Upolu is the most important of Samoa's islands. The Region of Upolu also includes all other islands of the country apart from the so-called "big" island of Savaii. Upolu was formed by a massive volcano, but there have been no recent eruptions. The island is 75 km long and contains Samoa's capital, Apia, which is in the middle of the north coast and Faleolo International Airport, which is towards the western end of the island. The island is fringed by reefs and has some beautiful beaches. Inland is hilly, with tropical vegetation and numerous waterfalls.
Upolu was affected by a major tsunami on 29 September 2009. Twenty villages in its eastern, southeastern and southern sides were destroyed or badly damaged. Deaths exceeded 100 and more than 3000 people were made homeless. Considerable tourism infrastructure was affected but several facilities have been rebuilt. In addition to its impact on land, the tsunami also had considerable impact on the area's coral.
– the capital of Upolu, situated on the north coast. This is a rapidly modernising city, backed up with considerable history. The population is close to 40,000.
There are many attractive villages throughout the island and on Manono island. Upolu also has some interesting natural reserves, lovely waterfalls, good diving and snorkelling and fantastic beaches. There is more information in the "See" section below.
Be respectful whilst traveling around the villages and the quiet outskirts of Upolu. Samoa is a very traditional society and it is important to respect Fa'a Samoa, the "Samoan Way". See Samoa.
The Samoan language is the official language, but many Samoans speak English fluently.
BusesOld traditional buses are a must do. They are quite cheap, but can be uncomfortable. Buses leave from two locations in Apia: behind the flea market on the waterfront and next to the produce market "Marketi Fou". Ask the drivers for information on which buses to catch to your planned destination.
Car rentalYou can hire cars from Apia, sometimes for less than WS$50 a day. Rental companies include:
Alby Rentalsphone: +685 21271
Apia Rentalsphone: +685 24244
Blue Pacific Car Hirephone: +685 22668
phone: +685 20561
phone: +685 29230
phone: +685 22045
Fill the tank in Apia as opportunities for refills are limited elsewhere.
Lake Lanoto'o National ParkContains a rare and important swamp forest ecosystem. The lake is full of goldfish, which have thrived since being introduced by expatriate residents.
- Lalomanu (Aliepata) in the east has beautiful beaches and sights of small idyllic islands. Nearby is a beautiful waterfall named Tiave'a.
O Le Pupu-Pui National Park.It has Samoa's highest mountain, Mt. Fito at 1100 m, at Togitogiga Falls. Some good hiking trails.
Papapapai-Tai FallsA 100-m drop makes these spectacular falls.
Papase'ea Sliding Rocks6 km southwest of Apia, these water falls are a major attraction. A soft vegetation under the water makes it possible to easily slide down the falls into the pool below. Better in the rainy season. Fun for all ages.
Manono IslandManono Island is a low-lying island that has no cars or roads. There is a footpath that follows the coast. Dogs and horses are banned for environmental reasons. Things to see include a prehistoric Mound temple. This is one of the most traditional parts of Samoa and a very pleasant place to visit. Beach fales are available.
Piula Cave PoolAttractive spring-fed freshwater pool by the sea for swimming and exploring of the caves.
Return to Paradise BeachA beautiful beach, but particularly interesting for fans of old films who remember the 1953 film starring Gary Cooper and written by James Mitchener, which was filmed here.
VailimaHome and grave of Robert Louis Stevenson. See Apia for more info.
- Surfing. There is good surfing in many locations but it is only for the experienced as the reef can be dangerous. Several resorts specialise in surfing, including Sa'Moana Resort, who operate two ocean going fibreglass boats with experienced guides and skippers, safety and back to base radio equipment. Check the web before committing to a surf tour operator as one or two do not have good reputations.
- Fishing. There is an abundance of fish in Samoa's waters. Charter companies mainly operate out of Apia's harbour, and one operating from Sinalei Resort on the South Coast.
- Golf. Two courses are close to Apia: the Royal Samoan Country Club, for a long time Samoa's only golf course, and a more recent development, the Faleata Country Club, which is close to the sports complex constructed for the South Pacific Games. On the south coast the Sinalei Reef Resort has a nine-hole pitch and putt course.
- Diving. There are some 900 fish species and 200 types of coral in Samoa's waters. The only confirmed dive company on Upolu at the beginning of 2015 was:
phone: +685 45662Organizes diving trips and is a qualified PADI instructor.
Most restaurants are in Apia or at the hotels around the island.
The usual kinds of European, Asian and fast foods are available, but be sure to try the "umu", which is made in a traditional pit-oven, using red hot lava stones heated by charcoal. Whole pigs, fruits, chickens, fish, etc., are placed among the rocks for many hours, and covered with banana leaves. The food has an absolutely delicious smoked flavour, and meats are as tender and juicy as possible. Traditional food can be purchased from Apia. If you must, you can also visit the only fast food outlet in Samoa, McDonald's, which is on Centre Road, Apia.
Vailima is the local beer. Bottled water is recommended.
See Samoa for more information.
Sataoa Beach Falesphone: +685 601-966address: End of Sataoa Road, Sataoa Village, Lefaga DistrictA renovated property with fantastic meals. It is well off the main road, quiet and great for relaxing. Surrounded by a lot of bush and next to a freshwater mangrove which is great for kayaking along. The coast is coral-free, but shallow and easy for swimming.
Sina PJ Falesphone: +685 72 54492address: End of Tafitoala Road, Tafitoala VillageA real family-run set-up with several basic wooden beach fales right on the waterfront. It peaceful and great for relaxing. Close to surf spots, some good coral and underwater sights and a nearby blackwater sand beach to check out.
Vaiula Beach Falesphone: +685 7792754address: Tafatafa VillageStandard fales but with reality tv advertising tarpaulins instead of traditional blinds. The service is lacklustre, the food is bland and basic, and the facilities are of poor quality. Run like a camp by a few disinterested teens.
Transit Motelphone: +685 45008address: Main West Coast RoadVery close to the airport, but should only be considered if you're desperate or have a particularly early flight. The rooms are small, stuffy, and sounds carry through the walls.
FaoFao Beach Falesphone: +685 772-6693address: SaleapagaTotally destroyed by the tsunami, FaoFao has been attractively restored. Eight fales.
Namua Beach Falesaddress: Namu'a IslandIncludes meals and launch transfer. This place should definitely be included in your itinerary.
phone: +685 41051address: LalomanuBasic fales, but in good shape and are right on the great beach. The reef inside the lagoon was badly damaged by the Sept 2009 tsunami, but there are still heaps of beautiful fish. There is a dive shop on premises that can also organize snorkeling and surfing trips. It's social but also quiet (except for the pounding of the surf out on the reef). Meals are served long table style and are a mix of western, eastern, and traditional Samoan food. Bar on premises. Internet access available.
phone: +685 45584address: Lalovi VillageEight villas in a garden setting, a short walk from the sea. Ten minutes from the airport and three minutes from the Savaii ferry.
Dave Parker Eco Lodgephone: +685 28899address: TapatapaoUnique mountain-top lodge with rainforest right below you.
phone: +685 40272 or +685 40270address: Faleapuna village,Resort by the sea with a small beach. Good restaurant.
phone: +685 7596240address: Lepuia'I Village, Manono IslandTranquil Manono island - no vehicles - no roads - no dogs. Free launch transfer from 'Upolu. All meals included. Boat trips to reef. Outrigger canoe. 5 fales on the waters edge. Samoan family environment. Ferry wharf phone: +685 46177
phone: +685 842 8880address: SalamumuA small, private and unpretentious resort with white sandy beach and lava rock infinity pool. Accommodation options include beach front bungalows, beach house and dorm style all inclusive surf package. Bungalows and beach house have outdoor lava rock showers. Restaurant, bar, children's activities and tours on-site. Excellent snorkelling directly in front of resort.
phone: +685 45611Aggie Grey's Hotel (in Apia) and Aggie Grey's Resort are managed by Starwood as Sheraton Resorts.
phone: +685 24849address: Maninoa VillageCoconuts started as a beach bar and has grown from there. Set up by two Californian lawyers, the resort has very spacious fales and consistently gets high ratings.
phone: +685 46028address: Cape FatuosofiaAttractive location. For the price charged you would expect to be right on the beach but here there is a strip of volcanic rock between the fales and the sea.
phone: +685 25191Beautiful, but very upmarket development on the south coast.
Do not walk alone at night, and stay with people you know and trust. Free roaming dogs can be a safety problem in the capital Apia. The Government of Samoa (GoS) passed the Canine Control Act in 2013 as a first step toward addressing dog management. Most dogs ignore you and don't see you as a threat if you ignore them.