The Secret Places of Samoa
Get off the tourist trail and discover some of the real hidden gems of Upolu, Savai’i and Samoa. Our first instinct to compile this list of the most secret places in Samoa is to simply list all the lesser-known, thus, visited islands in Samoa but we’ve already got an article for just that. Therefore, we’ve done a mix of natural wonders, quirky cafes, historical sites, cultural demonstrations and even an art gallery in this list of the best hidden gems in Samoa!
1. Mu Pagoa Waterfall
With only around 30% of visitors to Samoa making it to Savai’i, you could argue that the whole island is a bit of a hidden gem. Still, many know the “big island” for its famous blowholes and swimming spots like Afu Aau Waterfall.
With no signpost or indication that this hidden gem exists as you’re travelling the south coast road, Mu Pagoa Waterfall is perhaps the most hidden attraction in all of Samoa! It might not be the highest waterfall but it’s still an impressive sight to see the Lata River suddenly plunging into the ocean with the swell crashing against the cliffs below – the only waterfall in Samoa to do so.
Location: Between Puleia and Gautavai villages on the southeast coast of Savai’i. Take the driveway/road that turns toward the coast immediately before entering the road bridge from the east side. A local should come out of one of the nearby fales to greet you.
2. Vavau Beach
Beaches like Lalomanu and even the remote Aganoa Beach steal all of the limelight in Samoa, but the hidden gem of Vavau Beach is arguably much more interesting with its islets and coastal cliffs completing the scenery of the white sands and lagoon. Exclusively for day visitors, there are a number of fales set back from the white sands. For more beaches to discover, take a look at the 10 Best Beaches in Samoa.
Location: Vavau Beach Road, signposted off the Main South Coast Road between the villages of Lotofoga and Vavau on the south coast of Upolu.
3. Laauoleola Cave
Only becoming an official attraction before the recent pandemic, Laauoleola Cave, also known as A’opo Cave, is still incredibly underrated. The 15-minute forest trail through mahogany, ifilele, teak, kava, eucalyptus and banyan trees is just the beginning… As you begin to approach the entrance of the lava tube, you’ll hear the unusual clicking of swiftlets as they move in and out of the caves. Then, it’s up to you to decide how far you walk through the cave that is said to span 5 km (3.1 mi) under the surface! It’s a short flat walk (with a few muddy patches) through the cave to the first descent, which the guides can organise a ladder should you want to continue – let them know you would like to do this before you begin the tour. The walk is fully (and casually) guided. For more caves to explore, take a look at the 10 Best Caves in Samoa.
Location: A’opo village, signposted off the main road on the northern coast of Savai’i.
4. Vailima Botanical Garden
The Robert Louis Stevenson Museum is on the itinerary of most travellers visiting the capital Apia, but little do they know there’s a picturesque garden with a swimming hole just next door. Encompassing 12 ha (30 acres) of native, introduced and naturalised plant species, Vailima Botanical Garden offers a wonderful free space to explore. The information centre here provides more details about the biodiversity of the gardens, while the freshwater pool and waterfall of the Loimata o Apaula stream is a wonderful place for a refreshing dip. You can also start the Tomb Trail hike up Mt Vaea from here – see the 15 Best Walks & Hikes in Samoa.
Location: Follow signposts for the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum along Cross Island Road in the village of Avele, just south of Apia. Instead of turning down the lane to the museum, however, continue straight until you reach an archway and sign for Vailima Botanical Garden.
5. Siapo Demonstration
While visiting the ever-popular Afu Aau Waterfall 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 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 as tapa), the demonstration lasts approximately 45 minutes. For more ways to immerse in the Samoan culture, check out the 15 Best Cultural Activities in Samoa.
Location: Palauli village, signposted off the main road on the southeast coast of Savai’i (near the Afu Aau Waterfall).
6. Falefa Falls
As you have probably figured, waterfalls are a big deal in Samoa with many stunning options that receive plenty of tourists throughout the day. For a lesser-known waterfall, however, Falefa Falls is an appealing option. Day fales and picnic tables in a riverside garden make this a picturesque place to spend the afternoon in between swimming at the base of the waterfall. Don’t miss the view from above the falls on the Falefa Bridge. Check out the full list of accessible waterfalls in the 10 Best Waterfalls in Samoa.
Location: Signposted off Richardson Road, Falefa village, east coast of Upolu.
7. Forest Cafe and Waterfalls
A hidden gem in the sense that you essentially have to do some off-roading to get there, the Forest Cafe is Samoa’s most remote cafe! The eatery can only be accessed down a steep 4WD road on the highlands off Upolu‘s Cross Island Road. The setting for breakfast or lunch is unbeatable; high in the forest with the sound of a nearby stream as your soundtrack. Ask about the walk to the secret waterfalls to get more out of this hidden gem in Samoa. Plus, for more cafes to discover, take a look at the 10 Best Cafes in Samoa.
Location: Cross Island Road, signposted opposite the Baha’i Temple, approximately 9 km (5.6 mi) south of Apia. 4WD access only.
8. Tiapapata Art Centre
Another hidden gem of the Cross Island Road, the Tiapapata Art Centre is often overlooked as it’s situated in the shadow of the magnificent Baha’i Temple. If you don’t pop in for the ever-changing line-up of art exhibitions do it for the vegan cuisine that’s often described as some of the best in Samoa – find out more in our guide, Samoa for Vegans & Vegetarians.
Location: Malololelei village along the Cross Island Road, approximately 8 km (5 mi) south of Apia (just past the Baha’i Temple).
9. Cape Mulinuu
At the westernmost point of Samoa, accessed via a flat dirt road (suitable for 2WD) through the coconut groves, Cape Mulinuu is home to the historic Mauga Fetu Star Mound, Ana O Vaatausili Giant’s Cave and Vaisuatoto Well. If there are locals around taking entry fees, they are usually happy to tell you about the legends of these historical sites. Otherwise, the interpretation panels here are sufficient enough. Afterwards, catch the sunset from the beach and rock pools of Cape Mulinuu just across the road from the historical sites for a spectacular show (weather permitting) at the westernmost point of Samoa. For more historical wonders, check out the 15 Best Historical Sites in Samoa.
Location: Falealupo Road, approximately 2.2 km (1.3 mi) south of Falealupo Beach on the northwest coast of Savai’i.
10. Malololelei Recreation Reserve
Excellent for birdwatching and even better for getting off the beaten track, the Malololelei Recreation Reserve offers an array of trails through 30 acres of bushland hidden off, again, the Cross Island Road. Enjoy waterfalls, picnic areas, swimming holes and a viewing platform overlooking Apia on a series of rough trails that can take one hour to a whole day! The conservation area is one of the best spots on Upolu for spotting endemic birds, as listed in the 5 Best Places for Bird Watching in Samoa.
Location: Malololelei village. There is no signage for the reserve. Take the Cross Island Road south of Apia and past the Baha’i Temple, turning right onto Kelsey Lane. Follow the road all the way to the 90-degree bend (past the Shrine of the Divine Mercy). The gate to the reserve is located on this bend.
More Hidden Gems in Samoa
Now that you know some of the most secret places and hidden gems in Samoa, here are some other lists to help you discover more amazing places to visit:
- Sightseeing in Samoa: Top 10 Sights in Samoa
- Where to Take Pictures in Samoa: 10 Best Photography Spots
- 10 Most Unique Things to Do in Samoa