Welcome back to Talofa Samoa, a series of posts recounting the highlights from my November 2016 visit to Samoa. First up is a summary of the fun stuff I experienced in and around Apia, the capital of Samoa.
Samoa’s only actual town, Apia is a small but bustling port with a population of around 36,000 people. It served as a great base for me to revive and acclimate myself to island life after my long haul journey from the UK. Here’s a look at the best bits from my time there.
Taumeasina Island Resort
My stay at Taumeasina Island Resort was short but restorative. Located on a small man-made island about five minutes drive out of Apia and about 45 minutes across town from the airport, this “4.5” star resort opened summer of 2016. The place certainly had a shiny new look and feel to it but operations and customer service seemed down pat from my perspective. Every member of the staff encountered was incredibly gracious and personable.
My spacious room overlooked the ocean. Indeed, my favourite part of my three nights at Taumeasina was being able to watch the sunrise over the Pacific every morning from my bed. It was an especially comfy bed too. Wifi was fairly strong throughout the resort. Food was great too with options to go local and try traditional Samoan dishes or have something from the fine dining menu.
It was here that I first tried scrumptious Samoan dishes like palusami (young taro leaves cooked in coconut milk) and had my first taste of koko Samoa (Samoan cocoa). I was surprised to discover how flavoursome Samoan beef is as well.
I spent my first full day in Samoa sightseeing around Apia, beginning with a morning visit to some of its open air markets.
Fugalei Fresh Produce Market
The Fugalei Fresh Produce Market is a popular spot where local farmers and craftspeople sell their wares. I enjoyed browsing this vibrant market while drinking from a freshly cracked coconut and picking up a few snacks for the road.
Savalalo Flea Market
This buzzing flea market is the top spot in town to shop for handicrafts, such wood carvings, ava bowls, woven pandanus mats, and lavalavas (sarongs). Many of the items for sale are made in traditional style with natural materials by village communities from across Samoa.
Apia Fish Market
I wish I would have had the chance to shop here for dinner but as my schedule went I only had time to look around and take photos. Awesome place for photos though!
Samoa Cultural Village
For lunch, I had a traditional Samoan meal cooking in the umu (hot stone pit oven) at the Samoa Cultural Village. Located on Beach Road behind the Samoa Tourism Authority’s information fale (house), It’s definitely worth stopping by for a free tour featuring authentic demonstrations of traditional Samoan activities such as carving, weaving, and tapa making as well as seeing how to prepare an umu for a feast and meeting with local chiefs, artisans and dancers. Word is they sometimes have tattooing demos as well.
Immaculate Conception of Mary Cathedral – Mulivai Apia
Across the street from the Samoa Tourism Authority is one of Samoa’s biggest and most beautiful buildings, the Mulivai Cathedral. On the same site as the original church built in 1885, the new cathedral dates from 2012. I arrived at the end of mass, which was spoken in Samoan with Samoan singing as well. I’d definitely recommend poking your head in at the very least to see the amazing frescos depicting biblical stories blended with Samoan cultural practices and to admire hand carved wooden ceiling.
Robert Louis Stevenson Museum
In the uplands outside of town is the former home of Samoa’s most famous resident, Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson. Famous for his many works, including Kidnapped, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and (of course) Treasure Island, Stevenson moved to Samoa in 1889 and lived there with his family until he died in 1894 at the early age of 44 of what was thought to be a cerebral haemorrhage. His house and well-kept grounds with stunning ocean vistas are now a museum.
Palolo Deep Marine Reserve
This reserve just a short drive from town (just before you get to Taumeasina Island Resort) is ideal for snorkling. Pretty decent snorkel gear can be hired for cheap but BYO reef shoes if you don’t plan on using flippers. This was the first time to snorkel in ages. Wow! Loads of fish, a variety of corals and all sorts of critters were easily seen in the crystal clear water.
Stay tuned for more Talofa Samoa posts coming soon. Faafetai!