Sun and Fun in Samoa


“Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”
― Ernest Hemingway.

Drunk is overstating things, but I probably wasn’t completely sober either when I spontaneously suggested we should do a trip to Samoa to celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday – being her birthplace.
One excited conversation and 5 months later we are boarding our flight to Samoa for 4 nights (but 5 whole days) of “girl” time, leaving families behind at home.   The weather map has been showing thunder storms for the foreseeable future, there are 12 of us to get on with and I am sure that there are those of us with a few qualms.

As we step out onto the tarmac in Apia there is not a thunder storm in sight, in fact the sky is blue and it is hot, balmy and gorgeous as is our tour guide and soon to be best friend Fats (ie Peter Fatialofa).  Fats quickly and efficiently (yes even in Samoa) gathers our bags and whisks us 5 minutes down the road to cocktails and lunch at Aggie Greys Lagoon resort.  It is only 11am NZ time and we are reclining with drinks in the sun, the chill of NZ quickly forgotten and realising that the days to come are going to be something more than special.
Upolu, the island where the international airport is based, is relatively spread out, dotted with immaculate villages, where houses in a rainbow of colour stand out against the lush green landscape.

It is a good hour’s drive until we reach our resort along a well maintained yet narrow road that we share with pigs, pedestrians and other vehicles.  We are staying at  Seabreeze,  on the south coast  of the island, the southern and eastern sides were those hardest hit by the tsunami.  The tropical vegetation has been quick to recover and a huge effort  put into restoring and rebuilding property.


Lalomanu
, a picturesque beach on the Eastern coast of Upolu is touted by Lonely Planet as being one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.  It really is a post card beach with silken white sand, iridescent blue water and palm trees to frame your photos.   It is where we settle in for a full day of beach and water activity (or not) and then return again for our Saturday night champagne on the beach and special dinner that gets slightly lost in translation…

The sandy coast of Lalomanu provides good swimming and the beach gently falls away making it safe for young and old.  It is once you start to snorkel that you appreciate the extent of the tsunami devastation.  Layers of decimated coral will take quite some time to recover but the fish are coming back and the electric blue flashes of new coral life help to imagine the lush seabed as it would have been prior to 2009.  One of our group claims she has seen a turtle while snorkelling, although the rest of us take some convincing.  I head into the water, turtle spotting with renewed vigour (swimming with turtles being high on my bucket list). I have water wrinkled fingers and am almost feeling cold when a turtle glides out  beneath me.  My breathing is so loud I worry it may scare it away but it allows us to follow it for quite some time, as it moseys silently around the coral.

Another great snorkelling spot is on the fringe of Apia at Palolo Deep Marine Reserve. With the port so close by it seems an unlikely destination, but once you are beyond the kelp growth that borders the shore there are a myriad of fish to see and once again we were lucky enough to swim above turtles.  The coral drops off in places allowing scuba diving experiences or more adventurous snorkelling to spot reef sharks and more.

Unfortunately my sense of adventure with snorkelling doesn’t extend to heights or ladders and I am the self appointed photographer at the To Sua Ocean Trench, just walking distance from our Seabreeze resort.  To Sua – meaning large hole – is a large natural swimming hole which is only accessible by ladder or through the caves that water surges into the trench through.  At high tide it is possible to leap from varying points on the ladder down to the brilliant blue water.   There is a small fee to enter and at high tide there are also blow holes along the rocky coast bordering the lush and well maintained gardens.

Samoa is well catered with resorts for varying budgets and travelling styles.
When we take the family back I plan to go to Litia Sini Beach resort on Lolomanu Beach.  It is more rustic than we would ordinarily choose, the ablution block is communal and the clean but basic rooms contain just beds and ceiling fans. The beach is your playground and the bar/restaurant facilities are perfect for most families needs.  Rates include buffet dinner and breakfast and work out to be very reasonable.  We would rent a car from Apia as I think that after a few days of beaching I would probably need a day trip either into Apia or to other villages around the island.
Coconuts Resort is also a good option, although the menu could do with some local input instead of trying to recreate French classics.

If the kids have grown up or you are leaving them at home then Sinalei Resort offers the ultimate in luxury.  Covering over 30 acres with a maximum of 60 guests you really do feel as if you own the place.  The restaurant, under the watchful eye of food and beverage manager Sharon Greene, supports local produce and the food is deliciously fresh and better than many island resorts offer.  Coconut crusted parrot fish with a watercress salad and island fries is such a hit that I have to return for a repeat the next day (Samoa has fabulous fish from reef fish such as parrot fish to delicious fresh tuna). The frozen margaritas on the beach as we recline on our loungers immersed in books, are a complete indulgence!  Another choice of indulgence is a massage in the island style bungalows with views out to sea.
Snorkelling at Sinalei is especially good at high tide – otherwise the water can feel quite  shallow. You can also organise a short boat trip to a small island nearby that reputedly has the best snorkelling around.
Sinalei is one of those places that you just don’t want to leave and I know that we will be back once child free holidays become a reality or the kids are over 12 and can come too.

With a local population of close to 40,000 Apia has all of the services of a Pacific Island city.  Shopping includes the traditional island carved wooden bowls, ornaments from coconut shell and fibre along with colourful sarongs.

The Apia produce markets are definitely worth a food lovers visit, amongst the traditional taro and coconut are gems such as freshly picked lychees and mangosteen and I buy a bag of each (mangos, melons and pineapple are also available when in season).  The delicious salted banana and taro chips are eaten with drinks and the block of cacoa paste makes it past NZ customs without a hitch. The sago drink is a bit thick and sloppy for my liking although proves to be popular with locals.

Robert Louis Stevenson spent his last years in Apia, his house as a museum and grave site are open for viewing at certain hours.

Apia has a selection of restaurants, with Chinese business influence there are Chinese restaurants along with Italian and other cultural influences.
For a great coffee and cafe style food head to the Coffee Bean Cafe (just behind Aggies hotel), their coconut muffins are seriously good!  In fact Samoa do coconut really well, fresh coconut versus dried makes the world of difference to baking and one day I vow to experiment at home.

Our days roll by into a blur of sun, laughs, good food, not so good food and a sense of general well being.  Our final afternoon is spent again at Aggies Lagoon where birthdays are celebrated in true island style.   We marvel at how incredible our trip has been, how far our $$ have stretched and whether anything could be quite so perfect again.
Maybe, maybe not, I am prepared to give it a shot though and am currently checking out the very reasonable airfares so I can share Samoa with my family.

Extra info.
* Air New Zealand fly Auckland to Samoa 5 days a week.  Some flights are at completely unsociable hours but if you are flexible with days then you can tailor your schedule to suit.
* Peter Fatialofa  has a wealth of experience and is worth consulting as a group tour guide.  He can take you to discos, restaurants or a quiet beach…. (he can also move your piano if needed).
* Women in business is an organisation in Samoa, established to assist families in villages  to earn an income with the resources they have.
* Allgood Fairtrade bananas from Samoa
* Samoa, baby (aka Samoa with a toddler) – Virgil Evetts
* Sinalei and Seabreeze resorts are both restricted to people over 12 years of age.
* Sinalei dining is highly recommended and we applaud the way they work with their local farmers and producers to source the best local produce that the island has to offer.
* NZ wine and local beer are well priced in the supermarket or liquor store in Apia.
*  Bottled water is often not needed, so therefore it is good to reduce plastic waste and refill your bottles with tap water.  Do check with each place as to their water source.  We drank tap water with no ill effects.
* Self catering accommodation is not the norm in Samoa although Sinalei have houses on the outskirts of Apia.
Oka – Samoan style cerviche is available at most restaurants.  It is often made with freshly caught tuna and is delicious.

 

All of this is based on my brief experience so it would be wonderful to hear of your Samoa travel experiences.
 

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19 thoughts on “Sun and Fun in Samoa

  1. What a lovely travel story! It brings back such wonderful memories of my holiday in Samoa – pre tsunami – we (my husband and I) stayed at Maninoa Surf Camp situated between both luxury resorts Coconuts and Sinalei. It was definitely budget accommodation – open fales on the beach with pull down thatch walls if it rained, and resident geckos inthe roof (great mosquito protection) – but I have never been so relaxed. Damon was there to surf the many reefs/breaks like Coconuts and Boulders with the other guests at the camp whilst I spent my days on the beautiful beach with the other surf widows perfecting our tans and schooling ourselves on surf lingo for when the menfolk returned. The nights were spent going between happy hour at Harry’s Bar over the water at Sinalei Resort and the local fire dancing performances and cava ceremony at Coconuts resort. It was bliss. We fully intend to take our two babies there soon, I cant imagine a better place for a relaxed family holiday.

  2. Hi Helen, well overdo to respond to your wonderful write up on our Samoa. As a surfing destination, Samoa is definately on the radar with the young and older surfers. Right out front of our resort, Sinalei, is a reef that holds both challenges for the amateur or experienced surfer. With breaks coming in from the depths of the ocean, surfing you into the a reef that is only 4-6 feet deep, is a real mindset experience. Guests that have come back from an early morning surf (6am) still have adrenalin pumping through them, and nothing deters them from another surf in the afternoon.

    On our left going east, there is an amazing board breaking spot called Boulders. Waves take you over very deep waters and onto a black sand beach. A surf challenge for the experienced!!!

    We have a surf camp right by the resort, although our skipper will take eager surfers out to the best spots. A 15 minute drive east takes you to a beautiful tranquil group of fales that now has a surf camp adjacent. Two Australian brothers have set up camp here and are to begin their surf experience tours in the very near future, if not already.

    If you want further info. on surfing, please let me know. I would love to explore this more for you.

    Cheers
    Sharon

  3. Omg! We had a family holiday at Seabreeze at the end of April and I have not stopped raving about everything! We loved our time in Samoa and really relaxed – no tv, Internet or phones meant we just took time out and Seabreeze is the perfect place to do just that! I have already written my comments on Trip Advisor and thank Wendy, Chris and their wonderful staff at Seabreeze.

  4. I have been waiting for your travel story since you mentioned your trip there and so glad to hear you had a fab time!
    I frequently visit Samoa every year and truly enjoy every trip there. Seabreeze is an awsome place to stay at and the beach fales in Lalomanu are perfect for the budget conscious traveller.
    I will be heading there end of May to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Samoa becomming an independent island nation so looking forwarding to sipping on a few fresh cold coconuts.
    I was wondering where you heard that oka (the raw fish with coconut cream) was called oka popa? as I have heard its just called Oka. I just saw this and thought that popa was a new samoan word I have just heard.
    Otherwise a wonderful post I plan to forward to any friend who is considering visiting Samoa.

  5. All that info is fantastic! Thank you so much. Do you remember I bumped into the coffee shop in Remuera and was asking you about Samoa? This was prior to your recent trip. Well we are all booked with our 2 children along with a hire car and staying at Liti Sini ! Your tips will be really helpful and Kathryn has given me some great tips too. I will be printing off “fun and sun in Samoa” and taking it with us to refer to. Great to know I may be able to get a good coffee there!

    • Sarah so pleased your holiday is booked! We are looking at going to Litisini in October. Yes you can get a good coffee but it is a really long drive. Going into “town” in Samoa can take up to an hour, depending where on the island you are. I thought the food at Liti Sini was great – we didn’t have buffet but the a la carte menu was really good. I at fish almost exclusively with the odd vegetarian curry as well. The fish is fanastic.

  6. Have had 2 trips one to Upolo and the other to Savaii .We stayed at Stevensons in Savaii and visited schools there and delivered computers to them.Enjoyed the true samoan way of life.Also stayed at Maninoa ofter the tsunami and had a budget stay.We delivered laptop computers to the schools this trip to Upolo and saw the delight on the kids faces when they had access to these.12 schools benefitied from these.Great place to stay and enjoy the true Sanoan way of living.

  7. I’m so glad you liked it. We fell head over heals for Samoa, just such a lovely, clean, relaxing place and plenty of great food to be had too. We can’t wait to get back ASAP, and I’d love to take my mother one day too as she spent much of childhood in Samoa and has such fond memories. Weirdly we discovered afterwards that Aggies resort (where we stayed) is built on the grounds of the property mum lived on in the late 50s!

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