Samoa is a wonderful country on the Western side, part of the Polynesian Islands.
The 2 main islands are Upolu (where Apia, the Capital, is) and Savai’i.
It’s a well known holiday destination for Kiwis and Australians, but not so much for the rest of the world.
We visited it and read below about Samoa for families with kids.
* American Samoa is a different place, still part of the USA. On this post, we’re talking only about Western Samoa.
There are 2 official languages, Samoan and English. Samoan is more widely spoken and in some villages, you’ll find that people don’t often speak English. In more touristic areas, you shouldn’t have any problems.
The Samoan Tala is used. You should have some, as small shops don’t take cards.
There are ATMs everywhere, with ANZ bank being very common.
ATMs tend to be a little cheaper than the currency exchange places, but do your research and see how much your bank charges for each withdraw and the limit for each time.
Samoa weather and seasons
It’s a tropical country, therefore being warm all year long.
The average temperature is 29°C (84.2°F) but it often feels like a lot more. And it’s very, very humid, which makes it seems even hotter.
The seasons are the dry season (May-October) and the wet season (November-April).
Some attractions, like the rock slides and the waterfalls, are better visited during the wet season otherwise they aren’t safe or as beautiful, but… during the wet season, it’s best to carry a raincoat or a spare change of clothes.
We were there in November and it was beautiful. Yes, for the first 5 days it rained every day for most of the time but then the weather opened up and we had some gorgeous weather by the end. Even though there was rain (well, thunderstorms, mostly), when it gave a break, we’d jump into the pool or the sea and have an hour or 2 or joy before going back to enjoying the laid-back lifestyle and the amenities the resorts offer.
When it wasn’t sunny, the temperature was nice and we enjoyed it a lot. When the sky opened, though, it became way too hot to bear, so the only way out was the sea (or the pool).
More about it here.
We’ll have a post for each island separately, so you can click below to find the details of what you’re looking for.
This is the main island, where Apia (the Capital) is. It’s also the landing place of most tourists since this is where the airport is.
Even though it’s more densely populated and more developed, it’s still marvelous. The beaches are amazing, there’s plenty of nature, forests, gorges, lakes, and just about anything one may want.
We could’ve stayed there forever, honestly. What a wonderful place.
It’s populated and developed, but less.
I was expecting it to be rougher and tougher but no, it was so much more organized and very, very pretty. Find out more about Savai’i here!
The roads were super tidy, better kept than Upolu, to be honest. It was a little harder to buy things, as it was all in small stalls rather than actual markets and people not always speak English.
It was a little bit more expensive than Upolu, though.
It’s super worth the visit, I highly recommend you don’t miss this wonderful island.
Traveling between the Samoan islands
There’s a ferry between the islands. It runs several times per day. It carries people and vehicles, so you can rent a car and travel through both islands easily. They’re cheap for passengers, but cars are a bit expensive. See if it’s worth taking the car or if you’d be better off renting a new one on the other side.
There are a few ferries that do this trip. We took Lady Samoa lll to and from Upolu. It’s the ‘big boat’, and it has one whole level with air conditioning. This level can get quite crowded. We opted for the third floor, where we didn’t have air conditioning but we had the best views and the wind.
On our first ferry trip there, we even saw a green turtle swimming!
It’s a short trip, of around one hour. Depending on the sea conditions, it can be a choppy trip – get your sea sickness prevention mode on! And have some plastic bags just in case.
If you’re driving, you NEED TO BUY YOUR CAR TICKET IN ADVANCE! This ticket is for a vehicle and the driver. The other passengers must have regular tickets.
The normal ticket isn’t sold beforehand, so even if you have your car ticket, you’ll need to go earlier to buy tickets for the rest of the party.
They ask for cars to arrive around an hour prior to the scheduled time.
Find the timetable and fares here!
Transport options within the islands
Renting a car is the easiest way – though note you’ll need to have your international driving license validated. Many car rental companies do this for you but it costs a little more than at the Land Transport Authority (in Vaitele), where they charge ST 21 (less than US$ 15).
Other options are the colorful buses, which are everywhere. There isn’t a bus stop, so you’ll need to see the bus coming, check if it goes to where you’re going and signal for it to stop. When the bus is full, people often offer their laps for the others to sit on. Don’t be offended if it happens or if people expect you to offer your lap!
There are also transfers from some accommodations. Just check if they actually have the service and the cost.
Taxis are also available but there isn’t any meter so discuss the price before accepting the ride!
For families, I highly suggest renting a car as it’s more cost-effective and it’s a lot easier if you don’t have to wait for a bus that may never show up or a very slow taxi after a long day.
The internet in Samoa
Well, we usually need the internet, but this time we were actually in holiday mode. That meant we only did Instagram and some light Facebook and Instagram, but other than that, we didn’t even check the e-mails.
We bought a SIM card at the airport and used that as our main source.
You’ll have 2 options: Bluesky and Digicel. I bought Digicel because the person opened the shop so we could buy our chip before the opening hours. It worked fine, sometimes 3G, sometimes 4G, and sometimes LTE. I rarely ran out of range. There are many, many plans to choose from, from 1G to 40G, and you can top up little by little too.
We bought 6G with shareable internet so I could open up my phone so everyone in my family could use it. It wasn’t nearly half of what we’d use normally, but it was great to limit our phone time. It cost us ST$ 20.
The only place that had free wifi for guests was Sheraton Beach Resort. It worked slowly but steadily and it was a relief for the kids to be able to use it all the time. Too bad we only had it for one night. The other places we used charged – and a lot – for the internet, so we didn’t use it once.
Vodafone NZ charged us NZ$5 per day of use – the use would be limited to the plan we have at home.
The airport has a wifi but it isn’t available in all areas, so we didn’t get to use it.
Accommodation in Samoa
There are all kinds of accommodation in the country, from the most luxurious resorts to hotels, to hostels, villas, even Airbnbs.
The most unique option, though, are the fales. They are beach bungalows – literally just a small raised floor right in front of the water. There are no walls but some curtains (they could be from leaves, regular curtains, and all sorts of materials) for privacy.
We didn’t try them and I’m honestly glad we didn’t. I hated using repellent all the time and it would’ve been a nightmare to keep everyone slobbered enough to keep all those funny bugs away during the night. Well, my kids aren’t fond of bugs and neither am I.
We found people everywhere to be incredibly friendly and welcoming, trying their best to make us feel at home and it was lovely.
If you’re contacting a hotel for information, be patient. They take a while to answer. Around a week, if you’re lucky. Sometimes there isn’t even an answer at all. Book well ahead of time or try your luck! Call, if you’re unsure.
What to pack for a family vacation in Samoa
Summer clothing, a light cardigan or a sarong for the evening breeze, swim togs, jandals, travel towels, maybe a walking shoe if you’re planning on walking or hiking. And that’s it.
Even though towels are provided in most places, we liked having our travel towels to take on our outings and as they take up such little space in the bags, it’s worth taking one!
Laundry is available at most accommodations for a charge. We paid around ST$ 50 per load, washed and dried. Some places refused to wash when we had too few clothes but otherwise, it was fine – we could just toss in our travel towels and swim togs to add up to the load.
You can hire snorkel and dive gear everywhere but we took ours – I kind of dislike using other people’s snorkel gear.
For personal hygiene items, you can buy them anywhere. The brands are a little limited, but it’s fine.
If you’re wearing sunscreen, make sure you get some reef safe sun protection to avoid damage the wonderful coral reef all around the islands.
Don’t forget a good insect repellent – you can also buy there, there are natural and awesome alternatives there, just for a higher price tag.
I’d buy a sarong there instead of taking one. It costs around ST$ 10 and there are many designs and colors, they’re super pretty!
Tips for a nice holiday in Samoa
- Most villages have an evening praying curfew. It lasts for around an hour and it’s usually around 6 pm or 7 pm. Be respectful, make no noise. You can cross the villages, but don’t expect people to come out and greet you or the shops and restaurants to be opened during that time.
- Women should dress conservatively, which means covered from the shoulders to the knees. It doesn’t need to be super covered, just a sarong over your shorts or your tank top. It’s mostly true for the smaller villages but it’s nice to be respectful everywhere.
- There are lots of bugs. Mosquitos, ants, spiders, beetles, cockroaches. Everywhere. You’ll need some insect repellent.
- There are also lots of crabs, fishes, and other sea creatures everywhere. If you’re swimming at the beach, you’ll encounter some. My kids are now terrified of sea cucumbers, there were SO MANY! Haha
- Air conditioning is a blessing: find somewhere with it if you don’t really love the hot days and nights.
- Whale watching season is from September and October. If you’re really lucky, you can see them from July to December, though.
- Turtles feed around the bays, so go snorkeling early in the morning or early evening to try and see them. Namua Island is said to be the best place to see them in the wild!
- Although there are many places where you can see turtles in captivity, avoid them. These animals are best left in the wild.
- There is NO tourist fee for Western Samoa.
- By the way, it’s pronounced Sah-moa.
- Tap water isn’t potable – it’s best to have your own water sterilization device such as the Steripen (click here to see more details!) or Aquatabs (click here to find some). Bottled water is widely available too, though not really eco-friendly. Some places offer filtered water. We took our water bottles and refilled it at the hotel (when filtered water was available) and bought bottled water for the rest of the time.
- Some accommodation offer bottled water for its guests, but it may be limited to a bottle per person, so not nearly enough.
Most accommodations with free breakfast offer the tropical breakfast, which means fruits, a porridge, and toast. We found them to be filling and nutritious, which was awesome. The kids didn’t really like the porridges much (sometimes they were rice and fruits porridge, so depending on the mix, it was a little strange) but still felt fine.
We found the food to be expensive, but it was always delicious and fresh, so very worth it. For our family of 6, we paid around ST 250 per meal.
There are 2 things we loved there:
- Oka: raw fish marinated in coconut cream with cucumber and tomatoes. Refreshing, delicious, and traditional!
- Taro fries: they’re like chips, but made out of taro instead of potatoes. It’s incredibly yum!
Don’t hesitate on ordering some deliciously fresh coconut water and then, ask them to open it so you can eat the delicious coconut flesh. So, so good!
Watch at least one cultural show. If your accommodation doesn’t have one, there’s one nearby that does, and they usually include dinner!
There’s a local soda called Taxi. It’s the usual flavors, but they’re all colored and fun. Try them! My kids’ favorites were raspberry and lemonade!
Western Samoa for kids
Samoans are extremely friendly and they love kids. We didn’t have one problem with them, though know that there are resorts and spaces only for adults so maybe avoid those.
Kids who swim well enough will enjoy the islands thoroughly as most of its attractions involve water. Coral (6) didn’t swim so we took her floaty and she enjoyed it like that, though it did make it hard for her to snorkel. It was a donut floaty, so maybe a life jacket or the arm floaties are better.
If your kids are adventurous and enjoy being in nature, they’ll surely love it. There are many different bugs and birds, waterfalls, beaches, and just so much to see!
On the other hand, if your kid is a city-bug, they will feel a little out of place.
Apia is an excellent base for families with different kids, as it’s close to many amazing natural wonders and it also has some city comfort, like museums, the movies, and Mc Donalds.
My kids enjoyed the cultural shows we’ve been to. With music, dances, and fire, well, it was great fun. They tend to end up late and kids may get tired in the end so have them nap a bit during the afternoon or plan for a lazy morning on the next day. We found them at the hotels, during dinner time. Around Apia, they are more common throughout the week.
To finish it…
We loved Samoa. It was a little too hot for half of the family, but we all enjoyed it thoroughly.
If you love beaches, snorkeling, diving, or sea creatures, beautiful culture and friendly people, then Samoa is for you!
- Minimun Stay
- $ ~ $$$
- Best local transport option
- Do we recommend it?
- 3 days
- Perfectly child friendly
- Super, super safe