Fales are a traditional open-air hut, common all over Western Samoa as gathering/sleeping/all-purpose chilling spaces. While we were in Western Samoa, we stayed in fales almost every night and couldn’t get over how much we loved it. So just in case you have it in your sights to visit this gorgeous country, here’s some info. about staying in fales.
The typical fale is a roofed platform raised above the ground on posts; most of the ones we stayed in were right on the beach. This is probably the fales greatest charm—it puts you steps away from one of the very best things about Samoa: its beaches. I really can’t overstate how good-looking most of Samoa’s coastline is. When you close your eyes and imagine paradise, you are probably picturing Samoa. IT’S THAT GOOD. So staying in a fale, where you can watch the sunrise and the night sky from bed, where you can pass the hottest hours of the day in shaded comfort, and where you’re always about 20 seconds from the bathwater-warm ocean, is an ideal way to take in the views.
Not all fales are open-air; in many places, it’s also possible to get an enclosed room, sometimes with an en suite bathroom. These closed fales are usually set behind the open ones, so you won’t have an uninterrupted view; they also get less air flow, so we’ve heard they can get stuffy at night.
If you don’t opt for an en suite bathroom, there will be bathroom facilities nearby, often across the street (because no one wants to give that prime beachfront property to toilets.)
Open fales traditionally have woven mats hung all around them, which you can let up or down for privacy/air flow/shade/etc. Some of the fales we stayed in had tarps instead.
You can often book a fale just for day use while you’re at the beach. If you’re staying the night, you’ll get a mat (sometimes on the floor, sometimes raised up in a regular bed frame) with sheets and a mosquito net. Some places provide towels as well.
Your fale will probably get super sandy. It’s just kind of part of the deal.
When you book a fale, you’ll pay by the person rather than by the space. This is because a big part of what you’re paying for is food. The typical fale comes with breakfast and dinner, served communally in a common space. If you’re staying at a popular fale, this is a great spot to meet and talk with other travelers. If you’re at a quieter spot, you’ll have a good opportunity to talk more with your hosts and learn about the Samoan culture. We experienced fales that were hopping with backpackers and ones where we were the only guests. Either way, meal time was one of our favorite things about staying in fales. We loved the chance to get to know people, and the food was also really, really good.
On food: we have three vegetarians in our fam and our diet was accommodated beautifully. We ate a lot of rice and scrambled eggs, and we never went hungry. Which was perfect, because outside the fales, food was a bit tricky in Samoa. Unless you are cooking or eating at restaurants/hotels, your options are pretty well limited to fast food and junk from the market. There are healthy, quick places to eat, but they’re almost all in Apia. If you’re outside the city, it’s very nice to know that two of your meals are taken care of, and you can probably get enough from those two meals to last you the whole day. Some fales also run lunch hours so you can order from the kitchen during the day.
On Sundays: Sundays in Samoa are reserved for church, naps, and a big traditional dinner cooked in an umu—an underground oven. Very few businesses are open, especially outside of Apia. Your fale might offer an umu for either lunch or dinner; definitely participate! It’s a great chance to try out traditional Samoan food. You should also take the opportunity to attend church with your host; church in Samoa is a HUGE DEAL and attending a meeting will give you more insight into the culture. But the best reason to attend church in Samoa? The singing is AMAZING. Every time we went to church here, we were blown away by how on-key everyone was and how much gusto they gave all the notes. When you get all those committed voices together, it’s a really beautiful thing.
If you have kids, take the same precautions you would take if tent camping in the same location. Make sure you’ll hear your kid if they decide to get up and go for a wander in the night, especially if you’re right near the water (which you probably will be.) We each slept right next to one of our kids so that if they stirred, we’d wake up. Our kids are also super cautious and not prone to solo wandering. You know your own kids and whether you need to be very worried about this, but it is worth considering how you can mitigate risk here.
Because you pay by the person, staying in a fale as a solo traveler is an incredible deal. If you’re a family, paying by the person can add up quickly; we still paid less per night in a fale than we would in a hotel, though, and we got two meals thrown in as well, plus an environment that we far preferred to the typical hotel.
In case you're interested, here are the fales we stayed in during our time in Samoa:
Taufua Beach Fales: These popular fales in southeast Upolu are a great place to meet other travelers and spend a few days relaxing on the unparalleled Lalomanu Beach.
Namu'a Island Beach Fales: A five-minute boat ride off the east coast of Upolu, Namu'a feels worlds away. This is a great spot for snorkeling, and there's a very good chance you'll see sea turtles in the water on your way over!
Le Valasi's Beach Fales: Le Valasi's is a perfect spot if you want to spend time on the quiet western side of Upolu or visit the Giant Clam Sanctuary just down the road. These fales are super family-friendly, with raised beds, grassy surrounds, and the kindest hosts you'll ever meet.
Tailua Beach Fales: Situated on a grassy spot right on Savai'i's best beach, Manase, the fales here have raised beds and small decks that look out over the ocean.