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.
Visiting Samoa? Start planning your trip with the Samoa Travel Guide, filled with essential planning tips and in-depth information about all the highlights mentioned in this sample itinerary.
10 Days In Samoa Itinerary Map
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Day 1: Exploring Apia
Where To Stay?
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. Here’s a full review of the Talofa Inn and other recommended accommodations in Upolu.
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 its interior wouldn’t shame the cathedrals of Europe.
Back across the road, head to the Samoa Cultural Village for 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.
Day 2: Cross Island Road
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 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 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.
Day 3: Waterfalls, Swimming Holes & Beach
It’s time to check out of Apia and hit the road once again. Get another early start but not because this day will be as action-packed as Day 2, but rather because you’ll want to make it to the Piula Cave Pool before everyone else arrives (T5 entrance). This magical swimming hole is fed by water seeping from the highlands. Go for a swim in these incredibly transparent waters and put on some snorkeling gear to really get the full experience!
Adventure seekers can go off-road to the Sauniatu Waterfall, but to leave some relaxation time for later, let’s continue up the Richardson Road to the Le Mafa Pass. On a clear day, this is the ‘classic’ tropical island view you’ve envisioned.
Continue on this road which now begins to descend to the south coast. Stop at the Fuipisia Waterfall (T7 entrance) and walk to the top of this 55-meter high waterfall. Wow!
Further down the road is the last waterfall of the day and the most impressive one on the island. The Sopoaga Waterfall (T10 entrance) emerges from the jungle-like some animated movie about paradise. Cascading from one pool to another, it eventually finds its way to the river, and into your dreams.
Take a left at the fork towards the eastern side of the south coast and stop for a picnic lunch and a swim in the To-Sua Ocean Trench (T20 entrance). You cannot come to Samoa without visiting one of nature’s finest achievements. Out of a seemingly flat grassy surface, two sinkholes are connected by a lava tube and one of them is filled with aqua blue waters delivered straight from the nearby ocean. The To-Sua Ocean Trench is a regular member of lists of ‘places you must visit before you die’, so consider this an achievement unlocked.
The grounds above the trench make for an excellent picnic spot and don’t forget to walk down to the rocky pools for some more awesome views of the coastline.
The beach is a very popular place to stay in Samoa and on Wednesdays and Saturdays, you’ll be treated to a Polynesian dance and fire show at Taufua Beach Fales (donations expected).
Day 4: Relaxing On The Beach
Lalomanu Beach is arguably the best beach in Samoa and one of the best beaches in the South Pacific. It doesn’t get any better than this! While the snorkeling is nothing to write home about following the devastating effects of the 2009 tsunami, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything as pretty as this!
Treat yourself to a day of pure relaxation, Polynesian massages, and happy hour cocktails! If you seriously want to explore yet another beach, find your way to nearby Vavau Beach (T20 entrance). It’s more secluded and also among Samoa’s best beaches.
Day 5: Going Off The Grid
Day five will be spent in nearby Namua Island. You can visit the island from Lalomanu on a day trip (T40) but I highly recommend spending the night at Namua Island Beach Fales to get the full experience. Though just across from Upolu, Namua Island feels like a world away. Spend your day snorkeling, lounging on the beach, hiking to the top of the island, and even circling it at low tide. Spend your nights counting the stars and watching the hermit crabs go to work.
If you do spend the night in Namua Island, get up bright and early and hike to the top of the island for sunrise. It’ll no doubt be one of the highlights of your visit to Samoa and maybe you’ll even spot a coconut crab along the way.
Day 6: Swimming With Giant Clams
Day six will take you to the western side of Upolu’s south coast. Your goal is to make it to Savaia Village and if you take the bus, you’ll need to change lines in Apia. Savaia Village is a tranquil seaside village where the evening curfew (sa’a) is observed. This just means that every day from 6-7 pm, villagers must stay indoors and either do their evening prayer or have some quality family time. Don’t let that scare you, Savaia is home to the best sunsets on the islands and Le Valasi’s Beach Fales. Helen, Taula the Orator, and their family will take excellent care of you. If you stay with them on a Sunday, you’ll get the real Samoan experience (scroll to the final paragraphs).
Savaia is also home to the Giant Clam Sanctuary (5T entrance). Put your snorkeling gear and swim to the protected area for a close encounter with colorful giant clams. Their meat is highly sought after in Australia and New Zealand, but the clams in these waters are protected.
Return To Paradise
If you feel like doing a bit of relaxing, you can do so in Savaia or head to the Return To Paradise Resort. Your T25 ticket can be redeemed at the beach bar, which is just perfect considering the view. The beach was the filming spot for the 1953 hit movie ‘Return To Paradise’. These days, the beach is home to a family-friendly resort though it’s a bit rough swimming wise. So have a drink, something to eat and relax on the beach before heading back to catch the sunset.
Day 7: Tropical Beach Hopping
Today, you’ll either use a hired car or the free bicycles from Le Valasi’s Beach Fales to visit a few tropical beaches. If you’re cycling, take plenty of water, a hat, and be prepared for off-road cycling as the beaches are always a few kilometers from the main road (T2-10 entrance fees are collected at the turnoff).
Start with Salamumu Beach, watching young fishermen trying their luck before reaching the end of the line at the Sa’Moana Resort. It’s an excellent resort for those seeking this kind of holiday, but daytrippers can use this oasis for a fresh drink under the gazebo shade.
The next beach is Matareva Beach, which is a series of beaches culminating in a crescent-shaped stretch of blindingly white sand. Does it get any better than this?
For lunch or if you didn’t come here yesterday, stop at the Return To Paradise Resort for the final beach in this tropical beach hopping day.
Day 8: Savaii South Coast
It’s time to catch the morning ferry and explore Samoa’s big island. Savaii is much bigger than Upolu but only a quarter of the population lives here. Savaii is said to be ‘the real Samoa’, where fa’a Samoa is the way of life and where the island’s volcanoes still prove once a century who’s the real boss around here. Salelologa is where you’ll embark and it’s also the island’s only town. Stock up on some fruits and vegetables at the market, and pick up a car for the next 2-3 days from the Jet Over Hotel (starting at T105 per day). It’s still before noon and there’s enough time to explore Savaii’s south coast.
The first stop is at Afu Aau Falls (T5 entrance) for a refreshing dip. If you come here on a weekday, you’ll likely be the only ones here. From the falls, continue driving on the south coast road, passing villages where absolutely nothing seems to happen and stopping on the basaltic cliffs to enjoy the rugged views.
Stop at the Alofaaga Blowholes (T5 entrance), and watch how the ocean swell pushes water sky-high through underwater lava tubes. If that’s not enough action for you, one of the locals will show you what happens when a coconut is tossed inside (and they’ll collect T20 form you so let them know in advance if you’d prefer to skip this).
A lengthy but enjoyable drive through Savaii’s rural coastline will lead you to Lovers Leap for a quick stop. Legend tells of a mother and daughter who jumped off this cliff, turning into a sea turtle and shark upon impact. This probably explains why lucky spectators might spot the two marine creatures cruising inside deep cove (T2 entrance).
You’ll finish off your day of exploring the south coast of Savaii at Cape Mulinuu (T10 entrance). This is the westernmost point in Samoa and an area of great spiritual belief, especially during pre-Christian times. It was believed that as the sun set, it carried with it the soul of Samoans to the afterlife. I must say that it might be the remoteness of the place or its spiritual past that give the cape an eerie feel to it. You’ll just have to feel it for yourself.
The locals collecting the fee will be happy to take you on a short hike to the Blood Well, Vaatausili Cave, and star mound – where more bizarre rituals took place back in the day. The cape is also a prime spot for sunsets and its tidal pool is a solid option for one last dip before heading back.
Drive back to Salelologa and check into the Savaiian Hotel. Offering excellent value for money no matter which accommodation type you choose, the hotel serves excellent buffet breakfasts and awesome dinners. The Savaiian hotel is among my list of recommended accommodations in Savaii.
Day 9: Savaii East & North Coasts
This will be a very busy and rewarding day so get an early start. Once you get out of ‘metro Salelologa’, the beachfront homes will give way to long patches of white sand with the occasional rustic fale hosting a napping villager.
The east coast road will at some point veer inland and cut through a moonlike surface. This is the Saleaula Lava Field, a vast expanse of leftover lava from the eruptions of nearby Mount Matavanu between 1905-1911. Though vegetation is now growing, this mostly barren land is a reminder that the island’s volcano is still active (though silent since 1911).
Stop at the visitor center (T5 entrance) and walk down the path to explore all that remains of a village run over by 9-meter thick lava. The remains of the LMS Church offer a chilling glimpse of what took place here, as entire villages and fertile agricultural land were scorched.
Back on the road, stop at the turtle sanctuary if you feel like swimming with sea turtles in a pool, or continue past the village of Manase with its pristine beach (we’ll come back here). At the village of Paia, take the dirt road up to the Mount Matavanu Crater. This challenging road is doable even with a high 2WD, eventually leading you the hut manned by Da Craterman. This living legend is the unofficial caretaker of the crater and he’ll let you through to the road leading up to a panoramic lookout point and the path which leads to the crater’s rim (T20 entrance).
The views from up here are sensational, devoid of any man-made noise. Park the car and hike to the crater’s rim, now overgrown with thick vegetation. It’s yet another peaceful spot with nothing but birds singing all around you, even though it is from here that all the destructive lava flowed down to the coast.
Back on the main road, you’ll pass the Mataolealelo Spring before quickly stopping at the Peapea Cave to watch the Polynesian Swiftlet nesting in the pitch dark (T5 entrance). This part of Savaii is riddled with underground lava tubes, and this cave is one of the few that doesn’t require hours of exploration (like the Dwarfs Cave).
From here, there’s nothing but empty villages and rolling hills until you reach the end of the line at the Falealupo Peninsula. The T20 ticket you pay at the Canopy Walkway is good for all the Falealupo Village sites. Start with the canopy tour, then Moso’s Footprint, the remains of the cyclone beaten catholic church, and finally the House of Rock.
Like Cape Mulinuu, this part of Savaii is a little strange, in an interesting way. Not only does this area have important spiritual significance, but its villagers are very simple people, often not even speaking English. For some, Apia is as far away as Manhattan.
This wraps up the road trip in Savaii but instead of driving to Salelologa, spend the final two nights in Manase and enjoy some beach time. The Savaii Lagoon Resort and Le Lagoto Resort & Spa are excellent choices for those seeking comfort, and the beach fales of Manase are perfect for those seeking simplicity right on the beach.
Day 10: Relaxing In Manase Or Scuba Diving
This is the last of your 10 days in Samoa, so why not relax on the beach? Manase Beach is the prettiest in Savaii, often frequented by sea turtles during the morning and early evening.
For those who wish to do a bit of scuba diving in Samoa, book a spot with Dive Savaii and explore the nearby reef. You’ll cruise along underwater volcanic landscapes, encounter sea turtles from up close, see the wreck of a missionary boat and maybe even bump into a lionfish or stingray!
Ready To Visit?
This 10 days in Samoa sample itinerary will give you a very good taste of this tropical destination. If you’re visiting Samoa, start planning your holiday with the Samoa Travel Guide, filled with essential planning tips and in-depth information about all the places mentioned in this sample itinerary.