Tropical adventures in Samoa
Whether you're looking to explore underwater worlds or bathe beneath an otherworldly waterfall, Samoa is a tropical destination that's big on outdoor activities. It also has accommodation options to suit all tastes and budgets, from on-the-beach fale villages to luxury resorts. Most places to stay offer equipment for daily water fun and easy access to local adventure tours.
Upolu Island is home to the now Instagram-famous To-Sua ocean trench - a remarkable emerald green pool that is part of an ancient lava tube system.
Sun, sand and snorkelling
While the island is teeming with natural attractions and things to see, some of which are like nothing you've ever seen before, exploring Samoa is best approached in a relaxed way. After all, you'll be on island time as soon as you touchdown on the tarmac.
Those fond of basking in the sun are spoilt for choice where palm tree-fringed beaches are concerned. Both Upolu and Savai'i have plenty of picturesque spots to explore. You can pick a shady spot under a palm tree or laze around in your own private fale on Lalomanu beach.
When you're ready for the some exercise, or simply need to cool off, grab some snorkelling gear and float atop the turquoise ocean. You'll see tropical fish and other sea critters darting amongst coral; you might even find yourself swimming with turtles.
Samoa's most spectacular swimming hole
Although it's easy to spend day after day with the sand beneath your toes, some of Samoa's most fun activities are found away from the shore. Upolu Island is home to the now Instagram-famous To-Sua ocean trench, a remarkable emerald green pool that is part of an ancient lava tube system.
The To-Sua trench is only accessible via a steep ladder – it can be a little daunting to clamber down, but your bravery will be rewarded. The ocean feeds into the trench, creating a swirling natural swimming pool. Currents can be strong when there's a surge, so hold onto the rope that's strung across the pool and gaze up at the greenery-framed blue sky above.
Afu Aau for a memorable shower
Another holiday activity that's not to be missed can be found on the island of Savai'i, which is just over an hour ferry ride from the main island of Upolu. With its tropical rainforest surrounds and crystal-clear pool, Afu Aau waterfall is unlike any other cascade you've seen before. While not quite as warm as the ocean, the pool is temperate and the water is fresh.
More adventurous visitors can dive into the waterfall's pool from the surrounding rocky edges, following the lead of the locals. Find a spot on a rock to watch the mesmerising waterfall cascade into the pool from above or climb up onto the rocks behind the waterfall and take Mother Earth's most memorable shower.
Fishing and diving adventures
Before you can hook a fish in Samoa, you'll need to catch a charter fishing boat. That's easy, because there are several fishing operators on both Upolu and Savaii. Most of them operate from resorts, but you don't have to be a guest at the resort to sign up for a fishing charter. Beyond the sheltering reef, Samoa's deep waters are ready to yield wahoo, sailfish, giant trevally, mahi mahi, barracuda and several types of tuna. Even if you don't land a trophy fish, it'll be a huge experience.
Another way to commune with the fish is with a dive trip. The reefs surrounding Samoa offer spectacular dive sites for all certification levels and both Upolu and Savai'i have PADI accredited operators with experienced dive masters. With nearly 900 fish species in residence, Samoa is an underwater paradise for marine-lovers.
Samoan surf culture
Surfers looking for tropical breaks won't be disappointed in Samoa. The water is warm and clear, the waves are exciting and breaks have great names – like Dragon's Breath, Devil's Island and Pudding Rock. The south shores of both Upolu and Savai'i are pumping all year round, while the north shores are best in the hottest months (November to April). Often you'll be the only surfer competing for a wave, which makes it easier to focus on your technique.
Because most surfable breaks lie beyond the edges of Samoa's safe and sheltered lagoons, waves tend to break directly onto shallow reefs. Even the most experienced surfer should enlist the help of a local guide. There are resorts in Samoa – both on Upolu and Savaii - that focus specifically on the surfing market. As well as accommodation, they can provide board hire, lessons and general advice about where to surf.
Paradise for hikers
The interior of Upolu is home to lush rainforests that are alive with native birds and small creatures. If you like hiking, there are plenty of well-marked tracks to choose from or you can hire a local guide.
O Le Pupu-Pue National Park runs inland from the southern coast and offers both sea and mountain views. The whole family can enjoy the Falealupo Canopy walk amongst the treetops. If you are a keen, experienced hiker, head to Mt Silisili for a 2-3 day hike and soak up the spectacular scenery.