What Can You Do on Upolu for Cheap (or Even Free)?
I want to see all of Upolu‘s waterfalls, swimming holes and beaches, so it’s all going to be free, right? Erm, not quite. While Samoa’s main island does have a staggering number of natural attractions, cultural sites and museums to embrace, it’s usually safe to assume there is a small entry fee to pay for each. With that, you can certainly enjoy Upolu’s must-dos on the cheap, at least! But just so you can make those extra savings, we’ve also listed some of the rare free experiences that can also be found on the island. Start making your fun yet affordable bucket list, right here, in the free and cheap things to do on Upolu.
Why Do You Need to Pay Entry Fees for Attractions on Upolu?
Unlike in many countries, most land in Samoa is owned by local families and communities rather than government organisations. While many families have made amazing attractions on their land available for visitors, funding is required to maintain sites, the roads that access them, the fales for visitors’ use, as well as other community projects. The rare few free attractions on Upolu are usually those on government-managed land.
Entry fees for Upolu’s attractions range from ST$5 to $20 per person, children under five sometimes go free, and some sites charge per vehicle from ST$20 to $40. For more costs to expect on your trip, head over to Samoa Travel Budget: How Much Does a Trip to Samoa Cost?
1. Take a Journey of “Fa’a Samoa” at Samoa Cultural Village – FREE
“Fa’a Samoa” means “The Samoan Way” and you’ll certainly get the full flavour of the Samoan culture at Upolu’s best-value attraction (and not only because it’s free). Happening from 10.30 am to 12.30 pm, Tuesday to Friday, Samoa Cultural Village starts 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, you’ll move between various fale to see how ‘ava bowls are carved and even witness a traditional pain-staking Samoan tatau (tattoo) being performed. Finally, sit down with your freshly prepared umu lunch while watching a fiafia cultural performance including fire dancing. See how this compares to other cultural shows in the 10 Best Cultural Shows (Fiafia) in Samoa.
Location: Behind the Samoa Tourism Information Centre, Beach Road, Apia.
2. Visit Upolu’s Most Famous Swimming Hole, To Sua Ocean Trench – CHEAP
Don’t pretend like you weren’t going to go anyway! If you have only seen one image of Samoa, it’s likely to be the turquoise swimming hole with the iconic wooden rung ladder of the To Sua Ocean Trench. This 30 m (98 ft)-deep coastal sinkhole has a cave on either side, one of which dips underwater leading to the ocean so avoid that one. Ropes cross the swimming pool to hold onto in case there is a bit of current. Otherwise, floating with verdant reeds hanging from the cave walls above is a beautiful experience.
There are more sinkholes to peer into around the site, so be sure to wander through the manicured grounds of this attraction. You can also follow a footpath down to the coast to a classic Samoan swimming pool for more bathing opportunities. Discover more of Upolu’s famous sights in Sightseeing on Upolu: Top 10 Sights on Upolu.
Location: Signposted along Main South Coast Road between Lotofaga and Vavau villages on the south coast of Upolu.
3. Have a Blast at the Natural Playground of the Papase’ea Sliding Rocks – CHEAP
Try out nature’s waterslides at the Papase’ea Sliding Rocks. After walking down an anxiously high number of steps, knowing that you have to get back up them again, you’ll come across the first and biggest slide that locals call the “men’s slide”; a near verticle 5-m (16-ft) slide. Further down is the “kids’ slide”, a much less precarious slide with a little drop at the end of extra fun. Finally, at the bottom, you have the “women’s slide”. Lots of fun, lots of laughs; what’s not to love? Avoid the busiest times, which tend to be the weekends, to get optimal slide time.
Location: Se’ese’e, Faleata District on the outskirts of Apia. The access road turns off Maugafolau Road near the University of the South Pacific campus.
4. Relax and Explore at Vavau Beach – CHEAP
Vavau Beach offers a secluded and stunning beach destination on the south coast of Upolu. Exclusively for day visitors, there are a number of fales set back from the white sands. Enjoy picturesque islands dotted around a shallow lagoon and soak in the scenery of the bush-clad environment that tops the coastal cliffs on all sides. Pay your entry fees at the access road. The community does a good job of keeping this beach clean. Vavau Beach certainly isn’t the only beach to enjoy on Upolu, so check out the 10 Best Beaches on Upolu for more recommendations.
Location: Vavau Beach Road, signposted off the Main South Coast Road between the villages of Lotofoga and Vavau on the south coast of Upolu.
5. Check Out Sea Arches and Pandanus Forest on the Coastal Walk – FREE
Leave the beaches of Upolu behind and discover another side of Upolu’s coast on the serene and secluded Coastal Walk. Protected within the O Le Pupu Pu’e National Park, the one-hour return walk (with no entry fees) winds its way through lush pandanus forest before emerging on rocky lava cliffs. With the waves crashing below, seabirds occupying the horizon, and a number of coastal sea arches to uncover as you walk, this certainly is a special place to experience on foot. Speaking of, closed footwear is recommended and the trail is mostly flat, making it suitable for most fitness levels. For more free and affordable walks, check out the 10 Best Walks & Hikes on Upolu.
Location: O Le Pupu Pu’e National Park. Signposted along Main South Coast Road between Sa’agafou and Saleilua. Note that the 3 km (1.9 mi) road to get to the trail car park is a 4WD road but 2WD is usually Ok if taken with care. Otherwise, you can park at the information boards along the main road and walk to the Coastal Track, which makes the walk last a total of 2h30mins return.
6. Snorkel Among an Ungodly Amount of Coral at Palolo Deep – CHEAP
At first glance, it might not look like much. But 100 m (109 yards) off the shores of Apia and under the lagoon’s surface hides an amazing array of marine life that will make you squeak in your snorkel. Hire snorkelling gear from the kiosk at Palolo Deep and swim out to the white buoy to see an underwater trench thriving with staghorn coral, hundreds of tropical fish species, starfish, octopus and, if you’re lucky, perhaps even some turtles. The latter is more likely to be seen near the tiny island. Note that the water is way too shallow for enjoyable snorkelling when it’s not close to high tide, so plan your visit accordingly. For more sweet (and affordable) snorkelling spots, check out The Best Snorkelling in Upolu: Top 10 Places to Snorkel.
Location: Between the Marina and Vaiala Beach along Beach Road, Apia.
7. Have a Cheeky Look at Sopoaga Falls – CHEAP
Upolu has no lack of waterfalls, which you can scroll through in our 10 Best Waterfalls in Samoa, but certainly one of Upolu’s most impressive is Sopoaga Falls. Around 32 m (105 ft) and seen surrounded by jungle-clad cliffs from a high viewpoint, the waterfall provides a majestic photo opportunity. The site with a viewing platform is also used for coconut husking demonstrations; ask at the counter (if someone’s around) if you would like to see one.
Location: North of Lotofoga village just before the junction where the Main South Coast Road turns onto Le Mafa Pass Road. Southeast coast of Upolu.
8. Enjoy a Cooling Dip at the Piula Cave Pool – CHEAP
Although Upolu is blessed with a number of freshwater springs making for the most refreshing experience you can get in the hot Samoan sun, the most famous freshwater pool is Piula Cave Pool. A hit with travellers, locals and freshwater fish alike, the crystal clear waters provide a cooling swimming experience with caves to explore. There are two cave entrances connected underwater by a short tunnel. Alternatively, you can walk a few metres around the cave to find the other entrance. For more unmissable swimming pools, check out the 10 Best Swimming Spots in Samoa.
Location: On the grounds of the Piula Theological College, Lufilufi village, signposted along the Main East Coast Road on the northeast coast of Upolu.
9. Have a Swim at Upolu’s Free Waterfall, Sauniatu Falls – FREE
That’s right, this natural attraction is one of the rare ones that is 100% free to visit. After checking out the Piula Cave Pool (see above), follow the signposts inland to Sauniatu Falls on the grounds of a Latter-Day Saints compound. Follow some steps down to a rainforest setting which provides excellent swimming beneath a 20 m (66 ft)-high waterfall.
Location: Sauniatu village. From Lufilufi village (near Piula Cave Pool), follow the road inland approximately 7 km (4.3 mi) and over a river bridge all the way to the end. Northeast coast of Upolu.
10. … Then at Upolu’s Other Free Waterfall, Togitogiga Waterfall – FREE
Another free attraction in the O Le Pupu Pu’e National Park, Togitogiga Waterfall is actually a series of picturesque waterfalls that make for an idyllic swimming spot in the rainforest. There are changing rooms on-site, as well as a large recreational area to play sports or picnic. Note that the waterfall is prone to drying up if there hasn’t been enough rain, especially in the dry season.
Location: A short walk from the O Le Pupu Pu’e National Park Visitor Centre along Main South Coast Road between Sa’agafou and Saleilua villages on Upolu’s south coast.
11. Learn Something New at Falemata’aga Museum of Samoa – FREE
If there’s only one museum you visit on Upolu, make it the Museum of Samoa, Falemata’aga. The free but donation-based museum has an impressive collection of historical artefacts where information boards provide context into their significance, as well as provide an important context of Samoa’s history. If you don’t want to sift through it all yourself, free guided tours are available with passionate guides to show you through the highlights of the museum. With six different galleries (in air-conditioned rooms, might we add) boasting 3,000-year-old Lapita pottery, collections from across the Pacific, colonisation history and even a small art exhibition, there’s plenty here to keep you occupied for as long as you wish.
Location: Vaitele Street (look out for the large mural on the building), Apia.
12. Take in the Views of Papapapaitai Falls – FREE
Plunging 100 m (328 ft) into the distance rainforest, Papapapaitai Falls is one of the highest waterfalls in Samoa. With it just available to view for free along the Cross Island Road, there’s no reason not to check it out! The waterfall is viewed from a car parking area with railings to stand behind, which is, admittedly, sometimes a little overgrown. Nevertheless, the untouched jungle of the area adds to the Jurassic flair of the area.
Location: Signposted along the Cross Island Road, approximately 14 km (8.7 mi) south of Apia.
13. Marvel at the Architecture and Gardens of the Baha’i Temple – FREE
Mashriqu’l-Adhkár is not only an incredible piece of architecture among immaculate grounds but it’s one of only eight Baha’i Houses of Worship in the world. The temple has nine symmetrical sides which domes 28 m (92 ft) high. Surrounding the majestic structure are 20 acres of manicured grass, some 60 species of flowers and all sorts of native plants and trees. The visitor centre on-site has information panels about the history of the Baha’i Faith, information on Houses of Worship around the world and more. The house is open from 6 am to 6 pm daily, while a public interfaith service with a Samoan choir and refreshments is held every Sunday at 10 am. For more Sunday ideas, check out the 10 Things to Do in Samoa on a Sunday.
Location: Malololelei village along the Cross Island Road, approximately 8 km (5 mi) south of Apia.
14. Browse Apia’s Markets – FREE/CHEAP
Free to attend and only as cheap as what you decide to spend, the markets of Apia are certainly worth perusing even if it’s just for the 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, 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. Learn more about each market and more in the 8 Best Markets in Samoa.
Location: Apia. See the link above for specific locations.
15. Take a Tour of the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum – CHEAP
The impeccably maintained grounds and villa of the famous Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1895), who lived in Samoa for the remaining four years of his life, are preserved for visitors to enjoy today. While “Villa Vailima” has had a few makeovers over the years, the home has been filled with replicas to represent what this classic colonial home would have looked like. That’s not to say there aren’t a few original trinkets, books and personal belongings to admire, as well as stories to immerse in while taking the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum tour with one of the museum’s incredibly knowledgeable guides. Learn more about the attraction in the 5 Best Museums in Samoa.
Location: Signposted along Cross Island Road in the village of Avele, just south of Apia on Upolu.
16. Then Hike Up Mt Vaea to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Tomb – FREE
Accessed via Vailima Botanical Garden (see point #17) or the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum next door, the Robert Louis Stevenson Tomb Trail not only leads you to the tomb of the famous author on Mt Vaea but reveals both fairytale-like rainforest and outstanding views of Apia. There are two routes to choose from; the 30-minute rough and steep way or the 50-minute easier way that zigzags its way to the top. The latter passes by a magnificent banyan tree. Whichever you choose, good walking shoes are recommended.
Location: RLS Museum – Signposted along Cross Island Road in the village of Avele, just south of Apia. The walk can be found at a clearing in the forest between the Garden Toilets and the museum (you’ll see the sign for the Tomb Track). Vailima Botanical Garden – Instead of turning down the lane to the museum, continue straight until you reach an archway and sign for the gardens.
17. Admire the Flowers at Vailima Botanical Garden – FREE
Encompassing 12 ha (30 acres) of native, introduced and naturalised plant species, Vailima Botanical Garden offers a wonderful free space to explore in Apia. The information centre here provides more information 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 (see above) from here.
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.
18. Relax at Lalomanu Beach – CHEAP
White sands, a turquoise lagoon, island views and breathtaking at both sunrise and sunset; Lalomanu Beach has it all. Located on the southeast corner of Upolu, Lalomanu boasts excellent views of the slanted Nu’utele Island. Although the coral within the lagoon is recovering from 2009 tsunami, there’s still plenty to see within its marine reserve. There are around seven beach fales here, giving you plenty of options to spend the day or overnight. For more sunrise hotspots, check out the 10 Best Places to Watch the Sunrise in Samoa.
Location: Lalomanu village, along Main South Coast Road on the Upolu’s southeast coast.
19. Surf, Swim or Sunbathe at Aganoa Beach – CHEAP
One of your more secluded beaches on Upolu, Aganoa Beach is well worth the journey (and 4WD/high-clearance vehicle). After an approximately 3 km (1.9 mi) rough dirt track through the forest with plenty of small hills – keep an eye out for kingfisher birds – you’ll reach the deep-water crescent-shaped black-sand Aganoa Beach. There are no facilities here (and often, not many other people), so be prepared to be self-sufficient and look after yourselves in case of strong currents. In fact, these conditions are what make Aganoa excellent for surfing between April and September – find out more in the 10 Best Places to Surf in Samoa. Note, this beach is not to be confused with the Aganoa surf beach on Savai’i.
Location: Signposted along Main South Coast Road at the western end of Sa’agafou village on the south coast of Upolu.
20. Discover the Famous “Ma Tree” – FREE
“Ma” meaning “shame”, the Ma Tree was named by the paramount chief of A’opo on Savai’i possibly due to the uniqueness of this tree compared to other rainforest species, such as its silver-brown patches under the leaves and its occurrence in solitary patches. Most notable about O Le Pupu Pu’e National Park‘s Ma Tree, however, are the giant buttress roots extending metres around its base. This family-friendly walk is only a 780 m (853 yards) walk from the well-established car park and information boards in the National Park. For more family-friendly activities, check out the 10 Things to Do on Upolu with Kids.
Location: O Le Pupu Pu’e National Park, at the information boards (not the Visitor Centre) along Main South Coast Road between Sa’agafou and Saleilua villages on the south coast of Upolu.
21. Snorkel at the Savaia Giant Clam Sanctuary – CHEAP
Pay your entry fees, go down the steps and slip on your mask, snorkel and fins for an adventure with giant clams at the Savaia Giant Clam Sanctuary! You’ll be amazed at how gargantuan these shelled specimens can get as you explore the waters beyond the white roped buoys – absolutely best admired at high tide, might we add. First, you’ll need to swim over a section of sand before reaching the white buoys that cordon off the marine reserve area. You’ll see hundreds of small clams forming a clammy pattern on the floor, you might also be lucky to see a turtle or two. Swim around a little bit more (keeping an eye on a reference point on land, as there can be a little bit of current) and it won’t be long until you find the giant clams! Needless to say, you shouldn’t touch these feisty shellfish or you might be sorry.
Location: Savaia village along Main South Coast Road (nearby Le Valasi’s Beach Fales) on the southwest coast of Upolu.
22. Soak in the Mountain Views on the Le Mafa Pass and Fagaloa Bay Scenic Drive – FREE
Ok, so there’s a little bit of fuel money involved, but enjoying the views of Le Mafa Pass and Fagaloa Bay Scenic Drive is priceless. Both can be enjoyed on the same road trip to the eastern side of Upolu. Le Mafa Pass is the section of road below Fagaloa Bay where the high vantage points reveal jungle-clad mountains around just about every corner. After Le Mafa Pass and approximately 5 km (3.1 mi) north along Richardson Road is the turn-off on an unsealed road to Fagaloa’s narrow bay and sheer mountainous scenery with numerous cascading waterfalls and villages to admire.
Location: Le Mafa Pass Road and Richardson Road at Fagaloa Bay on the east coast of Upolu.
23. Explore Matagialalua Friendship Park – FREE
A neat little area on the Apia waterfront, Friendship Park offers an attractive park for a stroll, to catch the latest community event and to let kids loose at the playground if you’re travelling as a family. Explore the Mangrove Tidal Garden with boardwalks and bridges to mosey over, watch locals battle it out at the sports courts, and head down to the amphitheatre to catch a free gig or event. There’s plenty more to do in Samoa’s capital, so also check out the 25 Best Things to Do in Apia.
Location: On the waterfront behind the Government Building on Beach Road, Apia.
24. Have a Look Inside the Immaculate Conception Cathedral – FREE
This striking cathedral looming over the Apia Harbour is undoubtedly one of the most awe-inspiring in Samoa, from the outside and within. Inside the Immaculate Conception Cathedral boasts an ornate timber ceiling and vibrant stained-glass windows. The original church was constructed in 1884 with the most recent reconstruction estimated to have cost ST$13 million, so go have a visit for the love of funding! For other impressive churches to visit, check out the 10 Best Churches in Samoa to Experience as a Visitor.
Location: Beach Road opposite the Samoa Tourism Information Centre, Apia.
25. Admire the Art at the EFKS Museum – CHEAP
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.
More Free and Cheap Things to Do on Upolu
That’s it for our complete list of free things to do on Upolu and cheap things to do on Upolu. If you’re exploring more of Samoa or need more inspiration for Upolu, check out these other lists:
- 25 Free & Cheap Things to Do on Savai’i
- 50 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Samoa
- 50 Best Things to Do on Upolu
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed when it comes to saving money on Upolu, we probably mention it in The Complete Backpacking Guide to Samoa on a Budget.