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Samoa is one of my favourite countries in the world.
It is a quintessential Pacific island with blue seas surrounded white sand beaches ringed around an emerald green interior. The people are friendly, the food is good and it is easy to travel around. What more could you want from a trip?
Although Samoa is often seen as being at the end of the world, or at the very least the other side of the world, from most people in Europe and the Americas, if you are travelling around Australia or New Zealand, a trip to Samoa would be an excellent side trip.
If you want somewhere to relax and unwind whilst enjoying genuine pacific hospitality, Samoa should be top of your list.
Once you’ve decided to head to this beautiful Pacific Island, what should you do when you get there?
The Top Things You Must Do In Samoa:
Spend one day in Apia
Apia is the capital of Samoa and your flight will almost certainly arrive at Apia airport. Get over any travel tiredness by spending a day in the capital. The only structure of note is The Immaculate Conception Cathedral of Apia, a blue roofed building that can be seen for miles around.
The governments buildings are of note for their size but not their architecture. The parade ground outside is used for markets and the independence celebrations these coincide with your trip.
If you are looking for western food or bars this is the only place in the country where you will find them. Head down to the marina for a fix of boats and beer with western standards.
Samoan Cultural Centre
Whilst many cultural centres I’ve been to have felt like a cheesy dance show at a kids party, the singing and dancing at the Samoa Cultural Centre in central Apia (opposite the Immaculate Conception Cathedral) shows the pride the Samoans have for their culture.
One day on a beach
Would you be in the South Pacific if you didn’t go to a beach?
Spend at least one day relaxing on the beach, or even better, a hammock on the beach.
Any beach in Samoa is amazing and most have excellent snorkelling just out to sea as well. Be aware that some beaches are privately owned and you will need to pay a small fee to go to them such as the Palolo Deep Marine Reserve in Apia (which has excellent snorkelling by the way!). If you are staying at their fale or a resort you won’t have to pay this.
Stay in a fale
I don’t think it’s much of an understatement to say that staying in a fale is a life changing experience.
Fales, the traditional open sided thatched homes that many Samoans still live in, can be rented out to tourists. Some have advertising, whilst sometimes I pulled up and asked a family if I could stay. Within minutes, other family members had arranged a mattress, mosquito net and pillow for me to spend the night. Going to sleep with the sound of the sea gently lapping the beach just a few metres from you is how everybody should be going to sleep every night.
Waking up in the morning to a purple orange sky without having to draw back curtains, and the same sound of the sea nustling up to the sand. When you do emerge from your mosquito net, you’re standing on a Samoan beach in the South Pacific. If only every Monday could start like that.
To Sua Trench
The To Sua Trench is probably the most photographed spot in Samoa, and rightly so. The natural phenomenon, caused by the sea eroding lava tubes over millions of years really is a beautiful sight. If you are brave enough to climb down the rickety bamboo ladder, you can swim in the sink hole, but beware of the strong tidal surge coming from the sea.
If swimming isn’t your thing, enjoy the immaculately manicured gardens and native plants surrounding the area. This is the most popular tourist destination on the island and one of the few that charges to visit, but it is worth every penny.
Samoa has countless waterfalls for you to enjoy. Some are best viewed from a distance, whereas others are best enjoyed by jumping in! One of the best to see from a distance is the fantastically named Papapapaita Falls which is in the middle of the island on the cross island road. Dropping more than 100m, it is one of the tallest in Samoa and a beautiful sight. It doesn’t cost anything to visit as you can just pull over on the road side and see it.
Other waterfalls of note are the Fuipisia Falls and Togitogiga which you can go and swim in. The fresh water is fantastic to cool off in on a hot day!
Note: to swim in the waterfalls normally costs $5-10WST.
Road trip the Island
Hiring a car for a road trip is a great way to see all of the island of Upolu. There are a few places to hire a car in Samoa but you must have a Samoan drivers licence to get one.
Don’t fret, show another valid licence (Australian, New Zealand and EU drivers licences are valid) and they will transfer your details to another piece of paper for $20WST which is now your Samoan licence. Stop off at any beaches you want to and meet some of the friendliest locals in the world. You also have the chance to see the Bahaii Cathedral and Robert Louis Stevenson museum set in the grounds of his former home.
Go to Church
I never have been religious but heading to church was an incredible experience in Samoa. The churches are pure white, as is the dress of everyone in the congregation. Wear your best clothes and listen to the hymns sung with gusto. Afterwards me and the small group I was with got invited to a meal with teh village elders. I’m not saying this will happen to you but it just goes to show the incredible hospitality of the Samoans.
Can’t decide where to go? Check out: Which Pacific Island should you visit
This is by far an exhaustive list of everything there is to do in Samoa. I haven’t even touched on going to Samoa’s second island of Savai’i. My best advice would be to slow down, travel at island time and enjoy the experience of spending time in one of the most beautiful places on the planet.
Dan is an avid traveller from London. His first big adventure was in 2010 living in Malaysia for 3 months and becoming a divemaster. He has been on the road almost constantly since 2015 travelling to destinations that aren’t on the mainstream tourist trail.