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First timers, need advice :)

Perth, Australia
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32 posts
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First timers, need advice :)

Hi, We are wanting to travel to Samoa (from Perth) for the first time at the end of this month.

We both love to explore the land and culture so would look at hiring a car. We also both love snorkeling and/ or diving (although this isnt our sole purpose for the holiday) . Can anyone offer us advice on what islands we should book accommodation on? At the moment we are looking at Savaii & Upolu only because they look like they have the most to see on? (pls correct me if Im wrong) We will be there for 12 days so not quite sure how to split the days and where. Any one have any suggestions on which islands we should visit, which are better for us to stay on (as a base) any special places / experiences we shouldnt miss etc. We are not interested in night clubs more the cultural experience and natural wonder.

Any help or tips would be great - we are hoping to book this in the next day or so.

Always wanted to visit this island - cant wait!

Thanks in advance

Woolgoolga...
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for Apia, Samoa
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51. Re: First timers, need advice :)

Malo lava Julie

I'm so glad you had such a wonderful time, it really sounds like you got to see a lot and had a chance to meet people which is really important in understanding the whole of Samoa and why people just fall in love with it. It's great to hear you want to go back too, particularly when it's so expensive and tiring from Perth. Maybe you could visit some of the smaller islands like Manono and Namua next time.

For the past 50 years entrepreneurs from all over the world have 'threatened' to build new resorts but they have all failed, thankfully but as the Asian influence sadly infiltrates the country I'm afraid that many will start to succeed. 30 years ago a Kiwi lawyer bought all the coastline of the village where we live and built a man-made island with the aim of creating a large resort there, under much protest and after offending the villagers by taking land that contained burial sites to build the island, he backed down but the eye-sore island still remained. For the next 30 years each and every year someone has proposed a development and not succeeded.....until now, a PNG consortium has started and is continuing to build a resort claiming that it will be a source of employment for the villagers, we shall see.

A large resort and time share has also nearly been finished at Return to Paradise (a village named after the movie) and will open early 2014.

I'm afraid progress is something that can't be stopped wherever you are but hopefully after the 2 I've mentioned it might be another 30 years before Samoa starts to become 'Balified'.

Just out of interest, who did you hire the car from Julie and was it OK?

Manuia le aso

Deb

Perth, Australia
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32 posts
23 reviews
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52. Re: First timers, need advice :)

Sorry Deb, I missed this post. I used Samoana Car rentals for our RAV 4 and were very happy. Although they were late in dropping off they were also late in picking up, but hey thats the Samoan way right?!

Also wondering if you have advice on what I should do.. Taufua Beach Fales over charged me and had promised me a reversal on my credit card (this is back in October) After sending many emails to and fro and even leaving messages on their facebook I am not receiving replies anymore and am getting a bit fed up. I have been patient but now that Macey is not even replying to my emails Im annoyed and want my money back. Im not sure where I can go next with this and am fighting the urge to put it out there on Trip advisor as a rip off when it was a misunderstanding on their part that could easily be sorted in a refund as promised.

Woolgoolga...
Destination Expert
for Apia, Samoa
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53. Re: First timers, need advice :)

True but not typical of Samoana, they usually are the exception to the norm, must be catching up to fa'a Samoa.

I'll get in touch with a friend at Taufua and see if she can sort out the credit card mess for you. I'll PM you with my email address so you can give me the exact details.

Manuia le aso

Deb

Sydney, Australia
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40 posts
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54. Re: First timers, need advice :)

Hi Deb and Julie,

I was wondering if you might be able to impart some of your wisdom to help me with my own first time trip to Samoa.

I've just booked tickets last night, heading from Sydney and unfortunately due to the way the flights have worked out, we'll only get a full six days there during our Easter break.

I'm just realising now what a religious country Samoa is and arriving on Easter Sunday at 5:20 am might not have been the best way to go.

We will then be flying out the following Saturday on a 6:45am flight. There will be a lot of sleeping on the plane.

We are an adventurous young couple who given the short time frame are ready to hit the ground running. I know this is not really the Samoan way but I'm not sure we'll get another chance to visit again.

I haven't worked out our schedule yet but I'm wondering if it really is possible to do both islands, Upolu and Savai'i in the short time that we have.

From what I can see on Samoa Air, flights take only about 10 minutes to get to Savai'i. Would it be best to fly in from Australia and then wait for the first flight at 8am to fly straight to Savai'i?

I was thinking of spending 3 nights there. Lusia's Lagoon Chalet looked like a good option.

From there perhaps we'll catch a ferry or fly back to Apia where I was planning on staying at Taumesina Hideaway for two nights. On the final night perhaps we'll stay at the airport hotel since we need to be up super early to catch our flight out in the morning.

We can do this in reverse itinerary if that works out better?

We're hoping that we'll get time to scuba dive, swim in the To Sua Ocean Trench, do some hiking, go to the sliding rocks, see some waterfalls and generally enjoy the beautiful culture and people.

Does it all seem possible? Also, it looks like we'll be needing to hire a car to get all this done.

Thanks in advance for any help you may be able to offer.

Linda

Woolgoolga...
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55. Re: First timers, need advice :)

Malo lava Linda

Possible but fast. You'd be best keeping to doing Savaii first as you'd waste a day's travel getting back to Upolu, even if you did fly it wouldn't be worth doing anything on Upolu before your flight out.

Why have you chosen Lusia's? It's a lovely property but quite a distance from good beaches and major sites. It would be OK if you intended on using it as a base and hired a car to get around for the 3 days you have there. If that's your intention fine, if not then you're best off looking at somewhere like Savaii Lagoon Resort or one of the fale properties on Manase Beach.

Same on Upolu. Taumesina is in Apia so quite a distance from beach snorkelling although there is a lot to do in Apia. To Sua Trench is over an hour's drive from Apia. Don't get me wrong I love Taumesina, we live there when we're in Samoa but if your'e pressed for time and want to see some of the best spots on Upolu you'd be better off looking further down the south coast. What sort of budget are you looking at?

I strongly recommend that you hire a car on both islands given the limited time you have, particularly if you want to have some time to relax and just soak in the little piece of paradise that is Samoa, it's people and their unique culture. Check out Samoana Car Rentals, AA Rentals, Blue Pacific Car Hire, Go Rentals and Island Rento.

As you don't know whether you'll be back, and I hope the glimpse you get is another to tempt you one day, I think for the last night that should be planned so that you can fit a Fia Fia night in. It's an exciting cultural show of song, dance, fire and story-telling accompanied by an all you can eat buffet of traditional Samoan food and some Western. There is one every Friday night at Aggie Grey's Lagoon Beach Resort and Spa which is about 15 minutes from the Airport Lodge if that's where you mean you'd like to stay. The other options close to the area are Aggie's, Le Vasa Resort and Transit Motel.

The flights are a bummer. Since Polynesian Blue became Virgin Samoa they're all over the place. Used to be you'd get a direct flight there and back, finding a direct one back is like looking for a needle in a haystack now.

Hope I haven't confused you. If you let me know your budget and what sort of accommodation you prefer I might be able to help a little more. I'm just a little worried about you're being stuck in Apia for the short time you have there. You could also look at staying at Taumesina one night and further down the coast the next.

Manuia le aso

Deb

Sydney, Australia
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40 posts
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56. Re: First timers, need advice :)

Thank you so much Deb. Your advice, willingness to help as well as your knowledge is invaluable.

Lusia's and Taumesina was where I had initially picked just based on the fantastic reviews and the cost of accommodation. Seeing as our flights ended up costing so much (over 1k due to leaving it for so long and it being public holidays) and we certainly weren't able to get direct flights, we were thinking of going a bit more budget. Something nice but doesn't need to be fancy. These two properties were showing at around the $200 mark for 3 nights accom. I could never afford something like Aggie's but that sounds like a wonderful idea to go there on the last day for a Fia Fia night in. Any suggestion you could offer for alternate accommodation would be fantastic.

We're happy to hire a car. In this instance, would it be best to fly to Savai'i, hire a car from there and then take the car back with us via ferry?

Considering the short amount of time, it's probably best to stick to as few accommodation properties as possible so one in Savai'i, one in Upolu and probably airport lodge unless the last accom is also situated near the airport.

Thanks so much!

Perth, Australia
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32 posts
23 reviews
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57. Re: First timers, need advice :)

Hi Linda

Sounds like an exciting trip! Don’t worry too much about arriving on a Sunday. We were there on White Sunday (Happens once a year) and found some places were still open. I was really happy with the airport lodge being so close to the airport and the wharf. We were upgraded to a western style room rather than a fale, which at first I was disappointed in because I wanted to experience the cultural style of sleeping, but once I saw the clean room the ocean across the road and the air-conditioned I was in heaven. I was very surprised with how beautiful the view was and the coast down that side is really nice to drive around. It was actually some of my favourite scenes of Samoa – for me it was just like the movies. Definitely hire a car, or your time will be used in waiting, waiting, waiting for transport :) Its very easy to get around the islands and nice to jump into an air-conditioned car to do it. It wasn’t that hard to drive the car straight onto the boat and take the trip over to Savaii and back. Its only a 5 minute drive to the wharf from the airport lodge and then Luisas is less than 5 mins from the wharf on the other side. If you go on the boat, make sure you take the bigger boat as its faster. Take into consideration having to change hire cars and drive to the airport and check in etc … it might save you time to just do the boat over? Take the one in the morning, it will leave you the afternoon at the next place. I also stayed at Luisas just for a night in Savaii before heading East. Its a lovely place that has a natural feeling to it. I love the little walk ways and trees they have left to make you feel its slightly 'untouched' even though you are right next to a wharf - you wouldn’t know it other than seeing the boat from a distance come and go. Deb is right, there are nicer places further around the island to travel to - I guess it depends if you are prepared to do the drive and use Louisa’s as a base? You are not there for long so I agree with just having one accommodation at each island.

Diving wise... I have to say after doing some research on TA we realised the Tsunami had devastated the coral in Upolu so we waited until we got to Savaii to do a wreck dive and the coral garden dive. I have to say we were very disappointed in the lack of colours. The service and dive shop was excellent and we were well looked after, its just that I think coming from here we are very spoilt in our sponges and hard and soft corals. The fish are colourful and the turtles are nice but to spend the day out on the ocean when we could have seen the same thing snorkelling, we chose not to scuba again while we were there. We did snorkle out the front of Luisas but there is a change in water temperature similar to a thermocline (but the opposite as its cold water on top from the natural springs and warm water below) so it can be a little bit hazy. In Upolu I really enjoyed the Palolo Deep Marine Reserve. This was by far the most colour I saw out of the two islands. I wish I had time to go back as the drop off was great. Its an easy swim out there and a few things to see on the way out so keep your head down  Be mindful of the current – nothing dangerous, but lift your head up from time to time to keep yourself centred to the beach. There’s shade on the beach so it’s a nice spot to hang for a while if you bring something to munch on.

Samoa is not the place to go to experience a great dive, but there are many other beauties there that you will enjoy through out the islands. If lush green mountains are your thing, you can do a circuit and travel along the coast (east of the Airport lodge) up past Lalomanu beach there’s a beautiful drive through the mountains that will lead you back the top end of Upolu via Apia and head south again to your hotel . Leave early in the morning as its quite a trek and will take up your entire day. When you’re driving around, don’t be shy to drop in on hotels for a nice meal. I enjoyed them much more than eating locally and they will welcome your patronage. If you don’t have time to do the circuit then To Sua is another drive for you. Just don’t run yourselves ragged trying to fit everything in. There is always an excuse for another trip. Enjoy chilling out at your hotel also. I think if you realise you’re not going to fit ‘everything’ into 6 days, then you can choose the things that mean the most to you and anything on top of that is a bonus. Take sunscreen and mosquito repellent.

Julie 

Woolgoolga...
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58. Re: First timers, need advice :)

You're welcome Linda.

Julie's given some great advice about just going with the flow and just doing and seeing what you really want and whatever else happens is a plus. Unexpected things happen in Samoa, you may get waylaid by a family lunch and miss out on something you'd wanted to do but end up having an invaluable experience anyway. it's a country full of surprises.

If you can use Lusia's and Taumesina as bases you'll be fine, it's quite easy to find your way around from both and Sara and Masi at Taumesina will be able to provide you with great info on where to go and how to get there. I suggest the day you go to To Sua you also drop in at Piula Caves which is on the way, you might enjoy the diving there as well. Palolo Deep is not far from Taumesina so you could easily walk there.

Whether you take a car at the airport and go by ferry and keep it for your return to Upolu depends on whether you want to pay for the passage of the vehicle. If you take a small car it's 160 ($AU80) return incl driver + 12 tala each way for the passenger. It's not an option to go by plane to Savaii and ferry return because you cannot take a car off Savaii that's been rented there.

I like Airport Lodge, it's comfortable, has air con and hot water and the food is really good. The FiaFia is not a late night (starts at 7, show's over by 8 then dinner) so you're not going to be reeling for the early flight on Saturday. They have an airport transfer service as well.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday, plan some time to relax and enjoy the beauty of your surroundings and it won't seem like such a whirlwind.

Deb

Sydney, Australia
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59. Re: First timers, need advice :)

Much appreciated Deb and Julie.

I love that you've become an expert and advocate yourself Julie.

I'll definitely have to do some more research on the attractions in the area before going and I'm sure to have more questions for you both before then. We might have to rethink scuba diving then but we'll certainly do some snorkeling and see if that makes us curious enough to see more.

You both mentioned that there were nicer places to stay further east in Savai'i. Is there any place you'd recommend particularly?

Was there also a better place to base myself in Upolu? I will be hiring a car but of course location is key.

I'm very much looking forward to the surprises along the way and will hopefully find some time to relax.

Thanks again to you both.

Linda

Edited: 19 February 2014, 02:42
Woolgoolga...
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60. Re: First timers, need advice :)

The other accommodation depends on your budget Linda. Va-i-Moana Seaside Lodge in Asau on the north coast of Savaii is absolutely stunning, a very Samoan fale property with a difference. You can get enclosed fales with ensuites and it's right on a beautiful little beach. Sale and Rosie, the owners, go that extra mile to make sure you have a very authentic experience. The food is great as well and breakfast and dinner are included. Other than that there is basic fale accommodation at Lano Beach and Manase Beach as well as Savaii Lagoon Resort (highly recommended) and Le Lagoto in the village of Fagamalo.

On Upolu, unless you want to pay upward of $AU200 per night or go to fale accommodation I'd stick with Taumesina as a base. If you are interested in a resort check out Seabreeze Resort and Aga Reef Resort on the south coast. Both are beautiful and close to attractions such as To Sua. Fales, have a look at Litia Sini, Fao Fao and Taufua Beach Fales all at beautiful Lalomanu Beach.

Given that it's still low tourist season when you're going you may be able to get some good specials on resorts so it's probably worthwhile to check them out.

Deb