Explore Upolu – the Gateway to Samoa

Scenically, Upolu offers an eclectic mix of natural riches that extend far beyond white sand beaches and blue lagoons.

Of course, there are plenty of those too, including excellent year-round fishing, diving and surfing spots all along the coast. If you want all of this and more, just take a half-day excursion down the east coast, down to idyllic Lalomanu Beach. Or, if romance is on your agenda, you might just want to take the Cross Island Road straight down to the southern beaches.

Alluring beaches aside, Upolu’s interior exudes a very special and mystic charm. There are numerous tracks that lead deep through lush rainforests to a number or rivers and dramatically beautiful waterfalls. Many of these are just the ticket for swimming, picnicking or just generally whiling the time away.

Upolu is home to Samoa's capital, Apia, where over 38,000 of Samoa’s 194,000 inhabitants live. Situated on a natural harbour, just 40km from Faleolo International Airport, Apia is the perfect place to acclimatise to island life, pick up some souvenirs, and get to know the cultural heritage and proud history of Samoa.

Because it’s hot and humid for most of the year, Samoans are early risers and you’ll often find them sweeping their floors as early as 5am. Having said that, all the work is performed in a chilled-out manner and it still gets done!

Come lunch time and early afternoon and you’ll often find locals snoozing in one of the open-air fales along the road to beat the heat of the day. Only when it cools down in the early evening do the CBD and coastal road come alive again.

Pre- and post-heat are when you want to hit the colourful Maketi Fou (food market) on Apia’s Fugalei Street, to stock up on fresh fruit like pawpaws or a bunch of sinfully sweet little ladyfinger bananas. About a 10-minute walk from the food market is the flea market – the perfect souvenir haunt where you’ll find everything from clubs and kava bowls to lava lavas (the Samoan sarong), baskets, jewellery and authentic Samoan music.

When it’s cooler, you’ll also see many of the notoriously sports-mad Samoans indulging in a game of footie or kirikiti, the local version of cricket. By all means, don’t hesitate to join in – and don’t shun the post-match ritual of joining the boys for a cleansing local beer.

Speaking of which, Apia has a great nightlife – everything from busy pubs and roaring nightclubs to cultural shows and excellent restaurants, where you can sing, dance, enjoy fresh Samoan cuisine and party the night away.