A little over a month ago, Nath and I took some time out of our normal lives and popped over to Samoa for a week.
International flights land on Upolu, one of the two main Samoan islands. From there a 45min shuttle ride took us to Apia, our base for the week. Our first impressions of Apia were not quite what we’d expected – we had both imagined Apia would be bigger than it really was (we figured after all, that they had a McDonalds and a movie theatre!) and we were surprised by just how little in the way of shopping there was. Of course we didn’t expect it to be a roaring metropolis but we had imagined it would be busier than it was.
Once we had our bearings, we organised a rental car (which cost 100 tala a day – approx NZD60) which gave us the freedom to come and go as we wanted to. As we stayed 5km or so out of Apia, it really was essential, both to get into town and more importantly, the explore the island.
For those of you planning a trip to Upolu, Samoa, here’s a run down of the main spots we explored around the island…
Piula Cave Pools
We paid 5 tala each to park our car and visit the pools – money well spent! The main pool is gorgeous and has a fair few fresh water fish in it. You can swim right into the cave and apparently through into the next… it was too dark for us to even find the end of the cave, let alone the opening. Absolutely gorgeous but you will need a rental car to get here unless you hire a taxi driver/tour driver for the day. We visited the caves first and then continued onto To Sua in the afternoon…
To Sua Ocean Trench
What a gorgeous spot! Apparently there’s a fair bit to do out there (your 15 tala entrance fee covers it all) but we just spent the afternoon swimming in the trench and relaxing by the cliff. The ladder’s a bit scary to start with but definitely manageable – take your shoes down with you on the ladder as it gets incredibly hot! There’s a platform down the bottom where you can put your gear and a rope that runs through the middle of the trench… was lovely to hang onto the rope and just float back and forth with the current.
… it was too overcast for nice photos the day we visited, but what a stunning spot!
Papaseea Sliding Rocks
A great trip out of town for a few hours and an absolute bargain at only 5 tala each. The water was a little chilly but warmer than expected considering it’s an often shaded river. The walk down to the slides was fairly step and the slides are more than a little daunting so probably not a great attraction for young children, but for those looking for a gorgeous spot and some adventure, it’s well worth a visit! We wore old sneakers and would recommend others do too.
Palolo Deep Marine Reserve
We paid 4 tala each to enter the marine reserve and took our own snorkelling gear (though you can pay more to hire theirs). There was a wide variety of fish, though most of them were on the smaller side and some beautiful coral as you got out deeper. We’d heard all the recommendations to go at high tide, which we did do, but found there to be a coral-free pathway out to the recommended snorkelling spot, so in our opinion it’s not as essential as we’d been told. The reef drops away further out so there’s plenty to explore even if you don’t swim above the reef itself.
Driving around the island was such a treat! The Samoan people were incredibly friendly and always offering up a smile and a wave (especially when you get away from Apia and the main road to the airport). It is possible to catch local buses and there are plenty of taxis around but for us a rental car was the best option. We found the buses didn’t have schedules and very seldom serviced certain parts of the island (eg. To Sua) and a rental car was much cheaper than a taxi guide.
Whilst on Upolu, we also went out with AquaSamoa and completed a two tank dive (we both loved ‘the fishbowl’ site!) and ate lots of yummy food.
In general we were really impressed with the quality of the food in Samoa and as far as prices go, it wasn’t too bad, especially considering food’s often more expensive in the Pacific.
Stay tuned for our thoughts on Savai’i and information on how to split your time between the two islands.
Sarah is a teacher and passionate traveller from New Zealand. Thirsty for adventure, she has just returned from two years in Abu Dhabi and six months travelling around South America with her husband, Nathan. She has worked in the past for an international airline and as a tour manager - travel and adventure is her passion! Sarah hopes to inspire others to push their boundaries and make new discoveries through travel too.