A Guide to Samoa
Know Before You Go
- Don't wear bathing suits in Apia or the villages. It's considered disrespectful to the local culture. You'll also need to cover up if you plan on attending church.
- Pack light-weight clothing. It will help you stay cool during the day, and warm in the cooler evenings.
- Avoid walking through the villages during the prayer curfew in the evening. Sa lasts for 10-20 minutes between 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. You'll need to wait until you've heard three bells before you can continue on your way.
- Sunday is the day of rest in Samoa. While attractions will still be open for tourists, you'll need to be quiet and travel slowly through the villages.
- Practice the correct etiquette when sitting in a fale. It's considered disrespectful to point your feet at others. Instead, cross your legs, tuck your feet away or cover them with a mat.
- Ask for permission before exploring a piece of land. Most areas are the property of a village, family or individual and you might have to pay a small entrance fee.
Getting Around Samoa
- The best way to get around Samoa is with a car. You'll be able to explore the island at your own pace and rentals are an affordable option. It's advised to pre-book your vehicle before you arrive, as there are a limited amount available on the islands.
- Taxis are abundant and cheap to use. However, the drivers don't work off meters so you'll need to negotiate a price before you get in the car. Trips around town should cost between SAT 3 to 12 depending on the length of your journey.
- If you want to get a taste of the local life, take the local bus. All the vehicles are marked with their destination, and there are no official bus stops. All you need to do is wave down the driver and pull the cord inside the bus to ring a buzzer when you want to get off.
- For trips between the Samoan Islands, the best option is to take a ferry from one of the main islands. Tickets cost around SAT 12 per person or SAT 6 for children.
Samoa Cities and Islands
Apia is the capital city of Samoa, located on the island of Upolu.
It's the island nation's only bustling metropolis and is home to the majority of Samoa's population.
While most travellers use it as a springboard to the more remote destinations, the city still has its charms.
Visit the colourful food market to stock up on fresh fruit and go souvenir hunting at the flea market. You'll find everything from kava bowls to authentic Samoan music.
Apia is also home to The Robert Louis Stevenson Museum. The author lived in Samoa for five years until his death. The museum in his honour is a must visit for bibliophiles, and its highlight is visiting the library where he penned 14 of his novels in 4 years.
Savaii is the largest island in Samoa. It's home to 24% of the population and is deeply traditional. Not much English is spoken on this island, but it's a must visit if you want to experience the more authentic side of Samoa and escape the Internet Cafes and McDonald's found in Apia.
While it's not as developed as Upoli, it won't disappoint. Its coastline changes between black volcanic ash, pristine white beaches and dramatic cliffs - a dream come true for any photographer or tropical island junkie.
Come to Savaii for the slower pace of life, and stay for the excellent scuba diving sites, historical Polynesian sites and the impressive blowholes.
If you really want to get off the grid and disconnect from the modern world - head to Manono. It's Samoa's third most populated island and takes less than two hours to explore on foot.
Manono's top attractions are its archaeological sites. Make sure you visit the ancient 12-pointed star mound on the island's highest peak and the Grave of 99 stones. Each stone represents the wives of Samoa's great chief Vaovasa.
One of the best ways to experience the island is to live and sleep like a local. Make your way to the eastern side of Manono and stay in one of the traditional open-air beach fales.
Top Attractions in Samoa
Palolo Deep National Marine Reserve
The Palolo Deep Nature Marine Reserve is a must-visit for wildlife lovers. Located between Vaiala Beach and Apia's harbour it's famous for its sudden drop into a deep blue hole.
Inside, you'll find a myriad of tropical fish and beautiful walls of coral. It's best visited during high tide and is one of the top places to go diving, snorkelling or swimming in Samoa.
If you didn't pack your own snorkelling gear, you can rent some on site. Masks cost about USD 5, and a snorkel is USD 2. There are also showers, changing rooms and toilets nearby.
Located near the village of Taga is Samoa's most impressive natural attraction.
The alofaaga blowholes are created by powerful waves pushing through a series of lava tubes. The result is hundreds of feet of water being propelled into the air that's a magnificent sight to behold. It's also worth paying WST 10 to have the locals throw coconuts in the holes and watch them get blasted in the air.
If you have the time, make your way to the nearby blowholes of Pa Sopaia Cave. Legend has it the cave is an ancient pathway to the Devil's Haden at Cape Mulinu'u, the final meeting place before spirits can enter the Spirit World.
Saleaula Lava Fields
The Saleaula Lava Fields are one of Samoa's most popular attractions. Located along the north coast, visitors can walk through the ruins of the Saleaula village that was destroyed by a volcanic eruption between 1905 and 1911.
The most impressive ruins are a concrete Methodist church and a grave of a Catholic nun. Local legend believes the tomb was spared destruction because the girl was so pure the lava run around it.
To get here, you can either hire a car, take a taxi or make use of the island's public buses. The best part? There's no charge to explore the ruins.
Wetlands Sanctuary at Satoalepai Village
Head to the wetlands sanctuary at Satoalepai Village and get up close with sea turtles.
Endangered after years of hunting, the locals came together to give this species a second chance. The sanctuary is home to at least half a dozen turtles where they are kept until adulthood and then released.
The major drawcard for tourists is the opportunity to swim with these ancient creatures. If you go at feeding times, you might get to help.
You can also find turtles around Namua Island near Lalomanu Beach. Get there in the early morning or evening, grab your snorkel gear and see if you can spot some near the edge of the coral reef.
Papaseea Sliding Rocks
Located 6km from Apia, the Papaseea Sliding Rocks is set inside a beautiful garden. It's one of the best places to go in Samoa for families or adventurous travellers.
During a 100 step walk to the rockpools, you'll pass waterfalls and lush foliage. Once there, you'll have three different natural water slides to choose from with the highest boasting a 5-metre drop.
Keep in mind that if you're visiting Samoa during the dry season, you will need to check that the water is deep enough. If it's not, the rockpools are still a great spot for a swim and a picnic.
Airports in Samoa
Faleolo International Airport
Faleolo International Airport is located 40 km from Apia, the capital city of Samoa. It services flights from the United States, Australia and New Zealand and is used by major airlines like Fiji Airways and Air New Zealand.
Getting to and from Faleolo International Airport
Take a taxi from the airport. Trips to Apia will cost around SAT 80, and you'll need to confirm the price with your diver before starting the journey.
There are also airport shuttles that service all the major resorts and hotels on the island. You can pre-book your spot online or once you arrive at the kiosks after Customs.
If your flight arrives during the day, you can take the local bus into Apia from the airport. The fare will cost you SAT 5, and the buses stop running at 5:00 p.m.