I’ve barely written anything about our trip to Samoa, so it’s about time I got it out there.
Since the tsunami of 2009 which devastated parts of this island nation we have pledged to visit Samoa next time we were heading to the Pacific. Growing up in New Zealand meant I had a lot of school friends from Samoa and they always seemed so happy when they talked about home. Besides we’d been to Fiji, the Cook Islands, New Caledonia and Vanuatu and really wanted something a little off the beaten track for our first family trip to the Pacific Islands.
Our first four days were spent in Apia on the main island of Upolu. Apia is fine for a day or two and all the supermarkets are there plus you can find a decent espresso if you need it. The air-conditioned McDonalds restaurant right in town became a hideout of ours when the heat got too much but if I did the trip again I would stay less time in Apia and head over to Lalomanu Beach for a couple of nights instead.
We took a day trip to Lalomanu, which may be the most pristine and picture perfect beach I have ever seen – and of course I forgot to bring my camera – (the pic above is from Dave’s iPhone). If this beach was in Thailand or even Fiji, it would be jam-packed with visitors, but we saw less than ten other people chilling out under palm trees and loving their lives. As most beaches are on communal land (usually owned by the local village) it is necessary to either pay for entry to use the beach or buy a meal in the restaurant on the beach which we did. It was a small price to pay for such beauty.
Lalomanu Beach is an easy drive from Apia over the Cross-Island road and along the Southern Coast.
We took our rental car on the ferry from Upolu to Savaii so we didn’t have to swap cars, but we paid extra for this (around $60NZD each way). It worked out better for us as renting a car in Apia is cheaper than in Savaii, plus we had a really nice SUV with air-con that we didn’t want to give up.
We scored a great deal for the Savaiian Hotel and were so comfortable there. It’s a definite three star but the price included breakfast and the accommodations were clean and homely. The staff were approachable and Dylan made friends with the chefs daughter and played with her every day.
As is typical with many Pacific Islands, WiFi was expensive and only available in the hotel lobby, but it was nice to disconnect for a while and spend our time hunting mud crabs and chasing chickens. Dylan especially liked searching for geckos hiding near lights in the restaurant.
Savaii is a great place for day trips, from our base at the Savaiian Hotel we visited the Afu Aau Falls two days in a row. Dylan loved sitting in the shallow water and splashing about, while I was grateful for respite from the heat.
The Saleaula Lava Field was a fascinating but eerie site. Eruptions at Mt Matavanu between 1905 to 1911 caused molten lava to destroy the village however the lava flow was so slow that the villagers were able to escape by canoe to Upolu and no one was killed. It is now a ghost town manned by a local womens’ committee who provide guided tours through the site for 5 Tala per person.
Other days we just drove around the island, finding amazing beaches to hang out at. We struck budget travel gold when we found Lauiula Beach Fales. For 10 tala ($5NZD approx) we had this amazing beach all to ourselves.
And if all those wonderful beaches weren’t enough for us, we found a pizza joint in Fagamalo (Leilani’s Pizzeria) that not only served bloody good pizza, the staff entertained Dylan while we ate in peace. He visited the kitchen and the bar area and just generally enjoyed himself while we guzzled an ice cold Vailima beer and relaxed. I thought that only happened in Mexico, but yay, it happens in Samoa too!
On Saturdays, people in the villages all over Savaii hold barbeques and for around 6Tala ($3NZD) you can get a full plate of chicken, vegetables and of course taro. This is unbeatable value and a great way to support the local economy.
We adored our time in Samoa, it was beyond what we expected for a destination with a toddler – everyone smiles at your kid, and makes you feel welcome as a parent travelling with a child which in our experience is not the case everywhere. The hospital service we received when Dylan was sick was excellent and inexpensive. Plus there are safe beaches and swimming holes and activities galore for the little ones.
It was also excellent value when compared with neighbouring Pacific Islands. Considering you can sleep in a fale on the beach for $35 a night and eat healthy food while supporting the local economy for $3 , it’s a surprise Samoa still feels like a hidden gem. But a nice surprise, indeed.