8 Best Cultural Activities on Savai'i
8 Best Cultural Activities on Savai'i

9 Best Cultural Activities on Savai’i

© SamoaPocketGuide.com

Culture Tours and Experiences on the Island of Savai’i

Other than its outstanding natural beauty, the main draw to Savai’i is its authentic culture. Much more traditional than its sister island of Upolu and the “rat race” of Apia, Savai’i’s way of life very much focuses on village life. You can learn about many of these traditions, known as “fa’a Samoa” or “the Samoan way”, in A Traveller’s Guide to the Samoan Culture but you can see them practised through the cultural activities on Savai’i.

Before we begin, be sure to open The Complete Travel Guide to Savai’i to plan the rest of your island excursion.

1. 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 amazing and refreshingly authentic cultural experience right next door. Stop at the sign for the “Siapo Demonstration” 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 (near the Afu Aau Waterfall).

8 Best Cultural Activities on Savai'i© SamoaPocketGuide.com

2. Cocoa (Koko) Plantation Tour

See where your Whittaker’s Chocolate originates (if you’re from New Zealand) on 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. The tour also includes a demonstration on how to make koko Samoa (Samoan hot chocolate) with tastings! For more drinks to try on the islands, check out the 10 Drinks in Samoa You Have to Try.

Location: Va-i-Moana Seaside Lodge, between Auala and Asau villages on the northwest coast.

8 Best Cultural Activities on Savai'i© SamoaPocketGuide.com

3. Village Walks

You’ll drive through many villages during your time on Savai’i but nothing compares to experiencing them at a more relaxed pace. Cue the “village walk” an activity that resorts such as Amoa Resort and Va-i-Moana Seaside Lodge offer guests in order to share more about the Samoan culture and where Samoans live. The village walk with Amoa takes you to plantations where you’ll touch, smell and, if you’re lucky, taste the fruit, vegetable and herbs lining the village road. Alternatively, Va-i-Moana’s focus is on the village of Asau where it’s possible to also visit the village preschool. Both tours are very casually guided, taking more of an approach for you to ask questions rather than sit through a rehearsed speech.

Location: Amoa Resort – Faga village on the east coast. Va-i-Moana Seaside Lodge – Between Auala and Asau villages in Asau Bay on the northwest coast.

8 Best Cultural Activities on Savai'i© SamoaPocketGuide.com

4. Koko Samoa Demonstration

Another fantastic cultural insight Amoa Resort offers is the Koko Samoa Demonstration. Join the friendly local staff at the resort bar to not only learn how koko Samoa (cocoa) 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 on Savai’i.

Location: Amoa Resort – Faga village on the east coast.

8 Best Cultural Activities on Savai'i© SamoaPocketGuide.com

5. 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! While weaving demonstrations may well be a casual offering of some resorts and beach fales across Savai’i, Amoa Resort‘s Weaving Demonstration is the one we can vouch for. One or two of the local staff will start by 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: Amoa Resort – Faga village on the east coast.

8 Best Cultural Activities on Savai'i© SamoaPocketGuide.com

6. Beach Fales

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. Savai’i’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 Essential Tips for Staying in a Beach Fale in Samoa.

8 Best Cultural Activities on Savai'i© SamoaPocketGuide.com

7. Paopao Canoe Hire and Tours

Lining the coasts of Savai’i, 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 (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. Vaisala Hotel – Vaisala village on the northwest coast. 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.

8 Best Cultural Activities on Savai'i© Samoa Tourism Authority

8. Salelologa Market

At the Salelologa Market, peruse a wonderous array of tropical fruit and vegetables while mingling with the friendly locals. As well as sampling some of the sweetest bananas and juiciest pineapples you’re ever likely to try, you’ll also be treated to the sights of locally crafted carvings, woven bags and fans, handprinted lavalava (sarongs), coconut jewellery and much more. There’s also a small food court selling affordable baked goods and fried food – see The Top Cheap Eats on Savai’i for more information. All in all, Salelologa Market provides an effortless cultural experience on Savai’i.

Location: Salelologa in the commercial centre to the south of town – turn left off the ferry then right past Lusia’s Lagoon Chalets.

8 Best Cultural Activities on Savai'i© SamoaPocketGuide.com

9. 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 on Savai’i. There’s the opportunity to watch umu demonstrations at accommodations such as Aganoa Lodge and Va-i-Moana Seaside Lodge and more.

Location: Aganoa Lodge – Signposted off the main road in Fa’a’ala village on the southeast coast. Va-i-Moana Seaside Lodge – Between Auala and Asau villages in Asau Bay on the northwest coast.

8 Best Cultural Activities on Savai'i© Samoa Tourism Authority

More Cultural Activities in Savai’i and Samoa

That’s it for our list of the best cultural activities on Savai’i but it’s by no means the end of our advice! Check more guides to experiencing the Samoan culture across Savai’i and 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.


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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