Accessibility in Samoa: Travellers with Disabilities, Wheelchair Access & More
Accessibility in Samoa: Travellers with Disabilities, Wheelchair Access & More

Accessibility in Samoa: Travellers with Disabilities, Wheelchair Access & More

© SamoaPocketGuide.com

A Complete Guide to Visiting Samoa with a Disability

We’ll be honest; with lots of sandy beaches, rough terrain and limited facilities for the disabled, Samoa is not the most accessible destination for disabled travellers. But if you are craving some tropical sun, there are a few resorts in Samoa that have “wheelchair-friendly” facilities, providing a glorious place to unwind. In this complete guide to accessibility in Samoa, we list wheelchair-accessible accommodations, things to do for the disabled, and some added advice for disabled travellers.

5 Tips for Travelling with a Disability in Samoa

  1. Come with a travel buddy – Most shops, cafes, restaurants and even attractions like museums have one or two steps that make handling a wheelchair on your own extremely challenging. You’ll need the assistance of a trusted travel companion to help with these minor hurdles
  2. Stick to Upolu – disabled access facilities are limited on Upolu but even more so on Savai’i
  3. Limited wheelchair-accessible vehicle rental is available in Apia so be sure to book well in advance
  4. If you need any specific facilities or assistance on tours or at your accommodation, it’s a good idea to contact companies prior to your visit so they can either provide advice or get themselves prepared
  5. Bring an all-terrain wheelchair if you want to make the most of Samoa’s glorious beaches; there are no all-terrain wheelchair hire in Samoa.
Accessibility in Samoa: Travellers with Disabilities, Wheelchair Access & More© SamoaPocketGuide.com

Accessibility at Faleolo International Airport

Faleolo International Airport is where you’ll perhaps find the best facilities for disabled travellers visiting Samoa. There are staff on-hand to assist disabled travellers, even from the moment you land. For any assistance required, such as wheelchair assistance while at Faleolo Airport, arrange this through your airline.

Jet bridges are used at Faleolo International Airport for arrival and departure flights, which are wheelchair-friendly. Although the airport is multi-level, there are escalators and elevators available to access all floors of the terminal building.

Most restrooms have larger stalls, grab bars and lower sinks, paper towel dispensers and mirrors to accommodate wheelchair users. There are also large private restrooms.

Learn more about what to expect from Samoa’s airport in our guide, Samoa Arrival Airport: Which Airport to Fly into Samoa.

Accessibility in Samoa: Travellers with Disabilities, Wheelchair Access & More© SamoaPocketGuide.com

10 Best Samoa Accommodations with Wheelchair Access

There are a few accommodations and resorts around Samoa that have wheelchair-accessible facilities. Note, however, that they by no means meet the same standards as, perhaps the New Zealand or Australian Accessibility Standards for buildings. They are put together at the accommodation’s own discretion.

If you require specific facilities, such as rails in the bathrooms or portable ramps, for instance, or anything else, it’s best to get in touch with accommodation providers directly. For facilities such as braille, none exist as far as we know.

1. Saletoga Sands Resort & Spa

One of the best resorts in Samoa for wheelchair-users, Saletoga Sands Resort & Spa provides that beachfront tropical holiday experience without sacrificing accessibility. First of all, they have public bathroom facilities with grab rails and a high toilet level, and they even have a wheelchair on-site. Many of the villas are spacious, have walk-in showers and are joined by wide concrete pathways. Most villas, however, have small step access (ask for portable ramps) while there are no ramps into the pool or beach. There’s a lot more to this resort, so find out more in The Top 25 Resorts in Samoa.

Check Saletoga Sands Resort & Spa out:

2. Taumeasina Island Resort

Its own private island yet moments away from Apia‘s bustling city centre, Taumeasina Island Resort is an easy go-to for travellers who want to be close to the action. As Samoa’s largest resort, it has some wheelchair-accessible facilities down, including smooth-surface walkways, parking, facilities in the public restrooms, and around the pool. You’ll want to opt for a ground-level room, however, so be sure to let staff know upon booking. Learn more about staying in the capital in Where to Stay in Apia: The Best Accommodations in Apia.

Check Taumeasina Island Resort out:

3. Return to Paradise Resort & Spa

Based on Upolu‘s most famous beach, Return to Paradise Resort & Spa offers a secluded retreat on the island’s southwest coast with rooms suitable for wheelchair users. Any of the beachfront rooms or suites are wheelchair accessible, but note that some have steps down into the bathroom. There’s also a self-contained villa with a ramp that you can request which is certainly the best option for disabled travellers. Learn more about the villas in the 10 Best Holiday Apartments in Samoa.

Check Return to Paradise Resort & Spa out:

4. Tanoa Tusitala Hotel

A hotel with a resort ambience and a convenient location in the island’s capital, Tanoa Tusitala Hotel is well worth considering as your hotel in Samoa. The hotel offers eight disabled-access rooms (you will need to request the hotel’s portable ramp if required) which have grab rails in the bathrooms, for instance. Note that the pool is not wheelchair-accessible. For more details on this accommodation, take a look at 30 Best Hotels in Samoa.

Check Tanoa Tusitala Hotel out:

5. Lava Hotel

If you’re looking for a contemporary stay in Samoa, including decent disabled-access facilities, this is it. Wheelchair-accessible rooms can be found throughout the Lava Hotel, either on the ground floor or on the first floor using the elevator. Room types are best suited to solo travellers and couples, as further described in the 25 Best Hotels in Apia & Upolu.

Check Lava Hotel out:

6. Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa

Rustic luxury awaits at the Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa. Access pathways to the resort come with ramps and handrails, but its luxury villas are better suited to wheelchair users who still have a bit of mobility for the odd step. The resort also has a bit of gradient to contend with, so it’s best if your assistant is fit enough to push uphill. Learn more about this upscale stay in the 10 Best Luxury Accommodations & Resorts in Samoa.

Check Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa out:

7. Le Uaina Beach Resort

Swap international resort chains for a locally run operation with the best resort rates in Samoa at the Le Uaina Beach Resort. With smooth surfaces, ramp-accessible villas and walk-in showers, many wheelchair users will find Le Uaina easy enough to negotiate. Entrances to the showers are a bit narrow, however, so may not be suitable for wheelchairs that are wider than average. Learn more about what the resort has to offer in the 25 Best Budget Accommodations in Samoa.

Check Le Uaina Beach Resort out:

8. Ifiele’ele Plantation

For those who prefer something more private, set your sights on Ifiele’ele Plantation. With just two ensuite “plantation rooms”, one family-style villa and one self-catering studio, you’ll struggle not to find tranquillity here. There’s complete ground-floor access except for a mezzanine room in the two-bedroom villa, while showers are walk-in (although not suitable for wider wheelchairs). Much of the surfaces at the plantation are short grass, however, which will make getting between your room and your vehicle or the swimming pool a bit more of a mission.

Check Ifiele’ele Plantation out:

9. Sheraton Samoa Beach Resort

The closest resort to Faleolo International Airport and one from a familiar international hotel chain, the Sheraton Samoa Beach Resort provides some disabled-access facilities but with the caveat of being a bit outdated. Some rooms have bathrooms with grab rails, for example, but these are usually in bathtubs which aren’t to everyone’s liking. Ground-floor rooms and sealed walkways around the complex are just about the only other facilities for wheelchair users. More on what the Sheraton has to offer can be found in 30 Best Hotels in Samoa.

Check Sheraton Samoa Beach Resort out:

10. Le Vasa Resort (Upolu)

For a low-key resort holiday offering an idyllic balance of relaxation and adventure (not to mention, is much kinder on the holiday budget), choose Le Vasa Resort. It’s best to get in touch with this boutique resort early, not only to check that they have the facilities you require but to ensure they have availability for their most suitable ground floor bungalow for disabled travellers. Learn more about the resort in the 10 Best Boutique Resorts & Accommodations in Samoa.

Check Le Vasa Resort out:

Accessibility in Samoa: Travellers with Disabilities, Wheelchair Access & More© SamoaPocketGuide.com

Accessibility at Shops, Cafes, Transport, etc.

The facilities for disabled people in Samoa are extremely limited. Pavements (footpaths/sidewalks) are mostly limited to Apia where there are at least sufficient dips in the pavements and pedestrian crossings to suit most wheelchair users. There are also some well-signposted disabled parking spots in Apia town centre.

Shops, Cafes and Resort Restaurants

Some but certainly not all shops and restaurants have disabled access. One that springs to mind is Nourish Cafe – see the 10 Best Cafes in Samoa for more information. The restaurants and bars of the accommodations mentioned above are also wheelchair-accessible and are open to non-guests. Learn more about them in The 20 Best Restaurants in Samoa.

Transport for Disabled Travellers

When it comes to transport, Samoana Rentals hires out a wheelchair-access van with rear lift access. Alternatively, vehicles such as utes are widely available to rent in Samoa, which may be the best option to store wheelchairs that don’t fold up. Check out Samoa’s vehicle rental options in the 10 Best Car Rentals in Samoa.

Transport such as taxis and tours in minivans are not wheelchair-friendly but drivers are usually happy to assist wheelchair users and find a spot to store fold-up wheelchairs. It’s best to let operators know about these needs upon booking to see if they can accommodate them.

Note that there are no rentals for all-terrain wheelchairs in Samoa.

Accessibility in Samoa: Travellers with Disabilities, Wheelchair Access & More© SamoaPocketGuide.com

10 Things to Do in Samoa with a Disability (with Assistance)

Needless to say, the majority of Samoa’s highlights are water activities and natural attractions that are very challenging for people with disabilities to access. Even for the attractions listed below, it is essential that you have someone who knows you well to also assist you on your holiday.

1. Admire the Art of the EFKS Museum

More of an art gallery than a museum, the EFKS Museum boasts a large glass-walled fale packed with the creations of the talented students of the School of Fine Arts. There is a range of contemporary carvings, sculptures, paintings and more to admire or even purchase should you feel inspired. The facility has wheelchair ramps and rails and is easily one of the best buildings (possibly in the country) for wheelchair users. Learn more about it in the 5 Best Museums in Samoa.

2. Take a Journey of “Fa’a Samoa” at Samoa Cultural Village

“Fa’a Samoa” means “The Samoan Way” and you’ll certainly get the full flavour of the Samoan culture at Samoa Cultural Village. Weave your own plate for the umu and be welcomed with an ‘ava ceremony before seeing how a traditional umu feast is prepared. While your lunch is cooking, learn how ‘ava bowls are carved and even witness a Samoan tatau (tattoo) being “applied” in the traditional manner. Finally, sit down with your freshly prepared umu lunch for a fiafia cultural performance. Discover more ways to experience fa’a Samoa in the 10 Best Cultural Activities in Samoa.

3. Experience a Fiafia Night

Speaking of fiafia, your evening entertainment is sorted in Samoa! Many fiafia nights will start with an ‘ava (kava) ceremony before guests are treated to a buffet of Samoan staples and international favourites. Once your stomach is happy, the show can get underway with Pacifika dancing and a finale of siva afi which is Samoa’s very own knife fire-dancing! See which fiafia night to book yourself into in the 10 Best Cultural Shows (Fiafia) in Samoa.

4. Marvel at the Stunning Sopoaga Falls

Samoa has no lack of waterfalls but one of the easiest ones to access for wheelchair users is the view of Sopoaga Falls. Around 32 m (105 ft) and seen surrounded by jungle-clad cliffs from a high viewpoint, the waterfall provides a majestic photo opportunity. Check out more waterfalls in the 10 Best Waterfalls in Samoa.

5. Take in the Views of Papapapaitai Falls

Plunging 100 m (328 ft) into the distance rainforest, Papapapaitai Falls is one of the highest waterfalls in Samoa and another easy to view for wheelchair users (you just might have to wack a few bushes out of the way). With it just available to view for free along the Cross Island Road, there’s no reason not to check it out!

6. Mingle With the Locals at One of Samoa’s Largest Markets

Peruse a wonderous array of locally crafted carvings, woven bags and fans, handprinted lavalava (sarongs), coconut jewellery and much more at one of Samoa’s substantial markets. Fugalei Market in Apia is the largest market in Samoa, closely followed by the Flea Market near the waterfront – these are both quite compact but wheelchair users can still enjoy them with some care. Dive into the details of each market in the 8 Best Markets in Samoa.

7. Soak in the Mountain Views on the Le Mafa Pass and Fagaloa Bay Scenic Drive

Fill up the gas tank and hit the glorious Le Mafa Pass and Fagaloa Bay Scenic Drive which can both be enjoyed on the same road trip to the eastern side of Upolu. The journey takes you to high vantage points revealing jungle-clad mountains around just about every corner. Plan more road trips, including this one, using the 5 Best Day Trips from Apia.

8. Explore Matagialalua Friendship Park

A neat little area on the Apia waterfront, Friendship Park offers an attractive park with wide and well-surfaced pathways for wheelchair users to explore. Explore the Mangrove Tidal Garden with boardwalks and bridges to mosey over, watch locals battle it out at the sports courts, and head down to the amphitheatre to catch a free gig or event.

9. Admire the Flowers at Vailima Botanical Garden

Encompassing 12 ha (30 acres) of native, introduced and naturalised plant species, Vailima Botanical Garden offers a wonderful free space to explore in Apia. Learn something at the information centre and make use of the smooth wheelchair-accessible trail. Learn more about the gardens and see more free activities in the 50 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Samoa.

10. Watch the Police Marching Band in Apia

Each weekday morning from around 8:45 am, the Royal Samoa Police Band brings the streets of Apia to life with trumpets, trombones and drums as they march along Beach Road from the Police Station Headquarters. At 9 am, they raise the Samoan flag on the lawns of the Government Building before marching their merry way back to the Police Station. A sight not to be missed! See more quirky attractions like this in the 10 Most Unique Things to Do in Samoa.

More Things to Do in a Wheelchair in Samoa

Of course, all disabilities are different in their limitations, so be sure to have a browse of the 101 Best Things to Do in Samoa to see what you think you will reasonably be able to do.

More About Accessibility in Samoa

That’s it for our full guide to accessibility in Samoa, including information on disability and wheelchair access. For more tips that you might find useful, see the following guides:

Finally, get a complete guide to planning your trip to Samoa from scratch using The Best Samoa Travel Guide: Plan a Trip the EASY Way.

Author

Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Samoa Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in the South Pacific over 10 years ago with nothing but a backpack and a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to explore a paradise such as Samoa. She knows the islands inside out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience Upolu and Savai’i’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also the editor of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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