In this Article by South Pacific travel expert Ian Osborn
Waterfalls in the Rainforest — Historical Sites in Samoa — Visiting a Samoan Village — Shopping & Handicrafts
There are a couple of well organised day tour companies in Apia which makes the most practical base for exploring the islands. Upolu Island is just about the right size to circumnavigate on a day tour, stopping along the way at waterfalls, scenic lookouts, a couple of the more accessible beaches and perhaps a village visit. If you hire a car for a few days you'll find most of the sights yourself and will be able to spend more time enjoying them. There are several good car hire companies in Apia - since 2010 driving is on the left side of the road (the same side as Australia and NZ) and it is law that car hire companies provide right hand drive cars.
If you're not staying in Apia (which incidentally makes a great base for sightseeing even though most of the attractions are on the south side of Upolu), you're find day tours will be arranged by the resort and a guide provided to explain the ticking of the country.
Waterfalls in Samoa
Samoa is well known for its beautiful waterfalls, particulalrly on Upolu Island. Papapapatai is the largest of these and can be viewed on the cross road between Apia and the south coast where there's a scenic lookout but the actual waterfall is pretty inaccessible. The Papaasea Sliding Rock on the outskitrs of Apia is a popular place with locals to have a bit of fun smimming in the small series of pools. On the south coast of Upolu is the Togitogiga Forest Park which has a short trial to a small series of waterfalls that are perfect fror jumping into.
On Savaii island the Lava fields are the biggest sightseeing attraction. Guided walks can be arranged for a fascinating insight into Savaii's ongoing geological phenomena, or on the remote west tip you can hike in Falealupo Rainforest where there's also a canopy walkway.
Historical Sites in Samoa
The myths and legends of Samoa's history are recalled mostly through song and dance, so attending a fia fia night is the best way to experience its history. Tangible ancient sites are few and mostly entangled in the rainforest. The largest and most impressive of the archaeological relics is the Pulemelei star mound slightly inland from the west coast of Savaii.
The best of Samoa's more recent historical sites are in Apia Town, with the charming Robert Louis Stevenson museum a highlight of Samoa's colonial era.
Samoan Village Visits
Visiting a Samoan village is a definite highlight and is best arranged via the resort you're staying at. A formal introduction is generally required and once obtained you can walk freely around and watch and possible interact with every-day village life. Samoans though are very proud people and not so easy to talk to within the village environment, but the kids are brilliant, energetic and generally great fun to be around. All resorts in Samoa will have a local village nearby, often where most of the hotel staff come from. A tour of these local villages can be arranged with the reception.
Shopping & Handicrafts in Samoa
Although there are few high street shops to get excited about, there are two great markets in Apia Town where you can spend a few hours absorbed by the atmosphere. The Apia fresh produce market sits adjacent to the main bus stand and is a hive of activity each morning, in particular Saturday morning when Samoans start preparations for their Sunday feast. If you're after souvenirs or handicrafts, the flea market, adjacent to the fish market and beside Apia's second bus stand, is the place to buy wood carvings, pandanus matts, hand fans and chiefly fly whisps.