Made up of an archipelago of 12 islands peaking above the clear turquoise waters of the central South Pacific, the tropical islands of Samoa are a paradise of ancient culture, dramatic and serene landscapes, and unique activities. A Samoa holiday offers you the chance to create your very own adventure away from the daily grind, whether you’re looking for relaxation, romance, new cultural encounters, family-friendly fun, or even some adrenaline-inducing action and entertainment.
Whichever way you choose to spend your time in Samoa, you’ll always be touched by the authenticity and warm welcome of the Samoan people throughout your stay. There’s truly nothing the Samoan people love more than to extend their hospitality and share their stories, incredible food, and way of life with visitors from all around the world. A trip to remember forever, you’ll always leave Samoa feeling reinvigorated and inspired.
Only four of Samoa’s 12 islands are inhabited including Upolu, Savai’i, Apolima, and Manono. While Upolu and Savai’i are the two largest islands by area, Upolu is the most populous island in Samoa and home to Samoa’s historical capital city of Apia.
International visitors to Samoa will nearly always arrive at either Samoa’s international airport or seaport on the island of Upolu. While most visitors will stay on the island of Upolu because of its variety of activities, bars and restaurants, and resorts and accommodation options, there are regular ferries from Upolu to Savai’i which make Savai’i easily accessible for day trippers and those looking for a more remote place to stay. The smaller islands of Apolima, Manono, and even Nu'ulopa and Namu'a can also be reached by smaller water taxis.
Three quarters of Samoa’s population (over 143,000) live on the island of Upolu which stretches 75 kilometres long and spans a total area of 1,125 square kilometres. While Upolu easily has the most to offer when it comes to resorts, entertainment, and food and cultural experiences, the island remains completely true to the character of Samoa’s entire archipelago.
Upolu is flanked by pristine white sandy beaches and clear balmy waters while it also boasts an unspoilt inland region of lush tropical rainforests, hidden waterfalls, and mountainous peaks of up to 3,652 feet above sea level.
Whether you decide to stay in a traditional beach fale or spoil yourself in a luxury ocean-fronting resort, you could spend days exploring the peace and tranquillity of Upolu’s natural oasis (and in so many ways including on foot, by bike, on a kayak, or guided tour). Highlights include the idyllic Lalomanu Beach – voted one of the top ten beach destinations in the world by Lonely Planet – and the 100-metre high Papapapai-Tai Falls.
Upolu also has another side too for those who enjoy the hustle and bustle from time to time. Samoa’s capital city of Apia on the north coast of Upolu is teaming with shops and craft and food markets selling anything from local arts to tropical fruits, sweet treats, and freshly caught seafood. Among the awe of Apia’s traditional and contemporary architecture, you’ll also find cultural museums and some of the islands’ best bars and restaurants from budget to fine dining.
Unsurprisingly for a sparsely populated island of around only 43,000 people, Savai’i is a place where the locals enjoy a traditional way of life and is well-known for its laid-back attitude and slower pace. Despite this, at 80 kilometres long and 40 kilometres wide, Savai’i is slightly larger than Upolu which means a visit to Savai’i can be a great way to truly disconnect and immerse yourself in Polynesian culture.
Beyond the gateway town of Salelologa, where you’ll arrive by ferry from Upolu, some of the top sights and activities on Savai’i island include the volcanic peak of Mount Silisili which towers over 6,000 feet above sea level, the Saleaula lava fields, and its dramatic waterfalls, caves and blowholes.
Of course, while nowhere in Samoa ever feels overcrowded, you’ll have no difficulty finding your own slice of paradise on Savai’i. The island offers boutique resorts and an abundance of stunning secluded beaches where you can enjoy snorkelling, swimming, diving, or something more chilled.
Situated in the Apolima Strait between the two main islands of Upolu and Savai’i, Apolima is just five- kilometres in diameter and home to 100 Samoan inhabitants. Apolima’s only village, Apolima-Uta, lies beyond the island’s main beach where your boat will land and is made up of a modest collective of fales and one church.
As you might expect from a small island formed from an inactive volcanic crater, the people of Apolima lead a completely self-sufficient lifestyle, giving visitors an authentic glimpse of the traditional Samoan way of life as it has existed for centuries. You can appreciate the unique volcanic topography of this tiny island by talking a steady walk up to the Apolima lighthouse.
Less than 4km off the west-northwest coast of Upolu and a short 20-minute boat ride away from Manono-uta in Upolu, Manono is only 3 kilometres in diameter but is Samoa’s third most populated island with around 889 people living in its four villages of Apai, Faleu, Lepuia’i, Salua. There are no cars on the island, but unlike Apolima, there is accommodation here should you choose to extend your trip into an overnight stay.
With pristine beaches, a marine-protected lagoon, and sites like Mt Tulimanuiva accessible via rugged jungle walking tracks, Manono is the perfect place to experience what it feels like to escape off grid in one of the world’s most idyllic and unspoilt paradise settings. Popular sites of cultural significance include the Mt Tulimanuiva Star Mounds, which are thought to be around 1000 years old, and the Grave of 99 Stones at Lepuia’i village.
If you want to take your far-flung tropical getaway to the next level, the island of Namu’a is a great place to do it. Although technically uninhabited, the island is only a few hundred meters off Upolu’s south-east coast and is home to a small cluster of traditional thatched beach fales where you can stay overnight (or for a few days) to truly disconnect from the modern world.
While you’re advised to take your own food and supplies to enjoy a day trip to Namu’a, overnight stays include return boat trips, dinner, and breakfast. Apart from relaxing among the coconut trees, many visitors to Namu’a enjoy water activities like snorkelling where turtles are usually easy to spot gliding through the crystalline waters.
Boats to Namu’a depart from Mutiatele, Upolu, and take around 10 minutes to reach the islands.
Barely stepped on and rarely seen, the smallest islands in the Samoan archipelago offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit somewhere extra special – you just need find a boat to take you there (unless you’re lucky enough to have your own yacht). The islands of Nu’utele, Nu’uala, Fanuatapu, Fatuanava, Nu’ulopa, Lepuia’i, and Nuusafee are dotted around Samoa’s most populated islands which means some of them are accessible by kayak as part of a guided tour.
None of the islands are inhabited which makes them a haven for native wildlife including flying foxes, seabirds, and a plethora of tropical marine life. During a day trip to the islands, you could enjoy snorkelling some of the many vibrant coral gardens or even a picnic on a far-flung white sandy beach of your choice.