It might be a nation of small islands but there’s something for everyone to enjoy in Samoa, and with so much to see and do, you really can create your own adventure here. Naturally, though, there’s probably no better place to start your Samoan escape while getting a feel for what the islands are all about than one of Samoa’s idyllic white sandy beaches.
As you might expect from a warm tropical island surrounded by sea, Samoan food is about as fresh as it gets. Delicious seafood is caught every day in Samoa thanks to its thriving local fishing industry, while tropical fruit and vegetable plantations enriched by fertile volcanic soil are scattered throughout the countryside.
Whether it’s caught or hand-picked, all Samoa’s fresh produce is used to inspire and create naturally wholesome dishes packed with flavour and goodness. Whether it’s traditional cuisine from recipes thousands old years old or international flavours, the food in Samoa will always be a highlight of your visit.
Umu is a traditional above ground oven created by laying hot volcanic stones (heated in fire) on the ground. In Samoa, seafood, pork, chicken, lamb, taro, bananas, and vegetables are all cooked using the umu method with each ingredient usually wrapped in banana leaves or coconut fronds. Banana leaves cover the oven to seal in the heat, so the meat, seafood, or vegetables are allowed to cook gently while becoming infused with smoky flavours.
Making the most of Samoa’s fresh seafood, oka is raw fish (usually tuna) served in a generous amount of coconut cream and lemon juice. Oka often comes garnished with spring onions, parsley, chilli, and coriander.
You can’t let a visit to Samoa pass by without trying vaisalo – a cold coconut porridge that is a popular comfort food among Samoans thanks to its sweet coconutty flavour. Vaisalo combines tapioca, coconut cream and coconut milk, sugar, coconut flesh, and lemon juice to create an enjoyable and wholesome natural treat.
Arguably one of the most traditional drinks you’ll taste in Samoa, sua fa’i is a banana smoothie-like beverage which combines banana with tapioca, coconut milk, and sugar before being boiled in water to soften and release the sweetness.
Usually eaten as a snack or treat, fa’ausi are cubes of dense coconut bread which have been dipped in a coconut milk and caramel sauce. It’s a simple dish, but the perfect marriage of caramel and coconut flavours with its moist texture will almost certainly leave you wanting more.
A traditional Samoan seafood dish, vaisu is created by cooking whole fresh fish over charcoal before being left to simmer in coconut cream. Traditionally, coconut rounds would be used to simmer the fish, intensifying the flavours while making it incredibly impressive to watch being created.
Another popular sweet treat among Samoans, panikeke is either a plain or banana pancake (served as round balls) that has been deep fried like a fritter. And you won’t have to look hard for panikeke in Samoa – you’ll find it being sold all over the islands by local street vendors.
Octopus are in plentiful supply around the shores of Samoa, so it’s no surprise they are a popular feature of many Samoan seafood dishes. Traditionally done, faiai Fe’e is a dish of octopus meat simmered in coconut cream in a half coconut shell. The dish makes the best of the fresh coconut and octopus flavours while preserving the meat’s succulent texture.
Food and culture tours
One of the best ways to immerse yourself in Samoa’s food culture is to join one of the island’s many local tour guides who can take you to all the best foodie hotspots while sharing local knowledge and insights. Designed to experience Samoa’s fun and relaxing environment, you’ll experience the buzz of local markets and stalls while learning more about the flavours, how they’re created, and where they come from.
To’onai is a Sunday lunch that traditionally brings friends and family together – not just to eat a meal, but to prepare it too. Throughout the islands, you’ll find plenty of resorts and tourism operators offering traditional To’onai feasts, either as part of their packages or as a standalone cultural experience. To’onai feasts usually include huge range of traditional Samoan dishes such as the popular umu, as well as some of the many others described above.
Hotels and resorts offering To’onai feasts in Samoa include:
Bananas, coconuts, cocoa, taro, pineapple, sweet potato, cassava, yams, sugarcane, and breadfruit are some of the many things you’ll find growing on Samoa’s plantations. So, if you’re a foodie who enjoys learning about the journey your food takes from plantation to plate, you can experience one of Samoa’s popular plantation tours where you’ll get to try the produce and experience how it is grown, harvested and most importantly, prepared for eating.
If you’re keen to take a piece of Samoa home with you that’s a bit different to the usual souvenir, why not learn a few traditional recipes you can recreate yourself. Select resorts and independent operators regularly invite visitors to join cooking classes where you’ll learn to cook how the locals do using locally sourced Samoan produce. Classes are usually scheduled or can be arranged on request.
Bursting with beautiful gardens, shops, bars, and restaurants serving anything from traditional local cuisine to international dishes, Apia is an incredibly vibrant, happening capital for a small island nation. While Apia is well-known for its gourmet seafood restaurants – many offering views over Apia Bay – in amongst the charming colonial style buildings, you’ll also discover some of Samoa’s busiest and most popular food markets and roadside stalls.
Apia’s must-see markets include the Organic Night Market on the Samoa Cultural Village grounds, Apia Fish Market, Fugalei Fresh Produce Market, and Savalalo Flea Market. Apia’s markets give you the chance to browse and try all kinds of local flavours at leisure from fresh produce like mango, guava, and fresh cocoa to Samoan pork buns and aromatic baked breadfruit.
Despite its small size and strong traditional food culture, Samoa has a diverse food scene which makes it an ideal destination for international visitors looking for a range of experiences during their stay. While Samoa offers cuisines from all around the world, visitors will find anything from budget family friendly options and fine dining to traditional Samoan cultural food experiences and a huge choice of top bars serving beers, wines, and amazing cocktails.
You can find out more about what’s on offer here.