Samoa – is this the best value-for-money destination in the South Pacific?

No, you don’t have to be rich to visit the South Seas


With Hawaii, Fiji, Tahiti and other popular tourist hot-spots becoming increasingly pricey these days, is it still possible to find a relaxed, affordable South Sea island where you can chill out, avoid the crowds and laze away your days under the palm trees?


In Samoa, you can see a quick demonstration of how fresh coconut milk is made. The Samoan who is squeezing this batch had nothing but disdain for canned coconut cream, describing it as ‘rubbish’. I can tell you the real stuff does taste 100 times better.


When I spent a couple of weeks in Samoa, I was surprised at how cheap it was. I stayed in a number of different ‘fales’ (beach huts, which normally include breakfast and dinner in the price) on the two main islands of Upolu and Savaii. These were superbly located and cost $30 to $50 a night. All came with mosquito netting, though I found that the sea breezes usually did a good job of keeping any bities at bay.


This was my beach hut on the north coast of Savaii. Two meals a day were included in the price ($40 per night, as I recall) and I snorkeled right off the beach. I could either sleep indoors or under the covered outdoor area, depending on the weather.


It’s easy to get around the islands by local bus or taxi, though you could just as easily hire a car, drive around and see all the main attractions within a single day.


I took the ferry from Upolu to Savaii, which is the larger of the two islands. It’s covered in rainforest and surrounded by fringing reefs perfect for snorkeling. If you want to get away from it all, this jewel in the Pacific will definitely slow you down and plonk you straight into ‘island time’.


A typical Samoan beach fale (hut). Sometimes the walls are thatched and sometimes a tarp is wrapped around to keep the wind out. There’s usually a comfy mattress and mosquito netting inside. A communal eating area and bathrooms are not far away. At night, the sound of the surf sends you right to sleep…


The food in Samoa is excellent and makes good use of freshly caught seafood and local tropical fruits. Freshly caught tuna or reef lobster dunked in coconut cream is hard to beat.


What really made me love Samoa was the people. Their genuine friendliness, pride in their communities and quiet dignity was a pleasure to experience. Old traditions are not forgotten. I often spotted lone fishermen heading out before dusk in their simple outrigger dugout canoes, hand-lining for fish or hoping to nab a lobster or octopus for dinner.


There are plenty of idyllic swimming holes scattered around both Upolu and Savaii. The one you pick depends on how far you want to walk to get there…


From where I live on the east coast of Australia, the return airfare was about $600, and I don’t think I spent over $65 a night on any of my accommodation during my stay. The weather was perfect (I was there in June), though you have to pick the right times for snorkeling. Often the mornings would be calm but the wind would pick up in the afternoons. I spotted a fish just inside the reef edge that was as long as me – I’ve snorkeled all over the world, but I still don’t know what it was. It had a single, small but very distinctive black spot near its tail but was light-coloured everywhere else. I checked a fish reference book later and it wasn’t in there either. Hmm… another one of life’s unsolved mysteries.


One of the more pleasant ways to explore the Samoan islands is to hire a bicycle for the day and glide along the beach roads at your own pace. Note the convenient ‘afternoon nap fale’ in the background.


If you’re one of those digital nomad types, there’s good news about Samoa’s broadband Internet. From 2016, a company called BlueSky is enhancing high-speed connectivity throughout the islands (including some far-flung areas). This means if you rely on your laptop to make a location-independent living while you roam the world, you might just want to think about a stint in Samoa. Of course, you’ll probably be too busy swimming with colourful tropical fish, visiting caves, hiking to waterfalls or going deep-sea fishing to bother doing anything as tawdry as working.


There’s an enclosed salt-water pool on the island of Savaii where visitors can swim freely up close with large sea turtles.


I may be The Jet-setting Copywriter, but it was an easy decision to leave my laptop at home for this particular trip. And you know what? I didn’t miss it at all.



Kevin Casey is a professional freelance writer and author of The Jet-setting Copywriter: How to Fund All Your Overseas Adventures through Freelance Writing

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