With a population of 42,000, Savai'i is third largest Polynesian island after Tahiti and New Zealand. It’s also one of the few places on earth where you can truly get away from it all and experience the simple pleasure of life.
Samoa’s largest island is known for its gentle and traditional way of life, pristine scenery and archaeological sites. A well-paved road encircles the island making it easy to explore.
Getting to Savai'i is easy – just hop on the ferry from Mulifanua Wharf in western Upolu and 90 minutes later you’ll be setting foot on the island.
Salelologa, in the southeast, is the island’s main service centre and serves as the departure and arrival point for ferries from neighbouring Upolu Island. It’s the best place to stock up on supplies, change money and arrange a rental vehicle. The local market sells food and produce and there are a couple of cafés to enjoy.
The big island – as the locals refer to it – is a scenic treasure trove, offering everything from a rich, unspoilt marine life and breath-taking waterfalls, to caves, blowholes and rainforests teeming with birds, other wild – but guaranteed harmless – creatures and health-giving plants. Probably the most dramatic geological feature is the Saleaula lava fields, where Mt Matavanu erupted from 1905 to 1911, leaving 50 square kilometres of wrinkly lava tongues in its wake. Some of the lava tubes are home to the native white-rumped swiftlet (Aerodramus Spodiopygius).
On Savai'i, you’ll get a true insight into the traditional Samoan way of life. A great way to experience the culture – and the Savaiian sense of community – is by attending a church service. It’s definitely not a locals-only affair, and chances are baby, gran and the family dog may come along too.
Other traditions you might want to indulge in are the traditional Sunday meal, cooked on an overground volcanic rock oven called umu, a game or two of kirikiti (the national version of cricket), or learning the time-consuming art of tapa cloth making and painting.
Needless to say, Savai'i also offers the obligatory tropical holiday ‘must-haves’ like white sandy, palm-fringed beaches and turquoise lagoons. Without being biased, they really are something to write home – or update your Facebook status – about!
There is certainly a great deal to explore in Savai'i. you can while away the time snorkelling, diving, surfing or having a siesta Samoan-style – in an open-air fale.
There are many lovely beaches on Savai'i that are ideal for swimming, though remember to ask permission at the nearest village. Between the villages of Siufaga and Pu’apu’a there is a stretch of good swimming beaches (villages charge a small fee), and there is a popular beach between Lelepa and Manase. This long stretch of sand is perfect for walking, snorkelling and mixing with the local villagers. Satuiatua Beach and Aganoa Beach are other swimming beaches on the southern coast of the island. Many beach fale operators will allow you the use of the beach and a fale for a beach fee.
A popular dive site in Savai'i is the wreck of the Juno which was shipwrecked in 1881 and now is the home to hundreds of fish and coral species.
Most of the coastline is ringed with fringing reefs, making Savai'i ideal for kayaking. Several adventure companies offer kayaking tours around the main islands and smaller uninhabited offshore islands.