A Self-Drive Day Tour of Upolu’s East Coast
Have a day to spend on Upolu and don’t know what to do with it? This one-day itinerary of Upolu’s east coast will ensure you make the most of this Polynesian paradise! Rent a car or scooter or even hire a driver and hit the Main East Coast Road to explore stunning waterfalls, swim in soothing springs, tackle tropical hikes, do some beachcombing, dine at various resort restaurants, and even do some island-hopping. You don’t need to hire a guide, as this self-guided day trip on Upolu’s east coast lays out almost all of the sights and attractions on an easy-to-follow route complete with maps.
Needless to say, we recommend picking and choosing the attractions that appeal to you the most, as it would be near impossible to squeeze in everything (unless you’re a hardcore tourist).
How to Get Around Upolu’s East Coast Using This Self-Guided Itinerary
This self-guided one-day itinerary of the Upolu east coast has you exploring the east side of the island independently. To get around, you will either need to rent a car, scooter or private driver. Tips on where to hire vehicles, as well as how to hire a driver can be found in the following guides:
- What You Need to Hire a Car in Samoa
- The Top Upolu Car Rental Companies
- Scooter Hire in Samoa: Where to Rent, Cost & More
- How to Hire a Driver in Samoa
For more transport options, check out our Upolu Transport Guide: 11 Ways to Get to (& Around) Upolu.
Apia to Piula Cave Pool
Distance: 24 km (15 mi), Drive time: 35 minutes.
Sauniatu Falls Side Trip Distance: 7 km (4.3 mi), Drive time: 20 minutes.
Apia is a destination in itself with a wealth of attractions that you could spend the whole day exploring. Speaking of which, check out A Self-Guided Trip Around Apia: One Day Itinerary to do just that. Today’s itinerary starts in the city centre on Beach Road from the Samoa Tourism Information Centre.
Apia to Piula Cave Pool
Once you’re ready to hit the road, take the Main East Coast Road east out of Apia. Stop by Sula’s Supermarket & Bakery in Moataa, which is often agreed to be one of the best places to pick up quintessential Samoan snacks, from keke pua’a (pork buns) to keke saiga (Chinese biscuits) and many of the items we list in the 20 Foods to Try in Samoa.
Continue along the scenic coastline with cliffs and villages to admire. Your first stop is the freshwater spring of Piula Cave Pools, signposted between the villages of Saoluafata and Faleapuna. The crystal clear waters provide a refreshing swimming experience with caves to explore.
Side Trip: Sauniatu Falls
Get a headstart on your waterfall sightseeing by taking a detour to Sauniatu Falls located on a Latter-Day Saints compound. From Saoluafata village, follow the signposted road inland approximately 7 km (4.3 mi) and over a river bridge all the way to the end. There, enjoy some amazing swimming in a verdant rainforest setting beneath a 20 m (66 ft)-high waterfall.
Piula Cave Pool to Lalomanu Beach (Le Mafa Pass)
Distance: 40 km (25 mi), Drive time: 50 minutes.
Fagaloa Bay Side Trip Distance: 15 km (9 mi), Drive time: 1 hour 10 minutes.
Piula Cave Pool to Richardson Road
Once you’re ready to get back on the road, continue on the Main East Coast Road as it turns south into the village of Falefa. Here, you can make a waterfall stop at Falefa Falls with its attractive picnic area.
Then, it’s onward to one of the most scenic drives in Samoa, Richarson Road and Le Mafa Pass. Enjoy the views of the jungle-clad mountainous scenery as you wind your way across the island.
Side Trip: Fagaloa Bay
A substantial but breathtaking side trip awaits off Richarson Road as you take the unsealed (but 2WD-manageable) road into the scenic Fagaloa Bay with its quaint villages and scattering of waterfalls. The most intrepid travellers can venture all the way to Uafato village where local guides can take you deep into the Uafato Conservation Area to a bird hide – a must for any wildlife lover. Find out more in the 5 Best Places for Bird Watching in Samoa.
Richardson Road to Lalomanu
Back on Richardson Road, there’s more mountainous scenery to enjoy. Those who want to revel in it for a bit longer can make a 1.8 km (1 mi) detour down Le Mafa Pass Road to Fuipisia Waterfall with lots of precarious viewpoints, including the top of the waterfall itself.
Once again on Richardson Road, continue east where a Samoa Tourism frame indicates a scenic lookout of the lake formed by Afulilo Dam with a picturesque mountain backdrop.
Richardson Road finally becomes Main South Coast Road as you reach the coast. Look out for the “Namu’a Island Beach Fales” sign in Mutiatele village should your want to take a quick boat trip over to the uninhabited island of Namu’a.
As you hit the south coast, you’ll finally reach Lalomanu, where beach fales operate day hires to enjoy idyllic white sands and a crystal clear turquoise lagoon. Beach fales like Taufua Beach Fales and Anita’s Beach Bungalows offer an a la carte menu should you want lunch in a rustic setting on the beach.
Lalomanu to Maninoa
Distance: 45 km (28 mi), Drive time: 1 hour.
Lalomanu to To Sua Ocean Trench
Drive west now along the Main South Coast Road past some more wonderful stretches of sand at the beaches of Saleapaga and Lano. Should you be looking for an upscale lunch stop, head down the short access road to Seabreeze Resort and its premium restaurant.
Just a little further from Seabreeze Resort is a gorgeous yet underrated beach, Vavau Beach, with islets scattered across an attractive lagoon setting.
Once you’re done basking on the sands, only moments away is one of Samoa’s most iconic attractions, To Sua Ocean Trench. Should this sinkhole with a wooden rung ladder need any introduction, you’ll find it in the Top 10 Sights in Samoa.
To Sua Ocean Trench to O Le Pupu Pu’e National Park
Stick to the Main South Coast Road as it takes you inland slightly to the bottom end of Le Mafa Pass and a wonderful viewpoint of Sopoaga Falls. Not only that, but the small botanical garden here is also set up for coconut husking demonstrations – just let the attendant know if you’re interested!
Continue along the Main South Coast Road west, where those who need a lunch stop can head to the casual beach bar and cafe of Vaiula Beach Fales at Tafatafa Beach. They also offer snorkelling tours by boat even out to Nu’usafe’e Island, should you be seeking some more adventure.
After passing through a few more quaint villages, you’ll leave civilisation behind as you delve into the forest setting of O Le Pupu Pu’e National Park.
O Le Pupu Pu’e National Park
There are a few attractions well worth discovering within O Le Pupu Pu’e National Park. What’s more, all of them are free.
First, you’ll come across the short trail to Togitogiga Waterfall, which offers a fun swimming and waterfall-jumping spot if the waterfall hasn’t dried up (which is sometimes prone to happen in the dry season).
A few hundred metres further down the main road are some information signs and access to the family-friendly Ma Tree walk, taking you to an impressive buttress tree.
Opposite the Ma Tree entrance is an unsealed road to the Coastal Walk, a 1-hour gander through the pandanus forest which opens up onto coastal cliffs with views of tremendous sea arches. All of these walks are described in detail in the 10 Best Walks on Upolu.
O Le Pupu Pu’e to Maninoa
As you continue on the main road and emerge from the forest at the western end of O Le Pupu Pu’e National Park, a sign and fale with an attendant taking beach fees can be spotted on the lefthand side of the road. This unsealed road (best for high-clearance vehicles) leads down to yet another beautiful and secluded beach, known as Aganoa Black Sand Beach.
After some beachcombing, return to the main road. You may want to stop by one of the resorts in Maninoa for lunch if you haven’t had the chance to eat already. Sinalei Reef Resort is home to one of the country’s best fine dining restaurants, while Ocean Club has a cool yet casual bar/cafe on the beach.
Maninoa to Apia (Cross Island Road)
Distance: 24 km (15 mi), Drive time: 35 minutes.
Maninoa to the Baha’i Temple
The return trip to Apia will be via the Cross Island Road with a few more exciting stops to conclude your Upolu east coast road trip.
From Maninoa, head north on the Cross Island Road where a viewpoint of one of Samoa’s highest waterfalls, Papapapaitai Falls, can be found approximately 7.5 km (5 mi) up the road.
Just a little further north and signposted down an unsealed road is the hiking trail to Lake Lanoto’o, which you can learn more about in the 10 Best Hikes on Upolu.
An art gallery and vegan cuisine can be enjoyed at the Tiapapata Art Centre, which is your next attraction along the Cross Island Road. Just south of the art centre are the nature trails of Malololelei Recreation Reserve down Kelsey Way, while just north is the easier-to-spot Baha’i Temple whose gorgeous gardens and information centre are open to the public.
Baha’i Temple to Apia
The suburbs of Apia begin to make themselves known as you descend the Cross Island Road and enter Vaoala then Vailima where the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum and neighbouring Vailima Botanical Garden are located. Take the Tomb Trail to get wonderful views of Apia along a verdant forest trail.
Your journey finally ends where it began, in the heart of Apia where you probably should get a well-deserved drink or a bite to eat. Check out suggestions in the 10 Best Restaurants in Apia and 10 Best Bars in Apia.
More About Planning a Self-Guided Day Trip on Upolu
That’s it for our self-guided day trip of the Upolu east coast. For more details about the sights visited on this one-day itinerary of Upolu, these other articles should do just the trick!
- Sightseeing on Upolu: Top 10 Sights on Upolu
- 50 Best Things to Do on Upolu
- The Food Guide to Upolu: Places to Eat & Food Tours
Finally, don’t miss a thing on Samoa’s main island with The Complete Travel Guide to Upolu.