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Samoa

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Samoa

Looking through tropical palm trees on a white sand beach on a sunny day towards the South Pacific Ocean. Photographed on Upolu Island, Western Samoa.

In the middle of the South Pacific, you can find the beautiful Samoan archipelago. These two stunning islands are volcanic and covered in lush rainforest and vibrant vegetation, surrounded by paradise both above and below the water. In the bright turquoise seas you’ll find a diverse range of marine life and stretches of white sandy beaches that are Instagram perfect and to die for.

A trip to Samoa is an escape to a timeless world marked only by spectacular golden sunsets and starry nights, forget your watch and your schedule and discover a real paradise.

Aside from the beaches, there are many places to explore including a number of waterfalls to discover, fishing, fantastic surfing, endless snorkelling and scuba diving opportunities with the colourful tropical fishes and a chance to learn about sea turtles at the turtle feeding site.

Aside from nature, the local people and culture have plenty to offer. The friendly Samoans are warm and welcoming and will be happy to show you their vibrant culture. You can even see an indigenous dance, called the Fa’ataupati, or even learn how!

This ultimate travel guide to Samoa will show you all the most beautiful places in Samoa, what to expect when visiting, where to stay in Samoa and things to do in Samoa which will help you in planning a trip to Samoa.

Plan your trip to Samoa

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How to get to Samoa

Samoa is an archipelago located in the South Pacific seas between Australia and New Zealand. There is only one way to get to the island, that is by airplane and there are regular flights from Australia, flights from Melbourne and Sydney take around five hours; and from New Zealand in around three hours.

The main airport in Samoa is Faleolo International Airport, on Upolu and from there you need to take an airport shuttle, which most hotels and resorts will offer. You can also opt for a taxi and a trip to Apia takes around ST$80 but make sure you establish the price with the driver before getting in.

If you arrive during the daytime there are local buses running from the airport to Apia, however there are no set times for the buses and you have to wait and see what turns up! The trip costs around ST$5 one-way and buses stop at 5pm.

Apia, Samoa - Apia Faleolo international airport in Samoa on Upolu Island

What to expect in Samoa

Samoan is the native and official language of Samoa, but due to tourism most Samoans speak English and it is taught in schools. The local currency is called the Tala but there aren’t many cash machines on the islands so it’s important to withdraw enough cash in Salelologa or Apia.

Travelling to Samoa doesn’t require a visa up to 60 days however you must have your passport valid for six months and have proof of onward travel to enter Samoa.

Samoa has a wonderfully rich culture and the people are proud of their roots. Be aware that with every attraction including waterfalls and beaches, a fee is required as the land belongs to the local people and money goes towards sustaining local economies and communities. The average cost is around ST$5 to 10 for entrance per person.

The average daily budget depends on your travel style, budget travellers can make do with TS$300 per day including a hostel bed and food, mid-range budget travellers should look at spending around TS$300 to 1000 a day and luxury travel will cost around TS$1000 upwards. Tipping is not expected but is very much appreciated in upmarket restaurants.

Be aware that you shouldn’t drink any water from fresh pools or waterfalls, nor from the tap. Bottled water is widely available. Samoa is safe, however you should make sure you’re aware of your personal belongings as sometimes things can be stolen from beach huts or beaches.

How to get around Samoa

The island has great infrastructure which makes getting around easy. You can get around on the local buses that service Upolu, they are a bit unreliable and not very punctual but they are incredibly cheap. In some places such as Lalomanu, the last bus stops at 14:00, on Sundays, service is limited.

Taxis are an alternative to getting around. You can also rent scooters for around ST$59 per day or a car from around TS$90 a day.

Bicycles are also an excellent method of transportation, if you can brave the heat. The island is relatively flat and you can cycle to many of the beaches, swimming holes and natural attractions.

If you want to travel between the islands of Upolu and Savaii, you will need to catch a ferry, remember to check the times as they a liable to change and there are usually several ferries a day back and forth. On Sundays there is only a limited service. The one-way ferry takes around an hour to travel between islands.

Apia, Samoa - Vintage buses at Apia bus station on Upolu Island

The best time to visit Samoa

Samoa is a tropical island and like other islands in the tropics only experiences two seasons, wet season and dry season.

It’s best to avoid Samoa during the wet season as the islands are battered by tropical cyclones between the months of November and April. The dry season is the best time to visit and occurs between May and October. During the dry season the average temperature is around 28 degrees centigrade, though it’s pleasant all year round.

Tropical beach scene with coconut palm trees and jetty, South Pacific, Samoa Islands

Things to do in Samoa

Hit the surf

Samoa has excellent surfing and if you travel to Samoa between May and October you’ll be sure to catch some amazing waves. Samoa isn’t recommendable for beginner surfers, but more experienced surfers will want to wake up very early in the morning to surf the best waves before the wind picks up in the afternoon, there will be excellent opportunities to catch waves during your stay. Unfortunately there are no surf shops on the beaches there so you must travel with your own surf gear.

A blue wave about to break at a surf spot in Samoa - South Pacific

Swim with the fishes

Samoa is tropical and the colourfeel reefs are hosts to a diverse variety of species including green turtles, if you want a guaranteed encounter you can head to the Malua Turtle Feeding Site where you can get up close and personal with these endangered turtles and feed them for free.

There are many places to snorkel and scuba dive on the island which will allow you to explore the underwater world of Samoa, there are a number of shipwrecks and lagoons where you can see eagle rays, and even the odd humpback between July and September. The most popular diving spot is called The Rock and its breathtakingly beautiful. Apolima Island and Juno are also incredible spots to dive and snorkel.

Namua Island is a short 10 minutes by boat off Lalomanu Beach and the boat trip costs around TS$20, you can discover spectacular snorkelling at the Fanuatapu Island and the Aleipata coast which makes for an excellent days outing to explore the reefs and marine life.

Split view cross section of sea water and palm trees in Samoa, South Pacific Island. Rocks and fish underwater in transparent clear water; cloudy sky above, photographed while snorkelling.

Go hiking

Samoa being a volcanic island, dense with lush forests makes for perfect hiking, though it can be hot and humid. One of the most popular hikes is to Peapea Cave which is a lava tube that can be accessed on a guided trek at O Le Pupu-pue National Park. This lava tube is hidden an hour into the depths of the rainforest and good shoes and a headlamp are required to explore the cave.

Lanotoo National Park makes for an excellent trek, taking around five hours in total, and the park is also home to Samoa’s Goldfish Lake, the biggest lake on the island that is filled with goldfish that were introduced to the environment accidentally by German settlers.

The volcanic island offers fantastic hiking at lava fields at the Tafua Peninsula, and you can even climb to the summit of the Tafua Volcano in an hour.

For an organised tour that is well worth the money, sign up for the Falease’ela River Walk which will take you on a hike through riverbeds and there’s even an opportunity to dive from the cliffs into river pools below if you’re brave. The walk costs TS$50 per person.

Learn about writer Robert Louis Stevenson

Known to the locals as the “teller of tales”, the famous author Robert Louis Stevenson, of Treasure Island fame, spent many of his final years in Samoa. His resting place is situated on Mount Vaea, with spectacular panoramas of the sea and you can also visit his mansion which is now a museum dedicated to the author.

Watch a Fa’ataupati dance

This indigenous dance was invented in the 19th century in Samoa and is traditionally performed by men on special occasions such as weddings and birthdays. There is an annual festival in August called the Teuila Festival where you can see a dance,  performances are often accompanied with fire dancing, taualuga (a dance performed by virgins), choirs and a beauty pageant.

POLYNESIAN CULTURAL CENTER OAHU HI - Students perform traditional Samoan cultural dances on a canoe. Taken at the Rainbows of Paradise Canoe Pageant in 2008.

Go fish

For sport fishers, you can head out on a fishing trip on one of the professional boats where you can catch all kinds of fish such as yellow fin tuna, trevallies, marlin and other game fish. For those who’ve never fished before, fishing trips organise lessons.

Two traditional wooden boats on the water in Upolu island Samoa

Discover Samoa’s natural slides

Outside of Apia you’ll find Papaseea Sliding Rocks, slippery volcanic rock which you can slide down into the swimming hole below, this activity is for the brave and make sure to check the water levels as it’s not advised to attempt this in dry season.

Explore local markets

Apia has some excellent markets where you can buy freshly-caught seafood or colourful local fruits and vegetables. The seafront fish market is the best place for seafood, whereas, Maketi Fou, is a highly-rated covered market where you can take in the local atmosphere and see the local fruits and produce on offer. There is also a flea market where you can find some interesting small souvenirs.

Apia, Samoa - customer and stallholders talking at Fugalei fresh produce market

Float in a Cave Pool

Piula Cave is a hidden gem that can be found at the Methodist College, head here early in the morning on a weekday and miss the crowds, you can float weightlessly in crystal clear water and even snorkel with local marine life in this stunning pool.

Split view of Piula Cave Pool swimming hole with a fish swimming in beautiful clear water - at Upolu Island, Western Samoa, South Pacific

Discover the many waterfalls on Upolu

Samoa is home to many waterfalls, hidden around the island and easily discovered by bicycle. You can spend a day visiting them and searching for these hidden natural sites. The highest falls in Samo are called the Papapapaitai Falls but other waterfalls worth visiting are Sopoaga and Fuipisia Waterfalls. Bask in the swimming holes below and feel as if you’re in a wild, tropical paradise.

Vibrant tall Papapapaitai falls in the rain forest of Upolu island, Samoa

Learn about Samoan Dance

Experience the local culture of Samoa in this dynamic and vibrant show with dance performances such as Samoan battle dances, knife and fire dancing. The show costs only €22.93 per person and you can experience the spectacle and tradition of Samoan culture with this dinner and show.

Fire Dance (Siva Afi), an exhilarating exhibition of bravery in Samoan culture. Photograph taken at the Hotel Kitano Tusitala, Apia, Samoa

What to eat in Samoa

Samoa has some of the freshest seafood and best selection of tropical fruits to try, they even have their own method of cooking food, called Umu. The Umu is an oven made of stone, food is placed in the oven and it is covered with coconut mats and stones to bake the food. Make sure you try traditional fish dishes cooked in the Umu, they are mouth-wateringly delicious.

Samoan cuisine uses a lot of coconut which features heavily in many dishes, so we hope you like coconut!

Here are some of the best traditional foods to try:

Falai Eleni

This fish dish consists of mackerel cooked in coconut cream in a coconut shell and it is deliciously rich and creamy.

Fa’apapa

This dessert bread is made with coconut and is typically consumed at breakfast. Grab some of this delicious fluffy and sweet bread and get a taste of local flavours.

Panikeke

These are sweet banana fritters deep fried in hot oil and served up as dessert in local street food stalls and makes the perfect sweet snack to grab whilst you’re on the move.

Palusami and Luau

Another dish with coconut milk, this time it is condensed and solidified and wrapped in taro leaves and baked in the traditional Umu.

Fa’ausi

This local bread is cooked in a smooth and sweet caramel sauce made from coconuts, the bread is soaked in the delicious sweet flavours and is commonly served at many big events and local festivities.

Kopai

Kopai are Samoan dumplings cooked to perfection that melt in your mouth and are served with a variety of sauces that include caramel, coconut milk and syrups. This sweet treat is a street food favourite and is something you must try whilst in Samoa.

Oka - known as kokoda, poke, ceviche, or poisson cru - is Polynesian raw fish salad from Samoa, with taro chips in a restaurant

Where to stay in Samoa

Olivia’s AccommodationFor budget stays in Apia you can find the charming and popular Olivia’s Accommodation situated just 45 minutes from the international airport. The hostel is just 10 minute’s walk from local shops and you can enjoy tranquil garden views. There are dorm rooms and individual rooms too and an onsite restaurant and bar. Prices start from €28 per night. Make sure to book early as this hostel is in high demand!

Dave Parker Eco LodgeStay in a wooden cabin in the midst of the moutains and enjoy the spectacular views. This budget hotel is situated out of the city but they organise shuttles to take you back and forth and is the perfect place to disconnect and escape to the wild. There is an onsite restaurant and outdoor terraced dining area. Prices start from €28 per night.

The White House Hotel This colonial looking hotel is an excellent budget option for travellers. The staff are friendly and professional and go out of their way to make sure that you feel welcome, the hotel is located in central Apia and has its own free parking and onsite restaurant. A double room starts at only €66 per night.

Tanoa Tusitala Hotel This central hotel is just a 5 minute walk to Apia City Centre and is surrounded by 15 acres of beautiful tropical gardens, the hotel has excellent facilities including an outdoor pools, gymnasium, tennis court and children’s pool. Rooms are air conditioned and have a separate walk in wardrobe! There is a car rental service and free parking and free breakfast included. Prices start at €145 per night.

Amazing tropical beach with with coconut palm trees and villas on Samoa Island

Tours to do in Samoa

Volcanic Lake Hike and Swim

For nature lovers with a taste for adventure, this tour offers a half-day hike to Lake Lanoto’o, the guided groups are small and limited to 8 people and you can ascend the volcanic crater followed by a swim and lunch in the lake. The tour includes pickups and drop offs and costs €51.26 per person. The hike is recommended for those with good physical fitness as it can be a steep climb up the crater.

Beach with coral reef on south side of Upolu framed by palm leaves, Samoa Islands

Mangrove adventure

This intimate half-day tour allows you to learn about what life in a Samoan Village is like, also you will discover the winding mangroves by Kayak. You will kayak through the tropical mangroves of Fituafe and visit the indigenous village where you can see how one of the key ingredients of Samoan cuisine, coconut cream, is made. The tour will take you to Safata bay where you can visit the estuary and beach and enjoy a Samoan traditional meal. Prices start at €101.89 per person.

Beautiful waterfall in a lush tropical rainforest

Savaii food and culture tour

This guided tour will give you insight into the local traditions and food culture. The tour takes you by foot to a local village where you will see an Umu demonstration and Siapo making demonstration as well as visit a traditional meeting house. The tour also takes you to the Afuaau waterfalls and includes a buffet lunch where you can savour the local cuisine. Prices start at €61.75 per person.

Day trip from Samoa

From Mountains to Mangroves

This 9.5 hour full day tour will offer an incredible experience which includes a trek up a volcano, exploration of a rainforest and plantation. You can enjoy a swim in a swimming hole and even take a kayak through the mangroves. The groups are small and prices include brunch and dinner. You will be able to experience the best that Samoan nature has to offer from only €129.06 per person.

To Sua ocean trench - famous swimming hole, Upolu, Samoa, South Pacific

Recommend budget tours in Samoa

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The Ultimate Travel Guide to Samoa

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Samoa

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Samoa

Article written by:

Hi, my name is Samantha, Finance Managing Guru by day, Travel Blogging Enthusiast by... well... day too! Haha! Travelling King is the destination hotspot for the wannabe traveller! Showcasing affordable, luxurious getaways for the budget conscious! With the combination of my financial knowledge and travelling experiences I aim to show you, with a little planning, the right budget and a realistic goal you can fulfil your travel fantasies and explore the world whatever your budget or desires may be!