Amazing Culture Tours and Experiences in Samoa
“Fa’a Samoa” means everything to Samoans, which translates to “The Samoan Way”. It’s a proud Polynesian culture with many fascinating traditions and customs that are so effortless for visitors to Samoa to experience thanks to the genuineness and generosity of the local people. This is a country that doesn’t “put on a show” for its visitors (except for, you know, when it calls for it during a fiafia night, which arguably has more local attendees than internationals). What you see in Samoa is what you get, which means you’ll get to experience local crafts being made and learn how to make them yourself, try authentic island cuisine and much more in all of its authenticity.
Discover how you can experience the Samoan culture with this list of the best cultural activities in Samoa.
1. Immerse in Local Traditions at Samoa Cultural Village
If you’re wanting to experience the traditions of Samoa, then certainly don’t miss this free activity in Apia! Samoa Cultural Village takes place from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm, Tuesday to Friday, starting with a hands-on experience of weaving your own plate for the umu. You’ll then be formally welcomed with an ‘ava ceremony before seeing how a traditional umu feast is prepared. While your lunch is cooking, discover how ‘ava bowls are carved and even witness a painstaking Samoan tatau (tattoo) being applied in the traditional way. Finally, sit down with your freshly prepared umu lunch while watching a fiafia cultural performance including fire dancing. Oh, and did we mention it’s free? Epic! Discover more of Samoa’s freebies in the 50 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Samoa.
Location: Behind the Samoa Tourism Information Centre, Beach Road, Apia.
2. Watch, Learn and Paint-Your-Own Piece of Siapo at the Savai’i Siapo Demonstration
While visiting the must-do natural attraction of the Afu Aau Waterfall (see the 50 Best Things to Do on Savai’i), don’t miss this refreshingly authentic cultural experience right next door. Stop at the sign for the “Siapo Demonstration” on the island of Savai’i where you’ll be invited into a local family’s fale (for a small fee, of course) for a demonstration of traditional canvas-making and painting techniques. You can even give it a go yourself! From cutting down the young mulberry tree to leaving with a completed piece of Samoan siapo (also known across the South Pacific as tapa), the demonstration lasts approximately 45 minutes.
Location: Palauli village, signposted off the main road on the southeast coast of Savai’i (near the Afu Aau Waterfall).
3. Experience a Fiafia Night!
“Fiafia” means “happy” in Samoan and fiafia nights follow an equation that can’t help but put a smile on your face! Many will start with an ‘ava welcoming ceremony before guests are treated to a buffet of Samoan staples (just like the ones in the 20 Foods to Try in Samoa), as well as some international favourites. Once your stomach is gleeful, the show can get underway with cultural Pacifika dancing and, usually the highlight of the show, siva afi which is Samoa’s very own knife fire-dancing in the homeland where Polynesian fire dancing originated!
Location: All over Samoa! Make your selections, as well as find out their locations, in the 10 Best Cultural Shows (Fiafia) in Samoa.
4. Join In on Your Accommodation’s Village Walk
You’ll drive through many villages during your time in Samoa but nothing compares to experiencing them at a more relaxed pace. Cue the “village walk” an activity that accommodations like Amoa Resort and Jaymy Beach Fales offer guests in order to share more about the Samoan culture and where Samoans live. Alternatively, resorts like Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa and Taumeasina Island Resort offer more formal village tours with organised cultural activities like coconut husking, fine mat weaving and more. The village walks with Va-i-Moana Seaside Lodge also incorporate a preschool visit.
Location: All over Samoa! Learn more about the village walks in the 10 Best Village Tours in Samoa.
5. Experience Culture, Cuisine and Crafts at Samoa’s Markets
The markets of Apia and Salelologa are certainly worth perusing whether it’s for retail therapy or cultural ambience. The largest market in Samoa and a hotspot for all sorts of cultural goings-on, Fugalei Market is a sight not to be missed, while Savai’i’s version, the Salelologa Market, is also worth experiencing. The Flea Market is a more compact version and specialises more in crafts, while the Samoa Women’s Association of Growers (SWAG) Market is a cute Saturday gathering, and the Night Market on the last Friday of the month is a street food storm. As you can see, there are plenty of amazing markets to go through, so check them out further in the 8 Best Markets in Samoa.
Location: All over Samoa! See the link above for specific locations.
6. Do a Plantation Tour
Samoans heavily rely on the tropical produce of its inland plantations, whether it’s for self-sustenance or for export, which you can learn more about on one of the islands’ plantation tours. On Savai’i, see where your Whittaker’s Chocolate originates (if you’re from New Zealand) on the Va’ai family’s koko (cocoa) farm. Departing from Va-i-Moana Seaside Lodge, the Koko Plantation Tour has you seeing the koko cultivation process from seedlings to dried cocoa beans. On Upolu, the Ifiele’ele Plantation offers tours for their accommodation guests or groups with a minimum of four people. The plantation is famous across the island for its healthy dried fruit snacks, real fruit ice pops, as well as jams and chutneys.
Location: Va-i-Moana – between Auala and Asau villages, northwest coast of Savai’i. Ifiele’ele Plantation – Satui Road, Fasito’outa, northwest coast of Upolu.
7. See an Umu Demonstration…
The traditional Polynesian method of slow-cooking fish, tropical root vegetables and dishes like palusami with hot rocks is usually saved for special occasions in Samoan culture, but there are a couple of ways to experience this special meal for yourself in Samoa. The easiest way would be to join one of Samoa Cultural Village‘s free tours (see above), while there’s also the opportunity to watch umu demonstrations at resorts such as Le Vasa Resort, Saletoga Sands Resort & Spa, Taumeasina Island Resort, Seabreeze Resort, Aganoa Lodge, Va-i-Moana Seaside Lodge and more.
Location: Samoa Culture Village – Behind the Samoa Tourism Information Centre, Beach Road, Apia. Learn more about the resorts mentioned in The Top 25 Resorts in Samoa.
8. … Or a Koko Samoa Demonstration
Another fantastic cultural insight often available at resorts is a koko Samoa demonstration. For example, at the Amoa Resort, join the friendly local staff at the resort bar to not only learn how cocoa, locally known as koko, is grown on the island but how locals turn it into a unique version of hot chocolate that’s made every morning in typical Samoan family homes (and usually doesn’t last long either). You’ll understand why this is after trying some of the smooth cocoa goodness for yourself, which is sweetened just to your liking! Check out more food-orientated tours in the 10 Best Foodie Experiences in Samoa.
Location: Amoa Resort – Faga village on the east coast of Savai’i.
9. Take Part in a Weaving Demonstration
Baskets, bags, headbands and hats; it’s amazing how many items can be crafted from a simple coconut palm frond in just 30 minutes! Again, the Samoa Cultural Village is a good go-to for a hands-on weaving demonstration where you’ll weave your own headband and dinner plate, but resorts like Saletoga Sands Resort & Spa, Seabreeze Resort and Coconut’s Beach Club Resort on Upolu incorporate Samoan weaving demonstrations during their weekly “Culture Days”.
On Savai’i, Amoa Resort‘s weaving demonstration starts with staff making a very large and functional basket at an impressively brisk pace – like the ones you’ll see in abundance across the markets. Then, a palm frond is handed over to you; you’ll be shown how to weave your own basket or head visor that local fishermen use to protect their eyes from the sun. Leaving with a cool little headband, a sense of achievement and new cultural insights is what it’s all about!
Location: Saletoga Sands – Main South Coast Road, Matatufu, southeast coast of Upolu. Seabreeze – Main South Coast Road, Aufaga, southeast coast of Upolu. Coconut’s – Maninoa, southeast coast of Upolu. Amoa Resort – Faga village on the east coast of Savai’i.
10. Learn About Samoan History at the Falemata’aga Museum of Samoa
The donation-based Falemata’aga, Museum of Samoa has an impressive collection of historical and cultural artefacts from across Samoa and the South Pacific. If you don’t want to sift through it all yourself, free guided tours are available with passionate guides to show you through six different galleries (in air-conditioned rooms, might we add) boasting 3,000-year-old Lapita pottery, colonisation history and even a small art exhibition, there’s plenty here to keep you occupied for as long as you wish. Get more of a museum cultural fix from the 5 Best Museums in Samoa.
Location: Vaitele Street (look out for the large mural on the building), Apia.
11. Admire the Art at the EFKS Museum
Certainly an art gallery rather 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 moved enough. Don’t leave the grounds after you’ve finished perusing the art gallery too quickly, as the open-air walkways around the lake outside provide a tranquil setting to explore. Discover more galleries worth visiting in the 5 Best Art Galleries in Samoa.
Location: Malua (signposted next to the Malua Theological College) along Main West Coast Road on the northwest coast of Upolu.
12. Paddle a Paopao Canoe
Lining the coasts of Samoa it’s not uncommon to see outrigger canoes, locally known as paopao or va’a, that local fishermen use. For visitors, they also make a fun and alternative way to explore the lagoons, especially on the island of Savai’i (don’t steal a fisherman’s paopao though). Accommodations like Joelan Beach Fales and the Vaisala Hotel have paopao available for guest use. Otherwise, the Asaga Mangrove tour takes you on these canoes through a special wetland ecosystem to a freshwater swimming hole. Learn more about the tour in the 10 Best Kayak Tours in Samoa.
Location: Joelan Beach Fales – Lano village on the east coast of Savai’i. Vaisala Hotel – Vaisala village on the northwest coast of Savai’i. Asaga Mangroves – Tours depart from the road bridge in Asaga village (there is a sign for the Asaga River Pool and Beach Fales) on the northeast coast of Savai’i.
13. Watch a Coconut Demonstration
The coconut is the tree of life in Samoa: for food, to build fales, make tools and equipment, clothing and more! You won’t truly appreciate the significance of the coconut until you’ve taken part in a coconut demonstration. At resorts like Saletoga Sands, during their “Culture Day”, you’ll see the impressive skills needed to climb a coconut tree before husking a coconut to reach the milky goodness within. Visit Sopoaga Falls and you’ll also get to see (and taste) coconut cream during a coconut demonstration. Speaking of waterfalls, make sure you have your waterfall must-see list made with the 10 Best Waterfalls in Samoa.
Location: Saletoga Sands – Main South Coast Road, Matatufu, southeast coast of Upolu. Sopoaga Falls – North of Lotofoga village just before the junction where the Main South Coast Road turns onto Le Mafa Pass Road, southeast coast of Upolu.
14. Stay in a Beach Fale
Elevated on the sands with the sound of the waves rolling onto the distant reef; not only is sleeping in a traditional beach fale a beautiful experience but a social one. Samoa’s beach fales are run by local families, offering a cultural experience from the traditional structure where you sleep to the home-cooked breakfast and dinner shared with fellow travellers. Meals are a mixture of the foods that contemporary Samoans like to eat, like curry and chop suey, to more traditional dishes like palusami with dinner and koko rice (cocoa rice) or supo esi (papaya soup) for breakfast. In short, your beach fale experience is like an awesome homestay including “glamping” on the beach. Learn more about it in The Guide to Staying in a Beach Fale in Samoa.
Location: All over Samoa! See the 20 Best Beach Fale Accommodations in Samoa to compare your options.
15. Experience a Sunday Church Service (and a Sunday To’onai)
Wrapping up this list of the best cultural activities in Samoa like wrapping up your average week in Samoa, how about attending a local Sunday church service? Even if you’re not religious, anyone can appreciate the breathtaking melodies of a Samoan church choir. After church, you may even get invited to a to’onai, a traditional Sunday lunch. If not, hotels, resorts and beach fales host to’onai where you can try dishes like palusami and food that has likely been cooked in an umu. Learn more about experiencing a to’onai in the 10 Best Foodie Experiences in Samoa. Plus, for more ways to spend your Sunday, check out the 10 Things to Do in Samoa on a Sunday.
Location: All over Samoa! See churches to attend in the 10 Best Churches in Samoa to Experience as a Visitor.
More Cultural Activities in Samoa
That’s it for our list of the best cultural activities in Samoa but it’s by no means the end of our advice! Check more guides to experiencing the Samoan culture across Samoa:
- How to Have an Authentic Samoan Experience
- 15 Best Historical Sites in Samoa
- The 5 Biggest Towns & Villages in Samoa
Finally, complete your bucket list with the 101 Best Things to Do in Samoa: The Ultimate List and if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in A Traveller’s Guide to the Samoan Culture.