Why Samoa is the Best Kept Secret of the South Pacific
Talofa! Samoa, the first country on the planet to witness the sun rising on a new day, every day.
If tropical Samoa has ever enticed you as a holiday destination we would highly recommend it. Samoa is not just the amazing, tropical holiday destination you expect it to be but it is also home to some of the worlds richest culture and poorest villages. Due to the low but rising tourism, Samoa is still vastly untouched by the Western world (compared to other Pacific Islands), making it perfect for offering genuine experiences, family adventures and romantic getaways. The locals are proud of their Country and show this through their generous hospitality, happy smiles and playful, laid back nature.
Our experience has been hard to capture in words alone. We have compiled a video and some pictures to help share glimpses of our unique experience but mostly to inspire and educate you.
We headed to Samoa, in the South Pacific, also known as Western Samoa, for two weeks in January 2014. This is considered the wet, cyclone and cheap season to visit. Our reason for visiting was quite personal as we were invited by some distant relatives to stay with them in their village on Savai’i.
As part of our adventure we traveled around both the two main islands, Savai’i and Upolu.
Savai’i with a population of 42,000 was considerably less westernised and poorer then Upolu but offers a more diverse landscape and sights to see . To get there you must travel by ferry which takes about 80 mins and costs the equivalent of $6 AUD.
Apart from the time spent in the village with our relatives, the only paid accommodation we stayed in was Manase, Regina Beach Fales. It costs us $50 AUD each which included private hut/fale, bedding (mattress, pillow, sheet and mosquito net), dinner and breakfast. We had no booking when we arrived in the late afternoon and they were more than happy to accommodate us at short notice, though I would book in peak tourist season.
We had a lovely time there, with a fale built over a beautiful blue beach and traditional food served for both meals. Our only criticism would be that there was no where to fill up a drink bottle and no shops near by to buy any.
The sites we saw on Savai’i include Afu Aau Waterfall which falls into a deep fresh water swimming hole, Tafua Crater which overlooks the tropical jungle towards the coast, Lava Tube Caves filled with Swallows and mud, Saleaula Lava Field although we didn’t pay to visit the church ruins (it was just more of a drive-by) and Mu Pagoa Waterfall which is the only waterfall in the world that falls straight into the breaking waves of the sea.
But you will find many other unique sights along the way such as pristine black sand beaches and fresh water springs by the ocean.
Keep in mind that all the tourist sights are on private family land and it is likely that a local will come and charge you a few dollars each. This is their culture and their land so please don’t resist.
Upolu is home to the Capitial City Apia, the international airport and 135,000 people.
We (my big family and I), hired a bus for three days and drove around Upolu. We stayed two nights in a village called Lalomanu at the Taufua Beach Fales. I would highly recommend this for young people looking to have a relaxed experience while getting to know fellow tourists at the restaurant/bar ($2 AUD local beers), swimming in crystal clear blue water and kayaking over the reef. Lalomanu is the most easterly point of mainland Samoa, so you’ll be sure to capture a great sunrise AND sunset from you private beach fale. In low season we paid $70 AUD a night for a fale with a private ensuite (highly recommended), breakfast, dinner and bedding.
The most popular tourist attraction on Upolu would have to be the To Sua Ocean Trench. Unfortunately it was raining during our visit but the water is warm and experience is really unique. Visitors must be careful of the strong currents while swimming. There is lovely gardens and picnic tables to make a day of it, however no where secure to leave valuable items while you are swimming.
Another waterfall we visited include Fuipisia Falls, 55m high. Worth a look and a photo.
In Apia itself we spent time at the Fish Market and the Savalalo Flea Market where we bargained a little and bought our souvenirs before heading to the airport on our way home. You can find a selection of traditional handicrafts, clothing, sarongs and jewellery.
Be sure to visit Aggie Grays Hotel at some point during your holiday. Not only is it a fancy restaurant, accommodation and bar but it is a land mark hotel that became famous during World War II. Be sure to dress up, is it quite fancy.
Robert Louis Stevenson Museum can be found just a few kilometers from the town center. R.L.S. a famous author, lived in Samoa for the five years before his death. Unfortunately we didn’t make it there before it closed for the day.
If you are keen for some western food in Apia that’s not too pricey, try Skippy’s Restaurant found on the main road, Beach road.
We learnt that Samoa has plenty to discover; I am sure you will love it too and agree that it is the best kept secret of the South Pacific. Please comment and share if you like what you have read.