Samoa is a tranquil land of luscious forests, breathtaking beaches, shimmering seas and serene waterfalls. This tiny, idyllic country in the South Pacific is made up of two main islands, Savai’i and Upolu, as well as four smaller islands by the names of Manono, Apolima, Fanuatapu and Namua.
The Lapita people discovered and settled in the Samoan Islands archipelago roughly 3,500 years ago, developing their own cultural identity and traditions here. Samoa is completely separate from American Samoa, a nearby territory of the United States, and is nowhere near as influenced by Western culture. Fortunately, this means you can appreciate the untouched natural wonders of the islands and authentically learn about a different way of life.
Heading on a one-in-a-lifetime Samoa travel adventure sometime soon? Lucky you! Come back to this article while you’re there and use it as your guide to the most incredible Samoa attractions. Better yet, read through it now and get to know some of the incredible Samoa points of interest that await you!
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No matter your age, it’s always fun to watch water spurt hundreds of metres into the air through rocky sea caves along the shore. The strong waves of the Pacific Ocean make the Alofaaga Blowholes a thrilling attraction. Locals often throw coconuts into the holes to impress you with how high they can go. Although they will get up close, it’s safer to keep your distance away from the slippery rocks. You definitely don’t want to be falling into a blowhole on the first day of your trip!
Don’t miss this spectacular natural occurrence in the southwest village of Taga on Savai’i Island. Track when high tide is (or ask a resident) and try to time your visit accordingly. Keep in mind that you’ll be charged a small entrance fee.
Papaseea Sliding Rocks
Make your way down a hundred steps in the Upolu Island village of Seesee to reach the Papaseea Sliding Rocks. The entrance fee is five tala, the local currency in Samoa. You’ll see the main five-metre slide, as well as three smaller slides at the base.
Going down these sliding rocks is perfect for anyone seeking adventurous things to do in Samoa. However, be careful and use your judgement around the rocks, particularly during the rainy season when the currents can become quite strong. On the other hand, the water at the bottom may be too shallow if it hasn’t rained at all lately, so do a quick test of the depth or ask anyone that’s already there.
To Sua Ocean Trench
One of the most incredible things to do in Apia is to visit the To Sua Ocean Trench. The name To Sua literally means giant swimming hole, and that’s exactly what you’ll find here! If you’ve already seen some Instagram pictures, the real thing will not disappoint you.
The round pool is 30 metres deep and accessible via a ladder and diving platform. This is definitely not an activity for those afraid of heights, although it could be the ideal place to conquer your fears! The emerald-green waters are wonderful for cooling down on a hot day as you gaze up at the fern embankments.
This breathtaking swimming hole is easy enough to find, located just off Main South Coast Road between Matatufu and Vavau on Upolu Island. If possible, get there early at the opening time of 8:30 a.m. to have the entire area to yourself for a while.
Afu Aau Waterfall
Of the many waterfalls in Samoa, Afu Au is one of the best to swim at. Also known as Olemoe Falls, this natural beauty is hidden amongst the rainforest in the southeast of Savai’i. The entrance fee is collected by the local villagers near the car park, from which you can take a scenic 10-minute walk.
The initial waterfall separates into three smaller flows. While the waterhole gets fairly deep in the centre, it’s shallow around the edge. Toilets, showers and changing rooms are available nearby, so you could pack a snack and spend as long as you like here.
Samoa Cultural Village
In the heart of Apia, Samoa’s capital city on Upolu Island, is the Samoa Cultural Village. Be entertained and educated here while learning about Fa’a Samoa, meaning ‘the Samoan Way’. As a traditional Polynesian society, Samoan culture sets certain behaviours and obligations regarding family, community, church and the environment.
In addition to a free lunch, you will observe fascinating traditions and customs firsthand, including tattooing, wood carving, cloth making, basket weaving, cooking, and even preparing coconut ice cream. This unforgettable three-hour cultural experience is offered free of charge, so take advantage of this opportunity while you’re in Samoa. If you’ve enjoyed your experience and wish to give back, you’re welcome to leave a donation before you head off.
Piula Cave Pool
Next on your list of magical places to go in Samoa is the Piula Cave Pool. In the village of Lufilufi along the northern Upolu coastline is a natural freshwater pool next to the sea, formed by volcanic activity. Enter through the stone wall of Piula Theological College by the main road and you’ll see steps leading down towards Piula Cave.
For five tala, you can cool off in the crystal-clear turquoise waters. Take your snorkelling or diving gear for the chance to spot some underwater creatures like eel and fish. If not, you can simply float and chill out.
O le Pupu-Pue National Park
Samoa’s O le Pupu Pue National Park was the first declared national park in the South Pacific. There are two main walks suitable for exploring this luscious rainforest. The three-kilometre Coastal Walk is on the ocean side along the rocks, with views of the crashing ocean waves below. The Ma Tree Walk on the mountain side is far shorter, only 700 metres, yet is mostly shaded and full of colourful singing birds along the way.
Another popular activity here is hiking to the Pe’ape’a Cave, a large lava tube home to the Samoan pe’ape’a bird. However, you can only visit the cave between April and November during the dry season, and organising a guide with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is recommended.
Less than two kilometres from the O le Pupu-Pue National Park in the village of Saleilua is yet another incredible swimming and picnic spot. Surrounded by towering tropical trees, cascading waterfalls are separated by a collection of serene swimming holes. You’re in luck if you visit during the wet season between November and April, as the pools will be deep enough to jump into.
You only have to walk a few hundred metres from Main South Coast Road to reach this hidden gem. There’s also a changing room and toilets nearby if you forgot to pop on your bathers before leaving.
One of the most well-known beaches in Samoa is Lalomanu Beach. Once you’ve been there yourself, you’ll surely agree it’s among the most pristine you’ve ever visited. An afternoon (or an entire day) spent here is one of the most relaxing things to do in Upolu. Found along the south-eastern tip of the island, Lalomanu is an amazing place to don your snorkel and flippers in the pursuit of seeing some wild tropical fish.
You can also sunbathe atop the neverending white sands, take a dip in the turquoise waters, and take a moment for meditation in the cool sea breeze. Don’t feel like dozing off on your beach towel just yet? Take a short, guided walk around the nearby volcanic crater and meet the flying foxes residing here.
There are bars and eateries nearby to grab lunch and a drink. Charming wooden huts known as fales are built along the shore and can be rented for the day at varying prices. It’s definitely worth it to have an escape from the harsh sun in the middle of the day.
Palolo Deep Marine Reserve
Seeking a designated place to go snorkelling? Look no further than the Palolo Deep Marine Reserve right by Apia’s harbour. At only five tala to enter, this is one of the best-value activities in Samoa, so don’t pass up the opportunity!
Swim about 100 metres from the shore and you’ll reach the deep trench, full of colourful coral and a variety of vibrant fish species swimming around. If you’re lucky, you may even see some adorable turtles.
If you don’t have your own snorkelling gear, you can hire everything you need. Your belongings will also be kept safely behind the main counter, so you don’t have to worry about leaving your bags on the beach. Make sure to go at high tide so you can swim across the entire reef. Don’t forget your waterproof camera!
Robert Louis Stevenson Museum
While in Apia, stop at the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum to learn about the life of the iconic Scottish novelist and travel writer. Some of his most famous titles include Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
In 1890, Stevenson purchased land in Vailima and settled here with his wife. He was well-liked and respected by local Samoans and became involved in community politics. He was even given a Samoan name, Tusitala, meaning ‘writer of tales’. Upon his death at age 44, he was buried atop the scenic Mount Vaea overlooking the ocean.
The museum, located in his former home, costs 20 tala per adult to enter. It’s open between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. from Monday to Saturday, and until midday on Sunday. Take a guided tour and look around at the period antiques. At the gift shop, pick up one of Stevenson’s novels or purchase a Samoan handicraft if you wish.
At 100 metres high, Papapapaitai is one of tallest waterfalls in Samoa. While you can’t reach the falls up close, you can view the elegant cascade at the designated viewpoint. It’s an even more magnificent experience right after it has rained, so you’re in for a treat if you’re here during the wet season.
While you’ll likely only stop for a few minutes and some quick photos, there is no entrance cost and you can easily pull over by Cross Island Road after a short drive south of Apia.
Love to explore the mountains everywhere you travel to? You’ll no doubt jump at the opportunity to head up to Mount Matavanu in Savai’i Island. The mountain is actually an active volcano in Safotu Village with an elevation of 575 metres.
Between 1905 and 1911, the volcano erupted continuously, spreading lava 100 square kilometres across the island. Due to the fear of eruption and the depth of previous lava flows, most villagers living around the volcano relocated further inland.
There is one resident you’ll get to meet, however, who is affectionately known as Crater Man. Living here since the early 2000s, he maintains the paths so that hikers can safely reach the edge of the crater. Crater Man has a friendly, humourous and vibrant personality. He’ll offer some history of the volcano with a genuine smile.
It’s recommended that you take a four-wheel drive most of the way up, unless you’re willing to hike the rocky eight kilometres and back.
Another panoramic oasis on Savai’i Island is Tanu Beach. Easily accessed via North Coast Road in Manase, you won’t want to miss getting another taste of the cyan seas and the soft sand underneath your feet. Go stand-up paddleboarding for the afternoon or stay the night and sleep under the stars.
If you notice there’s something special about this beach, it’s because the 28 fales available are all owned by one big family. Brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins all work together here, whether it’s preparing and serving meals or performing an entertaining fire dance in the evening.
Giant Clam Sanctuary
The name says it all; there are no surprises for what you’ll find at Samoa’s Giant Clam Sanctuary! This nature preserve in Savaia on Upolu Island offers a rare opportunity to see some of these fascinating creatures up close, as well as some more fish and turtles.
You’ll discover the largest clams about 100 to 200 metres away from the shoreline. While varying in sizes, they can be up to a metre wide. Come and be surprised at how beautiful, interesting and colourful this clam species can be.
Apia Town Clock Tower
The Apia Clock Tower in the centre of the city serves as the country’s national war memorial. Although its usual appearance is white with sunny yellow detailing, it is often repainted for various events and causes, such as bubblegum pink during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Most recently, it was transformed for the Pacific Games. It can be a fun attraction to spot while out in Apia, as you never know how it will look while you’re there.
The Sopoaga Falls are so remote that you can only see them from someone’s property. Imagine having a waterfall in your own backyard! Pay 10 tala per person and learn about native Samoan plants and trees on the path to the viewing point.
Find the falls by Main South Coast Road near the Mulivaifagatola River on Upolu. This is another waterfall you won’t get to swim under, but it’s still worth seeing nonetheless. The gorgeous cascade falls in a thin, straight line surrounded by a valley of vibrant green trees. There’s also an area here for coconut husking and umu demonstrations if you’re interested.
Museum of Samoa
Get back to some cultural education at the Museum of Samoa in Apia. Inside this two-story colonial building is a rich collection of artifacts and images that tell stories of Samoa’s fascinating culture and history. You’ll also see some Pacific Islands artifacts and a 3,000-year-old pottery collection. The museum is free, so it’s definitely worth popping in and learning a few things about the country.
There’s nothing like soaking up the atmosphere at a local market in a new city. Maketi Fou (or Fugalei Market) is the largest market in Apai and a must-visit in Samoa. It mainly focuses on fruit and vegetables, so be sure to pick up some fresh mangoes and papaya for a healthy treat. You can also sample a few other Samoan delicacies, as well as purchase some jewellery, sarongs, bags and other handmade products. You really get a sense of the local way of life here without being harassed to purchase anything.
Samoa serves up some mouthwatering food that you’ll come to love, particularly the seafood! Vegetarians will also be delighted with the abundance of fresh fruit. Taro, coconut and yam are all staples in Samoan cuisine which everyone can enjoy.
At Nourish Cafe on Mulivai Street in Apia, you can try out some incredible ‘Samoan fusion’ dishes you won’t find anywhere else. The breadfruit fish tacos and taro wedges are always a hit. Also, if you’re in need of a good cup of coffee to start your day, this is definitely the place to go!
Nourish is open from Monday to Friday between 7:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., as well as Saturday from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. They’re also open for dinner on Friday nights between 6:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. if you can’t make it there during the day.
Mu Pagoa Waterfalls
These waterfalls stand out from the rest in Samoa, as the water flows straight into the sea from the Lata River flowing underneath the Puleia Bridge. This group of falls are only about five metres high, though the looming palm trees behind make for incredibly unique photos. Find this amazing spot in Palauli on Savai’i Island along South Coast Road.
Siva Afi Cultural Show
Cultural shows are essential for an authentic evening out in Samoa. This entertaining display of Samoan culture features ailao, a modern style of fire knife dancing, as well as the graceful Siva Samoa dance.
Before the show starts, you’ll be treated to a traditional Samoan feast served on coconut palm leaves as live music plays. There’s only one performance each week, so remember to book in advance.