Craving a tropical vacation? There’s plenty of choice in the Pacific Ocean. From Fiji, to the Cook Islands, Tonga, and New Caledonia, there’s plenty of paradise to go around, and you’re well and truly spoiled for choice with the Pacific Islands.
But while visitors flood into Fiji, and fantasize about ancient Moai on Easter Island, there’s a small nation in the heart of Polynesia which might just be the Pacific’s best kept secret.
Bursting at the seams with intense natural beauty, and with a distinct lack of mega-resorts and superficial attractions, Samoa is an undeveloped tropical paradise, and one of the most authentic Pacific societies.
Instead of nightlife in Samoa, you’ll go to bed early, to wake up with the sun. You’ll snorkel with sea turtles before breakfast, trek through lush rainforests before lunch, discover volcanic sinkholes, and spend lazy afternoons in locally owned beach huts, sipping directly from fresh coconuts.
Not yet convinced? Between thundering waterfalls, white sand beaches, and an ancient culture, the following are 5 reasons to visit Samoa; you’ll be completely bewitched!
5 Reasons to Visit Samoa (Because You DESERVE a Tropical Break!)
Intense Natural Beauty
Samoa is a country of nine islands, though you can find some of it’s most intense natural beauty on the main two: Savaii and Upolu. As far as landscapes go, this is a storybook land, with iridescent seas, jade jungles and crystal waterfalls that remain untouched, untamed, and undeveloped.
The ocean is consistently warm and inviting. That perfectly transparent turquoise water you see on the postcards is exactly what you get here in Samoa. In fact, the photos that grace the front of postcards don’t do the reality of the seascape justice.
The predominantly white coral sand makes for picture perfect beach views, and any sediment settles quickly, leaving the water clear and perfect for swimming or snorkelling. Visibility in the water is second to none.
The mountainous interior of the islands is blanketed in tropical rainforest that provides a lush and dramatic backdrop. You can simply enjoy that fabulous view or take on some of Samoa’s beautiful and often challenging hiking trails.
Natural Attractions you Won't Want to Miss in Samoa
➤ Sopo’aga Waterfall: Early in the day is the best time to go, the morning light is soft bringing out the colours of the rainforest. You’ll also be looking directly into the sun later in the afternoon.
➤ To Sua Ocean Trench: A giant swimming hole which formed after two giant sinkholes joined via an ancient lava tube cave. It’s 30 meters deep, and you can climb down using a ladder. There are lush gardens here with cliff top walks, blowholes, sea arches, and rockpools.
➤ Lalomanu Beach: This might arguably be one of the best beaches on Upolu; the white coral sand, warm turquoise waters and views of the smaller islands located off the coast make this a must visit while you’re in Samoa.
➤ Saleaula Lava Fields: The remains of 5 villages which were buried under a massive flow of lava after a 1905 volcanic eruption. You’ll find half buried churches, a virgin grave and lava mounds (imprints of tree etc) as you walk over this fascinating geological expanse.
➤ Alofa’aga Blowholes: Natural coastal spouts that send water high into the air as a result of the tide being forced into underground caves and lava tubes. The water has no-where to go but to come rushing out through gaps that formed from bubbles in the lava as it set.
The Most Authentic Polynesian Society
Fa’a Samoa, or the Samoan way, is the 3000-year-old culture of the Samoan people. It puts village, family and church at the centre of everything they do, and their traditions have changed very little over time.
As you move around the island, you’ll see this traditional culture play out in everyday life. Locals still live in traditional villages, with laws governed by paramount chiefs. This is one of the most traditional Pacific societies, and is a fantastic opportunity to experience the most authentic version of Polynesia that still remains today.
As you make your way around the islands, witnessing local life will emphasise how deeply the traditions here are upheld, and how little the Samoan way has changed with the forces of tourism and technology.
Despite the Germans taking the islands to the west, and the Americans taking the islands to the east (now known as American Samoa) in the late 19th century, and despite New Zealand taking administrative control after the first world war, fife here genuinely remains largely unchanged.
Western Samoa was the first Pacific nation to gain Independence in 1962, and preserving their cultural heritage as been of primary importance ever since. In some parts of the islands you’re “more likely to see someone juggling fire than a house with walls.”
Cultural Attractions you Won't Want to Miss in Samoa
➤ Apia Cultural Center: Run by the Samoa Tourism Board this cultural center offers an immersive introduction into the traditions and cultures of the Samoan people. Traditional arts, aspects of daily life and food preparation are all on display in addition to local song and dance performances.
➤ Old Apia Market: Located on the waterfront this market is a good option if you want to pick up a few souvenirs of your trip, sarongs and carved items.
➤ Immaculate Conception Cathedral: The cathedral is central to Samoan daily life and although the island does not subscribe to a single religion, the Catholic Cathedral in Apia is a beautiful example of the blend between western and local architecture if you have the chance to look inside.
Samoa sits near the equator about half way between New Zealand and Hawaii, so this prime location means you’ll enjoy a balmy average temperature of around 28 degrees all year round. The ocean temperature (for swimming) sits in the low 20s.
There are two distinct seasons in Samoa; the dry season, which runs from May to October and the wet season from November to April. The best time to visit Samoa is during the dry season, but if you don’t mind a bit of rain, the wet season means landscapes are lusher.
Samoa’s climate is hot and humid, so you’ll want to pack lightweight summer clothes for your trip no matter which time of year you visit. There is often a light breeze in the late afternoon to early evening, so you should also pack a light sweater.
Samoa is a very traditional society, and while they are friendly and welcoming towards all tourists, keep in mind that skimpy clothing is likely to offend. Even though it’s hot and humid, when you’re not at the beach, be respectful with your clothing.
There may not be any colossal mega resorts in Samoa, or brand name chains, but the islands are arguably home to some of the Pacific’s most romantic and memorable sleeping arrangements.
Accommodation in Samoa covers all options; if you’re traveling on a budget you can find traditional Samoan beach fales for as little as $30. These are thatched-roofed, raised, open-sided shacks, that usually come with dinner, and a delicious tropical breakfast.
Beach fales are basic, but also very cheap, and right on the beach. You don’t have to be traveling as a couple to appreciate the nostalgia of falling asleep to a blissful Pacific breeze, on a free standing mattress, directly overlooking the sea.
There are also a huge range of holiday homes, budget hotels, and mid-range accommodation in Samoa. If you’re looking for a few more amenities, you then have luxurious beachside resorts, locally owned, that give you both 5 star luxury, and the warmth of Samoan hospitality.
You can book accommodation via the Samoa Tourism website, or if you arrive in Samoa without a booking, visit the tourist office in front of Government Buildings on Beach Road, Apia. Village stays in conservation areas are another option.
Where to Stay in Samoa: Our Recommendations
➤ Aga Reeef Resort: This resort is the ideal base for visiting Upolu’s southern coast. There are excellent snorkelling opportunities in the onsite lagoon; you might even spot a couple of resident turtles in the waters.
➤ Stevenson’s at Manase: A luxury resort on the big island of Savai’i with a secluded beach and reef. Kayaks and Stand Up Paddleboards free, and snorkelling gear and mountain bikes can be hired.
➤ Le Lagoto: Another option on the big island of Savai’i; a boutique resort on a secluded white sand beach, fringed by coconut palms and crystal clear water. The resort has 10 Samoan style bungalows, with modern conveniences but in an intimate, idyllic setting.
➤ Sheraton Beach Resort & Spa: Close by the airport, the Sheraton is a large resort on extensive beachfront and gardens. The pool and swim up bar are excellent, they have a cultural show and dinner onsite, a full spa menu and tours can be arranged.
Thanks to being surrounded by pristine ocean, and blessed with a stable tropical climate, fresh organic food is abundant in Samoa. But in addition to the fresh local produce there are a few local specialties you must try.
The umu is a traditional cooking method, an earth oven of hot stones. Rocks are heated in the fire, and then food covered in layers of banana leaves are placed on the rocks to cook. The food is served piping hot.
It’s a bit like roasting but there are unique dishes prepared this way such as palusami, a dish made from coconut cream and taro leaves. There are no artificial flavours and additives used here, but you’ll be amazed by the natural flavors.
Coconut cream is also a key ingredient in oka, the delicious Samoan raw fish salad. By the time the sun has risen, young men in Samoa have already paddled their canoes out to catch fish; everything from crayfish, to snapper, masimasi, octopus, tuna and more.
Seafood served is always caught that morning in Samoa, and food culture here is treated as a social event that brings together family and friends. Meals are always served with tropical fruits picked that day to add to the freshness.
Where to Eat in Samoa: Our Recommendations
➤ Seabreeze Waterfront Restaurant and Bar: An idyllic leisurely lunch spot, rated for both for its outstanding views and creative chef. Their locally caught sashimi grade tuna is a standout and their mahi mahi with garlic prawns were standout.
➤ The Forest Café: This is a quiet and relaxed place, with the sounds of the river coming from below and bird song all around. Take a table under the roof or sit out at the bar looking down into the ravine below.
➤ Fugalei Market: A daily produce market in Apia, perfect for foodies. Deliciously fresh fruit and vegetables are for sale. Browse through the brightly coloured displays of produce such as Cacao, coconuts, starfruit and taro.
So what are you waiting for?! We have a million more reasons to visit Samoa, though surely you’re convinced by now!
Despite its isolation, Samoa is incredibly accessible, and from Apia to Savai’i, you’ll find a paradise that is safe, sweet and easy to get around. Want help planning your trip? Here is a 7 day itinerary which covers the highlights.
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