From where to stay in Samoa, to the best beaches in Samoa, discover all this beautiful South Pacific Nation has to offer.
Arriving in Samoa in time to watch a luminous tangerine sunrise is the perfect way to start a holiday. Hearing the harmonic tunes of ukulele and pitch-perfect voices like honey singing you a welcome is the icing on the cake.
Talofa, you have arrived in paradise.
I admit to being slightly anxious about having to get to the largest island in Samoa, Savai’i by catching the car ferry.
Walking onto the ferry with our luggage and three kids under 5 was a bit of a challenge and took a little coordinating.
It is also important to note there are two car ferries. The larger ferry which leaves ‘Upolu at 8 am, midday and 4 pm, and from Savai’i 6 am,10 am and 2 pm is the more comfortable option when experiencing Samoa with kids and takes around 90 minutes.
Our first true experience of fa’a Samoa ( the Samoan way) was on our arrival in Savai’i.
Having caught an earlier ferry than expected our hotel transfer was not waiting for us as expected at the port.
When the taxi drivers began circling we were waiting for the usual offers to take us to ‘the best hotel on the island’.
Instead, they politely asked which hotel we were staying at then rang the hotel for us to organize our transfer to pick us up early. We later learned this was typical kindness and care shown by the Samoan people who believe in the community over the individual.
- The Samoan archipelago is divided into two island groups. Samoa and American Samoa. Even though they are only around 100 kilometers apart they are on different sides of the International date line.
- The capital of Samoa is Apia on the island of Upolu. It is also the only city in the country.
- According to local legends, the island of Savai’i is Hawaiki, which is the homeland of all Polynesians.
- Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island, lived and died on Samoa. You can visit his former home which is now a museum.
- More Samoans live outside of Samoa than on the islands.
- There are 9 islands in Samoa, 4 which are uninhabited.
- The only native mammals are bats like the flying fox.
- There is a third gender in Samoa, Fa’afafine. This is an ancient tradition where Samoans identify as non-binary.
- In 2011 Samoa went from being the last country to welcome each new day to be the first, as they crossed the international dateline.
Le Lagoto Resort & Spa
Samoa accommodation is available to suit everyone, from family-friendly resorts to beach fales.
As much as we would have loved to stay in one of the divinely basic fales, practically took hold but luckily we stayed in the equally divine Le Lagoto Resort & Spa which we think is one of the best resorts in Samoa.
Want your own slice of paradise? Book your stay now.
The first thing you glimpse as you step from the foyer is the hotel’s one and only restaurant where you will be forced to eat for your whole stay watching over the beach as the turquoise blue waves lap onto the sand.
It’s a tough gig.
As a larger family, we stayed in the older house rather than the smaller beach bungalows.
This was a little bit run down compared to the gorgeous bungalows but had plenty of room for the kids to play and was comfortable with a “home away from home” feel.
We had a garden full of hermit crabs to enchant the children, gorgeous views and were now some of the first people in the world to see the sunrise for the day.
The food at Le Lagoto was delicious although like most Pacific Nations more on the expensive side.
As usual, I brought a small suitcase just of snacks for my hungry horde, then splashed out on main meals.
Included in our room was a Tropical Breakfast full of mouth-watering seasonal fruit and a different main each day. This varied from fluffy pancakes to omelets.
fa’a Samoa ( the Samoan way)
Every evening you are here you will hear the blowing of the conch shells.
Missionaries who visited in the 1800s were enormously influential and Samoa is now a devoutly Christian culture. The shells are blown around 6-7pm and mark the evening prayer curfew.
Listening to the harmonious and powerful voices of the locals sing the Vespers was a haunting way to welcome the evening.
Please show your respect during your visit and avoid walking through villages at this time.
Being devout Christians, Sunday is a day of worship.
All stores will be closed as this is a day to be spent with family and no work is to be done.
You can still visit most attractions but if you go through a local village show your respect by keeping the volume down and traveling slowly.
Savai’i may be the larger of Samoa’s islands but it is least populated.
Here you will find an unpretentious way of life that is still deeply traditional. They respect their 3000-year-old culture, their environment and live in harmony with each other and the world around them.
Samoan mythology tells that they were descended from the gods, sent from heaven to inhabit the emerald and aqua isles of Samoa.
Experiencing one of the most authentic cultures in Polynesia it is easy to believe these tales. Samoans are such genuine people with big smiles and hearts that match.
And they adore children! Even cranky overtired ones.
What to do in Samoa
Savai’i Island Tour
Although you can hire a car to see the Samoa attractions we decided to take a private tour of the island through the hotel.
The whole island is encircled by a paved road, making it easy to explore.
If you do this solo remember a lot of the island is still owned by the locals. Make sure you ask permission and be prepared to pay a small fee for some of the sites.
Village Life In Samoa
We drove through gorgeous brightly colored villages that are cared for with evident pride. Each village you pass seems to have chosen its own candy store hue as its theme.
In the villages, you will see at least one traditional fale. These oval-shaped buildings are often the village meeting house. The more impressive the fale in a village, the higher the position and power of its inhabitants. Each thick pole holding the thatched roof up, holds its own significance. Sitting with your back against one of these poles shows your ranking and importance within the village descending from the chief, or matai down.
The open walls of the fales let in the cooling breezes off the Pacific Ocean as well as allowing nosey tourist to see the huge flat screen TVs looking out of place in these traditional buildings.
If a local invites you into a village please ask your host what traditions and protocols you need to follow.
When entering fales you will need to remove shoes and show respect by not standing when elders are sitting.
Another thing to remember is to not point your feet at people while you are sitting.
If you are looking for cheap accommodation in Samoa then you will love the fales. There are opportunities to stay in some great spots. Facilities are basic so it is for the adventures souls.
During our tour, our guide told us tales of adventure, love, and history.
We learned about Mata o le Alelo Pool, which is the site where the first coconut grew. Legend tells of it growing from the head of an eel. The guide assured us that Samoa was the first nation to have coconut trees. These traveling over the seas from Asia.
The children jumped up and down when they saw dolphins at Sea Arch and sharks at Lovers Leap. Each destination coming with its own local tale.
Their favorite stop was the Alofaaga Blowholes. Here our guide and driver entertained us and some passing backpackers with a show of throwing coconuts into the blowholes. Watching them shoot up like rockets up to 30 meters in the air caused fits of giggles.
Afu Aau Falls
We had a refreshing quick dip in the azure and deep turquoise waters of the Afu Aau Falls.
You must take a dirt road up to this location and once there you seem lost to civilization. The roar of the falls tumbling into the fresh-water swimming pool and lizards chirping in the lush vegetation near the pool chasing away any remaining stresses of life.
At least that’s how I would imagine it to be. Unfortunately, the falls had dried up for our visit. The pool was still a place that left you speechless.
Saleaula lava fields
Our next stop was the Saleaula lava fields.
While wandering through a local church that has black lava pouring in through the front door and windows in shiny ripples, listening of the eruptions of Mt Matavanu from 1905-1911 the hairs rise on the back of your neck. Tiny bright green plants pop up around the fields forcing new life between the gaps of these black waves.
50 square kilometers of land and 5 villages are buried by these lava fields, all except for the Virgins Grave. Following a lava path to the grave, the guide told us legend states this spot was untouched through all of the eruptions because the lady buried here was pure and good.
We ended our tour with a trip to the turtle enclosure in Satoalepai. I had no prior knowledge of this attraction before we visited and I have since done some research. The center says its focus is on conservation, from other articles this seems debatable.
While we were at the center all the animals seemed well cared for. They were however still in captivity, seemed overly unconcerned about contact with humans and were being fed fruit rather than their natural diet.
Not feeling like I know enough about this topic I will let you make your own opinions. If we were to travel to Samoa again I would not visit the center as we are working hard to try and travel more responsibly as a family.
If you would like to find out more about this try reading this great article
Paradise on Island Time
Adopting a much more laid back pace, we converted to island time for the rest of our stay on Savai’i.
Spending precious hours doing nothing but enjoying the moments, lazing in azure waters, walking along local beaches and soaking in the sunsets.
Having seen my fair share of sunsets as a photographer I can promise the ones in Samoa are worth traveling for.
Balmy skies splashed in all the hues of the tropical fruits you enjoyed at breakfast, luscious papaya, sweet mango and watermelon.
Sitting underneath a palm tree listening to the fronds faintly rustle overhead from the cool ocean breeze, it’s hard to imagine having to ever leave.
Travel With Meraki – Do a little research on attractions before you visit. Some wildlife experiences may not be what they appear to be and are not in the best interests of the animals. Try and visit authentic places that care for and protect the animals in their care.
Where is Samoa?
Samoa is located in the South Pacific Ocean. As part of Oceania, it lies about halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii.
Savai’i is the largest island in Samoa.
Flights to Samoa
To get to Savai’i you will need to fly into Faleolo International Airport which is on the island of Upolu.
Find great flight deals here
How To Get To Savai’i
There are regular ferries between the islands from Monday to Saturday. Sailings are limited on Sundays. The wharf is about a 15-minute drive from the airport or an hour from the capital Apia.
Find more about the ferry to Savai’i here.
Accommodation Savaii Samoa
Stay in a little slice of paradise at the beautiful Le Lagoto Resort.
Samoa Religion and Traditions
If you are invited to a local village please be respectful.
Avoid visiting during evening prayer curfew ( around 6-7pm), and show extra care when visiting on a Sunday with noise levels etc
If you are invited into a fale, take off your shoes before entering, do not point your feet at others while sitting ( tuck them under you or sit cross-legged ) and do not stand of elders from the village are sitting.
It is also suggested to dress modestly when entering a village so as not to cause offense.