The Cradle of Polynesia and the land of the ancient people of Lapita, Samoa is one of a thousand islands making up Oceania. Nestled with its neighboring islands in the center and south of the Pacific Ocean, the island country of Samoa, has its roots deep down through history and its culture is one of the most unique cultures in both, Polynesia and the world.
I remember watching the action movie Hobbs and Shaw, where the last part of the story took place in Samoa, and even though the movie was actually shot in Hawaii, I was captivated by the represented culture. So, here’s everything you’d like to know about Samoa, before heading over there.
A little History about Samoa
Ancestors of the Samoans are the people of Lapita, who were believed to have settled in Samoa around 3,500 years ago. However, the earlier human remains found in Samoa date about between 2,900 years ago and 3,500 years ago. An ongoing theory states that Samoans are Austronesians who arrived in the island, during the period between 2,500 BCE and 1,500 BCE.
There are many prominent historical figures in ancient Samoan history, that also indicate strong ties with fellow islands such as Fiji and Tonga. These figures include the powerful Queen Salamasina, the King Fonoti, the four tama-a-aiga or titles, Malietoa, Mata’afa, Tupua Tamasese and Tuimalealiifano, the powerful warrior and Queen Nafanua, who was later considered a deity in Polynesian religion.
Foreign explorers and ships began to observe and contact Samoa in the 18th century, when the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen, in 1722, became the first to sight the Samoan islands. In 1768, the French explorer Louise-Antoine Bougainville, named the islands the Navigator Islands.
American contact was mainly through whaling vessels. The first two whaling ships that contacted and stepped foot on the islands, were Captain Benjamin Vanderford of Roscoe, and Captain Richard Macy of Maro. The captains had initially asked for supplies, fresh water and firewood, later they started recruiting local men to work as craftsmen on their ships.
During the 19th century, there were several foreign powers battling for control over Samoa, these being the United States, Britain and Germany, which helped fuel the political battles within the Samoan factions. Resulting in first Samoan Civil War that went on for 8 years under their sponsorship.
The Second Civil War of Samoa reached its peak when again, the United States, Germany and Britain battled over control over the Samoan Islands. The fierce battling, the Siege of Apia and the shelling of Apia were some of the gruesome war incidents. The three forces later resolved the issue politically, where the US obtained Tutuila Islands, known now as American Samoa, Germany obtained the remaining islands, once Western Samoa. Britain forged its stake in Samoa for gains in other countries.
The Germans ruled in Western Samoa with an iron fist, banishing any opposing parties into exile. During the first month of WWI, forces from New Zealand, landed in Upolu and seized power from the Germans. Samoa remained under the control of New Zealand until it became the first independent island country in the Pacific, through the Western Samoa Act of 1961, effective on January 1st, 1962.
After amendment of the constitution in 1997, Western Samoa officially changed its name to Samoa. On September 7th, 2009, Samoa changed the Rule of the Road, whereby driving became on the left side of the road. In December 2011, Samoa changed its time zone from UTC-11 to UTC+13. Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa became Samoa’s first female Prime Minister, after winning the elections in May 2021.
Samoa is comprised of two main islands, the bigger islands, Upolu and Savai’i and 8 small islets. Upolu has five administrative districts while there are six in Savai’i. The capital of Samoa is Apia, located in Upolu island.
Samoan culture withstood against years of occupation and foreign intervention, as it remains active and very much alive today. Samoans live by the Fa’a Samoa, which literally means “The Samoan Way”. The Samoans have held onto their customs, language, political and tribal systems and traditions. Some of these preserved traditions include important rituals such as the Samoa ‘ava Ceremony.
Even though about 98% of Samoan adopted Christianity, this is within the principles of “vāfealoa’i”; deep connection and relationship between people, that is in turn based on “fa’aaloalo” or respect. Many Samoans live a communal life, being a part of the community, where they take part in daily life events together, living in fales, which have no walls, rather coconut palm fronds used as blinds.
2. Samoan Tattooing:
Tattooing in Samoa is an integral part of someone’s identity, where the tattoos are used to express one’s faith and family ties. Some tattoos are expressive of social status and deem respect in the community. In this regard, getting the tatau is done using the traditional tools of needle and wood, making the painful process a journey of reflection on one’s communal devotion.
There are different sets of tattoos for men and women. The men get Pe’a, which is a set of tattoos from the knees up to the ribs. While the women get a Malu, which is a set of tattoos from just below the knees up to the thighs.
A great part of Samoan culture is represented in the governing system of Fa’amatai, where community leaders; family and village leaders, show their dedication to their respective societies by being selfless and putting the interests of these communities above their own. On the other hand, the village leaders, called matais, are deeply respected.
This is reflected in the great spirit of Samoans, as they are known to have warm smiles and the friendliest of personalities, and they are very welcoming and accepting. This is why you’ll find values as respect, cooperation, hospitality and consensus deeply rooted in Samoan culture.
4. Samoan Cuisine:
Cuisine is an integral way of how Samoans express themselves, with many aspects of daily life revolving around good food. One essential ingredient in Samoan Cuisine is coconut milk and coconut cream, making for delicious creamy dishes. Many families cook using an umu on Sundays, which is a ground stone oven, adding remarkable flavors to the food.
Samoan weddings are the first step where a couple is establishing themselves as a new family. Expressed by the couple giving gifts to their guests according to the guests’ social status, rather than accepting gifts from their guests.
Singing, dancing and definitely food, are always the main events of entertainment in Samoa, where the locals gather, go fishing, diving, surfing, playing volleyball or rugby. These are some forms of Samoan Entertainment:
- Kilikiti – Samoa’s Cricket:
This is Samoa’s national sport, that was taken from cricket after it was introduced by missionaries in the 19th century. Tools used in the sport are made using local tools, where hibiscus or breadfruit tree is used in making the bat or “pate”, while rubber tree is used to make the rubber ball.
- Coconut Husking:
A fun and communal activity for everyone to enjoy, this is where locals use sticks to break open the coconuts, or sometimes they can use their teeth! It’s no wonder, coconut husking competitions are held by the communities.
- Siva Afi – Fire Knife Dancing:
Once the dance of powerful warriors, Sifa Afi is a traditional dance where the dancers twirls a flaming knife as he performs several aerobatic stunt moves. Back in the day, the dance was used to express fearsomeness and power.
Things to Do in Samoa
The two islands of Upolu and Savai’i represent the majority of landmass of Samoa, while there are two other islands, inhabited, called Manono and Apolima. There are also other four smaller and uninhabited islands.
While Upolu is smaller than Savai’i, the majority of the population lives there. Upolu is home to the Samoan capital Apia, as well as Samoa’s international airport; Faleolo International Airport. Although Upolu was formed by volcanic eruptions, only three have been recorded so far, that go back to some hundreds or thousands years ago. According to Samoan Polynesian Mythology, Upolu was the first woman to live on the island, hence the name.
Things to do in Upolu
The world famous Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson was an avid traveler, he began a tour of the South Pacific with his family in 1888, finally arriving in Samoa and chose to settle there. Stevenson had a deep affection towards the Samoans and they appreciated him in return as well. He supported the Samoan independent movement, during the colonial period.
The building of the museum was the house Stevenson built for himself, it was named Villa Vailima after the village nearby. After Stevenson died in 1849, he was buried on the top of Mount Vaea. The house was used as the home of the German Governor, later the home of the administrator of the New Zealand Mandatory Authority.
American businessmen and Mormon missionaries founded the museum and it opened its doors in 1994. On display inside are artefacts and belongings pertaining to Stevenson’s life such as books, shells, ethnographic items and guns, despite that most of the photographs of Stevenson’s life in Samoa are on display in the Writer’s Museum in Edinburgh.
Cost: Adults $10, $5 for children under 12 years old.
Opening Times: Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm, Saturday from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm. Closed on Sundays.
The first church on this site was commissioned by Bishop Bataillon, back in 1852, and his brother Jacques, began the construction of the church. The bishop blessed the first stone in 1852, however, due to natural disasters, and endemics, construction was delayed and only finished in 1857.
The Immaculate Conception Cathedral or the Apia Cathedral, suffered great damage after an earthquake in 2009. Restoration and rebuilding works took several years until the church was finished again. The new church opened its doors to the public in 2014. Today, the church stands on the exact same spot of the old church, with the parish house located near Mulivai.
The Baha’i Temple in Samoa is a worship place for prayer and meditation for people of all religions, ethnicities, backgrounds and beliefs. Baha’is stopped in Samoa by chance, while on their way to Australia in 1920. In 1954, another Baha’i set on their way to Samoa from Australia.
The Baha’i House of Worship in Samoa is the first in the Pacific Islands and is one only 8 places in the world. The building consists of nine symmetrical entrances and sides, where you can enter from any door. Its dome rises at 28 meters and the house is decorated by mirrored glass.
The gardens in which the house is built are decorated with different flowers, trees and plants, that are all native to the island country. The gardens are perfect for strolls and meditation, through the different paths in it. Every Sunday at 10:00 am, there’s a public interfaith service, that is open to everyone, where there are prayers and reciting from world religions in Samoan, English and sometimes other languages.
Opening Hours: Every day from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Samoa’s largest museum has the statue of the Samoan goddess Nafanua welcoming you at the entrance. Nafanua had a prophecy which told her that Christianity will come to Samoa, one she shared with Malietoa Vainuup. The prophecy came to life when John Williams arrived in Savai’i, in 1830, with the gospel.
The building itself is in the form of a fale with a high ceiling and glass walls, with works of art and carvings along the pathways, all telling unique Samoan myths. An important artefact in the museum is the hull of the ship rode by John Williams, upon which he arrived in Samoa.
Cost: $10 for adults, $5 for children between 5 and 18.
Opening Hours: Through website.
Dedicated to the Samoans who fought for the British in New Zealand back during WWI as part of the ANZAC troops and lost their lives, the clock tower is ideally located in a roundabout on the Beach Road. Dating back to the time of Western Samoa, when it was under the administration of New Zealand.
Opening Hours: All day, every day.
6. Museum of Samoa:
Also known as Falemata’aga or Samoa’s National Museum, this museum takes an old German school as its home, dating back to over 100 years ago. With a wide collection aiming to reflect the true Fa’a Samoa, the museum’s main goal is to maintain and explain both Samoan culture and intangible findings pertaining to its history. Pottery works dating back to 3,000 years ago and stone azde that were found in Samoa are on display here.
In addition to explaining the rich and vibrant culture of Samoa over the years, the museum also displays many artefacts pertaining to the culture of the Pacific Islands in general, and the similarities between this culture and that of Samoa.
Cost: Free, donations welcome.
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm, closes on Saturday and Sunday.
Opened in 2010, this gallery specializes in showcasing the beautiful artwork by Vanya Taule’alo and highly promotes modern art in today’s Samoa. The gallery showcases different works of art by many Pacific Islands’ artists, typical Samoan arts such as tapa, carved items and jewelry for the Pacific Islands as well.
There are many Samoan works of art, as well as from the Pacific Islands that are on sale in the gallery, such as artworks, jewelry and gifts, carved works, weaving a siapo as part of heritage arts. Legends Café is right next to the gallery, where you can enjoy something to eat and drink.
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Friday from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm, Saturday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Closes on Sundays and Mondays.
When most look at the history of Samoa, they often date back only to the times of European reign on the islands. However, if you travel further back to 950 or 900 AD, over a 1000 years ago, you will find that Samoan islands were once under Tongan control, and remained so for more than 300 years.
It was in 1250, when the local Samoan warriors began to fight for their freedom. The fighting was so intense, Samoans forced Tongans out of the islands and into their ships. The Tongan chief at the time, Talakaifaiki, conceded and announced his defeat, after which he addressed the mighty Samoan warrior by his famous address “Malie To`a, Malie tau! Ou te le toe sau i le auliuli tau. Ae o le a ou sau i le auliuli folau.” Which meant “You have fought bravely you brave warrior, I shall not return to Samoa as a warrior, but as your guest.”
The name Malietoa is the name bestowed upon the chief who united the Samoans and led them to victory. Malietoa Monument was built to commemorate this historical event, when Samoans bravely ended the centuries’ old Tongan rule and earned their freedom back. The monument is located in the ground of the Le Vasa Resort, and the staff are always happy to welcome visitors.
Opening Hours: Every day.
Culture in Upolu
If you’d like to dive deep into Samoan culture, with its main pillars, which revolve around Fa’a Samoa or the Samoan Way, head over to the Samoa Cultural Village. The tour of the village takes you through different vital aspects of Samoan traditions, over a series of interactive activities with the guests, ones you’ll certainly love.
The first step through the cultural tour is the Tatau or Samoan Tattooing, where you’ll get to see how tattoos are done in Samoa. Then using an umu or traditional earth oven, you can help your guides cook something delicious, which you will eat at the end. The workshop of precise and beautiful woodworking follows next, and you get to see how they hand carve all unique pieces of wood.
You will get to learn more about the art of making Tapa and traditional weaving. Then at the end you are invited for a dance show, which you will get to enjoy while eating the delicious food cooked earlier in the umu. This experience is one that will soak you in Samoan culture.
Cost: Free, you can donate at the end if you like.
Opening Hours: Currently closed.
This art school was established in 1989 by Wendy and Steven Percival, as Wendy started taking up pottery and ceramics during her time in Samoa. What started as a hobby is now an entire art school that welcomes many artists from different backgrounds and talents to express themselves. There are different artistic projects every now and then, some of which are available to participate in for free, and others are available to view virtually through their website.
Sometimes there are movie screenings at the art centre, which you can book through their Facebook page. There’s also a nice café at the centre, where you can have something to drink and try some of the best vegetarian food you’ll eat in your life, even if you aren’t a vegetarian.
Cost: Free, unless booking a workshop or event.
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, closed on Mondays.
This is another great place to learn about important elements in the Samoan culture, with certified instructors to guide you, you can take a private lesson in any of the centre’s classes. The centre consists of nine fales for classes and a faletele for gatherings and meetings.
Samoa Culture Centre offers classes in these Samoan activities:
- Samoan culture and language.
- Siapo making.
- Earth oven.
- How to make fresh coconut milk.
- How to roast cocoa Samoa to make chocolate drinks.
- Making sinnet or afa.
Each class lasts for an hour and it’s important you book beforehand.
Cost: Around $8 per activity and refreshments, around $20 per activity for an adult and a child.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm.
With the artwork of the two owners, Nikki Mariner and Lalovai Peseta, on display, as well as those of the three artists working with them, William Mauola, Pele Loi and Louis Poutasi, this art studio specializes in painting, carving and tattooing. In addition to hosting exhibitions of original contemporary artwork several times a year, you can even order customized artwork on their website, and they will ship it to you, wherever you are.
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Nature in Upolu
The perfect spot for snorkeling and marveling upon the distinguished Samoan coral reefs and sea life. The best time to visit the reserve is at high tide, as you can then enjoy your time best without risking causing any damage to the coral reef or cutting yourself. Beside snorkeling, you can simply go for a swim, relax or go for a picnic.
There are many facilities for hire at the reserve, including snorkeling gear, toilets, changing rooms and showers. You can also bring your own snorkeling gear and towels, if you like. Palolo Deep Marine Reserve is just minutes away from Apia’s centre, at Vaiala Beach.
Cost: $3 for adults, $2 for kids.
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm, high tide recommended.
A journey through the deep nature of Samoa, with one of the most photographed waterfalls in the island country. Heading through Cross Island Road, by Upolu’s southern coast, you’ll find the 100 meters high waterfalls. You are recommended to stay behind the security railings installed, for your safety.
Opening Hours: Anytime.
On the south coast of Upolu, in Savaia, you will find the Giant Clam Sanctuary as part of a marine village. Here, you get to slip into your swimming suit, put on your mask and discover Samoa’s giant clams. Beware as they close their lids very fast and might hurt you. The best time to head for this journey is at high tide, when the clams are fully soaked in ocean water.
Cost: About $8.
Opening Hours: High tide preferred.
The coastal lava cliff is part of the national park of O le Pupu-Pue, where you get to walk for about an hour, if you’re accustomed to hiking, over a path shaped over time by cooled lava. You can reach the cliffs by walking through the Pandanus forest, and as you reach the magnificent over water cliffs, you can see Nu’usafe’e and Nu’utele.
Since this walk is similar to a hike, it’s recommended you bring good hiking and comfortable shoes. It’s also better if you don’t go on this walk alone, as the track can be slippery and dangerous at some points. The O le Pupu-Pue National Park is under the management of Environment and Conservation unit of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.
Opening Hours: Changes over website.
Located in a jungle that is 55 meters high, this waterfall combines great views, green surroundings while giving you an adrenaline rush. You can have your pick between watching the magnificent cascading waterfall or daring to take a quick dip into the landing point. Fuipisia Waterfall is a perfect spot for relaxing, bird-watching and taking amazing photos.
Cost: $10 for adults, $5 for kids between 10 and 12 years old, $2 for kids under 10 years old.
Opening Hours: Every day.
Head on the main East Road of Upolu and turn off at Saoluafata village, to enjoy a seven-kilometer ride of beautiful scenic views of nature in Samoa, until you end up at Sauniatu Waterfall. Get to the compound of the LDS Church by crossing a bridge, and park on the left. You will reach a spectacular swimming and freshwater waterfall in the middle of the rainforest. You can bird-watch, have a picnic in addition to swimming.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Cooling-off in Uplou
The village of Lotofaga is home to one of Samoa’s historical and magical swimming spots. This giant swimming hole, literally the meaning of “To Sua” is 30-meters deep and can be accessed by climbing down a ladder that leads to a board over the pool. At the pool you will find a cave, that’s a favorite spot for skilled divers to access the ocean from.
The Fagaoneone beach awaits you over the ocean, while the other side is home to many blowholes, mini pools and fishing spots. You might even see some whales swimming nearby if you’re visiting during the mid-September to November season.
The beautiful gardens in the area are a popular spot for taking photos especially for wedding photoshoots. Of the facilities available are fales, toilets, showers and a small eatery.
Cost: $6 for adults, $2 for children between 6 and 11 years old. Children under 6 are free to enter.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, Sundays from 12:30 pm to 5:00 pm.
2. Piula Cave Pool:
An old lava tube resulted in the formation of this freshwater pool and cave known as Fatumea. The pool and cave are located within Lufilufi Village, in the Piula Theological College. Tourists particularly love the spot for swimming for its fresh and clear water, despite the cave’s proximity to the beach.
There are many facilities available at the spot, including toilets and day fales. Visitors are advised to follow these rules when visiting:
- Everyone must pay the entrance fee.
- Follow the main walking road and not to walk over the cricket field.
- The college says it isn’t responsible for personal items, hence make sure to secure them properly.
- Alcohol, drugs and nudity are strictly prohibited.
- Wearing swimwear is only allowed in the pool area.
- Fishing in the pool and the conservation area are not allowed.
- Diving and jumping into the pool are not allowed.
- Beware there isn’t a lifeguard on the site.
- Do not feed the fish.
- Throw all trash into their bins.
Cost: $5 for adults, $3 for children. Parking by the pool is $10.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.
3. Papaseea Sliding Rocks (Fun but dangerous):
Eroded by running water through thousands of years, these sliding rocks are located at the Faleata District at Se’ese’e. There are two groups of rocks, one for adults and the other for children. There’s the main five-meter slide, as well as three smaller ones at the base perfect for swimming and cooling off.
You are advised to make sure your belongings are stored safely in your vehicle or are kept in safe with the on-duty Women’s Community, before heading over to the pool. Facilities such as toilets and changing rooms are available at the car parking.
Cost: $5 for adults, $2 for kids under 12 years old.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday from 8:00 am to 5:30 pm, Sunday from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm.
4. Lalomanu Beach:
Lonely Planet put Lalomanu Beach on their list of the top ten amazing beaches in the world. This beach is the embodiment of the photos you see of Samoa on the internet; what you see in the photos is what you’ll get here. Located on Upolu’s south coast, you will get amazing view of the smaller islands of Samoa.
There are different traditional beach fales lining the beach, all painted in different colors. This is because the fales are owned by different local families and the difference in color is used to distinguish ownership. It’s important to know when paying the parking fee nearby, to which family you’re paying it, as this money is used to support the owner family of the beach fale you’re staying at.
5. Lefaga Beach:
Located on the southwest coast of Upolu, Lefaga Beach is a great spot to enjoy the ocean water, the sandy beach, relax and sunbath as well. The beach is famous for being the set of the Gary Cooper 2004 film, Return to Paradise. Back in 2009, the entire area was devastated by a tsunami and is now fully recovered.
Lefaga Beach is characterized by its white sandy beach and black rocks, the water is also shallow which allows for great swimming, snorkeling and searching for giant clams or even go kayaking. The beach is most beautiful at sunset, when rays of deep yellow and orange are reflected on the ocean surface.
Opening Hours: Every day, preferred during daylight.
6. Tafa Tafa Beach:
This secluded white sandy beach on the South Coastal road of Upolu is ideal for spending a day swimming, snorkeling and enjoying the beautiful weather. You can also go paddle boarding and surfing in the ocean. The beach is lined with fales, which you can rent to spend the night by the ocean.
Opening Hours: every day.
7. Sopoaga Falls:
Get to Lotofaga Village and live a beautiful experience by these amazing waterfalls, surrounded by gardens with different types of plants and trees native to Samoa. You will also find specialized areas where the making and use of umu is demonstrated, as well as coconut husking.
Cost: $5 for adults, $2 for children under 10 years old.
Opening Hours: Anytime.
A picnic by the river, in a day fales, in addition to relaxation and swimming in the river water. At Falefa Falls, you can relax and enjoy the company of nature, where the bay once served as a harbor for crops-transferring ships at the end of the 1800s and beginning of the 1900s. From the Falefa Bridge, you can get a closer look at the waterfalls.
Cost: $5 for adults, $2 for children between 5 and 10 years old.
Opening Hours: Sunday to Saturday from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Once a swimming spot for Samoa’s greatest warriors, this waterfall is close to the O Le Pupu Pue National Park. There are many things to do here beside swimming, you can go for a picnic, simply linger and enjoy your time, even play volleyball and rugby if you’re brought your equipment along. Of the available facilities there are bathrooms and changing rooms.
Unlike many spots in Samoa, the best way to enjoy swimming at Togitogiga Waterfall, is during the wet season from November to April.
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Shopping in Upolu
About 10 minutes away walking from the food market, here you will find everything you might think of. From kava bowls, jewelry, baskets, lava-lavas or the Samoan sarong, to many souvenirs to take back home. At the Old Apia Market, you will get closer to the Samoan culture by also hearing some authentic Samoan music.
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, Saturday from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm. Closed on Sundays.
2. Fugalei Market:
Only the freshest local produce of all tropical fruits and vegetables, as well as the most famous Samoan coconuts, taro and bananas, of all sizes and colors. You will also find some traditional Samoan dishes which you can snack on, all at the family-owned and run stalls. Get yourself an iced coconut or Niu to drink and go on a deep trip into Samoan food culture.
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday, best visit during daylight.
If you’re looking to head back home with a unique and custom made souvenir, you can get one of the hand-locked vibrant designed items from Plantation House Samoa. You will also find homeware, jewelry and bags with Pacific designs.
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Saturday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, closes on Sundays.
This group of artists and dreamers from Samoa and the Pacific created one of the best known cultural retailers in Samoa. Founded in 1989, with their online store beginning in 2012, they are the specialists in the Made in Samoa products as well as Made in the Pacific products. They sell products for the whole family, clothing, jewelry, crafts, arts and cultural products.
Their store is located at the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel. You can order whichever products you like through their website and they’ll ship it right to your door.
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Saturday from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm. Closes on Sundays.
5. Mailelani Samoa:
The best hand cold-pressed coconut oil you can find in Samoa, to provide love and freshness to your skin can be found here at Mailelani. The name means “from Heaven” in Samoan, and their line of skincare and body care is crafted in line with sustainable development and all from local ingredients only. Mailelani ships to many countries around the world through their website.
A great advantage is that you get to head to the Mailelani shop to refill your old Mailelani coconut oil bottles. There’s also a small café by the shop in Samoa, where you get to sit and drink something after your shopping.
6. Eveni Carruthers:
What once started as a cocoa and copra business, is now a modern department store that is run by the fourth generation in the family. Irving Eveni Carruthers, the founder, was the son of Robert Louis Stevenson’s lawyer, Richard Irving Hetherington Carruthers. The business grew by servicing several trading stations in different Samoan islands.
Today, Eveni Carruthers has branches in Upolu, Savai’i, Faleolo Airport and American Samoa. You can also shop through their official website.
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, Saturday from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm.
Tours in Upolu
This adventure business on Upolu’s south coast, offers you all the different outdoor activities you can enjoy in Samoa. From hiking, surfing, snorkeling, diving and turtle-watching, they work with all resorts in Samoa and offer great deals. You can contact them to book your next adventure in Samoa.
Opening Hours: Sunday to Saturday from 12:00 pm to 12:00 am.
Also known as Bike Samoa, Outdoor Samoa specializes in biking and kayaking tours, with the best prices to suit both backpackers and large groups. Outdoor Samoa has a great location near the airport and the ferry headed to Savai’i, they are ready to serve you with their fleet of 90 cycles and 22 kayaks, they offer great trips of kayaking, biking and snorkeling among turtles.
Opening Hours: Sunday to Saturday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Get to see everything you need to see and do around Upolu, through the tours and activities offered by the Samoan Highland Adventure. They will simply take the wheel and let you soak in and enjoy the captivating nature and deep culture of Samoa. Sightseeing, hiking, sliding and definitely swimming are some of the many tours offered here.
With their setting at the Sheraton Samoa Beach Resort, scuba diving instructors Rob Small and Bruno Kinross offer world-class scuba diving classes, in addition to snorkeling classes and different watersports that will help you enjoy the beauty of the Pacific in Samoa.
Opening Hours: Sunday to Saturday from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.
This tour is one of its kind, John is a chef who is passionate about Samoan culture as much as he is passionate about food. Through the tours he offers, you will get to explore the local markets, where he will tell you more about Samoan cuisine, then you get to choose what you’d like Chef John to cook for you, in one of the beautiful spots you will visit together.
Chef John offers both half day and full day tours, on both islands of Upolu and Savai’i.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday from 12:00 am to 12:00 pm.
Experience some of the hidden spots and secluded magical beaches, waterfalls and swimming spots with Rainforest Runaway Ecotours. They also offer you a tour deep into the Samoan culture and village life, as well as exploring the local arts, the traditional and the contemporary. There are half day, full day and hiking tours, on all Samoan islands.
Opening Hours: Sunday to Saturday from 12:00 am to 12:00 pm.
Explore Samoan history, culture and customs in depth with Chief Tai, in both islands of Samoa. The knowledge Tai has makes the tours more enjoyable, with hidden secrets revealed and his choice of some of the best places to head to in Samoa, your time will definitely be unforgettable.
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, Saturday from 8:00 am to 1:30 pm, Sunday from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
Day tours, half day tours in both Samoa and American Samoa, or even tours organized according to your interests, such as art, cuisine, crafts, cultural tours, garden or ecotours, are all available here at Samoa Scenic. Even if you have a certain budget, they will organize a tour tailored to your needs. There are guides speaking English, French and German.
Relaxation in Upolu
1. Yoga Samoa:
Rachel LaUlu is a yoga instructor who settled in Samoa in 2015, after years of going back and forth between her hometown of Melbourne. She offers yoga classes across a variety of great locations in Samoa, not just that, Rachel can bring the yoga class to your, at your resort. Yoga Samoa also offers great tours around Samoa, with some hidden nooks and spots you’ll enjoy. You can book a session with Rachel to put your adventure schedule together.
The main venue where Rachel offers her yoga classes is Taumeasina Island Resort.
Cost: $6 for the yoga session at Taumeasina Island Resort.
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday at 7:30 am, Tuesday and Thursday at 6:00 pm.
2. A Touch of Samoa:
After all the exploration around Samoa, a relaxing massage is the perfect treatment to relieve those sore muscles. A Touch of Samoa combines foreign massage techniques with Samoan touches to give you the best experience. As happy as they are to cater for walk-in visitors, they do prefer, for your comfort, that you call beforehand and reserve your spot.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm, Sunday from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm.
Where to eat in Upolu
This family-run restaurant serves the best Italian and Mediterranean cuisine in Upolu. They offer vegetarian friendly, vegan and gluten free options as well. The place is loved by both tourists and locals for the amazing food and great hospitality.
Price Range: Between $6 and $23.
Opening Hours: Every day from 5:00 pm to 10:30 pm, closes on Sundays.
2. Nourish Café:
Think a Polynesian menu with fusion from other countries, fresh ingredients as well as a café and you’ll have Nourish Café. With vegetarian friendly, vegan and gluten free options, you are welcome at any time of the day for any meal, or even for drinks. TYheir Oka dish is loved by many and the tuna used in it is just perfect.
Price Range: Starting at $10.
Opening Hours: Weekdays from 7:30 am to 3:00 pm. Saturdays from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm and Sunday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.
Yummy, healthy and light sandwiches and snacks, with some European infusion await you here. You can have breakfast, brunch and lunch at the beautiful gardens of the café, and perhaps do some shopping in the souvenir shop they have, there is jewelry, clothes for all the family, home wear, accessories and Samoan artefacts to take home. Everything is homemade here and you can shop through their website as well.
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm, Saturday from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm.
Offering you some of the most delicious pizzas you’ll ever have, with a wide selection of toppings that you’re surely going to enjoy. There are different options of salads and sides as well, and the great cozy seating area is just perfect. They even make your favorite pizza, which you can take to either freeze or cook at your accommodation.
Price Range: Between $10 to $21.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.
The Amanaki Restaurant is a part of the Amanaki Hotel, which have their own fishing boats, bringing in the freshest fish every day. They offer a variety of local dishes as well as some European dishes, even the good old fish and chips, Samoan version. If you’re a vegetarian or following a certain food diet, you can ask them to cater the food according to it as well.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday from 7:30 am to 9:30 pm. Sunday from 7:30 am to 10:30 am, and from 5:00 pm to 9:30 pm.
Enjoy some of the best steak you’ll ever have, as well as with some seafood and Polynesian and New Zealand dishes here at KokoBanana. There’s a great atmosphere when you combine outdoor seating, live music and delicious food. An experience you’ll fully enjoy.
Opening Hours: Mondays to Saturdays from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm. These times are until May 3rd, 2022.
7. The Edge Marina:
With a great view over the harbor, you can enjoy many light meals and sandwiches here, as well as a variety of drinks as well. This diner is highly praised for the hospitality of the staff, the perfectly cooked meals and the affordable Happy Hour drinks.
Price Range: Between $11 and $31.
Opening Hours: Saturday to Tuesday from 8:00 am to 12:00 am, Wednesday to Friday from 8:00 am to 1:00 am. Closed on Sundays.
8. Coffeebean Café:
Where you can get some of the best coffee in Samoa and enjoy a hearty and fluffy dessert on the side as well. The Coffeebean also offers various meals for lunch and dinner, not to mention their fresh and refreshing juices. The café is well rated for the hospitality and services of its staff and value for money.
Price Range: Between $6 and $16.
Opening Hours: Every day from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm, closed on Sundays.
Where to stay in Upolu
This family owned and run resort is where your Pacific vacation can begin. You can book all sorts of sea activities here, from swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, hiring a boat, turtle-watching and even hiring a boat for cruising. There’s a playground with activities for children and bike-renting as well.
A Villa with a Garden Area, with one queen bed and a view over the mountain, with a balcony or a patio, in addition to breakfast, will be around $47 a-night. A Family Room, with one double bed and one twin bed that can accommodate three passengers, with the same merits, will be around $56 a-night.
Enjoy dinner under the stars here at Insel Fehmarn, as well as private balconies, tennis games, the outdoor pool and the poolside bar. You can ask the hotel for a car to rent to help you get around the island and explore it, or catch a free shuttle to the center of Apia. Make sure to enjoy the homey BBQ parties held every week, where only the freshest ingredients are used.
A Standard Double Room with Garden View, with two large double bed, breakfast and free cancelation, will cost $119 a-night. A Superior Room with Ocean View, with two large double beds, in addition to taxes and charges, breakfast and free cancelation, will be a total of $131 a-night.
From Return to Paradise Resort you can set out to exploring Apia, with the Apia Old Markets and the Apia Wharf less than an hour away by car. There are four different swimming pools here that you can enjoy and beautiful tropical gardens to explore or simply admire from your own balcony. The resort holds regular Fiafia nights with Polynesian food and Samoan fire-dancing, that guests can partake in.
A Queen Room with Ocean View, with a single bed and one large double bed, with free cancelation and payment at the property and breakfast as well, will cost $243 a-night, plus taxes and charges. The same room is available for $194 a-night, but is non-refundable.
These community-owned beach fales are run by one of the families in Matareva; the Togialelei Tavita Faletoese, in cooperation with one of the chiefs of the village. You can enjoy the beach as well as the rural beauty around you, the nearby Return to Paradise Beach, explore caves, go hiking or head out to Salamumu Beach.
A Traditional Room with Ocean View, with two twin beds, free breakfast and dinner, and a total refund, will be $89 a-night, plus taxes and charges. The same offer goes for a traditional room with three twin beds for three passengers and a traditional room with one double bed and two twin bed that suits four passengers.
Just a five-minute walk away from the Apia city center, Tanoa Tusitala is set in a massive tropical garden. In addition to an outdoor swimming pool, there’s a wading pool for children, a tennis court and a gym. There’s a pool restaurant and bar, Deck Restaurant and Deck Bar, in addition to an in-house restaurant; Fala Restaurant, where breakfast is served every day.
A Deluxe King Room, with an extra-large double bed, with a balcony and pool view, city view, and garden view, with the addition of taxes and charges, free cancelation and payment at the property and breakfast, will cost $201 a-night. Or you can choose a Deluxe Double or Twin Room, with all the same benefits, at the same price rate.
6. Amanaki Hotel:
This family-friendly hotel is where you’d like to spend some time when you’re in Apia. With a sun terrace, an outdoor pool, car hire service, a bar and a lounge and your own private balcony your stay here will be most enjoyable.
A Standard Double Room, with one king bed, free breakfast and partial ocean view, will be $119 a-night. A Deluxe Twin Room with a partial ocean view, two double beds and free breakfast, will be $146 a-night. Both these offers are totally refundable.
Located on a separate private island that’s connected to the main island via a causeway, Taumeasina Island Resort is just 5 minutes away from downtown Apia by car. There are many enjoyable facilities here that will help you make the most of your relaxing vacation, such as an outdoor pool, wellness center, spa, sauna, even a private beach area. For the kids, there’s a children’s playground with an entertainment schedule.
A Deluxe Room with Ocean View, with one extra-large double bed, a balcony, with the addition of taxes and charges, free cancelation and breakfast, will cost $367 a-night. If you choose the Deluxe Room with Sea View, with two double beds, with the same benefits, it will be the same price.
Just mere minutes away from the beach, here you can take your pick between booking a villa or a hotel room. There’s a swim-up bar, a fitness center and a spa, there’s free breakfast every day, an on-site restaurant and bar and the Tafatafa beach is about 15 minutes away by car. Some villas have a private balcony as well.
An Exclusive Villa for Adults only, with an extra-large double bed and the addition of taxes and charges and free cancelation will cost $268 a-night. A Bungalow with Lagoon View, with a large double bed and one futon bed, with taxes and charges will cost $168 a-night. A King Room, with three single beds or one single bed and one extra-large double bed, with a balcony and garden view, will cost $138 a-night. However, these last two offers are non-refundable.
Located at Upolu’s western tip, Le Vasa is a minute away from the beach, as well as offering amazing ocean and garden views. The lagoon surrounding the resort is full of colorful coral reefs that you can kayak over to and enjoy. You can even ask for a trip to Bat Island and Manono Island to be arranged for you. If you’ve always wanted to relax in a hammock, by the ocean, you can do just that.
A Studio with a Garden View, with one single bed and one double bed, with a balcony offering both a sea view and garden view, will be $122 a-night. A Bungalow over the water, with two single beds and one double bed, with a garden and sea view, will be $164 a-night. Be aware that these two offers are non-refundable.
Savai’i or Salafai as Samoans refer to it, is the largest of the entire Samoan Islands, including those of American Samoa, and is the 6th largest island in Polynesia. Savai’i has only one port, Salelologa, which is the main entry point to the island. The island has one highway only, which connects all the villages on it, there are also buses that reach most of the villages.
Savai’i has over 100 volcanic craters, the island also has the majority of the flora and fauna of Samoa. Being one of the world’s biggest conservation areas, it is the reason the majority of the tourist activities in Savai’i are nature-related.
Things to do in Savai’i
Located on the Savaiian south west coast, the water from these blowholes jump up meters in the air. The most amazing experience is when the locals place coconuts on the blowholes and they are blasted up in the air as well. The best time to watch this impressive show is by heading there during high tide.
You can ask the local Matais to show you how to get to another local gem; Pa Sopo’ia Cave, where it was believed the spirits of the ancestors traveled to reach the Devil’s Haden of Cape Mulinu’u. The cape was believed to be the final meeting place of the ancestors’ spirits enter the Spirit World or Pulotu.
Cost: $5 for adults, $3 for children, an additional fee is paid when using the parking or on-site fales.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday.
Park your car, enjoy a brief walk to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the heart of the rainforest in the south east of Savai’i. The Afu Aau Waterfall is also known as Olemoe Falls, the main waterfall divides itself into three small waterfalls and the water is deep in the middle, shallow by the rim. It’s best to be cautious as there isn’t a lifeguard on site.
Cost: $10 for adults, $5 for children between 6 and 12 years old, children younger than 6 years enter for free.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, closes on Sundays.
Let your heart skip a beat and walk among the Falealupo Rainforest, ten meters above the floors of the ground, there’s a bridge up in the air between two trees. The wobbly journey between the two points will fill your body with adrenaline. The Falealupo Canopy Walk entrance ticket includes entry to the nearby House of Rock and Moso’s Footprint.
The Falealupo Canopy Walk is currently closed for repairs.
4. Aopo Lave Tubes:
More than five-kilometers long, only 50 meters of this lava tube can be explored. Enjoy a walk through the forest with fruits and vegetables plantation on your way to the cave. You will step down a step at the beginning and from there the cave goes further until it eventually reaches the sea. The Aopo Lave Tube is the 15th longest of the lava tubes in the world.
Cost: Around $4.
5. Paia Dwarfs Cave:
Head up to the northern part of Savai’i to explore this intriguing lava tube cave where dwarfs are rumored to still live there, and spot their footprints everywhere. A guide from the Paia village is the best way to explore the cave, which can take up to a full day. The cave is about 15 minutes off the road from the entrance of Paia.
Be sure to bring comfortable shoes.
Cost: $2. There are different prices for car models, $8 for Suzuki-Tuscon, $12 for a Van or pickup, $24 for buses.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday, no specific time.
Perfect for swimming, paddle-boarding, snorkeling as well as going for a picnic. The famous black beach is famous for its crescent shape and is a popular spot among professional surfers. If you’d like to go kayaking or standup paddle-boarding, you should bring your own equipment. You’re also advised to practice caution as the current can get strong and dangerous.
Getting to the beach by land is easy through the use of a four-wheeled track, while there are boasts leaving from the nearby Maninoa village.
A one of a kind scene that you won’t see anywhere else in Samoa, Mu Pagoa Waterall runs under Puleia Bridge and eventually flows into the sea. The unique scene is ideal for watching how the locals use this phenomenon into their everyday lives and is a perfect spot for taking photographs to remember.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday.
8. Moso’s Footprint:
According to Samoan belief, Moso was a giant who stepped between islands of the Pacific. This footprint in the basalt, surrounded by rocks, is where Moso allegedly put his right foot while stepping from Samoa over to Fiji, the left footprint can be found in Fiji.
Cost: $20 for adults, for both Moso’s footprint and the House of Rock.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday.
Lava from Mountain Matavanu buried five villages when it erupted between 1905 and 1911. There are churches, lava mounds, graves and evidence of trees are located at different spots in the fields. Some of the most renowned are the Virgin’s Grave and the LMS Church.
Cost: $5 for adults, $3 for kids and $50 for groups.
Get to observe the amazing countryside and the breathtaking view of this one extremely active volcano. Mount Matavanu erupted from 1905 to 1911 leading to the burial of many villages in the space of 13 kilometers up to the north east of Savai’i. Get to Safotu village using a four-wheeled vehicle, you will reach the walking track in about 25 minutes.
Cost: $8 per person.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday.
11. Dive Savaii:
Located in Fagamalo village in northern Savai’i, Dive Savaii offers you great scuba diving, snorkeling and PADI scuba-diving courses. You can contact them the previous day while planning your trip so they can prepare everything for your tour with them. With Dive Savaii you’re sure to have a great time exploring the sea by Savai’i.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm.
For seven days, after the first full moon of the month of October and November, Samoans come together for the gathering of Palolo. The worm is considered a delicacy in the Pacific area, with special regard in Samoa, where Palolo is deeply rooted in the Samoan culture and cuisine.
Nets and buckets specially made for the catching of Palolo are used by the locals to gather the worms as they rise from the coral reefs at dawn to spawn. There are mere hours only through which the worms can be caught, as they melt from sun exposure.
Samoans sometimes eat the worms raw, but they cook them as well using butter and onions, and they serve them with taro and or banana chips.
Previous events in the festival
The 2020 Palolo Festival in Savai’i was hosted at the Va-i-Moana Seaside Lodge, where locals and many tourists gathered, from Apia as well, to take part in the different activities preparing for the gathering of Palolo. A Palolo kit-making workshop was set up to teach everyone how to make flower necklaces or ula leis and using coconut leaves with cotton lining to make A’a or Palolo nets and baskets.
There were other festivities and live performances by local Samoan bands such as Tofuiava Band, PolyFlavour and Silver Bullet, that were presented at four different places including Siuafaga, Asau, Salelologa and Manase.
The Palolo Festival attracted many visitors to Savai’i, even though the harvesting of the Palolo was not as bountiful, the guests enjoyed the workshops, festivities and definitely the unique taste of the end reward they came for.
What does Palolo taste like?
Well, it’s definitely an acquired taste, regardless of what you read about its taste. In further detail, previous festival goers said Palolo was fishy, some said it was salty, others said it tasted like seaweed and caviar, while others simply it tasted right out delicious.
Where to eat in Savai’i
Enjoy the best and freshest of the local ingredients and produce, with rich and simple flavors here at Vailili. The restaurant is part of the Le Lagoto Resort and Spa and offers diners a special themed night every Thursday and a traditional Fiafia night show, as well as a Polynesian BBQ night every Sunday.
Opening Hours: Every day from 7:30 am to 10:00 pm.
Only the best cakes, cupcakes and pastries you’ll taste in Samoa. Stop here for a delightful experience, with some coffee or any other drink you’d like. Set among a beautiful garden, you will definitely come back time after time. You can also order a cake for a special occasion and they will make sure it will be one to remember.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, closes on Sundays.
If you’re craving some homemade Italian pizza, Leilina’s the place to head to. One reviewer even said their pizza reminded her of the pizza her grandmother used to make back in Italy. Make sure to give their knots of garlic bread, dipped in garlic oil as well. They do offer many vegetarian and vegan friendly options as well.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm, Sunday from 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm.
This Polynesian style restaurant and bar is one of the best in Savai’i, as the restaurant is part of the Savaiian Hotel, it closes later than most restaurants in Samoa. They offer a variety of dishes for a great price range and vegetarian alternatives as well.
Price Range: Between $7 and $25.
Where to stay in Savai’i
Between the two islands, most of the resorts and high end hotels are located in Upolu. These are the properties available in Savai’i. At the moment, most of the properties at Savai’i are fully booked:
The beach surrounding this resort is safe for swimming and snorkeling, there are bungalows available with outdoor showers, where you can enjoy one under the stars. One of the best features here is the glass-boat tours the resort offers, to both enjoy the beautiful sea nature and marvel upon the colorful corals, some of which are about 1000 years old.
A Studio with a beachfront, that has a beach view, one queen bed and free breakfast, will be $154 a-night. If you’d like a Garden Bungalow with Sea View, with one queen bed and one twin bed, suitable for three passengers, with free breakfast, will be a total $161 a-night.
2. Amoa Resort:
Bungalows and villas here at the Amoa Resort are sprinkled along the garden hills, with a mesmerizing sea view over the lagoon. The tropical garden where the resort is located is dotted with vibrant hibiscus and tropical flowers and swaying palm trees. There are activities for children in the resort, you can enjoy the free breakfast and go canoeing.
You can have your choice of self-contained accommodation units or the traditional-styled fales to begin your time here in Savai’i. The Savaiian Hotel is located in the Lalomalva village of Savai’i. Included with breakfast, BBQ facilities and even there are special meals for kids. There is an on-site outdoor pool, a spa, a snack bar and karaoke for some fun.
Located by the beach, sun terraces, free breakfast, the option of booking the most enjoyable activities such as biking renting, canoeing, snorkeling, hiking, fishing and of course swimming. There’s also evening entertainment, the option for some food diet requests and enjoy your time at the bar or lounge during the day. Family rooms have fantastic ocean views.
A Tui Moana Ensuite that is fully refundable, with a continental breakfast, will cost $99 a-night. A Garden Fale with parital sea view, with one double bed and one twin bed, to accommodate for three travelers, that is partially refundable, will cost $129 a-night.
Le Lagoto is piece of heaven located on a secluded white sandy beach, surrounded by coconut palm trees and clear ocean water. There are ten Samoan style bungalows for hire here that will allow you to enjoy the best of the Samoan atmosphere, while having your own refuge of peace and quiet. The word Le Lagoto means “sunsets” in Samoan and from here, you will see the most magical ones.
Steps away from the ocean, there are suites, villas and Euro Fales for hire here at Stevenson’s. The restaurant and bar are located in the tropical garden of the resort. Decorations of the rooms combine ancient Samoan culture, carvings, lava rocks and tapa designs with modern Samoan decorations. At Stevenson’s you’re sure to find what you’re looking for, adventure or simply enjoying the white sandy beach.
Food in Samoa is local and rich, made from all local ingredients from fruits and vegetables to meat, mostly chicken and pork, with a diverse collection of seafood. There are some common ingredients between most Samoan dishes such as coconut cream and taro or talo, that is a vegetable resembling a potato and is a bit stickier, and breadfruit or ulu. They both can be cooked in coconut cream with the addition of Polynesian flavors.
One of the popular dishes is called Palusami, which is made by cooking little taro leaves in coconut cream. Another dish is called Oka, which is raw fish cooked in coconut cream. A stone earth oven called an Umu is where Samoans usually cook their meals.
Fish or I’a has been an epicenter of the Samoan cuisine culture for thousands of years, with the ocean providing its finest produce every day for the locals. Crayfish, snapper, tuna, octopus, eel and masimasi are some of the various kinds that you can find fresh in almost every restaurant menu or at the fish market in Apia.
Here are some of the traditional Samoan dishes:
1. Palusami or Luau:
Palusami is one of the most popular dishes served in Samoa, where taro leaves and onions are cooked in coconut milk. The so like soup is cooked until the leaves have wilted and bubbles begin to form in the casserole. There are many variations of Palusami, where you can add corned beef or maybe dill to add more flavor.
2. Faiai Eleni or Oka i’a:
This zesty and refreshing dish is made using raw fish, most commonly tuna, chopped into pieces, that is marinated in lemon juice and coconut cream, then served with chopped onions. You can even call it a fish salad, it is flavorsome, refreshing and very healthy. To pack the flavors even more, you can add chili peppers, parsley, coriander and perhaps some lemon slices to zest things even more.
This is sweet coconut bread, made with Samoan ingredients and Polynesian flavors. You will find Fa’apapa on almost every breakfast menu. The coconut milk and coconut flakes give this puffy and sweet bread a unique flavor.
After making Fa’apapa, cook it in a thick and creamy coconut caramel sauce, and you’ll have Fa’ausi. The addition of the rich and delicious sauce makes the taste even better, making Fa’ausi one of the most favorite dessert dishes or snacks and is commonly served in different occasions, including both weddings and funerals.
These are mainly dumplings that can be made using various flavors and colors. They can be cooked in caramel sauce, coconut milk and syrups. The different colors of Kopai depend on the ingredients used in making them. Although Koapi’s taste depends on the flavors and ingredients used, the main taste of the dumpling remains the same, and will melt in your mouth.
This is Samoa’s national dish and it’s a simple and delicious dessert. Panipopo are tasty and fluffy buns baked in the sweetest and stickiest coconut cream sauce. The perfect way to serve these buns is by spooning over more sauce in a small shallow bowl, with the side of something hot to drink, the best one would be Samoan cocoa. Panipopo taste even better the following day.
Samoan pancakes are made using flour, salt, sugar, milk, eggs and baking powder. These small balls fried to golden color are usually served for breakfast, with jam, fruit and sometimes whipped cream. Panikeke can be served either plain or with bananas, which are mashed and put into the dough before frying.
Also known as Samoan chop suey, Sapasui was introduced in Samoa by importing it from China. However, over time, the additions and flavors added to the dish, made for a Samoan staple that you must try at least once, if you’re a big fan of noodles.
This easily prepared, delicious and cheap dish is made using vermicelli noodles, sugar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and any type of meat between chicken, beef or pork. You can choose to add fresh vegetables to the Sapasui, such as carrots, cabbage or even broccoli, as well as choosing a side dish of white rice, green bananas or taro.
If you love pineapples, this dessert is for you. A sumptuous custard is made using crushed pineapples to fill these half-moon pastries. Experiencing Paifala was described as life-changing.
10. Koko Alaisa:
Coconut and cocoa rice is a delicious dish that all Samoans grew up eating. It is made with boiled rice, Samoan cocoa grated and adding coconut milk. Koko Alaisa is the ultimate Samoan comfort food, and can be made even better by adding some orange peel in the pot.
How do you feel about banana soup? Well, Suafa’i is made using overripe bananas, boiled with coconut milk, sugar and tapioca pearls, in water. It might not look as the most appealing dish, but it is filled with delicious flavor. Suafa’i can be served either hot or cold, depending on what you prefer and can be considered as breakfast or dessert as well.
12. Masi Samoa:
Otherwise known as Samoa coconut cookies, Masi Samoa are not what they look at all. Made using eggs, flour, coconut milk, baking powder, vanilla, butter and sugar, they offer you a rich heart with butter and coconut. Masi Samoa are great when you spread either jam or butter and enjoy with a side of hot Samoa cocoa.
13. Kale Moa:
This is the Samoan chicken curry, served with fluffy white rice, it’s a must try when in Samoa. Chicken pieces are spiced with curry powder, ginger, onions and garlic to create the perfect balance between sweet, spicy and savory. The chicken is then cooked with flour, oil, water and coconut milk with some vegetables, such as potatoes, celery and carrots.
Coconut milk and caramelized sugar are combined to make a creamy sauce, then tapioca pearls are soaked in the sauce to create this traditional Samoan dessert. Pisua can be eaten as a dessert or a snack in the afternoon, and is usually served in little transparent bowls.
15. Samoan Poi:
To distinguish Samoan Poi from its Hawaiian sibling, this dessert is made using mashed ripe bananas, coconut juice, lemon zest and vanilla. This combination of flavors makes the perfect chilled and refreshing snack that is best served on warm days. It is best to eat Samoan Poi in mere hours from the time it was made.
Tips about Traveling to Samoa (Answering some of the internet’s most asked questions)
1. Is it safe to swim in Samoa?
You need to watch out for strong current and tidal waves in Samoa. Make sure to ask your guide or the locals about the safe swimming spots and which spots to avoid as well.
2. What language do they speak in Samoa?
Samoan and English are the two official languages in Samoa, with more people speaking Samoan than English. You can find a great number of people speaking English in the two main islands working in the hospitality industry, not as much when you go deeper into the villages.
3. What are some Samoan words to learn easily?
These are some Samoan words that you can easily learn before your trip:
“Talofa” means Hello.
“Tofa” means Goodbye.
“Loe” means Yes.
“Leai” means No.
“Fa’afetai” means Thank You.
“Afio mai” means Welcome.
“Tulou lava” means Excuse Me.
4. Do I need a visa to visit Samoa?
Citizens of the United States do not need a visa to visit Samoa, if they’re staying for 90 days or less. A visitor permit that is valid for 60 days, can be obtained upon arrival in Samoa using your passenger arrival card, in these conditions:
- You’re visiting for tourism.
- Have a confirmed return ticket.
- Will be staying less than 90 days in Samoa.
- Have enough money to support you during your time in Samoa.
- Your passport is valid for at least 6 months beyond the time you’re spending in Samoa.
5. How long can I stay in Samoa?
You can stay up to 60 days in Samoa, with the visa issued for you upon arrival. A later extension can be issued for you that will cost about €36. On that note, you will need about a week or may be 10 days to fully soak in the beauty of Samoa, visiting its two islands and living a truly Pacific holiday.
6. What is the difference between Samoa and American Samoa?
Samoa include the western islands of Samoa, now merely known as Samoa, after the split of the islands of Samoa in the 20th century. Western Samoa came under German and New Zealand’s control until it gained independence in 1962, and changed its name with a constitutional amendment in 1997.
American Samoa are the eastern islands of Samoa and were seized by the United States in 1904. Since then, the islands have been known as the American Samoa.
7. Is Samoa cheap to visit?
Unlike other Pacific Islands, Samoa is not only affordable for those seeking luxury travel. You can consider Samoa a simple country, as there aren’t many opportunities to spend a lot of cash. The most spending you can do in Samoa is through staying at a high-end resort and rent a car for the duration of your visit.
Even if you book one of the beach shacks for your stay, otherwise locally known as fales, these have both breakfast and dinner, included in the reservation cost. Other than that, Samoa is quite affordable to vacation in.
8. What is the best time to visit Samoa?
That would be during the dry season and low humidity, from April to October. Due to Samoa’s location near the Equator, the two islands have a full rainy season between November and March. The mountainous nature of the islands means they are often covered with fog and the temperature doesn’t normally go above 30 degrees Celsius.
If you’re planning on visiting Samoa during April or May, the weather would be suitable to enjoy your time. There wouldn’t be huge numbers of tourists during these months, where you can bask in calmer atmospheres. Be sure, however, to take something to shield you from the cool night air.
9. Is it cold in Samoa?
While the weather in Samoa is tropical with humidity in the air all around the year, at night, during the dry weather, there can be a cool breeze at night. Safe to pack something to keep you warm from the cool air.
10. Is it safe to holiday in Samoa?
Samoa is a relatively safe travel destination to visit, with the friendliest of people. The strong community culture and traditions help keep the islands safe and maintain the low crime rate.
11. What do I need to watch out for regarding my safety in Samoa?
Despite the low crime rate, there are several points to watch out for, regarding your safety in Samoa:
- The most common criminal act against tourists is theft.
- While scuba diving, do not leave any valuable items in the rented car.
- At the beach, make sure to safely store your valuables in your bag and tie them to a pole at the beach.
- It’s better to avoid going out, after the dark, alone, especially in the downtown area of the capital, Apia. This is also to protect yourself from stray dogs, as they roam in packs after dark, and are not friendly.
- Even though the cyclone season is from November to April, storms can strike at any time. Ask your hotel’s management for their evacuation plan and where the nearest shelter might be.
- The sea tide in Samoa can be strong, be sure to ask the locals about the safest places to go swimming.
- Have enough knowledge of the signs of tsunamis, as they can occur in Samoa. When you see the signs, right away move to higher grounds, without waiting for official warnings.
- Earthquakes and aftershocks can occur in Samoa as well, upon arrival ask your hotel’s management about the instructions to follow in the event of an earthquake.
- Crowded public gatherings can be demonstrations, try to avoid them.
12. What is the Samoan currency?
The Samoan tālā is the official currency in the country. It is abbreviated by WST where the “W” refers to the word “Western” that used to be in the country’s name.
13. What is the best way to get around Samoa?
The most suitable way to get around Samoa is through renting a car. There are different options for all group sizes, whether you want to rent a van for your group of 16 travelers or a 4×4 car to use for off-road activities.
You can obtain a driver’s license by applying for it at the Transport Enforcement Division in the Ministry of Police or at the Faleolo International Airport, or you can ask the rental car company if they offer obtaining one on-site. Renting a car from the Faleolo International Airport costs WST2, to leave the car parking, and it’s paid with cash only.
14. How much does it cost to rent a car in Samoa?
The average rate of renting a car in Samoa can be around $67 (WST172.77), amounting to $455 (WST1,173.21) in a week.
15. What side of the road do you drive on in Samoa?
Since 2009, drivers in Samoa switched to driving on the left hand side of the road. Despite this, many cars in Samoa still have the driver’s seat on the left side of the car.
16. Is it safe to drive in Samoa?
Usually, driving has its dangers in Samoa. Local drivers don’t adhere by driving laws, nevertheless it’s best to be aware of the local driving laws. It’s extremely dangerous to drive in Samoa at night, as the streets and paths are poorly lit and animals and people can come out of nowhere.
17. If I don’t want to rent a car, how can I get around Samoa?
There are several other options to consider to get around and enjoy Samoa, other than renting a car:
- Public Buses:
Taking a public bus in Samoa is how you get to experience the true life of Samoans, as you immerse yourself deep between them. It’s important to know that buses run on “Island Time” as there aren’t specific schedules for buses in Samoa, so taking the bus might not be the best option if you need to be somewhere at a specified time.
Wave for the bus to stop, since there aren’t any bus stops and the buses are named after the destination it’s headed towards. To get off the bus, you can pull a certain cord in the bus’s roof. You can take a bus right from its terminal at the food market in Fugalei in Apia of from Savalalo flea market. A bus ticket can be WST12 or $5.
If you’d like to experience the great outdoors in Samoa, there are ring roads along the coasts in both islands that are suitable for biking, as well as tracks in the mountains if you’d like a little adventure. You can ask about biking tours, if you’d like to go on something more organized in a certain spot in Samoa.
Some resorts offer a bike-renting service or you can rent one from Outdoor Samoa in both Upolu and Savai’i. It can be a great experience to cycle between the hotels, resorts and fales along the coastline, especially at night to enjoy the BBQ and fruit stalls. There are many swimming spots as well along the coast, but make sure to ask the locals for permission to swim in these spots.
It’s better to head out early on the road when you’re cycling through Samoa, since the heat and humidity can hit hard by midday. Then you can later relax by the pool or on the beach, after the cycling journey. Also, make sure to take a lock for your bike, so it stays where you leave it when you’re off to your swim.
The Samoa Shipping Corporation runs both passenger and car ferries between the two Samoan islands; Upolu and Savai’i. The ferry trip takes between 60 and 90 minutes, and you can board at the Upolu terminal at Mulifanua Wharf or at the Savai’i terminal at Salelologa Wharf.
You can get a VIP ticket for the ferry ride that allows you to access the onboard lounge, that is air-conditioned, and where you can have something to drink with a snack.
Getting a taxi is both an easy and affordable means of transportation in both Upolu and Savai’i. Since taxis in Samoa don’t have a meter system, you should agree with the driver on a specified fare. The fare rate starts at WST3 or $1.16 and if you take a taxi to Apia from Faleolo International Airport will range from WST60 or $24 to WST70 or $28. If you’re taking a small trip around the town, the fare will range between WST3 or $1.16 to WST12 or $5.
One important point to keep in mind is that if you’ve hit it off with the taxi driver, you can actually take their phone number, agree on a daily rate, where he can take you through your time around town, it might turn out to be cheaper than hiring a car. In this regard, driving speed might be much slower than abroad, but drivers in Samoa have to keep up with many hazards while driving.
Get equipped with a helmet and get ready to experience true Samoan traffic. With renting a scooter, you can enjoy the true beauty of Samoa, as with a bike, and immerse yourself in the beautiful nature of this enchanting country.
Samoa is the ideal destination for adventure, breathtaking nature, rich marine life and white sandy beaches. Talofa!