Are you heading to Samoa but you are short on time and on a budget? Whether you are travelling on your own or with somebody, this following itinerary will show you 12 amazing things to see on a budget roadtrip to make your stay in Samoa as authentic, memorable and easy as possible.
(Updated June 2023)
Quick Overview of Samoa
Samoa is an insanely beautiful island country in the South Pacific, forming part of Polynesia. It lies halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii and is made up of two islands – Savai’i and Upolu. The capital Apia, as well as the international airport, are both situated on Upolu.
Coming from New Zealand it’s only a short four-hour flight, directly from Auckland. My trip involved, as per usual, an overnight sleepover at the departure hall bench at the International Airport. It’s all in the spirit of sticking to my Samoa Budget Roadtrip.
I recommend booking your flights ahead of time to get the best deals!
Things to Know Before Going to Samoa
At the International airport in Auckland, in the food court, is a nice cafe called ‘Oma’ serving Flight Coffee and delicious porridge. It’s my go-to choice when I am too early for my flight.
When arriving to the Faleolo Airport you have got the choice of an arranged shuttle from your hotel, the local bus or a taxi. The taxi fare is around 50-70 tala (28-40 NZD or 18-26 USD).
How Many Days Do You Need for Samoa
The ideal duration for a visit to Samoa depends on your interests and itinerary. To fully experience the beauty of the islands and explore various attractions, I recommend a minimum of 7-10 days. This allows time for relaxation, cultural experiences, and island-hopping between Upolu and Savai’i.
Tipping and Currency
Tipping is not customary in Samoa. However, if you receive exceptional service, it’s always appreciated. The local currency is the Samoan Tala (WST). Credit cards are widely accepted in major establishments, but it’s advisable to carry some cash for smaller vendors and local markets.
For every one of my trips I take my Wise Card with me and it’s literally been a lifesaver!
Climate and Weather
Samoa has a tropical climate, with high temperatures and humidity throughout the year. Be prepared for warm and humid conditions, and pack lightweight, breathable clothing. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen, insect repellent, and a hat to protect yourself from the sun!
SIM Card and Internet
Upon arrival in Samoa, you can easily purchase a local SIM card from the Faleolo International Airport or various mobile network providers in town. Two major providers are Digicel and Bluesky Samoa, offering prepaid SIM cards with data packages for internet access. Internet coverage is generally available in urban areas and resorts, but it may be limited or slower in remote locations.
Alternatively, you can purchase a eSim before your arrival to be on the safe side!
Is Samoa Expensive
Samoa offers a range of accommodation options to suit different budgets, with budget guesthouses starting from $30 USD per night and luxury resorts available at higher prices. Local food options are affordable, with meals costing around $5 to $10 USD.
Public transportation, such as buses, are economical, while renting a car starts at $50 to $70 USD per day. Entrance fees for activities and attractions are reasonably priced, averaging $5 to $20 USD.
Overall, Samoa can be considered moderately priced for travelers.
This Samoa budget roadtrip itinerary is designed with a mix of you taking public transport and having your own car or scooter.
What to See on Your Budget Roadtrip Itinerary in Samoa
Day 1 – Arrive in Apia, Upolo, Samoa
Apia is the capital of Samoa and lies on the second largest island, Upolo. This is likely the city you will fly into when you come to Samoa. With its charming colonial-style buildings, it’s a great place to base yourself while exploring the nearby sites.
Piula Cave Pool
Piula Cave Pool is a turquoise, crystal-clear spring water pool that originated from an old lava tube. It lies on the ground of the Piula Theological College in the village of Lufilufi and makes the most perfect spot for a half-day getaway. It’s easy to reach with your own car or by public transport.
The entrance to Piula Cave Pool was $5 Tala (2,80 NZD or 1,90 USD). From Apia you can take a bus for $2-3 Tala.
Day 2 Apia to Savai’i
It wouldn’t be a real Samoa budget roadtrip itinerary if we wouldn’t take some public transport between having our own car. Getting from Apia to Savai’i can be tricky, as the timings can be unclear or the ferry is full and leaves prematurely. However, there are public buses leaving from Apia to Mulifanua Wharf Ferry Terminal. Ask your hotel or guesthouse for up-to-date information, or have a look here for the ferry timetable to Savai’i.
I missed my first ferry and decided to wait at the nearby Sheraton Samoa Beach Resort. A coconut by my side, I spent a few hours on their beautiful premises, laid in their hammock and watched the day go by.
The ferry itself from Upolo to Savai’i takes about an hour. At the terminal, you can buy snacks, and the journey is enjoyable and straight- forward.
When I did my research on where to stay, I came across Tailua Beach Fales and booked two nights. The open beach fales (typical Samoan hut) only two metres away from the ocean, as well as the exceptional reviews made me choose them. Leti, the woman who runs Tailua Beach Fales greeted me with a big smile.
Day 3,4 Savai’i
Savai’i is the westernmost and largest island in Samoa. From high waterfalls, caves and blow holes to rainforest pools this island got its fair share of natural and cultural wonders.
The beaches in Samoa are just picture-perfect and Tailua Beach did not disappoint. The sand is clear, there are palm trees all around and you can be sure to find a spot of your own somewhere along the stretch.
Don’t miss on the sunsets as they are spectacular!
Located on the West side of Savai’i, Falealupo beach is a gorgeous white-sandy beach with traditional beach fales. I found this place to be the best location to explore the nearby beaches.
This is the westernmost point so it makes the perfect place to be one, to see the first sunset of the day!
Traditional Samoan Weaving Class
If you stay at Tailua Beach Fales you can be almost sure that Leti the woman who owns the place, or her son, give you a personal traditional Samoan Weaving Class. It’s such a great activity to connect with the Samoan culture and make some souvenir to take home!
Saleaula Lava Fields
The Saleaula Lava Fields are some of Savai’s most popular attractions. From 1905-1911 the Mt Matavanu erupted and buried five villages under the lava flow. When you visit the site, you can see a church that is half buried, a virgin grave and you can see lava mounds in many places.
Entry is 5$ Tala and includes a guide that shows you around the area.
Day 5 Savai’i to East Upolo
It’s best to head early to the ferry terminal in Savai’i to not miss the first ferry. My car rental company picked me up at the Mulifanua Wharf in West Upolu near the Faleolo Aiport After I missed the 8 am ferry coming from Savai’i (it was full and left earlier), I hopped onto the 10 am one, to arrive at 11 am.
I went with MS Rentals as they provided the best value for money at that point. Per day the car cost $140 Tala, with a cleaning fee of $20 Tala making it $300 Tala in total for two days (170 NZD or 110 USD). They also did not charge for the pick-up or drop-off (which others price at $80 Tala).
Samoan roads vary from being decent and manageable to being dirt roads, scattered with potholes. The speed limit is 50 kph and to be honest, you often cannot go faster if you don’t want to damage your car.
Anyhow, to make the most out of this Samoa budget roadtrip, I suggest you take the western Cross Island Road towards the south side of the island. You can also drive to Apia first and take the other Cross Island Road going south.
To break up the journey I stopped at the insta-worthy Coconuts Beach Club Resort and Spa. The views are just stunning, the menu is varied and they host a range of activities and events. From Apia you can take the central Cross Island Road that gets you there in 30min directly.
The next stop from there can be at Togitogiga Waterfall – something I skipped. It seemed to be the only one in which you can actually swim and slide on! As always, you can’t see it all.
From there, I finally did some waterfall searching. The pictures I saw beforehand did not disappoint. If you got time to only see one waterfall, this should be it -Sopo’aga Waterfalls.
The place from where you can see the waterfall is, as so often on Samoa, on private land, handled by a friendly lady. A short walk through a botanical garden later and you see the waterfall in the distance, dropping 54 metres down into a valley.
If you go a bit further along the ridge to the right you’ll get a beautiful view of the rainforest-covered valley disappearing into the distance.
The entrance fee is $10 Tala and the whole stop won’t take you longer than 20 minutes. So it fits in well.
To-Sua Ocean Trench
A short 6 minutes drive later you reach the famous To-Sua Ocean Trench. “To-Sua” literally means Giant Swimming Hole and indeed, it’s massive.
Again it’s one of those places on Samoa where you wonder, is this even real?
An ancient lava eruption caused the land to slip away. The two large holes that emerged were joined by a lava tube and formed To-Sua. The pool itself is connected to the ocean through an underwater cave.
It’s some 30 metres deep, accessible via a steep wooden ladder only. The climb down should be done without shoes. The steep climb will reward you with crystal clear, seawater and a peaceful vibe. It’s a great place to snorkel, to just chill on the rocks and enjoy the mesmerizing blue water – floating on your back.
The entrance fee is 20 Tala and opening times are Mon-Sat 8.30 am to 5 pm, Sun 12.30 pm to 5 pm. There is also the option to buy soft drinks and snacks. At the premise are changing rooms and the gardens invite to a little stroll and view of the South coast.
Definitely, the top reason why I wanted to visit Samoa and a major thing anybody has to see on their Samoa Budget Roadtrip itinerary. It’s for sure, one of the most unusual places to take a dip.
The last leg will take you to Lalomanu Beach, at the far East end of Upolu. I’d suggest to spend 2-3 nights here as it’s absolutely dreamy.
Just before you reach Lalomanu village the roads get considerably worse, to the point where you see the traces of a giant landslide. The alternative road is nothing but dirt and deep potholes – a route I don’t recommend taking twice. Who could have known?
From there, Lalomanu beach is in within reach, an abrupt stop on the right – my place for the night: Taufua Beach Fales.
If you’re after a combined 1 Day trip of Piula Cave Pool, the To Sua Ocean Trench, Togitogiga Waterfall and Lalomanu Beach, you should consider booking this 1 Day Upolu Trip
A friend I met on ‘Eua in Tonga told me about its natural appeal, the closeness of the fales to the ocean and him staying there for a couple of weeks.
This one I rank high on the must things to see in Samoa for sure. Upon looking it up I was drawn to the open fales, from which it’s only 3 metres into the ocean. You sleep on a mattress on the ground, it’s open to all sides – simple but oh so special. There are options for houses with a proper bed too, but it can get stuffy inside.
I got there for about 4 o’clock – enough time for a walk along the white-sandy beach, having a Vailima beer and unwind after the drive.
Also, the dinner was out of this world. We got to sit on one long table and they would bring a mix of plates over – ranging from mashed potato, sushi, Chinese fried noodles and seafood. It ended up with so many lobsters that I could barely believe my eyes! Never have I seen so many presented in front of me. As most other dishes were with meat, I had a lobster feast to say at least.
Fia Fia Show
On Saturday nights they organise a typical Samoan Fia Fia shows – a mix of dance and fire performance, done by professional local dancers. a Fia Fia evening is usually filled with dances, food, songs and the famouse knive-fire dance where the men using a huge knife with burning flames on either hands, swirling it around his body.
The stay includes dinner and breakfast and you will share the bathrooms. The price per night for the open fales are 120 Tala (70 NZD or 45 USD) in off-season.
See a Sunday Service at a Christian Church
Christianity arrived in Samoa in 1830 by missionaries from abroad and Samoans adopted the religion quickly. Samoa is now a Christian country and going to church on Sunday is a big part of their culture. It’s even considered a national day of rest. If you get the chance to be in a village on Sunday, make sure to attend a ceremony. It’s wonderful to see the clothes people wear and how the families get together.
Samoan Umu Experience
Especially on Sunday, it’s common to go to church and to have something cooking in the umu earth oven. The guesthouse advised us that there will be a free lunch happening for all guests. If we wanted, we can watch them how they prepare the Umu. This one was hands down one of my favourite parts of my Samoa roadtrip itinerary and it wasn’t even planned in!
Umu is the traditional way of cooking food in Samoa. The umu is an earth oven where lava rocks are heated and where the food is placed directly on top.
Just after a short visit to the church, we headed towards the place the guesthouse staff told us. The preparation was already underway: green cooking bananas peeled, coconuts opened, Parrotfish & octopus freshly caught and two piglets killed.
At least 5 people and one young boy were involved in the cooking process. The little boy told me he likes to help with preparing the food or taking care of the fire.
One of the young adults prepared the blue shimmering Parrotfish, masterfully enwrapping them in coconut tree leaves.
The woman would prepare the octopus, the cooking bananas and the fish ceviche. Another man took care of cutting taros, putting coconut milk into tree leaves.
Once all food was placed onto the hot stones, they’d cover the entire thing with banana leaves to seal the ‘oven’ and let it simmer for two hours.
This method of cooking is still very present in the villages and around since more than 3,000 years. I definitely recommend trying to experience the making of it – such a unique thing to see!
And let me tell you, the food turned out delicious – literally one of the best meals I ever had. This is just a must-see on your Samoa Budget Roadtrip!
Day 7 Lalomanu to Apia
As I mentioned before, the landslide that happened made the road extremely challenging. Therefore, you can just take the route towards the East initially and drive along the Northcoast. It’s not that much of a detour and actually quite pleasant to see more of the countryside.
As a toilet/refreshment stop, I went to the idyllic Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa. There is always time (and a need) for a coconut right?
There are a couple of options you can take once you reached Siinalei Reef Resort. For example, you can either head back part of the way from the day before (towards the Cross Country Road) and head up towards Apia from there. This is what I did – because I wanted to make one last waterfall stop.
Pretty easy to find, you just pull over onto the gravel parking space on the left side of the road. From there you can almost see the waterfall in the far distance.
It drops a good 100 metres into a gorge and is the longest waterfall in Samoa. There is no entry fee and you can visit it anytime. Its height and setting made it to my schedule of the best things to see in Samoa in 36 hours on any day.
As it was raining earlier (and started again), fog built and made the whole scenery quite mystic. Pretty cool!
Samoa Budget Roadtrip – Where To Stay
My top choice: Rachel’s place via AirBnB. She is a yoga teacher and offers free yoga classes to all her guests at the Taumeasina Island Resort. You’ve got a spacious room with a queen bed, two cute puppies and lots of helpful tips from her. Per night it was around 41 NZD (27 USD).
The Samoan Outrigger Hotel – an awesome option with shared fales (two people max.) close to the centre of Apia. It’s a charming Victorian-style house that has a pool and breakfast included.
Taumeasina Island Resort – if you want to splurge. A beautiful 4-star resort in which Rachel hosts daily yoga classes at 8.30 am at their space near the ocean. They got a small but nice beach which outside guests can access.
I stayed 4 nights in Tailua Beach Fales and absolutely loved the open beach fales. Only two metres away from the ocean, they provide exceptional views and the staff is incredibly welcoming.
A beautiful upscale option right by the ocean can be Amoa Resort Savaii.
Don’t look further than Taufua Beach Fales. You sleep only 3 metres away from the ocean and fales reach from open and simple to enclosed with a veranda. Best choice for meeting people, having great food and entertainment.
Samoa Budget Roadtrip – Where To Eat
Nourish Cafe in Apia
Make sure to go to Nourish Cafe for their amazing Samoan coffee, tropical porridge & other healthy options. Another great option near the bus station is All Things Sweet Coffee & Cake Bar for some great Samoan coffee and Western dishes such as avocado on toast.
Paddles Restaurant in Apia
If you want dinner with a sunset view, head to Paddles Restaurant near the harbour. It got some quality service and interesting food options combining Samoan & Italian cuisine. For a different view of the city and the ocean, head to Sails Restaurant & Bar. It’s at the far end of Apia and well known for its seafood (make sure to try the stuffed squid, it was devine!).
There we are, one big loop around Upolo and Savai’i and 12 amazing sights ticked off on this Budget Samoa Roadtrip Itinerary. I’d so recommend giving yourself a few extra days in Savai’i as the natural sights are just stunning.
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