways to explore Samoa’s uninhabited tropical islands. Anchor offshore, dive into azure waters, snorkel in and laze the day away on your private beach.
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Three-quarters of Samoa’s population call this island home and it’s home to the Faleolo international airport in the northwest. Just 75 kilometres long and 1,125 square kilometres in total area, this tiny island is easily explored and packs a punch when it comes to scenic beauty and activities. The island rises to 1,113 metres which creates quite a dramatic difference between the coastal and mountain areas. Here there are lush forests, mountains, waterfalls, quiet and idyllic beaches, top fishing, surfing and snorkelling spots to name a few of its attractions and activities.
The capital city is Apia with local markets bustling with the trade of crafts, seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables. There is a range of dining options with cafes and fine restaurants, a few museums worth visiting and of course some impressive beaches. Lalomanu is in the south and regularly voted one of the world’s top beaches.
Samoa’s oldest known site of human occupation is Mulifanua on this island too. It dates back to around 1,000 BC.
Getting around the island is easy. You can hire a car, scooter, take a taxi, colourful local bus or we can engage a friendly local guide to lead you out exploring the island. For a different and ‘local’ Samoan experience hop on one of the public buses, just remember to make sure you’re on the right bus! The seats are wooden benches and when it becomes full, locals sit on each other’s lap rather than stand in the aisles. The option will be warmly offered to you too so don’t get a shock! Also, remember there are no stops, you simply pull the rope to ring the buzzer. For taxis, there are no meters so agree on a price with the driver before you venture off.
This is the capital city of Samoa on Upolu island, the second largest island. It’s a charming colonial-style town with lots going for it. There is a Samoa Cultural Village where you can see demonstrations of traditional activities like wood carving, basket weaving, tapa making, and authentic food being prepared in umus (earth oven using hot volcanic stones). It’s also worth seeing if there is a Fia Fia night scheduled during your stay in Apia. This allows visitors to feast on traditional food and be entertained by local warriors, dancers, musicians and story-tellers (tusitala).
If you love markets and the insight into local life you will love Apia’s offering. Get up early for Fish Market (around 6am) to watch the haul coming in from the sea. Running daily, The Maketi Fou (Fungalei Fresh Produce Market) is a colourful market place selling a huge variety of tropical fruits, vegetables and other fresh produce – don’t miss seeing locals play Samoan checkers.
There is a Robert Louis Stevenson Museum worth visiting. He’s a famous Scottish author who spent his final years in Samoa. Stevenson immersed himself into local life and advocated on behalf of Samoans to the colonial powers of that time. In Samoa, he’s remembered as a Tusitala, teller of tales and famous for Treasure Island, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and Kidnapped. His mansion has been turned into a Museum with lush gardens to wander and his grave is located at the top of Mount Vaea. You take a hiking trail the locals have called “The road of loving hearts”. You can wander through the gardens and learn about the biodiversity on the mansion’s reserve and even visit the freshwater pool and waterfall of the Loimata o Apaula stream. This is where Mr Stevenson himself once used to bathe.
There is also the Museum of Samoa with an impressive collection of cultural and historically significant artifacts.
For natural beauty, visit Palolo Deep Marine Reserve just 5 minutes from Apia. Here you can swim and snorkel in the large pool that is fed by the sea. You’ll spot an array of colourful marine creatures for sure! Papase’ea Sliding Rocks is a great visit for all ages. Here there are waterfalls and waterslides that take you down naturally formed slippery slopes worn down over thousands of years!
Sunset is best savoured from the harbour wall where you’ll see local outrigger style canoes and their paddlers having fun on the water.
This is Samoa’s largest island but it’s less populated and rich in traditions and natural beauty. This is often referred to by locals as the “real Samoa” because it is a laid-back island where locals adhere to local traditions and visitors can immerse themselves in Polynesian culture.
The island is 80 kilometres long and 40 kilometres wide. It is home to the dormant Mount Silisili volcano and the highest peak of it sits 1,858 metres high.
The island is scenically incredible with lush rainforests that teem with birdlife, famous waterfalls, caves and blowholes not to mention pristine beaches, brilliant snorkelling and diving spots and the fascinating lava fields created when Mount Matavanu erupted early 20th Century.
It’s quite easy to get around the island in rental cars, scooters, bicycle, taxis or buses. Of course for extreme effortless travel we can organise a local guide and vehicle to take you wherever your hearts desire. Plus you’ll learn the inside stories from the island.
This tiny, traditional island sits in the Apolima strait separating the main islands. Here, visitors truly experience authentic Samoa because it feels far away from the hustle and bustle of main island life. The island is only 3 square kilometres in size and yet is the third most populated island. There are no cars or dogs on the island to interrupt the peace and tranquillity.
There are four small villages on the island and locals live and cook based on the traditions over a thousand years old. There are a handful of accommodation options on the island or a day trip is also possible thanks to boat ferries between here and the larger two islands. You can spend the day strolling around the island at your pace. The beaches are lovely and there are a number of snorkelling spots including a marine protected lagoon. The highest point on the island is Mount Tulimanuiva, sitting 110 metres tall and it’s easily accessed by a number of walking trails.
This island is becoming known for its two fascinating archaeological sites. There is a star mound on top of the mountain and at Lepuiai Village in the southwest, you can visit the Grave of 99 Stones. Each stone represents one of the wives of the high chief Vaovasa. This missing 100th stone represents his failed attempt to bring his last, abducted wife home from Upolu.
We recommend you relax if you’re here on a Sunday because literally all that’s permitted is walking to and from the church. The remainder of the day is for family.
This tiny tropical island paradise is a real hidden gem. It’s uninhabited apart from one small cluster of thatched beachfront fales and is just several hundred metres from Upolu’s southeast coast. This is the ideal day trip and you can enjoy swimming and snorkelling, often amongst turtles. The waters are clear and the beaches serene. You can relax all day long under coconut trees reading your favourite book or get chatting with the locals to learn more about Samoa.
It takes just ten minutes to reach the island from the mainland. If you choose to say, it’s a real adventure because there is no electricity and facilities are basic meaning you’ll have to take lunch food and snacks with you and other supplies.
Fishing in Samoa
Samoa is considered one of the top game fishing spots in the world (apparently, I’m no fisherman). Here, you can reel in massive mahi mahi, huge tuna, impressive sailfish and many other species that anglers only dream of (including my Dad!).
The good news is Samoa offers ideal conditions for great fishing all year round and fishing charters can be booked any day to suit the itinerary. It’s possible to fish onshore too at lagoons and from rocky outcrops. We always recommend booking a private charter in advance to ensure great guides, better guaranteeing you that grand catch.
You can also hire a fishing boat and it’s a neat offering – rods, lures, bait and a bucket of six local beers. As one of our favourite Samoa Tourism guys said “cast your line and sip on a cold one”.
Walking in Samoa
If you enjoy going on walks while you’re on holidays in faraway places, you’ll love Samoa. There are so many walking trails for all ages and abilities on many of the islands.
There is a canopy walkway in the Falealupo Rainforest on Savai’i Island. It’s 40 metres off the ground and weaves through spectacular banyan trees. It’s only a short walk but really beautiful and worth experiencing. Kids love it for the swinging sensation through the trees like Tarzan.
For adventure, we recommend the Falease’ela River Walk on the main island of Upolu. Here you’ll venture through ancient mangrove forests, lush jungle, over waterfalls and along the banks of the Liua Le Vai O Sina River. It can take 4 -5 hours and we recommend a guide so you learn about the biodiversity and mythology of the area!
There are also some impressive mountain hikes, namely Matavanu on Savai’i Island. It takes a decent 6 hours as you ascend to the summit of an overgrown crater. On the same island is Mount Silisili and you can experience a 2 to 3-day hike through the rainforest and over the cloud-covered dormant volcanic mountain.
Waterfalls in Samoa
With so many lush, mountainous landscapes across multiple ancient volcanic islands it makes sense the country boasts an impressive amount of spectacular waterfalls. The locals like to call it a day “waterfall crawl” where you visit multiple natural wonders and are rewarded with a refreshing swim in crystal clear pools below the falls.
There are waterfalls on both Upolu and Savai’i islands that we recommend exploring.
Upolu is home to the Fuipisia Falls (pictured), a spectacular 55 metre high waterfall in the middle of an impressive jungle and easily accessed. The walk can be really muddy but it’s well worth a few smears of mud! You can swim at the top of the falls but it’s unfenced and dangerous so we prefer to savour the view instead. Papapapaitai Falls stands 100 metres high and plunges from forest into an ancient volcanic crater. They can be viewed from the roadside but you cannot get near to them because there are steep sides of the gorge that are treacherous if you tried.
Togitogiga waterfall is one of our favourites. It’s located in the O Le Pupu-Pu’e National Park on the south coast of Upolu and offers a series of swimming holes that are separated by cascading waterfalls and impressive tropical gardens. You can swim, jump off waterfalls, play games in the recreational area and enjoy a picnic. This is ideal for a decent few hours.
Sopoaga is more than just a waterfall and worthy of a visit because it’s culture and nature rolled into one. Walk along the path to the waterfalls and you will come across signs labelling local plant and tree species. There is an area for umu demonstrations and more. It’s located at Lotofaga Village on the south coast and easy to reach on the same day you visit Togitogiga.
On Savai’i Island, you’ll find the Afu Aau Falls in Palauli. Here, the waterfall emerges out from the rainforest and plunges into a deep freshwater pool that’s ideal for swimming on a hot Samoan day and it’s easy to access! Something unique is Mu Pagoa Waterfall. It’s not epic in height but it allures you in because here is the islands largest river dropping abruptly off a cliff and plummeting into the Pacific Ocean. It’s surrounded by a rugged landscape of old lava fields that have shaped the coastline and formed the waterfall as it stands.