A carefree tropical paradise in the southern Pacific Ocean, Samoa offered us an ideal mix of relaxation and adventure. There are plenty of things to do in Samoa despite it being less developed than some of its island neighbours. Actually, its the natural attractions in Samoa, along with the friendly Samoan people that make a visit to this island group so special.
We stayed on the main island is Upolu, which is home to the capital city of Apia. Of course there are plenty of beaches in Samoa, it’s a tropical island. However, this page is focused on activities. So, aside from visiting the beach, visitor’s favourite things to do in Samoa include swimming into a cave, jumping into a trench, visiting a famous author’s home, viewing waterfalls, shopping in markets, and feeding turtles.
Listed here, in no particular order, are what we believe are the top 10 best things to do in Samoa, including a few that are well off the traditional tourist path. Important: If you are going to drive in Samoa, be sure to read the driving tips towards the end of this article.
Malua Turtle Feeding Pool
Not well signposted, a GPS will make it easier to find the Malua turtle feeding pond. It’s not a commercial venue. Therefore, the turtles here are wild, yet used to taking food from people. There is no entry fee, although you will need to bring food.
Samoan food is based on the tropical fruits and vegetables grown on the island, and like me, the turtle’s love papaya. We stopped at a local shop along the road and picked up a papaya on the way to see the turtles. If you do the same, don’t forget to bring a knife to cut it up. The turtles will eat right out of your hands. We did not see anyone swimming with turtles. Samoa
Robert Louis Stevenson Home and Grave Site
Robert Louis Stevenson spent his last five years in Samoa. He is buried on top of the hill overlooking his home. The rains were too heavy on the day we visited to make the hike to his gravesite. The guided tours of the house are frequent and informative. Stevenson is the author of Treasure Island and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, amongst other great novels. Don’t miss Sarah’s photos of the Robert Louis Stevenson home.
Piula Cave Pool*
These freshwater pools are loaded with colourful fish and pass under a church on the north side of Upolu. At the cost of only 5 Tala (about $2.50), it was a bargain and one of our Samoa highlights. Take caution on entry as some of the rocks are slippery. Also, the water is much colder than we expected.
Bahai Temple Samoa
The Bahai Temple is another interesting and free stop. It is worth the visit if you are driving on the Cross Island Road (from Robert Louis Stevenson Museum). Be sure to enter both the temple and the visitor centre. The grounds are well manicured and full of tropical beauty. Plus, it has clean toilets.
Fuipisia Falls is located on private family-owned property. Visitors to Fuipisia Falls pay a small fee to the family to view the waterfall. Through the family, we got a glimpse into the Samoan culture and what it’s like living in Samoa.
It’s a short walk through the property, and we were escorted to the waterfall by the children living in the house. The two small boys took my hands and helped me across the stream on the way to the falls.
This is one of four main Samoa Waterfalls. The others are:
This one is 7km off the main road and requires a 4WD vehicle to access. Less frequently visited, it is also a swimming hole.
A series of cascading waterfalls separated by swimming holes, and surrounded by lush gardens.
The island’s tallest waterfall (although I couldn’t find the perfect spot to get a photo).
To Sau Ocean Trench*
Translated to English, To Sau means giant swimming hole. It’s more than that. It’s the nation’s most iconic destination, comprised of two huge holes connected by an ancient lava tube cave that visitors can swim through.
Personally, I skipped this leap, but jumping into the lava caves at To Sua Ocean Trench is one of my teen’s Samoa highlights. Look at her, she is fearless, like the rest of her group.
Apia Flea Market
Our other teen loves shopping and couldn’t resist getting a dress and a few other goodies at the Apia Flea Market. This is the spot to pick up your Pacific island souvenirs, clothing, and sarongs. It is filled with both locals and tourists and is located right across the street from the main bus stop in town. Remember to negotiate the best price.
**UPDATE: In Jan 2016, Apia Flea Market was engulfed in flame and destroyed. A new temporary flea market opened nearby.
Three More Things to Do in Samoa
We were only on the island of Upolu for a week and we spent a good portion of that time relaxing and enjoying the resort life. Therefore, we couldn’t do it all. Here are some of the Samoa highlights that we opted to missed, along with our reasons for skipping each one.
Heavy rains while were there made the slide pools dangerous, otherwise, we would have given it a try.
Both of our girl’s hold Jr. PADI diver’s certification and the best diving in Samoa is deeper than their certification allows.
Surfing and big game fishing in Samoa
Honestly, we were too busy relaxing.
Where to Stay in Samoa
There are plenty of options of where to stay on the island of Upolu ranging from luxury to a simple fale. We made a great choice and spent a week in tropical paradise at Saletoga Sands Resort. While our free standing villa offered everything we could want including an outdoor (hidden and secure) shower, it was the grounds and staff that really made this a perfect choice. Read our review of Saletoga Sands Resort.
Renting a Car on Samoa
The resort we stayed at included a rental car in our package. Had it not, we would have used Rentalcars.com. We have used them successfully in other parts of the world, and to date, have always been happy with our decision.
Tips on Driving in Samoa
- Drive on the left – back in 2009 the entire country switched sides of the road from driving on the right to the current left-hand side.
- Legally, to drive on the island, you need a Samoa license which is simply a validation of your driver’s license. I am not sure how many visitors bother to get the licence before they drive.
- Allocate extra travel time; speed limits are low.
- Take caution; there are frequently people, dogs, pigs and chickens on the roads.
- If possible, avoid driving at night.
- Local custom when approaching a pedestrian or another vehicle you intend to pass from behind is to tap the horn once. After you pass another vehicle, tap twice to say “thanks”, and the driver will typically reply with a tap.
- Watch out for fords after the rain (A ford is a shallow place in a river or stream allowing one to walk or drive across.)
A Trip to the Hospital Reminded Us Why We Need Travel Insurance
On the flip side (the anti-highlights), one of our girls required a trip to a Samoa hospital due to a bug bite. While the hospital was shockingly affordable, we were glad to have Travel Insurance with World Nomads. In fact, we don’t leave New Zealand without it.
Albom Adventures readers can Save 5% on Travel Insurance with World Nomads* when you Use this Code: ALBOMADV
*For our Canadian and US travellers, unfortunately, due to financial services laws, we cannot provide a discount.
This promotional code cannot be used with any other discount offer,
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