Last updated on September 23rd, 2022
Welcome to beautiful Samoa, where a proud Polynesian culture and nature at its absolute best are guaranteed to make this a memorable holiday. I spent nearly a month in Samoa while backpacking across the South Pacific Islands. Here’s a 10 days in Samoa sample itinerary that combines the best of its main islands, Upolu and Savaii.
Before we begin, having a car will be crucial to see everything that’s mentioned in this sample itinerary within the allotted time. However, if you cannot rent a car for the entire stay, do so only for days 2-3 and 8-9 as they absolutely require a car, or else you’ll need to sample a few points by hitchhiking, cycling or using the bus (an experience in its own right). Also note the entrance fees at almost every stop, a normal occurrence in Samoa as most land is historically owned by villages. Lastly, if you’re staying at beach fale accommodations, breakfast and dinner are almost always included in the price.
Planning a visit to Samoa? Check out the Samoa travel guide collection, where you’ll find in-depth travel guides to Samoa’s main islands, sample itineraries, and essential planning tips!
All places mentioned in this itinerary can be found on this companion map. Click on the image to open in Google Maps:
The centrally located Talofa Inn feels like your home away from home. This bed and breakfast offers clean (and air-conditioned rooms), a tropical breakfast, and always a warm smile from your hosts.
Your first day in Samoa will be spent exploring its vibrant capital city. Start the morning bright and early at the local fish market, where fishermen unload their nightly catch. Continue to the clock tower at the bottom of Vaiea Street and position yourself in front of the Mulivai Catholic Cathedral just before 9 am for an interesting show that’s about to begin.
Every weekday morning, the Samoa Police Band proudly marches from its nearby headquarters to the grassy field behind the clock tower for the raising of the flag ceremony. The cops wear lavalava skirts and the whole affair is a very patriotic display of affection for their beloved independent nation.
Since you’re already here, walk across the road and enter the Mulivai Catholic Cathedral. If you’re in Apia on a Sunday, come for church service and witness the strong sense of community. In any case, the church’s exterior and interior wouldn’t shame the cathedrals of Europe.
Back across the road, head to the Samoa Cultural Village for a 10:30 am free tour, rain or shine. This is an absolute must-visit attraction, graciously put on by the tourism office. The two-hour village tour is guided by Samoans that are as real as they come, with men sporting traditional tattoos and hibiscus spicing up the women’s hairdos.
The tour will take you through various stations in the village such as traditional food preparation in an earth oven (umu), an ava (kava) ceremony, a beautiful dance show, tattoo, woodworking, and siapo making (tapa cloth). Along the way, you’ll learn about fa’a Samoa – the Samoan way. This ancient code of behavior is the invisible force that influences the lives of every Samoan, from the chief system to extended family life.
The informative and interactive tour will put the rest of your visit to Samoa in the right context so I highly recommend it. Lunch is included and you can purchase Samoan art directly from the artists at bargain rates.
It’s likely around 1 pm by now. Walk from the cultural village to the Maketi Fou, Samoa’s main market. This covered market is an oasis of tropical fruits and vegetables from around the island. If you’re still a little hungry, you can buy ready-to-eat taro, breadfruit, and palusami and really act like a local. Of course, you could just buy a few giant avocados, sweet star fruit, and honey mangoes for later.
Now is the perfect time to head to Apia’s third market – the flea market. This covered market is the best place to buy Samoan souvenirs, sarongs, and island fashions. You’ll get here just in time as school wraps up and students flock the market’s food court for a greasy snack before catching the bus back to their village.
Walk across the road towards the central bus station. Samoan busses are an attraction on their own and a great way to not only get from point A to B but also to discover yet another layer of Samoan culture. Busses are totally pimped out, always with music blasting and if you ride one of these, you’ll witness the unique seating etiquette that demonstrated just how well Samoans get along with each other.
If you want to see more at this point, walk along Beach Road for awesome views of Apia. The road will eventually lead to the Palolo Deep Marine Reserve where the best snorkeling in Samoa can be found. In any case, the road is also where you’ll find the Seafood Gourmet Bar & Grill and Cocktails On The Rocks, great options for dinner and drinks.
This will be a busy day that requires a car. AA Rentals conveniently delivers the car to your Apia hotel with prices starting at T120 per day. We’ll start at the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum (T20 entrance). The Scottish author of Treasure Island came to Samoa hoping its tropical climate would help with his tuberculosis. He built a beautiful mansion that serves as the present-day museum. A short hike from the mansion, Stevenson is buried atop Mount Vaea, a good spot for panoramic views of Apia and the blue ocean.
Continue on the Cross Island Road and look for the sign to the Papapapaitai Falls lookout. This 100-meter waterfall is the highest in Samoa but is often covered in clouds that quickly form in the deep gorge.
As you reach the main South Coast Road, visit the Ma Tree. The easy 15-minute walk will lead you through the forest to the base of this massive mape tree, with its overgrown roots fanning out in every direction. It’s something straight out of a fairytale, ubiquitous in French Polynesia but rare in Samoa.
From the Ma Tree Walk, you can drive to the Aganoa Black Sand Beach if you have a 4X4, or continue hiking along the Coastal Walk. Just follow the signs from the main road and hike for about one hour along sea smashed cliffs.
Further east on the South Coast Road, head to the Togitogiga Waterfall. Part of a recreation reserve, a path that runs through a tropical garden leads to a series of lovely cascading pools. Ancient Samoan warriors loved swimming here and it’s also not a bad spot for a picnic lunch.
If you want to hit the beach before heading to our final stop, drive to Vaiula Beach (T10 entrance). The beach is lovely and good for swimming. There’s a restaurant that may or may not be open, depending on if guests are staying at the beach fales.
We’ll now drive back towards Apia passing the Papapapaitai Falls once again. Driving through Apia, we’ll end our day at the Papaseea Sliding Rocks (T20 entrance). As the name suggests, the fun is to slide down the smooth volcanic rock down to the pool. Just check water levels before sliding down, as it can be a bumpy landing in the dry season.