Apia – the Capital City of Samoa
While Apia may be small, it has a good share of restaurants, clubs, markets, shops, scenic and cultural attractions to keep your holiday interesting and busy.
Apia is located on the central north coast of Upolu, Samoa's second largest island, 40km east of the international airport. This charming colonial-style town is the hub of business, government and shopping within Samoa and is an excellent place to explore or base yourself while you discover Samoa.
First things first: we welcome you to visit the Samoa Tourism Information Fale on Beach Road for help, information and inspiration in planning your Samoan holiday. Be sure to ask if there is a Fia Fia night during your stay in Apia, where you can feast on traditional Samoan food and be entertained by Samoan warriors, dancers, musicians and story-tellers.
If you have limited time in Samoa’s harbour capital city, a must-see is the Samoa Cultural Village located on Beach Road next to the Visitor Information Fale. You will see authentic demonstrations of traditional Samoan activities including wood carving, basket weaving, tapa making and, if you are lucky, even witness someone getting a traditional Samoan tattoo by a master tattooist. Taste authentic Samoan food with a traditional meal straight out of the umu, or the stone oven.
Follow this with a visit to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Museum and the Vailima National Reserve about 5kms from Apia. Take a tour of the home of the famous Scottish author who spent his final years in Samoa. Known as ‘Tusitala’ (Samoan for ‘teller of tales’) his works include Kidnapped, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Treasure Island. His beautiful mansion Vailima has been converted into a Museum set within lush gardens and is open to the public. Visit his grave located at the top of Mt Vaea, along a hiking trail named by the locals as “The Road of Loving Hearts”.
Enjoy a stroll through the Vailima Botanical Gardens, visit the Information Centre and learn about the biodiversity of the Reserve and cool off in the freshwater pool and waterfall of the Loimata o Apaula stream where Robert Louis Stevenson once used to swim.
A Marine Key Biodiversity Area with a diverse array of coral and fish species, Palolo Deep Marine Reserve is a 5-minute walk from Apia. Bring your snorkeling gear and a beach towel as it’s a great place for swimming and snorkeling. Young and old can easily access the large pool fed by the sea and see the amazing colours of Samoan marine life. Reef shoes are optional but try and arrange your visit at high tide. Basic shower and change room facilities provided.
The Museum of Samoa is housed in a two-storey colonial building of over a century years old that was once a German school on Vaitele Street, 5min drive from Apia. You will find inside a spectacular collection of cultural and historical artifacts and other sources of information relating to the customs and cultures of Samoa and other Pacific islands. Entry is free, but a donation is welcome.
Papase’ea Sliding Rocks are situated in Se’ese’e in the Faleata district approx. 15mins drive from Apia. Brave Mother Nature’s waterslides and slide down these naturally formed rock slides, worn down by thousands of years of running water.
You can't visit Apia without going to the markets, especially if you love a bargain. The Marketi Fou (food/produce markets) at Fugalei situated a short distance from the centre of town is adjacent to the Apia bus station. It’s more an experience than many produce markets, and here you can also find souvenirs (siapo, wood carvings, coconut-shell jewellery, massage oils, hats, lava-lavas), taste traditional Samoan food while watching a game of Samoan checkers, and sample some fruit and vegetables that you may never have seen or tasted before. From about 11:30am, look out for umu menu options on offer.
If you’re an early bird, try to get to the Apia Fish Market at around 6am (although Sunday is the best day to see a larger variety of seafood wares including freshly cooked fish and chips). If you get here before 9am, you can see the freshest haul from the sea: large lobsters, tasty crabs, and tables of technicolour fish. If you’re staying at a hotel, you can buy fresh seafood at the market and ask your hotel chef to make you the ultimate seafood platters.
Every weekday morning at 8:45am, the Royal Samoan Police marching band marches a few blocks down Beach Road to Apia’s Government Building, plays the national anthem as the Samoan flag is raised and then marches back to the Police Headquarters. Sporting crisp tropical uniforms and marching in sandals, spotless lavalavas and marching past Apia’s beautiful cathedral, this is a unique photo and video opportunity.
As the day cools and the sun sets, head for a stroll along Apia’s harbour wall. Out in the harbour you may see outrigger canoes – in Samoan we refer to these as 'alo' or 'Paopao' – with various teams and clubs enjoying serious fun on the water.
With plenty of accommodation options for all budgets and requirements, Apia is a good central location to see the rest of Samoa. Hire a car for the day or two and make Apia your base – the beautiful beaches of the South Coast, such as picturesque Lalomanu, are only 1.5 hours’ drive away from Apia.
Don't forget, wherever you stop in Samoa and admire the naural landmarks, if you wish to swim or stop for any length of time, please make sure you seek permission and pay the small fee involved in using a beach or natural attraction..