10 Best Historical Sites on Savai'i
10 Best Historical Sites on Savai'i

10 Best Historical Sites on Savai’i

© SamoaPocketGuide.com

Savai’i’s Most Fascinating Historical Landmarks

Most travellers flock to the sandy shores and verdant jungles of Savai’i to bask in its tropical beauty. However, a tiki tour around the island will reveal fascinating historical sites relating to lava flows, cyclones, Samoan legends and ancient Polynesian civilisations. Take a step through time with the help of this guide to the best historical sites on Savai’i.

While you’re here, you might also be interested in the 50 Best Things to Do on Savai’i and The Complete Travel Guide to Savai’i.

1. Saleaula Lava Field

Discover the remnants of the destructive Mt Matavanua 1905-1911 eruption at the enchanting Saleaula Lava Field. It’s a short walk to the lava field’s most striking historical feature, the LMS Church which sits in ruins with a lava flow solidified right through its arching entrances. Walk approximately 300m (328 yards) west following the sign and you’ll encounter the mysterious “Virgin’s Grave” where the lava flow is said to have avoided the grave of a young girl. Past the church ruins is an attractive wetland viewpoint, then head back on the trail and go northeast for approximately 900m (984 yards) over an exposed lava flow to the striking lava cliffs. With a small entry fee, this attraction easily makes it into the 25 Free & Cheap Things to Do on Savai’i.

Location: Saleaula village, signposted off the main road on the northeast coast.

10 Best Historical Sites on Savai'i© SamoaPocketGuide.com

2. Cape Mulinuu – Mauga Fetu Star Mound

At the westernmost point of Samoa, accessed via a flat dirt road (suitable for 2WD) through the coconut groves, Cape Mulinuu is home to several well-preserved historical sites. If there are locals around taking entry fees, they are usually happy to tell you about the legends of these sites. Otherwise, the interpretation panels here are sufficient enough. The first site you’ll come across is the Mauga Fetu Star Mound. The rocks here have been placed into a rough star shape, which, if you look closely, have carved grooves where they were once used for grinding tools and ‘ava bowls. There are more star mounds to be found on Upolu, which you can learn more about in the 10 Best Historical Sites on Upolu.

Location: Falealupo Road, approximately 2.2km (1.3 mi) south of Falealupo Beach on the northwest coast.

10 Best Historical Sites on Savai'i© SamoaPocketGuide.com

3. Cape Mulinuu – Ana O Vaatausili Giant’s Cave

Follow the short rocky trail from Cape Mulinuu and the Mauga Fetu Star Mound and you’ll quickly come across a hole in the ground with a sign saying “Ana O Vaatausilli” also known as “The Giant’s Cave“. Locals (or the interpretation panel) will tell you of the legend of a scrawny young man who entered the cave for three nights and emerged as a giant to fulfil his destiny of avenging his nephew who was killed by his enemies.

Location: Falealupo Road, approximately 2.2km (1.3 mi) south of Falealupo Beach on the northwest coast.

10 Best Historical Sites on Savai'i© SamoaPocketGuide.com

4. Cape Mulinuu – Vaisuatoto Well

Directly opposite Ana O Vaatausili is a well called “Vaisuatoto” translating to “water flows red”. Local villagers remember the water of the well being strangely red, which ignited the legend of a man called Taotunu who would clean out the internals of his atu fish (skipjack tuna) in the well before poking the lower part of the fish and releasing them back into the sea alive. Recently, however, locals undertook repair work to restore the well’s stone walls. Once they did, the water disappeared…

Location: Falealupo Road, approximately 2.2km (1.3 mi) south of Falealupo Beach on the northwest coast.

10 Best Historical Sites on Savai'i© SamoaPocketGuide.com

5. Cape Mulinuu – Fafa o Sauali’i

The final historical site of Cape Mulinuu is the tranquil rockpool at the northern end of its beach. The pool here, Fafa o Sauali’i, is said to be the place where the spirits of Samoa depart to the afterlife. As the sun sinks to the west, its rays cast a reflection upon the sea that forms a golden pathway upon the waters, said to be the pathway of the spirits. That’s also why “Mulinuu” translates to “land of the last village”. Needless to say, after you’ve seen the historical sites of this area, stick around for the magnificent sunset as one of the 10 Best Places to Watch the Sunset in Samoa.

Location: Falealupo Road, approximately 2.2km (1.3 mi) south of Falealupo Beach on the northwest coast.

10 Best Historical Sites on Savai'i© SamoaPocketGuide.com

6. Falealupo Church Ruins

On the way to Falealupo Beach and Cape Mulinuu stands the ruins of Falealupo’s Historic Catholic Church. A plaque attached to the front of the church describes how the church was destroyed by the waves of Cyclone Ofa in 1990. The site was free when our research team last visited but there are sometimes villagers taking a small entry fee to see this site.

Location: Cape Vaitoloa, Falealupo Road on the northwest coast.

10 Best Historical Sites on Savai'i© SamoaPocketGuide.com

7. Mataolealelo Pool

The most famous freshwater village pool on Savai’i is Mataolealelo Pool. The village pool is also a historical site thanks to its association with the famous Samoan legend of “Sina and the Eel”, which explains the origins of the first coconut tree. The pool offers an ultra-refreshing dip after exploring in Savai’i’s hot climate. Split into two sections, one pool is for the men and the other is for women and children. Note that prices are per car, so if you’re travelling solo or as a couple, the attraction will feel a little pricey compared to others on this list. Otherwise, the site is well maintained with changing rooms and bathrooms. For more amazing swimming holes, check out the 10 Best Swimming Spots in Samoa.

Location: Matavai village, signposted off the main road on the northeast coast.

10 Best Historical Sites on Savai'i© SamoaPocketGuide.com

8. Safotu Catholic Church

After (or before) having a dip in the Mataolealelo Pool, visit the neighbouring village of Safotu to check out one of the most significant churches on Savai’i. Safotu Catholic Church is Samoa’s first Roman Catholic Church, made from bleached coral and impeccably maintained for an interesting visit. Learn more about Samoa’s churches in The Guide to the Religions in Samoa.

Location: Safotu village, easily spotted along the main road on the northeast coast.

10 Best Historical Sites on Savai'i© SamoaPocketGuide.com

9. John Williams Memorial

Standing in front of the London Missionary Society/Congregational church in Sapapali’i village is the stone memorial commemorating the landing of British missionary John Williams who arrived in 1830 to introduce Christianity to Savai’i. He came at a time of war when he successfully converted the victorious Malietoa Vainu’upo, who accepted the Christian message as a fulfilment of an ancient prophecy of a new religion by the goddess Nafanua. Thanks to Maleitoa’s example, many Savai’ians were encouraged to convert. It wasn’t until some 45 years later that other missionaries started arriving on Savai’i to establish missions. Learn more about this history in A Brief History of Samoa.

Location: Sapapali’i village, along the main road on the east coast.

10 Best Historical Sites on Savai'i© SamoaPocketGuide.com

10. Pulemelei Mound

Although one of the most interesting and impressive historical landmarks on Savai’i, we list the Pulemelei Mound last as it’s the hardest to get to. Measuring 61m x 50m (200 x 164ft) but reclaimed by dense forest and vegetation, Pulemelei Mound is Polynesia’s largest ancient structure. The use of the structure, which was thought to be built around 1,400 AD, whether it was ceremonial or a burial site, still remains a mystery.

Location: Letolo Plantation, Palauli village on the southeast coast of Savai’i. You can enquire with locals about getting there – it’s not too far from the Afu Aau Waterfall, but even locals struggle to find it.

10 Best Historical Sites on Savai'i© SamoaPocketGuide.com

More About Historical Sites in Savai’i and Samoa

Now that you know some of the fascinating historical sites on Savai’i, how about finding more through the following guides:

Finally, complete your itinerary with the 101 Best Things to Do in Samoa: The Ultimate List and learn more about Samoa’s history in A Brief History of Samoa.

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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