Overall, visit Savai'i if you want a more authentic and unspoiled Samoan experience away from the Internet cafes and McDonald's of Apia.
English is widely understood, but it doesn't hurt to know a few Samoan phrases.
By boatThe ferry journey takes 1 hour 15 minutes from Mulifanua Port (towards the most western edge of Upolu) to Salelologa on the southeast of Savaii. There are a maximum of five sailings a day, usually every 2 hours with the first at 06:00 and the last at 16:00. The ferry timetable and fares can be found http://www.samoashipping.com/timetable-and-fares here]. Price for foot passengers is W$12.
While no recent accidents have been reported, several government travel warnings have been issued about the safety of this ferry - relating specifically to overloading, and the threat of heavy vehicles moving during the voyage. But it is the only feasible way to reach Savaii, and so the final decision is up to you.
If you do decide to use it, it's very likely that you'll be one of the few foreigners on board. Locals are therefore likely to strike up a conversation. Don't be concerned - this is almost always innocent and driven purely by curiosity.
If you are planning a short excursion to Savai'i then it's better to pack a small overnight bag and leave your main suitcase back at the Travellers Lounge in Apia. Dragging your suitcase onto the ferry and around Savai'i could be rather awkward.
Maota AirportSamoa Airways from Apia.
By busThe main means of getting around in Savaii are the brightly colored, pop-music blaring local buses. A one-way fare costs a maximum of WS$7 if you head to the northwest, with closer destinations being much less. The fare is paid to the driver at the end of the journey. Most buses depart from the markets in Salelologa. There are also some buses which meet the ferry at the Salelologa wharf. Buses in Savai'i tend to fill up quickly and you might find yourself sitting on the lap of a local! This is quite an experience for westerners.
By taxiGenerally your best bet. They are cheap and plentiful. Do agree on a price ahead of time, none of the taxis have meters!
By rented car
By bicyclePossible and quite enjoyable. Most of the island is flat and there is only one main road that circumnavigates the island. So there is no chance of getting lost. There are a few small steep sections near A'apo and Asau.
By hitchhikingHitchhiking is not very common, but can be a fun and entertaining way to travel like the locals at the back of a ute (pick-up truck). Almost all people will stop if you request a ride and many of them will go out of the way to drop you at your destination.
Alofaaga BlowholesLava flows created a series of tubes connecting the cliff top with the ocean. Waves send water at high pressure through the tubes, creating fountains. The rocks can be quite slippery, so make sure to take appropriate shoes with you. Also beware of tourist traps in this area - the guides here might ask you to take photos as they throw coconuts into the blowholes and then demand money from you afterwards. They can be very persistent, but just maintain your distance and say no.
Paia Dwarfs CaveThis cave is over a kilometre long. he legend is that this cave is home to a race of small people. The legend has never been disproved as the end of the cave has apparently never been reached. Exploring the cave can take almost an entire day. A guide from Paia village is essential.
Falealupo Rainforest PreserveIncludes a 25m canopy walkway and a platform in the trees that sleeps six (beware, there is no toilet!).
Mt. Matavanu Lava FieldsYou will have to walk three hours from Paia village to visit these lava fields that look like a barren moonscape. They were caused by the eruptions of the mountain between 1905 and 1911.
Olemoe Falls.The most spectacular of the many jungle waterfalls in Savaii. A half-hour walk from a 4WD track.
Pulemelei (or Tia Seu) Ancient Mound.address: Palauli districtThis is the largest ancient structure in Polynesia, with a base of 60 m by 50 m and 12 m tall.
Peapea Caveaddress: N Coast RdThis lava cave is in the north close to Letui village and a ten-minute walk from the road. A guide can also be easily found, which is essential as the entrance to the cave is locked.This cave is home to hundreds of white rumped swiftlets. The 'clicking' noise of the birds is clearly audible as they fly in the dark.
Sale'aula Lavafieldsaddress: SaleaulaThese were also caused by volcanic eruptions of Mt Matavanu in central Savai'i. The lava flowed over 40 square miles to the sea and destroyed Sale'aula and Salago villages. The depth of the lava is up to 400 feet. Sale'aula fields are much more accessible than the Mt. Matavanu fields. You will need a guide if you want to visit the two churches that avoided complete destruction as well as the grave of a Catholic nun, known as the Virgin's Grave, that escaped destruction. A fee is charged.
Tafua Peninsula Rainforest PreserveGood stands of rainforest and excellent birdwatching. Take a walk up to the volcanic crater that dominates Tafua.
Satoalepai turtle reserveaddress: SatoalepaiRare experience of swimming with turtles rescued from fishermen's nets.
SurfingBest suited for experienced surfers. November to April has northern swells while May to October has big swells from the south. Savaii Surfaris are at Aganoa Beach in the south, and there are also good spots on the north coast (Dec. to April) at Manase, Fagamalo and Lesolo.
DivingThere is an abundance of marine life around Savaii and diving to suit all levels. The Wreck of the Juno dates back to 1881 and provides a popular dive site. There is only one company, Dive Savaii, providing dive services, however. This is in the Fagamola/Manase area on the northeast of the island.
phone: +685 51296address: LalomalavaLeSogaimiti, meaning the Samoan tattoo, is a new restaurant which is part of the Savaiian hotel. There is a beautiful oceanfront views from where you can see the neighbouring islands of Manono, Apolima and Upolu. The name is a tribute to the local tradition of tattooing, which is carried on by the owner's family.
address: ManaseCocktails on the beach, Italian coffee, surfing, snorkelling, kayaking, etc.
Beach fales are an enjoyable and inexpensive way to stay in Samoa. A list can be obtained from the Samoa Tourism Authority (email@example.com), but the best way to know where to stay is to ask other travellers. Samoa is not very big, so you will bump into other travellers making it easy to exchange information.
Tailua Beach Falesphone: +685 2054102Eight beach fales right on the waterfront. Tasty and abundant meals. The water is great for swimming, while not much coral, you may see turtles. Nearby is the Mataolealelo fresh water spring and the lava fields.
Janes Beach Falesphone: +685 54066
Satuiatua Beach Resortphone: +685 208464119Large fales on the beach, a nice dining area with tasty but moderate sized meals. The protected reef is great for snorkelling, full of fish and a few turtles.
Falealupo Beach Falesphone: +685 77 47420Basic fales near one of the best beaches on the island. The swimming is ok, with some patchy reef and a smattering of fish. The facilities are more like those of a camp. The food is local and hearty.
Joelan Beach Falesphone: +685 7590976, +685 7580979address: Lano villageRun by Sioni and Falesao and their family. They make you feel like part of the family instead of a customer. Fishing rods and outrigger canoe are available if you want to contribute to dinner.
phone: +685 53897address: Lano villageThe name is a bit of a tongue twister but these are attractive beachfront fales.
Utusou Beach Falesaddress: Falealupo-tai, Savai'i2 fales on beautiful secluded beach. Run by Tafa & Salia Seumanutata and their family who really look after you (and if you're lucky tell some excellent stories.)
phone: +685 541 70address: SaleaulaTen bungalows, five with air conditioning, on the beach.
phone: +685 51565address: Salalologa24 rooms and six fales by the sea. Convenient if you want to rest up before heading to the ferry and the airport. Sea views but not right on the beach.
phone: +685 51296address: LalomalavaThe Savaiian Hotel is a family-owned and -run hotel. It offers comfortable accommodation in stand-alone units with airconditioning, hot water ensuite and kitchen facilities. Kayaks and snorkelling available. Doctor on site.
phone: +685 58219Very democratic resort that offers accommodation from WS$100 a night for open fales to WS$1000 a night for luxury vilas.
Aganoa Beach RetreatBeachfront fales at Savaii's major surfing location.
Auga Seaside Resortaddress: Asau15 rooms on the beach.
phone: +685 54168address: Fagamalo villageWell-regarded ten-bungalow resort run by a New Zealand couple.
phone: +685 5351address: Tuasivi village, North Coast Road Faga
There is a hospital just north of Salelologa.