Samoa is one of the most interesting places I have been in the world. The people are warm, the islands are sunny and it is a trip back into time in many ways. It is like living “off the grid” and what backpacking was like before mass tourism.
It is a nation that I have been to several times and I have had an overall positive experience while in the Samoan Islands. I find it be very contrast because you are just 23 miles from the United States but culturally, you are in a whole new world.
Being a former colony of New Zealand, the main source of tourism is either Samoans living overseas coming home or New Zealanders. The journey from the United States is quite long and requires a stopover in Nadi or Auckland.
Since I lived in American Samoa at the time, going to Faleolo International Airport was just a twenty minute ride on Inter Island Air (no longer in operation). In many cases, Samoa is a great addition to a Fiji trip or a New Zealand adventure.
If you do want to come to the Samoan Islands as your main destination, Fiji Airways serves the country with a short layover in Nadi, Fiji.
Main roundabout in Apia, Samoa!
Apia : Center of Samoan Life
When arriving in Samoa, you will end up in the town of Apia. It is the center of all things Samoan. All travel spreads out from it, all commerce happen from it, and anything western must be got in it (if it is in the country). The bottom line is you will probably end up spending your first and last night in Apia.
The town actually has a lot of pretty cool stuff in it. There is the famous Robert Louis Stevenson house where the iconic author was laid to rest. This is a museum that is owned by the Mormons and they have done quite the job restoring it. There is a 20 Tala entry fee related to the museum.
Papase’ea Sliding Rocks
One of the most popular things close to Apia is the Papase’ea Sliding Rocks. While this depends greatly on the rainfall, it can a cheap way to spend the afternoon. After climbing down a lot of stairs, you will come to a mighty rushing flow of water. If the rainfall has been enough, it will create a slide down the rocks that is a blast. The fee of 5 Tala is asked by the village.
A stay in Apia would not be complete without a trip to the Palolo Deep Marine Reserve at the edge of town. It is just a few minutes from downtown (aka McDonalds) by taxi and well within walking distance. This is an amazing place to swim and have some barbecue.
When you are ready to go to the beach, just head over to the bus terminal that is by the old market in and look for the bus going to either Lalomanu or Siumu.
Sunset at Lalomanu, Samoa
South Coast of Upolu
Probably the easiest exotic location in Samoa is the South Coast. It is more build up for tourism than other locations which can be good and bad. Most people either up at a place called Lalomanu or a groups of villages around Siumu.
If you are going to the popular Taufau Beach Fales, that is at the center of the Lalomanu village. The hostel there offers everything from fales right on the ocean to more American style hotel rooms. They also include dinner and breakfast in the price. For the cheapest rate, pick an open fale for $46 (USD).
Getting to the hostel can be easily done. After getting to the market where all the bus gather, just look for the bus that says Lalomanu and get on it. It will leave in the afternoon. Along the way, it will stop at a grocery store so people can get any last minute items and bread.
Maninoa Surf Camp
If you want to go to the Siumu which includes Maninoa where there is two resorts and a surf camp. The place for surfers is more on a upscale hostel between Sinalei Reef Resort and Coconuts Beach Club. The hostel starts at around $50 a night and the resort beginning closer to $200 a night.
If you are looking for this area, the easiest way to get there is to look for the bus to either Siumu or Maninoa. They leave every hour or so and take you over the mountain in the middle of the island pasting the Baha’i Temple and a huge waterfall.
Local women preforming the Siva cultural dance
Being a good Traveler
For some reason, Samoa has attracted some not so good travelers. Some of them have no respect for the culture, others lack respect for women and some are just douche bags.
One of the core issues that I found out that concern the locals is climate change/global warming. As a conservative that questions much of the environmental fear mongering, I found this deeply root worry among locals odd. However, it is anything but amusing to them. It is one of their biggest fears.
Another growing worry is plastic from other countries and what ships are dumping in the Pacific Ocean. It just travels and at some point makes landfall in countries such as Samoa. Many of these countries have very aggressive about addressing the problem. Here is one blogger’s idea about how to limit impact while in the islands.
For whatever reason, there is a stricter cultural expectation in the Samoan Islands than in most countries. For example, in the Philippines, an outsider can get by with no caring too much about cultural offenses. This is NOT true in Samoa. People have died over offending a chief in the past.
Different ways to wear a lava lava
It would also be smart to consider how to walk in the villages. It is common to wear swimsuits when going to the water in America. It is considered taboo in Samoa. This is especially true for women. They should wear shorts or the cultural lavalava when go to and from the ocean. It is also advisable for men to wear a tshirt when go to the water.