Scenically, Upolu offers an eclectic mix of natural riches that extend far beyond white sand beaches and blue lagoons. Well, of course there are plenty of those also, including an ample supply of excellent 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, too, exudes a very special, 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 business for swimming, picnicking or just generally whiling the time away.
Upolu’s budding metropolis of Apia, where 35,000 of Samoa’s 177,000 inhabitants live, is the perfect place to acclimatise to island life. Because it’s hot and humid for most part 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 away 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 become 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 Vailima beer.
Speaking of which, Apia has a groovy nightlife – everything from funky pubs and roaring nightclubs to cultural shows and excellent restaurants, where you can sing, dance, enjoy fresh local fare and party the night away…