When you think of the Pacific Islands, you most likely think of Hawaii, Fiji or Bora Bora first before Samoa, Tonga or Vanuatu.
But the more underrated islands in the Pacific Ocean have less tourists and all of the beauty. It’s definitely worth adding at least one of them to your bucket list!
Samoa is located just under halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii and is comprised of two islands: Upolu and Savai’i.
The capital city, Apia, is on the smaller island of Upolu, as is the international airport.
We visited Samoa on a short 7 day break from New Zealand in December.
The flight took around 4 hours from Auckland to Faleolo airport in the north west corner of the island.
As the wet season runs from November to April, we were able to enjoy off-peak prices.
Unfortunately, we also happened to arrive in the middle of a huge measles epidemic. This later resulted in a two day closure of all government and public services and a total road use ban.
We were therefore unable to see all of the sights that we had planned to. However, there are much worse places to be stuck than on a beautiful white sand beach!
Here are six awesome things that we did on our trip, plus a bonus list of things we wished we could have done.
Rent a scooter
It’s usually recommended to hire a car if you want to see what Upolu and Savai’i have to offer; however, we were on a budget and decided to opt for a scooter instead.
We were advised by the owner of the accommodation we stayed at in Apia to visit Aqua Samoa for our scooter rental, located on Beach Road in town.
As we were renting the bike for more than 3 days, we got the discounted rate of 55 tala per day (around NZD $31 / GBP £16 at the time of writing).
This gave us the freedom to travel at our own pace. So we set off for our next accommodation on the south east of the island.
If you’re interested in renting a scooter, I recommend you check out my post 6 useful tips for scooter rental in Asia before you do so (I know Samoa is not in Asia, but we found that the principles were basically the same).
You can also purchase a temporary Samoan driving license for 12 tala from the same shop to make sure you’re totally road legal.
Apia’s food market and flea market
Before you leave the city, make sure you check out the food market and the flea market.
The flea market is on the main Beach Road by the bus station and is a great place to pick up a traditional Samoan souvenir!
From lava lavas – the cultural wrap-around skirts – to fans, key rings and jewellery, you’ll find something to remind you of this wonderful country.
The food market is a bit more hidden down Saleufi Street but is well worth a visit.
Take a look at all the fruit and veg available, plus more souvenirs and some very cheap hot food retailers.
To Sua Ocean Trench
Probably the most popular tourist attraction on Upolu is the To Sua Ocean Trench.
This gorgeous swimming hole was formed when the roof of a lava tunnel collapsed, forming two ‘skylights’: To Sua and its neighbor To Le Sua.
The sea flows in and out with the tides, creating this beautifully clear lagoon.
A steep wooden ladder leads down to a platform just above the water. You can choose to either jump in from the platform or continue climbing down the ladder into the water.
While the climb down might seem a bit daunting from the top of the ladder, I can assure you that it is worth it once you’re in the water!
Just make sure you have three points of contact on the ladder at all times when you’re climbing up or down (two feet and one hand, two hands and one foot, etc).
Once you’ve had enough of swimming in the beautiful water, climb back up and have a look around at the surrounding area.
The owners of the land have done a wonderful job of maintaining the grassy spaces and beautiful flower gardens, with little huts or Fales dotted around for you to relax in.
There are also some turtles around so keep your eyes peeled! We saw one floating on the surface of the ocean before diving down for food.
Entrance to the whole area including the ocean trench is 20 tala per person.
Do you like white sand beaches lined with palm trees and a crystal clear turquoise ocean?
Yes? Then you’re probably going to enjoy Lalomanu Beach.
There is a reef running parallel to the beach out at sea where the large waves break, meaning that the water is calm and sheltered near to the beach.
Perfect for swimming and snorkeling!
We spent the majority of our time at Lalomanu, as we were staying at Taufua Beach Fales, located right on the beach.
This meant that when the government closed down for two days due to the measles epidemic*, and nobody was allowed to travel on the roads, we spent our time sipping cocktails, swimming and sunbathing.
There are definitely worse places to be stuck than on a paradise beach!
*The government shut everything down to enforce a mass vaccination campaign on 5th and 6th December 2019, after confirming more than 5000 cases, including more than 60 deaths (these numbers have now risen). Families who were not vaccinated were required to hang a red flag outside their properties. This two day campaign resulted in 90% of the population becoming vaccinated.
As we were unable to leave our accommodation for two days, we didn’t see as many of the waterfalls or other attractions as we had originally hoped for.
However, on our way back to Apia on our last day in Samoa, we managed to stop at two impressive waterfalls.
The first of these was Sopoaga Waterfall, located just north of the Ocean Trench on the road heading to the north coast of the island.
The entrance fee is 10 tala per person, which you can pay either to the lovely lady who looks after the area or into the honesty box if she is not around.
A short walk takes you through a little garden to the edge of a cliff, where you can see straight across to the waterfall.
The water cascades from a great height into a pool at the bottom. Thick green vegetation surrounds the whole area.
It’s quite a sight! Take a moment just to sit and enjoy the view.
The next stop on our journey north was Fuipisia Waterfall.
There was no sign or information to show us how much we needed to pay for this, but a lady approached us and told us to pay 20 tala each.
We felt that we may have been overcharged, but we paid the fee and thanked the lady and her family for letting us onto their land.
The walk to the falls was a bit longer this time, and there are actually two waterfalls, which may explain the higher price.
It’s not easy to fully appreciate the first waterfall as there isn’t a good viewing spot, but we were suitably impressed with the second.
Unfortunately, our time in Samoa was over way too quickly, and there were a lot of things we didn’t manage to do.
Here’s a list of some of the things we would have done if we had more time. Hopefully you will have a chance to visit them for yourself!
The highest waterfall in Samoa, located on the central North-South road on Upolu.
Coastal Walking Trail
On the south coast of Upolu, in the O Le Pupu-Pue National Park, there is a short 1.8km coastal walk. Features include rock formations, lava fields and forests.
The larger but less populated of Samoa’s islands, Savai’i has its own beaches, waterfalls, forests and mountains to explore. I would have been particularly interested in visiting the Alofaaga Blowholes.
Samoa was an absolute dream destination for us, one that we would have struggled to visit from our home in the UK.
But, from New Zealand, it’s a much more attainable holiday destination, and I am so incredibly glad that we were able to visit.
If I could travel to Samoa again, I would definitely try to give myself a longer time to explore both islands and see everything that this incredible paradise has to offer.
But it’s not just the stunning scenery that stands out about Samoa; the people are wonderfully welcoming and so friendly.
Almost every person that we saw while riding around on our scooter would smile, wave and call out a greeting to us.
Locals in the shops and restaurants were eager to help and curious about where we were from. We had some lovely conversations and felt welcome everywhere we went.
All I can say is that I highly recommend a visit to Samoa!
Have you been to any of the Pacific Islands? Are you adding one to your bucket list? Let me know in the comments! 🙂
Want more like this? Check out these articles:
- 6 useful tips for scooter rental in Asia
- Top 7 awesome things to do in Auckland
- 8 marvelous things to do in Melbourne
All images in this post are the property of lastminutewanders.com