If a laid-back weekend in the South Pacific beckons (and yes, of course it does), make Samoa your next stop. We’ve rounded up the five best things to do in Samoa.
Samoa, when translated, means “people of the deep sea”. Which makes poetic sense for a tropical nation made up of two large islands, Savai’i and Upolu, and a cluster of smaller ones, located halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii. While Australians can take the roughly seven-hour flight to simply stretch out on flour-soft sands and paddle in crystalline waters, Samoa’s beaches are really only the beginning. “Samoa is a place that will give you once-in-a-lifetime memories,” says Samoa Tourism Authority CEO Pativaine Petaia-Tevita.
Find an unforgettable swimming spot
Few images of Samoa are more enticing than To-Sua Ocean Trench on Upolu. The 30 metre-deep pool shimmers with natural light that shines down into what is essentially an open cave. Experienced divers can swim through the cave and out to sea but anyone interested in being surrounded by steep cliffs and lush, green gardens while they float, should climb down the long ladder to the platform and jump into the cool water. Just as spectacular, the Afu Aau Waterfall looks like it belongs in a movie like Avatar; the colours of the water and surrounding bush appear almost to glow. The falls are in the south-east of Savai’i and reachable by a ferry that usually takes 60 to 90 minutes across the Apolima Strait.
Snorkel among coral reefs
Uninhabited but for a small cluster of thatched fales (there’s no electricity, either, though it is possible to stay the night), Namu’a Island is ideal for anyone who wants to get off grid. Just off the south-east coast of Upolu, it’s known for swimming and snorkelling among the majestic coral reefs and is home to Satoalepai Turtle Sanctuary, where local villagers raise baby turtles and nurse injured adults back to health before they’re released into the wild.
Go on an epic rainforest hike
There’s so much to see on the Falease’ela River Walk, from the gigantic, thousand-year-old trees to cascading waterfalls and fluorescent-coloured birds. An hour’s drive south-west from Apia on Upolu, the trail offers all this and spectacular lava formations. The journey takes four to six hours along the Liua le Vai o Sina River so take the pressure off – make it a guided walk with eco-tour outfit Lalotalie River Retreat (Faleseela, Le Faga, Apia; +685 77 48759), which offers lunch and overnight stays nearby.
Experience the traditional culture
A fiafia night, which means “celebration”, is held in several of the islands’ resorts and hotels, and demonstrates how Samoa’s 3000-year-old culture is still practised today. Food is cooked in an umu oven using volcanic stones and served buffet-style, while dancing starts with women performing the siva, before men do the fa’ataupati and siva afi (“fire knife dance”). The Samoa Cultural Village also has fiafia nights throughout the week, free for everyone to attend.
Spend the night by the water
For a luxury beachside stay, try the Taumeasina Island Resort, a new hotel just off Upolu with 104 air conditioned rooms, free wi-fi, a spa, three restaurants serving Samoan and international cuisine, a pool and activities including a fiafia night every Saturday. A few minutes’ walk from the ferry terminal on Savai’i, Lusia’s Lagoon Chalets offers rustic overwater bungalow suites. Set your alarm to watch the unforgettable sunrise and swim in the crystalline blue lagoon. (You might meet Lusia herself – and her cat, who likes to jump on tables and steal food.)
Image Credit: Taumeasina Island Resort Samoa, Adil Wahid- Unsplash, True Bearing Images, Z Stock Photos