The Best Things to Do on Upolu for Foodies
Travel is about enlightening all of the senses, as is experiencing fa’a Samoa or “the Samoan way”. With that in mind, authentic gastronomical experiences through Samoan cuisine are super easy to come by on Samoa’s main island, Upolu, through various fiafia nights, to’onais and umu demonstrations. Talented local chefs are keen to share their passion classically through the island’s eateries or creatively on unique island food tours. Delight your palate and experience the true flavours of Samoa with these foodie experiences on Upolu.
Before we get started, be sure to also look at The Food Guide to Upolu: Places to Eat & Food Tours, which is everything a foodie on Upolu needs to know.
1. 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 Upolu. The easiest way would be to join one of Samoa Cultural Village‘s free tours in Apia, where guests are shown how to weave their own plates before watching the umu demonstration and, of course, dining on the result while enjoying a magnificent cultural performance. Alternatively, there’s also the opportunity to watch umu demonstrations at resorts such as Le Vasa Resort.
Location: Samoa Culture Village – Behind the Samoa Tourism Information Centre, Beach Road, Apia. Le Vasa Resort – Main West Coast Road, Cape Fatuosofia, Apolima-uta, northwest coast of Upolu.
2. Join Chef John for a Food Tour
Combine sightseeing with gourmet island dining with Chef John Tours. Chef John offers both a half-day and full-day tours of Upolu, both visiting Apia’s fish, fruit and vegetable markets where you’ll pick out your own produce. After stopping to snack on the best keke pu’aa (steamed pork buns) on Upolu, you’ll arrive at the refreshing swimming spot of the Piula Cave Pool where John will put on an impressive show of sprucing up a gourmet lunch with the ingredients bought at the market. Finally, you’ll cool down with a stop at a local ice cream shop that John deems the best on the island! The full-day tour also includes stops at To Sua Ocean Trench, Lalomanu Beach and the Togitogia Waterfall, which you can find out more about in the 50 Best Things to Do on Upolu.
Location: The tour includes accommodation transfers.
3. Join a Fiafia Night!
Another way to sample authentic local cuisine is through a fiafia night. “Fiafia” means “happy” in Samoan, which follows an equation that can’t help but put a smile on the faces of locals and visitors alike. Many will start with an ‘ava (kava) welcoming ceremony before guests are treated to a buffet of Samoan staples – see what you could be having 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 Upolu! Make your selections, as well as find out their locations, in the 10 Best Cultural Shows (Fiafia) in Samoa.
4. Take Part in a Samoan Cooking Class
Take home the knowledge of how to cook Samoan dishes by partaking in a Samoan cooking class; a pretty unique souvenir! This more hands-on foodie experience on Upolu can be experienced at resorts such as Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa and Taumeasina Island Resort. The Sinalei offering is certainly an immersive affair which starts with a “sunrise supply hunt” gathering ingredients from the local plantations and markets. After a break with a dip in a freshwater pool, you’ll get stuck into your “sunset cooking class” where the resort’s chefs will guide you through creating a Samoan dish for you to enjoy in a private overwater setting once your creation is complete.
Location: Sinalei Reef Resort – Signposted off Main South Coast Road between Mulivai and Si’umu villages on the south coast. Taumeasina Island Resort – Taumeasina Road, Apia.
5. Browse Local Produce and Street Food Markets
One of the unmissable foodie experiences on Upolu is the markets in Apia. Fugalei Market is the largest market in Samoa where, between the stalls with large mounds of tropical fruit and vegetables, are vendors selling traditional Samoan meals, such as palusami and fai’ai elegi. On the other hand, there’s also the Samoa Women’s Association of Growers (SWAG) Market which is a cute Saturday gathering with organic produce and local Samoan food products for sale. Finally, a congregation of street food await at Apia’s monthly Night Market, happening on the last Friday of the month from around 4 pm. Dive into the details of each market in the 8 Best Markets in Samoa.
Location: Apia. See the link above for specific locations.
6. Tour the Ifiele’ele Plantation
Samoans heavily rely on the tropical produce of its inland plantations, much like the Ifiele’ele Plantation. Either stay as a guest at the accommodation or book ahead if you’re a group with a minimum of four people to take a tour of this plantation famous across the island for its healthy dried fruit snacks, real fruit ice pops, as well as jams and chutneys. The plantation experience includes an informative tour of Samoa’s quintessential edible plants (and friendly goats), as well as a coconut demonstration and jam and dried fruit tastings.
Location: Satui Road, Fasito’outa, northwest coast of Upolu.
7. Experience a Sunday To’onai
To’onai is a traditional Sunday lunch in Samoa, which brings in family and friends not only to eat together but to prepare the meal with each family member having a different role to play. Hotels, resorts and beach fales also host Sunday to’onais which, admittedly, will be more about eating than cooking for the visitor. Try dishes like palusami and food that has likely been cooked in an umu at accommodations like Taufua Beach Fales, Taumeasina Island Resort and Leuaina Beach Resort. To’onai buffets usually start at midday; be sure to book your spot. If you’re lucky (and friendly enough), your resort staff may invite you to their church service and then to their family home for a more authentic to’onai experience. For more ways to spend your Sunday, check out the 10 Things to Do in Samoa on a Sunday.
Location: Taufua Beach Fales – Main South Coast Road, Lalomanu on the southeast coast. Taumeasina – Taumeasina Road, Apia. Leuaina – Main East Coast Road, Faleapuna on the northeast coast.
8. Be Treated to a Private Dining Experience
To elevate your evening meal, perhaps to celebrate a special occasion or “just ’cause”, treat yourself and your partner, family or friends to one of Upolu’s private dining experiences. Indulge in a three-course dinner with bubbles either on your room’s balcony or by the beach at Taumeasina Island Resort, choose a private decorated setting at Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa or have a candlelit dinner with personal waiting service on the deck of your luxury villa at Seabreeze Resort. See more ideas like this in the 10 Adults-Only Activities on Upolu.
Location: Taumeasina – Taumeasina Road, off Main East Coast Road, Apia. Sinalei Reef – Signposted off Main South Coast Road between Mulivai and Si’umu. Seabreeze – Signposted along Main South Coast Road, Aufaga.
9. Catch Your Own Dinner on a Samoan Fishing Charter
Nothing compares to the thrills of reeling in the South Pacific’s monstrous pelagics, such as yellowfin tuna, sailfish, giant trevally, mahimahi and marlin, and then having it cooked up for you at your resort! Fishing is a way of life here on the islands, so there’s no lack of experienced fisherfolk who can show you the lines. Troppo Fishing Adventures is your go-to charter in Apia, while resorts like Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa and Saletoga Sands Resort & Spa have their own fishing operations.
Location: All over Upolu! Check out the 10 Best Fishing Charters in Samoa for recommendations and their locations.
10. Treat the Tastebuds at One of Upolu’s Cafes or Restaurants
Finally, an obvious foodie experience but one still worth mentioning is dining at Upolu’s cafes and restaurants! Admittedly, the island isn’t exactly teeming with eateries outside of Apia, so you’re best to stick to the capital if you want to enjoy an array of dining experiences. Some of its best establishments are the cafes, with highlights being Nourish Cafe and RiVaiv Cafe, while dine-in restaurants like Paddles Restaurant and Bistro Tatau rarely fail to impress. Compare all of your best options in the 10 Best Restaurants on Upolu and the 10 Best Cafes in Apia & Upolu.
Location: All over Upolu (but mostly in Apia)! See the links above for recommendations and their locations.
More Foodie Experiences on Upolu
That’s it for our list of the best foodie experiences on Upolu. For more mouthwatering activities, browse more of our food-related guides:
- 10 Exotic Fruits in Samoa You Have to Try
- The Food Guide to Upolu: Places to Eat & Food Tours
- 10 Best Foodie Experiences in Samoa
Finally, don’t miss any essential eatery or food tour with The Food Guide to Samoa: Places to Eat & Food Tours.