Five Things First Time Travellers To Samoa Should Know
- The official languages in Samoa are Samoan and English. While English is spoken by most locals on the island of Upolu, you might struggle on Savaii where many villages only speak Samoan.
- Samoa is mostly a cash economy. While hotels in Apia will accept payment with credit cards, in most places, you'll need to pay with cash. It's also good to keep in mind a 3% - 5% surcharge will be added if you do swipe your card.
- Bargaining is not a thing in Samoa. Everything has its price clearly marked, and if you try to negotiate the price down at markets, it is looked down upon.
- There is no free WiFi in Samoa. If you need to get online, you'll have to find a hotspot and use prepaid cards. Before you buy your credit, check that the provider does cover the area where you'll be staying. Hotspots are usually found at hotels, beach fales, and internet cafes.
- Respect the local village customs. Some villages honour the evening prayer curfew, called s'a. If you stay in one that does, you'll need to be indoors from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. until you hear the all-clear sound.
Best Time To Visit Samoa
The best time to visit Samoa is during its dry season. From May to October, you'll have idyllic island weather and be able to take advantage of the island nation's many outdoor activities.
The lack of rain also means it's the best time to go diving. The visibility at the dive sites will be at their clearest and full of colourful marine life.
But from June to August, during the Southern Hemisphere's winter, Samoa is at its busiest. Hundreds of Australians and New Zealanders flock to the islands to relax on the beautiful beaches and go snorkelling in the crystal clear water. Make sure you book your flights and accommodation well in advance if you plan to travel during this time.
Another busy season to be aware of is at the end of the year. With most Samoans working abroad, flights and hotels during the Christmas holiday season get booked up quickly. If you want to visit during this period, book at least three months in advance to avoid the rush.
The wet season in Samoa is from November to April. During this time, the island is prone to cyclones, high winds and flooding. While it might not be the perfect time for a beach visit, there are still plenty of sunny days. If you want to take the gamble, you'll be rewarded with fewer crowds, low hotel rates and cheap flights.
Samoa Cities and Islands
Apia is the capital city of Samoa, located on the island of Upolu.
It's the island nation's only bustling metropolis and is home to the majority of Samoa's population.
While most travellers use it as a springboard to the more remote destinations, the city still has its charms.
Visit the colourful food market to stock up on fresh fruit and go souvenir hunting at the flea market. You'll find everything from kava bowls to authentic Samoan music.
Apia is also home to The Robert Louis Stevenson Museum. The author lived in Samoa for five years until his death. The museum in his honour is a must visit for bibliophiles, and its highlight is visiting the library where he penned 14 of his novels in 4 years.
Savaii is the largest island in Samoa. It's home to 24% of the population and is deeply traditional. Not much English is spoken on this island, but it's a must visit if you want to experience the more authentic side of Samoa and escape the Internet Cafes and McDonald's found in Apia.
While it's not as developed as Upoli, it won't disappoint. Its coastline changes between black volcanic ash, pristine white beaches and dramatic cliffs - a dream come true for any photographer or tropical island junkie.
Come to Savaii for the slower pace of life, and stay for the excellent scuba diving sites, historical Polynesian sites and the impressive blowholes.
If you really want to get off the grid and disconnect from the modern world - head to Manono. It's Samoa's third most populated island and takes less than two hours to explore on foot.
Manono's top attractions are its archaeological sites. Make sure you visit the ancient 12-pointed star mound on the island's highest peak and the Grave of 99 stones. Each stone represents the wives of Samoa's great chief Vaovasa.
One of the best ways to experience the island is to live and sleep like a local. Make your way to the eastern side of Manono and stay in one of the traditional open-air beach fales.
Top Attractions in Samoa
Palolo Deep National Marine Reserve
The Palolo Deep Nature Marine Reserve is a must-visit for wildlife lovers. Located between Vaiala Beach and Apia's harbour it's famous for its sudden drop into a deep blue hole.
Inside, you'll find a myriad of tropical fish and beautiful walls of coral. It's best visited during high tide and is one of the top places to go diving, snorkelling or swimming in Samoa.
If you didn't pack your own snorkelling gear, you can rent some on site. Masks cost about USD 5, and a snorkel is USD 2. There are also showers, changing rooms and toilets nearby.
Located near the village of Taga is Samoa's most impressive natural attraction.
The alofaaga blowholes are created by powerful waves pushing through a series of lava tubes. The result is hundreds of feet of water being propelled into the air that's a magnificent sight to behold. It's also worth paying WST 10 to have the locals throw coconuts in the holes and watch them get blasted in the air.
If you have the time, make your way to the nearby blowholes of Pa Sopaia Cave. Legend has it the cave is an ancient pathway to the Devil's Haden at Cape Mulinu'u, the final meeting place before spirits can enter the Spirit World.
Saleaula Lava Fields
The Saleaula Lava Fields are one of Samoa's most popular attractions. Located along the north coast, visitors can walk through the ruins of the Saleaula village that was destroyed by a volcanic eruption between 1905 and 1911.
The most impressive ruins are a concrete Methodist church and a grave of a Catholic nun. Local legend believes the tomb was spared destruction because the girl was so pure the lava run around it.
To get here, you can either hire a car, take a taxi or make use of the island's public buses. The best part? There's no charge to explore the ruins.
Wetlands Sanctuary at Satoalepai Village
Head to the wetlands sanctuary at Satoalepai Village and get up close with sea turtles.
Endangered after years of hunting, the locals came together to give this species a second chance. The sanctuary is home to at least half a dozen turtles where they are kept until adulthood and then released.
The major drawcard for tourists is the opportunity to swim with these ancient creatures. If you go at feeding times, you might get to help.
You can also find turtles around Namua Island near Lalomanu Beach. Get there in the early morning or evening, grab your snorkel gear and see if you can spot some near the edge of the coral reef.
Papaseea Sliding Rocks
Located 6km from Apia, the Papaseea Sliding Rocks is set inside a beautiful garden. It's one of the best places to go in Samoa for families or adventurous travellers.
During a 100 step walk to the rockpools, you'll pass waterfalls and lush foliage. Once there, you'll have three different natural water slides to choose from with the highest boasting a 5-metre drop.
Keep in mind that if you're visiting Samoa during the dry season, you will need to check that the water is deep enough. If it's not, the rockpools are still a great spot for a swim and a picnic.
Major International Airports in Samoa
- Faleolo International Airport