The ultimate Samoa travel guide
A holiday in Samoa is always a good idea, especially when you know how to make the most of it.
Samoa envelops you with a warm embrace and shimmering ocean views the second you step off the plane. You can’t help but join the locals on island time and relax in the ocean breeze. There’s no wrong way to go about it, but this Samoa travel guide will set you up for the ultimate getaway.
Getting around Samoa
While catching a ride in one of the brightly coloured, privately-owned, wooden aiga buses is definitely an experience worth having while in Samoa (and how most of the locals get around), to explore on your own time and outside of main areas, you’ll want to hire a car in Apia. Roads here can sometimes get windy, but (like the rest of the Samoan experience) they’re never too busy and are very easy to navigate.
When to visit Samoa
Like many tropical locations, Samoa has a wet and dry season. You’ll want to visit during the latter, from May to October. If you’re looking for a better deal and smaller crowds without compromising on the idyllic weather, try booking your holiday in June, August or October.
Whether it’s falling asleep listening to the waves washing against Samoa’s sandy beaches in a quintessentially Samoan beach fale (an open wooden hut) or booking into a five-star luxury resort, there’s an accommodation option for everyone.
Travellers tend to stay on the two main populated islands, Upolu and Savai’i, which is where you’ll find most of the accommodation options. We’ve rounded up our top picks on both right here in our best Samoa accommodation guide.
Things to do in Samoa
From museums for famous authors to gaining a deeper cultural understanding, to walking lava fields; we’ve rounded up our top 11 things to do while you’re in Samoa here. The best part is, they’re all suitable for the kids as well.
An island holiday conjures up visions of lazing by pristine beaches and snorkelling through crystal clear waters, and Samoa doesn’t disappoint. Made up of 10 islands (half of which are inhabited), there is no shortage of calm, white (and sometimes black) sand beaches, protected by a coral shelf a short way out to sea. On that note, you won’t even need a snorkel to see below the surface to small fish, sea cucumbers and coral spotted around the sea bottom.
It would be a shame to only hang around the coastline, however, as taking the short trip inland will reveal unique natural pools and incredible waterfalls just begging you to take a dip. Discover our guide to the best 13 places to take a dip in the wild around Samoa.
Samoans are very proud that theirs is still a lived culture. The first stop to discover what this entails is the Samoa Cultural Village in Apia where you’ll be talked through a welcoming ceremony, traditional cooking practices (and you’ll get to eat the tasty results), traditional tattoo methods and meanings and more.
It will help you appreciate the fiafia nights held by many hotels around the country, usually open to walk-ins as well as guests. Watch traditional dancing, singing and music, all while munching on hearty Samoan cruise served up buffet-style.
For culture of a different kind, head to the last home and final resting place of Robert Louis Stevenson in the mountains above Apia. The famous author of Treasure Island and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde lived out the final years of his life here and today that home has been reconstructed to look just as it did originally, and turned into a museum.
You won’t find luxury labels and high-end shopping centres here – nor would you want to. Instead, check out the local markets where you’ll find fresh fruit and other tasty treats, handmade clothing and all the pretty woven bags and hats you can fit in your suitcase. Fugalei, Savalolo and the Organic Night Market are good places to start.
Restaurants in Samoa
Unsurprisingly, the cuisines Samoans do best is their own – a rich and hearty treat of home-raised meats (nearly every home seems to own pigs and chickens), root vegetables like talo (taro) and ulu (breadfruit) and plenty of fresh fruits for dessert. You don’t have to search to find these options around, and they’re all good (although Bistro Tatau is worth a booking).
If you’re looking for a different type of restaurant experience, however, Apia is the place to be. Try Nourish for delicious cafe dishes and fresh sushi, Cornwall Rooftop Cafe is the best stop for breakfast and Scalinis not only looks inviting with its cute decor, busy bookshelves and tasty pantry staples to take home, it also makes delicious Italian food. The eclectic menu at Paddles Restaurant is so delicious it’s been voted in TripAdvisor’s top restaurants for 2023. Try Sunrise Chinese Restaurant if you’re looking for a hearty, after-hours feed spot.
Note before you go that, generally speaking, service here is not the same as in a big city: it’s inevitably slower, but also a whole lot friendlier. Just relax and go with the flow, it’s worth it.