I landed in Samoa the evening before my birthday – and treated myself to an expensive airport pickup, so that I could wake up next day on a beautiful beach and start the day by hearing the waves breaking only meters from my beach fale. Well, judge for yourself, but I’d say my plan worked out pretty well!
Beach fales are the typical budget accommodation option in Samoa and basically open huts where instead of walls you can let down natural leave curtains. It’s nice and airy on hot days, but when it’s windy, they are flapping in the wind and you basically don’t have any privacy. I had a kind of hate-love relationship with beach fales during my time in Samoa. I liked that they were right on the beach and the basic principle of them. However, I never slept really well, worrying about my valuables and feeling exposed with people being able to watch me sleep if they wanted to.
On my birthday, I enjoyed the beach in front of my accommodation and hitchhiked to Lalomanu beach – supposedly the most beautiful beach on Samoa. However, I actually preferred the one right where I woke up – in front of FaoFao Beach Fales. Both are awesome though, judge for yourselves… Lalomanu beach:
A good relaxing day all in all! Lots of sunshine, some snorkelling, swimming and reading. I guess I can’t complain about getting a year older if it happens like this…
On my second day in Samoa, I decided to try to hitchhike to a couple of sights nearby since it had worked so well the day before with hitching to Lalomanu and back. And again: super easy! Everyone just stops and takes you if they can. Seriously, I’ve had people stopping and apologizing that they cannot take me because they were going somewhere else, and people dropping me off at exactly where I needed to be even though their house was a couple of kilometres earlier already! Samoans are sooo friendly and helpful!!
My first stop was the famous To Sua Ocean Trench which certainly lived up to its name and fame! It’s basically a sinkhole which is fed by water from the ocean. A very very pretty sinkhole! You can climb down a steep ladder and go for a swim, which of course I did. The water is nice and cool and super clear!
What’s more, there are some really nice views of the coastline from the gardens around the sinkhole, and some cool lava rock pools. Definitely a good place to spend an hour or two!
Later, I hitchhiked further to the So’poaga Falls, where a friendly couple from New Zealand dropped me. You can’t get close to the waterfall, but man…is that an amazing viewpoint! The water cascades down steeply surrounded by lush green vegetation. Almost too kitschy to be real! 😉
Since I liked this waterfall so much, I decided to hitchhike further to the Fuipisia Falls. Again, it was a viewpoint and another cool one! This time I was much closer to the waterfall and able to walk to the top of it. Really nice!
Even though it was early afternoon only, I decided to call it a day when I found a ride all the way back to my accommodation. You shouldn’t chance your luck and I had seen so many cool things already today!
I then said goodbye to Upolu for a bit and made my way to the island of Savaii for a few days…to return to Upolu again for the last couple of days when I decided to stay in Apia for practical reasons: many sights are close to Apia and reachable by bus from there and also the scooter rental is located in the capital only. On my first day back in town, I took a bus to the Piula Cave Pool. Unfortunately it was a bit grey and rainy that morning, but it was still a pretty sight and nice to swim in. There’s lots of big fish and even and eel in there, so make sure to take mask and snorkel!
I then took another bus back and further up to Mt Vaea National Reserve from where you have good views over the city and harbour after a short but sweaty hike.
Next day, I rented a scooter for another cool day of exploring the island on my own. I had quite a program, but managed it all (of course… it’s all about efficiency!). I took the Cross Island Road past Mt Vaea and made a brief stop at the Baha’i House of Worship which is quite pretty. I then pushed on to the Papapapai-tai Falls (what a name, right!?) – another really good waterfall viewpoint. I believe they’re one of the highest falls of Samoa.
Next up on the agenda was a coastal walk in the South of the island in the O Le Pupu-Pu’e National Park, leading me directly on the cliffs where the waves where crashing against to some nice viewpoints. Unfortunately it was a bit grey and rainy at that point (the whole morning had been sunny and luckily it got sunny again after), so it doesn’t come out as nicely on the photos.
Since I liked the waterfalls of Samoa so much, I couldn’t give the Togitogiga Falls a miss either. Here, you can get very close again and go for a swim in the pools. The water cascades down on black lava rocks which looks super cool!
I felt like after all this sightseeing, I really deserved some chill time on a beach, so I made my way to Matavera beach – which in hindsight I consider to be maybe the prettiest beach of Samoa. The sand is as white as possible, the water an inviting turquoise surrounded by black lava rocks, with photogenic palm trees just calling at your camera to go crazy. So that’s what I did! And then I tested it all of course… the water, the soft white sand – it was amazing!!
After a bit, I decided to get going again – after all I still had quite some driving to do to get myself back to Apia. I did a brief detour to Return to Paradise Beach (famous from a movie) but since it now belongs to a fancy resort, the entrance fee was too high for me for just a short photo stop. So I saw the beaches just before, but not the real deal! 😉 Oh well, on Google it looks just the same as Matareva Beach – and that one is only 5 Tala entry.
That’s something I don’t like about Samoa: pretty much every beach, viewpoint, waterfall, you name it…belongs to someone who charges an entry fee for it. All land is privately owned and ok, I understand locals want to make a bit of money, but sometimes the fees are a bit unreasonable and also, if you’re traveling on a budget – it quickly adds up. But nothing you can do about it if you want to see the main sights!
I took a different road across the island back to Apia and passed by the Papase’ea Sliding Rocks. I had originally planned to go here by bus one of the next days, but figured if I already have the scooter and still a little bit of time… then why not go for it! To be honest, the sliding rocks were not as cool for me as I had imagined. Ok, so I didn’t try the actual sliding anymore since I was by myself and didn’t feel like changing into my bikini again. But it didn’t look as cool as on the pictures I had seen. The nicer part was the view from up here over Apia – actually better than from Mt Vaea! All in all, another great day on the scooter…
Then I had two days left in Apia where I didn’t have too much planned anymore. I had been almost too efficient during the last days, but there were of course some things left to do and see still: one morning I spent at the tourist information center which offers free cultural shows almost every day. You get to see some local handicraft such as wood carving and the making of cloth items (pictures, sarongs) as well as watch a traditional food preparation where food items are placed on hot stones, then covered with lots of leaves and therefore cooked in this oven.
This food was later served to us as a lunch snack and tasted quite good! We were also able to watch a guy getting a typical Samoan tattoo – no pictures allowed, but it looked rather painful. And while we were having lunch (from plates we made out of palm leaves before), there was a group of dancers entertaining us. They were awesome!! Especially the guys. The women didn’t have to move that much.
A really really cool 3h experience offered by the tourist information for free to anyone who shows up! Would have been good to do this on one of my first days, as they explained a lot about Samoan culture as well throughout the time.
Afterwards, I walked a bit through Apia city and explored it’s few sights… Mainly churches, some markets and of course the colourful Samoan busses! They reminded me a bit of the chicken busses in Guatemala, just that these are wooden which certainly adds to the style.
As a last thing to see in Samoa, I decided to visit the Palolo Deep Marine Reserve to go snorkelling. Again, another positive surprise! So far in Samoa, the snorkelling had never been great – but this was really cool! Unfortunately I forgot to take my underwater camera, so once more you either need to believe me or go check it out yourself. It was quite tough though snorkelling out to the reef without fins against quite some current – but very much worth it and a good end to an incredible time in Samoa!