Samoa is heaven.
If you take only one message from this, let that be it. Samoa is heaven on earth, and I can’t wait to return.
Almost a year to the day we returned from our Hawaii Honeymoon, we landed on the shores of Samoa. From our balcony at Taumeasina Island Resort overlooking the white sand beach, palm trees and the Pacific, we could easily have been in Maui, but just a day into our holiday week in beautiful Samoa, I was even more relaxed than I’d been after three weeks in Hawaii.
Beautiful Samoa is a Pacific Island paradise once governed by New Zealand and still having significant ties to our country. With over 150,000 Samoan people living in New Zealand (and Samoa having a population of 190,000), we know, or have worked with many Samoans, and discovering the way of life in their home-country elucidates their calm, laid-back and easy-going nature.
Samoa has a blissful happiness and slow way of life, and that carefree aura had flowed through to us by even the first evening – when I fell asleep at 9pm holding a book – so unlike me. It really doesn’t matter what the time is here (except for the one day we slept through the buffet breakfast). When you’re within a stone’s throw to a beautiful beach and two turquoise blue pools, you can truly make your own time-zone (the 24 hour room service meant that even missing the buffet breakfast had no real impact except that I had to choose between benedict and pancakes).
We spent a week at Taumeasina Island Resort, a short walk from central Apia joined to the mainland by causeway. The island of just 15 acres was reclaimed fifty years ago, and the hotel opened just two years ago, so it has quite a new feel to it. The staff were unfaultable in their accommodating, friendly and eager-to-please nature, but there were a few language/communication hiccups, and the resort is definitely on “island time”. However, the relaxed nature of the country and the staff even rubbed off on me, your ‘Type A’, anxious, ex-lawyer who’s used to charging per 6 minutes, who ‘paces’ instead of walks, and who definitely does not have the “patience of a saint”. After a week in Samoa, and the most relaxing stay at Taumeasina, even I’m on island time.
The resort itself is stunning, faultlessly beautiful, and accommodating to all needs. There’s a gym I kept trying (and failing) to encourage myself to use, sauna, tennis court, kayaks, two private beaches, two pools, two restaurants, separate bar and café, and themed buffet meals each evening.
Welcome to Paradise
We were greeted with a sweet, citrus welcome drink, frangipani lei and genuine smiles, and felt incredibly welcome during our entire week in Samoa. Nothing was too much trouble for the friendly locals – whether that was organising day trips for us, explaining the menus and hotel activities or even mastering the perfect soy flat-white!
We spent the majority of our time between the pools and the beach right outside our room, though managed to tear ourselves away from the resort to explore the country (partly because I was sunburned!) see more on What to do in Samoa below.
We arrived with Joseph Parker (Samoan New Zealand boxer) who also chose to stay at the resort – so it must be well-regarded by locals too.
Within a couple of days, we were totally seduced by the Samoan way of life. I’ve never been one to relax, and even on our honeymoon, I don’t ever recall feeling this chilled out. Though the hotel has a daily allocation of free wifi, I didn’t even feel like scrolling the ‘gram, and only logged on because Samoa is too good not to share.
Getting Married in Samoa
Taumeasina Island is a popular wedding venue too – we witnessed two weddings at the resort’s beach-side ‘Vasa’ wedding chapel, and they also host ceremonies on the sand or the beautiful green and pink gardens. While here, I actually answered a few questions for an interview, and when answering “What would you do differently” about my own wedding, I actually answered “Destination Wedding” – which is an indication of how beautiful the weddings looked, and how easy I imagine getting married here would be.
What to do in Samoa
With a week at our disposal, we had ample time to both relax and explore. We wouldn’t blame you if all you did was relax, but if you want to explore and venture the country beyond beach and poolside, there’s a huge amount of country to discover.
It’s easiest to explore Upolu, Samoa by car with the natural attractions scattered across both islands. On Upolu, near to Apia is the famous Papase’ea Sliding Rock and to the East of Upolu, the Sua Ocean Trench, the Mt Matavanu Volcanic Crater on the North, and more beautiful beaches in the South via the Cross-Island road.
Savai’i, the other island of Samoa, is the third largest Polynesian Island after Tahiti and NZ, famous for pristine scenery and archaeological sites, waterfalls (visit Afu Aau Waterfall and swimming hole in the South East for 5 Tala), caves, Alofaaga Blowholes (5 Tala) and rainforests, and both wildlife and marine life. Saleaulu lava fields (5 Tala) cover 50 km square of evidence of the eruption at the beginning of last century which covered five villages, there are plenty of beautiful beaches for swimming between Siufaga and Pu’apu’a, between Lelepa and Manase and Satuiatua and Aganoa Beach (with a small fee to locals), or swimming with the turtles in the village of Sato’alepai for 7 Tala.
Just want to chill out?
Samoa’s also the perfect place to completely recharge your batteries, taking as much or as little time as you like to just relax. We did our fair share of that – breakfast in bed, cocktails by the pool and days spent in books on the balcony. I’ve been trying to get into The Alice Network by Kate Quinn for a while – it’s a Reese Witherspoon Book Club recommendation, so it had to be good – and finally managed to while beach-side, getting completely consumed in the story; and followed it up with How Hard Can it Be by the author of I Don’t Know How She Does It – both highly recommended.
As much as Samoa offers an authentic ‘Pacific Island’ experience, it’s also the perfect spot to switch off from the world entirely.
Truly, Samoa made the most incredible romantic escape and would be perfect for your honeymoon. I can’t speak for all hotels, but our resort gave us plenty of privacy, the pools and beaches were never busy, and there looked to be lots of other couples enjoying a romantic stay here.
Samoa or Rarotonga?
Having spent time in Rarotonga a few times over the years, I’d been looking forward to discovering the difference between the Cook Islands (Rarotonga and Aitutaki) and Samoan Islands (Uopulu and Savai’i). I thought it might also be useful for you, if you’ve been to Rarotonga but are considering Samoa.
The Cook Islands are much smaller than the Samoan Islands, which boast 403km of coastline, compared to Cook Islands’ 120km, but Samoa doesn’t appear to be as established for tourism – the resorts are few, and there don’t seem to be as many tourist activities. However, that adds to the Islands’ appeal – it retains much of its traditional culture and lifestyle, with most houses still being open huts called ‘fales’ where children and animals run ‘wild’. We were also surprised by the difference in language – though we could always understand each other, English does not appear to be as widely spoken in Samoa as it is in Rarotonga.
Cost-wise, the price of a luxury resort like ours at Taumeasina Island is about 2/3 of the cost of a similar resort on Rarotonga – I recently stayed at the beautiful Muri Beach Resort which is around $3-400 per night, c.f. Taumeasina’s $2-300. Meals are around the same, if not a little cheaper in Samoa. Speaking of money, the currency in Samoa is Tala, which is worth a little more than half as much as the kiwi dollar, while Rarotonga shares the NZD.
In either country, there’s ample outdoor adventure to be had – so definitely visit both!
Fā Tōfā Tōfā soifua and Fa’afetai, please enjoy the YouTube video and selection of photos.