Samoa is an affordable exotic paradise, easily meeting most if not all your paradise wish list. Its islands are blessed with immense tropical beauty, from white sand beaches to towering waterfalls to ancient volcanoes covered in thick vegetation. However, Samoa’s ‘ex-factors’ are its culture and its people. Decades of independence have resulted in relatively little foreign influence. This has aided Samoans in preserving their unique culture and code of behavior known as Fa’a Samoa (the Samoan Way). Visitors will notice the particularly different ways of doing things in Samoa. And with a lot of curiosity and patience on your end, you’ll find this lifestyle beautifully blends with the natural beauty to create a one-of-a-kind destination.
When To Go?
Samoa is a classic tropical destination, with hot and very humid weather throughout the year. There are two seasons in Samoa: the dry season and the wet season, which also brings with it cyclone season.
Dry Season (May – October): plenty of sunshine with the occasional downpour. This is the perfect time for hiking and for less humid weather. Towards October, things can change with more rainy and cloud-filled days.
Wet Season (November – April): expect plenty of wet days and I mean seriously wet days. Cyclone season in Samoa is in full swing and that can be an unpleasant experience, with high winds and flooding. This is especially true if you plan to stay at a beach fale. That said, there will be plenty of sunny days but without a guarantee to fall exactly when you visit.
Keep in mind: many Samoans live abroad, mostly in Australia and New Zealand. During the Christmas holiday season, flights and hotels will get booked quickly so I recommend booking early if visiting Samoa during this time.
Visa & Language
Visitors receive a 60-day tourist visa upon arrival in Samoa. It is important that you are able to show an onward flight ticket upon request. This means that if you’re planning to island-hop in the South Pacific with one-way tickets (like I did), you should always have your next segment booked and the ticket printed (or saved on your phone).
The official languages in Samoa are Samoan and English. Samoan is a strangely beautiful dialect that you’ll likely not be able to pick up during a short stay aside from talofa (hello) and faafetai (thank you). English is widely spoken in Upolu but in Savaii the story is a bit different, with a lot of villagers only speaking Samoan (this is hardly an issue for tourists though).
How Long Should You Stay?
Most visitors spend a week to 10 days in Samoa, which is enough to get a good taste of the country. Ten days would give you enough time to properly explore both Upolu and Savaii, while maybe even spending a night or two in one of the smaller islands like Namua or Manono. With two to three weeks in Samoa, don’t miss the chance to visit neighboring American Samoa. You might even be able to make it to Ofu beach, one of the prettiest beaches in the world! Have a look at these recommended Samoa sample itineraries for 5 days, 7 days, or 10 days.
Where To Stay?
Beach Fales: pronounced fa-le, Samoa’s signature accommodation offers the chance to literally stay ‘on the beach’. It’s the absolute top choice for those seeking an authentic slice of Samoa and a great way to save on costs. Usually, a simple thatched roof-covered wooden hut, fales usually have shared bathrooms with cold showers. Simple fales go for around 80T per night with more modern (albeit still a fale) going for 120T and up. The price almost always includes a communal breakfast and dinner.
Hotels: simple hotels and bed & breakfasts will almost exclusively be found in Apia and Salelologa.
Resorts: Samoa has a few high-end resorts, though it’s nothing like the resort scene of the Cook Islands or French Polynesia. The bulk of the resorts in Upolu are in and around Apia and down on the south coast where the best beaches are. Over in Savaii, there are a few mediocre resorts in Salelologa and high-end options in Manase. One of the newest resorts to open in Samoa is the Aga Reef Resort & Spa, located on arguably the best beach in Samoa at Lalomanua.
Renting a car and exploring the islands at your own pace is fairly simple and affordable. You can also join organized tours that will provide a cultural perspective on things and perhaps even take you to lesser-known spots. Taking the bus in Samoa is an experience you’ll never forget. It’s a great way to save on travel costs and to get to know Samoan culture from a unique perspective. Buses usually serve specific villages to and from the main city. Lastly, use the ferry for getting to Savaii from Upolu.