Samoa has got to be one of the best places I have visited. We started our trip by flying into Apia and jumping into a pre-arranged shuttle down to our accommodation at Lalomanu a.k.a. the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. The only ATMs on this island are in Apia so make sure you stock up on cash! This is especially important if you’re not staying at a resort (like us). In Lalomanu we stayed at Taufua Beach Fales, literally right on the most stunning beach in the world. I highly recommend you stay here, it was fantastic. It cost us NZ$50 for a fale (basically a hut), this included breakfast and dinner, and they also have a bar onsite, such a bargain! The people who run this place are incredibly friendly, actually everyone in Samoa is incredibly friendly and welcoming.
We spent a lot of our time gorging on ridiculously cheap plates of sashimi and drinking Vailima (a great Samoan beer – the Germans occupied the islands pre-WWI). But there is a lot more to do than just being lazy. We also spent a lot of time snorkelling. Unfortunately Lalomanu Beach was struck by a devastating Tsunami in 2009 and a lot of the reef in this area was destroyed. However, it is making a comeback, and it is still worthwhile putting those goggles on and getting in the water.
A great day trip is to head to Namua Island which is slightly north of Lalomanu. A short ride in a row boat soon puts you on the shores of an island paradise. You can actually stay on the island in some really basic accommodation, it looked pretty nice. We spent the day snorkelling and for a small fee we had some lunch there as well. The Snorkelling here is incredible! The Tsunami did not destroy the reef and consequently it is untouched and spectacular. We even saw clownfish and turtles. You can also take a walk up to the highest point of the Island for some good views and a bit of exercise. Watch out for crabs, there were hundreds scuttling all over the path!
Your trip to Upolu Island would not be complete without visiting the famous To Sua Ocean Trench. I highly recommend you go first thing in the morning, before the tour buses from the resorts flood the place with people. We paid a local to drive us there and we almost had the whole place to ourselves. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, and climbing down the ladder into the trench is magical. It is serene and beautiful and a lot of fun to swim in and just chill for a while. However, after an hour or so, the first tour bus arrived and the magic died a little, so we left to buy coconuts and spend some more time at the beach. One other thing to note about this place is that some people will tell you that you can swim through a short cave and pop out in the ocean. While this can be done, Andrew learned the hard way through a terrifying experience. It is much longer than you imagine it will be and it is dark and quite rough. While he was okay, it was not an experience he would recommend nor repeat – it is dangerous – especially without the right gear or knowledge of conditions.
Our time on Upolu Island was incredible. The people are friendly, the beaches are beautiful, and the fresh seafood is mouth-watering. We were so please that we did not stay at a resort, our experience staying in the fales was much more authentic and a whole lot cheaper. You can stay in cheaper fales than at Taufua which would be just as nice, however Taufua’s location on Lalomanu beach was unbeatable. Because breakfast and dinner is included it’s pretty cheap as you’re just buying drinks and lunch. I recommend packing a few snacks in your bag as there are hardly any shops in the area and sometimes the kitchen runs on ‘Samoa time’ meaning it may or may not be closed when you are hungry. But hey, it’s all part of the experience and you will love this place!
Editor’s Note: Visited Samoa in 2014, updated in 2017.