Our main reason for being in the South Pacific was to visit the National Park of American Samoa, but we are so glad we added a trip to Western Samoa as well. Samoa is the heart of the Pacific geographically and many people say it has held onto its traditional culture better than any other spot in the Pacific as well. It’s friendly, clean, and stunningly beautiful, with some of the best beaches and snorkeling in the world.
Here are five of our favorite spots from the two weeks we spent in Samoa, along with three of our top experiences:
1. Lalomanu Beach: Soft white sand, clear turquoise water, gentle warm waves—this beach is like a caricature of paradise. We spent three nights staying at Taufua Beach Fales and could hardly tear ourselves away from the section of Lalomanu Beach in front. If you’re just here for the day, you can rent a day-use fale for some shade and a place to hang out, but we’d highly recommend staying over at least one night (and if that night is a Wednesday or Saturday, even better! You’ll get a chance to see Taufua’s excellent fiafia show.)
2. To Sua Ocean Trench: Set a hundred feet into the earth in a collapsed lava tube near the ocean, To Sua Ocean Trench is a natural wonder and the most magical swimming pool in the world. Accessed by a steep (and often slippery) ladder, the trench’s warm, clear waters make for an unforgettable swim. Explore the caves on either end of the trench, watch crabs scramble around the rocks and fish dart through the water, and let the tide float you around. At high tide, you can jump into the trench from the ladder; at low tide, jump from the platform at the ladder’s bottom.
3. Namua Island: This little island is only a 5-minute boat ride from the western coast of Upolu, but it feels wonderfully isolated. Spend a night at the fales here so you have plenty of time to snorkel, swim with the area’s many sea turtles, walk around the island at low tide or hike to its peak, and watch the hermit crabs take over the beach at dusk.
4. Papaseea Sliding Rocks: Waterfalls have carved the rock here into smooth, natural waterslides. It’s nature’s waterpark! The sliding is better when the water’s high; test the pool’s depth before you slide down!
5. Alofaaga Blowholes: Most visitors to Samoa will end up on Upolu island, but don’t miss the chance to see Samoa’s other major island, Savai’i, as well. Savai’i is more rural, less populated and (some say) truer to the heart of traditional Samoa. It’s also home to good beaches, snorkeling and diving, sacred sites (especially at its western end), lava fields, beautiful jungle, and the Alofaaga Blowholes. Along the south end of the island, the blowholes are accessed by a rough dirt road and a short walk across slick lava. When the waves come in, water sprays hundreds of the feet in the air with a tremendous whoosh. One of the locals will probably offer to throw coconuts into the holes so you can watch them launch up. It’s an incredible sight.
1. Sunday: 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.
2. Fales: We stayed in beach fales most of the nights we spent in Samoa, and we wrote a whole post (right here!) about why we think you should, too. Sleeping in fales will allow you to experience the best of Samoan beauty and culture, and the price tag is just right.
3. Fiafia: A fiafia is a traditional Samoan celebration with a big dinner, songs and dancing, and a fire knife dance. The costumes and performances are spectacular, and the whole thing makes for an excellent night's entertainment. Fiafias are offered all over the islands, at various fales, hotels and restaurants. Ask around to find a good one! We watched the Saturday night show at Taufua Beach Fales and it was a highlight of our trip, especially for Graham, who now wants to become a "fire guy" :).