How to Have an Authentic Samoan Experience
How to Have an Authentic Samoan Experience

How to Have an Authentic Samoan Experience


How to Experience the Real Samoa

Although an iconic country in the South Pacific that everyone has likely heard the name of, Samoa is still one of the region’s lesser-visited islands. With that, the country has stayed true to form where even its most “touristy” attraction, the Samoa Cultural Village, is refreshingly authentic where you get to observe real craftspeople carving for the market and locals getting real painstaking traditional tattoos! In Samoa, what you see is what you get, which may be a grievance to fussy travellers. Still, to those who are open to experiencing a different way of life – of “fa’a Samoa” or “the Samoan way”, you’ll find one of the most authentic cultural experiences in the South Pacific.

Let us guide you through the best ways to immerse in the local culture with this guide on having an authentic Samoan experience while visiting Samoa.

Samoan Words and Phrases to Know

One way to start immersing in the Samoan culture is to use Samoan words! Although the people you encounter in Apia and Samoa’s resorts speak English fluently, there are many locals who don’t speak English well and will appreciate the use of Samoan words.

Hello – Talofa!
Yes – Ioe
No – Leai
Please – Fa’amolemole
Thank you – Fa’afetai
Thank you very much – Fa’afetai tele
Goodbye – Tofa soifua
Bye – Tofa/Fa

The list continues in the 15 Samoan Words You Need to Know When Visiting Samoa.

How to Have an Authentic Samoan Experience©

Stay in a Beach Fale

Leave the holiday resort behind for true Samoan hospitality by staying in one of the country’s iconic 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 refreshingly authentic Samoan experience.

Samoa’s beach fales are located on the edge of Samoan villages and run by local families, offering a cultural experience from the traditional yet humble 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. Many of the items you’ll find in the 20 Foods to Try in Samoa.

In short, your beach fale experience is like an awesome village or homestay including “glamping” on the beach. Learn more about it in The Guide to Staying in a Beach Fale in Samoa.

What’s more, check out the 20 Best Beach Fale Accommodations in Samoa to compare beach fales to stay.

How to Have an Authentic Samoan Experience©

The Most Authentic Samoan Experiences

Ok, so let’s say you’ve either stayed in a beach fale or it’s not your cup of tea. What are the alternative authentic cultural experiences you can have in Samoa?

Siapo Demonstration on Savai’i

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” on the island of Savai’i 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.

Find this experience in Palauli village, signposted off the main road on the southeast coast of Savai’i (near the Afu Aau Waterfall).

Village Tours and Village Walks

You’ll drive through many villages during your time in Samoa but nothing compares to experiencing them at a more relaxed pace. Cue the “village walk” an activity that accommodations like Amoa Resort and Jaymy Beach Fales offer guests in order to share more about the Samoan culture and where Samoans live.

Alternatively, resorts like Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa and Taumeasina Island Resort offer more formal village tours with organised cultural activities like coconut husking, fine mat weaving and more. The village walks with Va-i-Moana Seaside Lodge, for example, also incorporate a preschool visit.

Learn more about the village walks in the 10 Best Village Tours in Samoa.


The markets of Apia and Salelologa are certainly worth perusing whether it’s for retail therapy or an authentic 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, while Savai’i’s version, the Salelologa Market, is also worth experiencing. The Flea Market is a more compact version and specialises 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.

As you can see, there are plenty of amazing markets to go through, so check them out further in the 8 Best Markets in Samoa.

Sunday Church Service (and a Sunday To’onai)

Wrap up your week as Samoans do at a local Sunday church service. Even if you’re not religious, anyone can appreciate the breathtaking melodies of a Samoan church choir. While simply visiting a church closest to your accommodation is a good way to go, you can check out some of the more recommended services in the 10 Best Churches in Samoa to Experience as a Visitor.

After church, you may even get invited to a to’onai, a traditional Sunday lunch. This is sometimes the case for guests at resorts and beach fales who get on well with the staff and are often invited to their family or community’s Sunday to’onai. Needless to say, this is the most authentic way to experience this weekly ritual.

Alternatively, hotels, resorts and beach fales host to’onai where you can try dishes like palusami and food that has likely been cooked in an umu. Learn more about experiencing a to’onai in the 10 Best Foodie Experiences in Samoa.

How to Have an Authentic Samoan Experience©

More Ways to Experience the Samoan Culture

While we’ve gone through some of the most authentic Samoan experiences, there are a lot more cultural activities that you could be getting up to. Although the activities we list below are more catered to tourists, they still derive from important aspects of the Samoan culture and are well worth seeking out if you have the time.

More Samoan experiences include:

  • Immersing in local traditions at Samoa Cultural Village
  • Experiencing a fiafia night
  • Doing a plantation tour like the Va-i-Moana Koko Plantation or Ifiele’ele Plantation tours
  • Seeing an umu demonstration
  • Taking part in a weaving demonstration
  • Learning about Samoan history at the Falemata’aga Museum of Samoa

… And much more! Check out the 15 Best Cultural Activities in Samoa for all of the details.

More About Authentic Samoan Experiences in Samoa

That’s our complete guide to having an authentic Samoan experience. Nevertheless, there’s a lot more to unpack about the culture of Samoa in the following guides:

Finally, plan more of your itinerary using the 101 Best Things to Do in Samoa: The Ultimate List.


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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