Talk about a room with a view, the entire island has the most epic views and I cannot recommend this tropical paradise enough! We stayed at Le Vasa Resort on the west coast of the Samoan Island Upolu and had a fabulous experience there. Although the location was quite far from our top 10 highlights, the resort staff were very accommodating of us travelling with a toddler. They entertained Sophia whilst we ate, provided her with her own little tropical breakfast each morning and made sure we were in a kid-friendly fale (as in one that she couldn’t fall through the slats into the ocean from!). The views from our ocean fale were amazing and the fish literally jumped in and out of the ocean as we were doing yoga on the veranda each morning. What a welcome to paradise!
We did LOADS of research before our trip about where to go and what to see so that we could make the most of our 10 days there. Here are our highlights:
Namua Island, just 10 minutes by boat from the east coast of Samoa truly is tropical bliss, comprising of about 10 beach fales and a pool table, that’s it. No shops. Nothing. We hadn’t booked or anticipated going there that day, but we happened to pass by and ask when the next crossing was. Five minutes later we were speeding across the ocean and we had the island to ourselves for most of the day. It is the type of place where the most strenuous decision is: ‘To snorkel or to sunbathe?’. During the journey by speed boat we spotted loads of turtles floating around on the reef. We lounged the day away on the white sandy beach, lying in the shallow water to keep cool and sipping coconuts under the welcome shelter of the palm trees. Don’t forget your snorkelling gear and a picnic. If you’re brave enough you can stay overnight- mosquito nets provided!
We spotted a photo of To Sua Ocean Trench in a travel book years ago and added Samoa to our travel wish list because of it. The turquoise lagoon was as beautiful in real life and after much deliberation we bundled Sophia into her new front pack, descended the steepest most slippery steps known to man and plunged into the refreshing pool beneath. The water isn’t very deep and there are ropes to guide you to the various caves in the trench. At low tide you can swim through the trench and out onto the beach. Sophia wasn’t terribly impressed but the cool water was a welcome break from the scorching sun despite her protests. There are beach fales, rock pools and sun loungers above the ocean trench and you could spend hours here.
Whilst the other island (Savai’i) is known for its turtle sanctuary and opportunities to feed and swim with turtles, Namua Island is one of the places to swim with turtles in their natural habitat. You have to time it right with the tides as they stay close to the reef in the mornings but then disappear during the day. Whilst Sophia was snoozing in the beach fale we took it in turns to snorkel. The reef is absolutely stunning, surrounded by colourful coral just a few metres from the shore.
There are a range of absolutely stunning waterfalls all over Samoa; ones to admire from viewpoints, ones to swim in and others to slide down. A few of our favourites included Papapapai-Tai Falls, a 100m-high waterfall which can be accessed from a viewpoint and Togitogiga Waterfalls, where you can swim, paddle or have your back massaged/pounded by the spray. At Sopoaga Falls you can enjoy the beautiful backdrop of lush greenery whilst you sit in a fale and admire the view. Papase’ea Sliding Rocks was a highlight for us. We made a quick pitstop here on our way to drop off the hire car, had a refreshing swim and paddled in the waterfall pools. Sophia even enjoyed splashing around in them too. The steps back up to the carpark from the sliding rocks are quite steep and a bit of a workout but well worth it. In the wet season these 5-metre sliding rocks are at their prime. Watch out for boulders and shallow pools.
If you think the London underground is crowded at rush hour, try experiencing a local bus from Apia town centre on a Friday afternoon. No matter how full you think the bus is you can bet that at least 10-15 more people can squeeze on in! People sit on each others laps, are crammed down the aisles and the bus stops on request at local shops where people hop off to buy their groceries as the entire bus load of people waits for them! I had a girl sitting on my knee at one point and at another I was asked to lift up my feet whilst wooden flooring was taken out and delivered to someone’s house. Random! And hilarious! It was a very affordable way to travel home from town after dropping off the hire car and was a fun experience! It cost us less than £3, whereas a taxi would cost around £25 for the hour-long journey. We didn’t really miss the air con; we could just stick our heads out of the window and enjoy the sea breeze!
Apia has two great markets a couple of streets apart where you can buy fresh fruit & vegetables, local delicacies, lava lava sarrongs, material and many types of Samoan-themed souvenirs. We enjoyed tasting a range of Samoan delicacies including banana crisps and fresh coconut milk. We would have loved to have brought back a few souvenirs but with NZ’s strict customs controls we didn’t risk taking anything through that we weren’t sure exactly what it was made from.
A Fia Fia night (meaning ‘happy get together’) is an evening of entertainment which celebrates Samoan culture. It comprises of a traditional buffet, beautiful songs, graceful dances and a spectacular fire dance. We went to a Fia Fia night at Le Manumea Resort in Apia. The host was amazing, the show was enchanting as well as educational and there was even a room with a cot at reception that Sophia could sleep in whilst we watched the performances. It was a shame that she screamed all evening- you gotta love teething!
#8 Relax, Relax, Relax
In a pedalo, in a hammock, by the pool, on a sunbed, at the beach, on the veranda or in a beach fale. There are so many places to relax here and relax we did! Travelling with a toddler meant that we had to be more organised about our relaxation (!) and as soon as Sophia was napping we got started with our yoga or headed for a hammock with our books. We also tag teamed to give each other a proper break for at least a couple of hours.
#9 Sip Sunset Cocktails
#10 Visit the ‘other’ island (Savai’i)
We didn’t manage to do this but are assured by other travellers that it is absolutely beautiful and a great day trip. You need to keep an eye on the weather before you travel there though as some people we met got stranded there overnight due to stormy sea conditions! You can swim with turtles at the Turtle Santuary in Satoalepai Village, visit a black sand beach, lava fields and the Alofaaga blowholes. Apparently there is a guy there who places a coconut in the blow holes and you can watch it get shot up into the sky with the pressure of the water!
COMEDY MOMENT (!):
I suppose for most people it would go without saying…but check that your passport has at least 6 months validity before flying to Samoa!!! We almost didn’t make it onto this incredible holiday as one of our passports only had 3 months left until the expiry date! We discovered this at check in, 20 minutes before it closed. Heavy breathing…..accompanied by a rapid increase in heart rate….Thankfully the last minute waiver from the Samoan High Commission came through in the knick of time….3 minutes before we were due to board the flight! Phew and a HUGE thank you to Air New Zealand!