Authored by Toni Broome
Does a tropical holiday sound good about now? This week long itinerary will take you from your arrival at Faleolo Airport, through many of the natural wonders, fabulous scenery, culture and relaxation that Samoa has on offer.
Explore the two main islands of Upolu and Savaii while experiencing the best of the rainforest, waterfalls, beaches and cultural attractions along the way.
What to do in Samoa | A 7-day Itinerary
Day 1 – Arrival in Samoa
Most flights into Samoa arrive before sunrise but even at this early hour there’s a warm welcome. The music of the Pacific wafts through from the arrival’s hall to great you as you clear immigration.
You’ll receive an automatic visa for 60-days but in this 7-day itinerary we’ll show you the highlights and still leave time to relax and enjoy them.
If you need to stay connected during your trip your first stop should be the Digicel kiosk on the outside of the terminal just past where the taxi drivers are waiting.
You can pick up a 5 Gb SIM card for T20 (around $10 Australian) that’s valid for 7-days. They’ll set your phone up for you and it works well across both Upolu and Savaii islands.
Travelling to Samoa with Virgin Australia
Flying to Samoa with Virgin Australia is a great option as every fare includes food and 23kg checked baggage. With direct flights from Sydney and Brisbane, you’ll be able to find yourself a great-priced fare.
If you want to plan the perfect Samoan holiday, you can call Virgin Australia on 13 15 16, or visit virginaustralia.com.
Getting Around in Samoa
Image: Sunrise at Lalomanu on Day 1 in Samoa
To get around the island you can either rent a car, take a resort shuttle or a taxi to your accommodation. To see as much as possible in 7-days while keeping it relaxing, we recommend basing yourself for 2 days on the south-east coast of Upolu, 2 nights on Savaii Island and 3 nights on the northern coast of Upolu.
Upon arrival, head south through the centre of the island and then east along the coast. The drive will take around 2 hours and the early morning light reveals the lush scenery and village life as you drive through.
Children in school uniform wave as they walk along the road, pigs and dogs amble along and a crazy road running bird makes frequent crossing in front of the vehicle.
If you’ve opted to drive yourself it’s worth knowing that they drive on the left. The roads are mostly very good but you do need to stay alert, there are less cars but more obstacles than there are at home.
Where to Stay (Nights 1 & 2)
Image: Free kayaks at Aga Reef Resort
There’s a variety of accommodation nearby to suit all travel styles. From the budget friendly Lalomanu Fales just a few steps from the ocean, to the luxurious Seabreeze Resort for a romantic couple’s getaway.
We personally recommend the Aga Reef Resort as an ideal base for visiting Upolu’s southern coast. The resort offers excellent snorkelling opportunities in the onsite lagoon; you might even spot a couple of turtles who are resident in the waters.
If you prefer being on the water to in it, there are also kayaks to grab when you want to venture a little further out and get a different perspective. From the spacious island villa decks you overlook the lagoon, and with the mountain and rainforest backdrop immediately behind it would be hard to beat that view.
After dropping your bags at your accommodation grab your beach bag and take advantage of the facilities at your resort for a while. Once you’ve refreshed from you flight it’s time to explore more of the area.
Lalomanu (South East Coast)
Lalomanu Beach might arguably be one of the best beaches on Upolu and it’s only a 10-minute drive away from Aga Reef Resort. 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.
If all the fresh air has you feeling like lunch by now there is an open café right on the beach where you can buy drinks or a meal. The poke bowl made with fresh local tuna is delicious and a good light choice if you’re headed right back into the water. You can also rent kayaks and snorkelling gear from here.
You will notice that outside of the resorts you will pay a fee to the village to visit almost all beaches and attractions in Samoa. The fee at Lalomanu Beach is T10 per vehicle. In other places the fee is stated per person or you may need to ask.
Later in the afternoon head back down the road to the resort and have a cocktail on the deck overlooking the infinity pool and watch the magic as the sun goes down over the water.
Day 2 – Waterfalls & Swimming Holes
Pack: Swimwear / Towel / Sunscreen / Hat / Drinking water
Rested and refreshed, it’s time to enjoy a swim and leisurely breakfast at your resort before heading out for the day. This part of Upolu Island has some fabulous scenery and today we’ll experience some of its highlights.
While tap water isn’t considered unsafe to drink in Samoa it is suggested that you drink bottled water instead. Most resorts will provide a couple of bottles to your room each day but you will need to supplement that to stay hydrated in the tropical environment.
On the way to the To Sua Ocean trench you’ll pass Sopo’aga Waterfall lookout, pictured above. 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.
There’s a small but pretty garden of tropical plants here labelled in their local, English and botanical names. The view to the falls is across the ravine and there are spots to sit and enjoy the garden. Entry fee is T$5 per person.
To Sua Ocean Trench
The To Sua Ocean trench is where we suggest spending the next few hours. As you walk across the lawn you’ll be drawn to the ocean view but the location of the trench isn’t immediately obvious.
You’ll see the sturdy fences first before the impressive view down into these massive sink holes with their emerald green water. Seeing the photos just does not do them justice.
Leave your gear at the top and follow the path down. There’s a sturdy wooden ladder to climb down to the small platform at the base and you swim out from there. The sun barely reaches down here so the water feels a bit cooler but it’s fed from the sea so it is probably more perception than reality.
The Samoan islands are volcanic and the To Sua trench formed as sink holes during an ancient eruption. As unique as the swimming hole is, there is more to this area and you could easily spend half a day or more here.
Along the cliff edge looking out to the ocean there are small fale and shaded seats. To the right is a walk way along the cliff face and down to the left is the ocean pools and archway.
Entry to To Sua is T$20 per person.
Lunch: Seabreeze Waterfront Restaurant and Bar
For an idyllic leisurely lunch spot, rated for both for its outstanding views and creative chef you can’t go past the Seabreeze Waterfront Restaurant and Bar.
This adults-only resort offers guests a complete experience from airport to airport but the Waterfront Restaurant and bar is open to anyone for lunch and that’s a view you will not want to leave.
Their locally caught sashimi grade tuna is a standout and their mahi mahi with garlic prawns was another delicious recommendation from the team here.
For the rest of the afternoon grab your towel and beach bag again and settle in on Vavau Beach. At the western end there is an almost enclosed swimming area contained by the shape of the beach and a small island just offshore.
It’s a rougher track to drive down to this one and there are no facilities but there’s every chance you’ll have the beach to yourself and that’s more than worth the detour.
Going back 10 years there was a resort here that was destroyed in a storm and never rebuilt but the palm tree fringed beach is every bit as spectacular as it always was.
Arriving back to the resort in the late afternoon take a snorkel out over the reef or relax at your villa before happy hour and sunset.
Day 3 – Savaii – The Big Island
After a leisurely breakfast, checkout of Aga Reef Resort and leave the south coast. The drive back through the centre of the island to Mulifanua Wharf will take around 2 hours and is another chance to see village life in action.
The Lady Samoa ferry leaves from the north west of Upolu at 12pm and takes 75-minute to make the crossing to Savaii Island. You can travel across with your vehicle or walk on as a foot passenger and organise a driver at the wharf on the other side.
Savaii is the largest of Samoa’s 10 islands but it is less populated and more spread out than Upolu. Accommodation and attractions are distributed around the coast with the north being particularly beautiful.
Where to Stay: 2 Nights in Savaii
Arriving early afternoon, head directly to your accommodation. The Savaii coast is beautiful, and we recommend you allocate plenty of your time to spend on the beach, in and on the water. Most of the resorts will offer everything you need on your doorstep.
A couple of options up on the north coast are the Le Lagoto Beach Resort and Stevenson’s at Manase which are around an hour’s drive from the ferry. Both are located on pristine beach frontage with villas just steps away from the sand and great restaurants.
Stevenson’s at Manase has kayaks and stand up paddle boards (SUPs) available for use free of charge and snorkelling gear and mountain bikes can be hired from reception. End the day with cocktails and dinner here on the beachfront.
Day 4 – Treetops, Lava Flows & More Beaches
Northern Savaii has many beautiful beaches but today we are headed to what may be the best of the bunch, we’ll take a bird’s eye look at the rainforest and see first-hand what being a volcanic island really means.
Saleaula Lava Fields
Mt Matavanu didn’t exist until 1905 when it erupted. Flows of lava ultimately covered 5 villages in solid lava rock, Saleaula being one of the villages blanketed, in some places up to 1.5 metres deep in molten.
Walking through the area today you can see where nature is slowly reclaiming what it destroyed, with plants sprouting from cracks in the lava fields. The London Mission church walls are still standing as they did more than a century ago and further along the track, you’ll see a deep hole with the colourful leaves of the crotons planted there peaking up above the lava.
This is called the ‘virgins grave’ and was the burial site of a high chief’s young daughter. Locals believe that these 2 sites being spared was a miracle and have returned and resettled here despite the difficult terrain.
If you have time you can walk the lava field out to the coast where the volume of molten rock extended the shoreline.
Falealupo Canopy Walk
It’ll take around 90 minutes to drive the 60 km from the lava fields to Falealupo in the north west of the island. It’s often left out of day trip itineraries because of the time and distance, but a visit is well worth it.
The first stop is the Falealupo canopy walk. Take the short walk down from the carpark to the first tower. It’s solid and you feel secure climbing up then across the swinging rope bridge into the tower built around the huge 230-year-old strangler fig tree on the other side.
The platforms are within the forest canopy so the outlook is into the trees surrounding you. From here you can climb directly down that tree or cross the swing bridge back again.
The entrance fee is T$20 per person.
The main attraction at Falealupo is the beach. It’s true that every time another beach comes into view in Samoa it seems even more picture perfect than the last, but I really think this one would have to be near the top of the list.
You can stay in a beach fale here or just rent one for the day to save baking too much in the hot sun. There are also toilets and changing facilities here.
The water is turquoise, warm and crystal clear for swimming or snorkelling and the long white coral sand beach lined with palm trees is absolutely stunning. You won’t want to get out of the water.
In the late afternoon head back to your accommodation for happy hour and dinner.
Day 5 – Beaches & Blowholes
Wake up to the sound of waves lapping on the beach and grab a SUP for a quick paddle before heading across to breakfast. It’s a perfect way to start the day enjoying the soft early morning rays.
Bonus points if you’re up in time to watch the sun come up from the board. The sunrises, like the sunsets, in Samoa are just gorgeous.
There’s still a couple of hours until checkout so take a cycle and explore the local villages, or snorkel out spotting the colourful reef fish and perhaps a turtle or two.
Today you’ll be making the trip back to Upolu. Before heading back across to the main island, continue on southwest to the village of Taga and the Alofa’aga blowholes.
Ferry to Upolu via the Alofa’aga Blowholes
The natural coastal spouts of the Alofa’aga blowholes offer quite the spectacle. They send water high into the air as a result of the tide being forced into underground caves and lava tubes, with no-where to go but to come rushing out through gaps that formed from bubbles in the lava as it set.
The force of the spout is determined by the height of the tide and weather conditions so aim for full tide if possible – but expect to get wet!
It’s about 20 minutes from the carpark near the blowholes to the ferry but allow enough time to buy your tickets, it starts boarding well in advance. Catch the early afternoon ferry from Salelologa at 2pm then relax and enjoy the scenery on the 75-minute crossing to Mulifanua.
Where to Stay: 3 Nights in Upolu
For the final 3 nights this itinerary focuses on Upolu’s northern coast. There are a range of resorts here, though our favorite is the Sheraton Beach Resort and Spa.
Located close to the airport, the Sheraton is a large resort situated 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 from here.
A resort of a similar size and full-service offering, again with good beach and pool options is the Taumeasina Island Resort in Apia.
Spend the afternoon relaxing on the resort beach before moving to the swim up bar in the pool for cocktail hour. Watch the sunset from the patio in front of your room and then head down for the cultural show and dinner.
Day 6 – Culture, Cathedrals and Markets
Apia is the capital of Samoa and the centre of town can be quite intense, but there are a few things to see and do while you’re here. A great first stop for the day is the Samoa Cultural Village / Apia Cultural Center.
The Apia Culture Centre is run by the Samoa Tourism Board and gives an immersive introduction for visitors into the traditions and cultures of the Samoan people. Hospitality is part of the Samoan way and the centre provides a way for visitors to understand and be respectful of that culture.
Traditional arts, aspects of daily life and food preparation are all on display in addition to local song and dance performances. The guides are fun and entertaining, it’s interactive and suitable for the whole family.
Markets & Cathedral
Foodies will love a visit to the daily Fugalei market, a produce market in town where deliciously fresh fruit and vegetables are for sale. Browse through the brightly coloured displays of produce such as Cacao, coconuts, starfruit and taro.
There are also some souvenir and clothing items for sale, but about a 10-minute walk away you’ll find the 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.
The cathedral is central to Samoan daily life and although the island does not subscribe to a single religion, the Catholic Cathedral in the centre of town is a beautiful example of the blend between western and local architecture if you have the chance to look inside.
Day 7 – Sliding Rocks & a Rainforest Café
Wake up and have breakfast at the resort. After breakfast take the short drive out to the Papase’ea sliding rock just 15 minutes from town. You’ll be getting wet today so make sure you pack your swimsuit and a towel.
There are facilities to get changed near the carpark at the top, and you’ll then walk down the 100-odd steps through the garden to the series of small waterfalls below. The rock face has been worn smooth by the force of water over time creating natural slides at varying heights.
If you decide not to take on the adrenaline slides then the rock pools at the base are still a worthwhile visit. It’s open 7-days and entrance fees are T$5 per person.
If you’ve worked up an appetite on those steps and climbing over the rocks, stop at the Rainforest Café for lunch. 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.
Robert Louis Stevenson Museum and Gardens
Vailima was the Samoan home of Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson best known for works including Treasure Island, Kidnapped and Dr Jeckell and Mr Hyde. He was called Tusitala in Samoan, the writer of stories, and although he only spent a couple of years in Samoa the country appears to have loved him as much as he did it.
The tour of Vailima and the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum is very well done, scripted to include a lot of information about the property and family in a lively and energetic delivery.
Afterwards you can wander back through the house and gardens or hike up the hill behind to his tomb. The longer route is less steep but may take a couple of hours to the top so remember to carry water.
The rest of the afternoon and evening of the last day on the itinerary is spent at the resort getting in that last swim, snorkel or perhaps indulging in a final massage at the spa before the flight home in the morning.
Seven days is a great amount of time for exploring the highlights of Samoa at a relaxed and enjoyable pace. With minimal commercialisation and an unspoilt natural environment there is a lot to love about this slice of paradise.
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