It’s true – Samoa is home to some of the most luxurious resorts on the planet, but it’s also a fact that you don’t have to dig deep into your pockets to experience the many delights of this stunning 12-island tropical paradise. From the things you eat and where you stay to fun-filled activities and how you get around, it’s easy in Samoa to have the trip of a lifetime without breaking the bank.
Ideal for families, couples, and single travellers, here are our top tips for planning a budget-friendly break in Samoa.
There are many different types of resorts in Samoa from bed and breakfasts to exclusive resorts with private beachside villas, but staying in a fale is one of the best ways to ensure you have both an affordable and authentic Samoan experience. Usually perched right on the beach to capture the cooling sea breezes, fales are traditional Samoan houses built with a thatched or tin roof held up by wooden poles. Without permanent walls, roll-down blinds called ‘pola’ are used to protect guests from the elements while creating a naturally cosy ambience inside.
Fales in Samoa come in all shapes and sizes too. While some are fairly basic and characteristic of the original constructions by the Tufuga Fau Fale (traditional Samoan fale designers), some accommodation providers offer fale-style rooms with permanent walls, windows, and air conditioning. Nightly costs for a fale can start at around ST$80 and rates usually include breakfast and dinner.
Renting a bike is a cost-effective way to get around while also doing your bit for the environment. With relatively quiet roads and short distances between destinations compared to most nations, cycling in Samoa is a safe, fun, and free way to explore some of the beaches, villages, plantations, and waterfalls dotted all around Samoa.
Having a bike on hand could also be a convenient way to travel from your resort to restaurants and other activities without relying on public transport or taxis. And if you’d prefer to be more relaxed on your trip, some providers even offer electric-powered bikes. Hire costs are usually around ST$85 for a full day.
Forget man-made thrills, Samoa is a true natural playground thanks to its unique combination of volcanic topography and aquatic wonders. The Papase’ea Sliding Rock is a perfect example of how you can have a fun day out without eating into your holiday budget, all while appreciating the incredible work of Mother Nature.
Located at Se’ese’e in the Faleata District, these naturally formed rock slides have been created by water flowing over them constantly for thousands of years. Made up of two slides – a smaller one for children and a larger slide for adults – their exceptionally smooth surface and steady flow of water make them ideal for sliding down, making a splash and swimming. There are toilets and changing facilities at the rocks and the entry cost is a small ST$5.
The Saleaula Lava Fields were formed after the 1905-1911 Mount Matavanu eruption which buried as many as five villages and devastated communities. Recognised as one of the most significant natural events in Samoa’s recent history, visitors to the lava fields will be left in awe as they walk the lava fields where they’ll find fascinating lava flow patterns, imprints of trees, the half-buried LMS Church, and even the remarkably unscathed virgin grave.
The lava mounds which contain glimpses of life as it was before the eruption are now also mixed with native forest vegetation and grass patches which make for some impressive photos and offer a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch. Entry fees to the lava fields are only ST$5
You can’t visit Samoa without spending plenty of time on one of the many pristine white sand beaches. The best part is, it’s completely up to you to decide how to enjoy Samoa’s beaches, whether it’s taking time for reflection, enjoying the scenery, cooling off in the balmy turquoise waters, reading a good book, or entertaining the kids – and whatever you do, it’s all free.
At any of the beaches around the islands, you could also spend hours snorkelling through the clear lagoons being mesmerised by the abundance of tropical marine life – and if you bring your own equipment, it comes at absolutely no cost. Many resorts and operators also hire out snorkelling equipment for a small fee.
Samoan food is made with delicious local produce and is both inexpensive and easy to find around Samoa. You can buy fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, and traditional cooked dishes at any of the local markets. Some of the most popular include Apia Fish Market, Fugalei Fresh Produce Market, the Organic Night market at Samoa Cultural Village in Apia, Savalalo Flea Market, and Salelologa Market in Savai’i. Roadside stalls are also found all around the islands selling a range of ready-to-go snacks from BBQ fish and meat to fruits and vegetables – perfect if you’re on a road trip by car or bike.
It’s easy to catch a bus in Samoa, but it’s important to keep in mind that while they’re regular, they rarely run bang on schedule. You can catch any one of Samoa’s vividly painted local busses by waving down the driver from the side of the road – all you need to do is check the destination on the front of the bus and pull the chord when you near your destination. Alternatively, you can board busses at their main terminals which are behind the food market in Fugalei, opposite the flea market in Savalalo, and on Savai’i, at the market and main wharf in Salelologa. While timings can be unpredictable, catching a bus around Samoa is always fun and fares are usually only a maximum of ST$12.
You can’t leave Samoa without taking a piece of the culture with you to remember forever. A visit to the Samoa Cultural Village in the heart of Apia is a great way to experience and learn all about Samoa’s rich cultural heritage and ancient customs, and entry is completely free of charge.
At the village, you’ll enjoy a range of interactive experiences including tattoo ceremonies, traditional cooking demonstrations such as umu (earth oven), and crafts like carving, weaving and fabric printing. Traditional Fia Fia nights which are celebrations of dance, music and food are also held at the Samoa Cultural Village.
It’s easy to see more of Samoa by catching the ferry between the two main islands of Upolu and Savai’i, whether you decide to split your stay between the islands or take a day trip or two. With scenic crossings between the islands taking 60-90 minutes and running to a regular daily schedule, you can board ferry services from the terminal at Mulifanua on Upolu’s west coast and the terminal at Salelologa in the south-east of Savai’i. Fares are only ST$12 for adults and ST$6 for children, but you could splash out for the VIP lounge for an extra ST$18.