The Sights You Can’t Miss on Upolu
Upolu is more than just another island paradise in the South Pacific. The island has some of the most majestic natural formations in Polynesia, not to mention cultural highlights and intriguing historical sites that would be an epic travel fail not to add to your sightseeing itinerary. In this guide to sightseeing on Upolu, we show you where to find the island’s most breathtaking waterfalls, most famous ocean trench, freshest swimming hole, impressive churches and more. It’s all here in this list of the top sights on Upolu!
Just a quick note; as with many of Samoa’s family/village-run attractions, most of the sights on this list require an entry fee to visit. Learn more about entry customs to Samoa’s attractions in Samoan Etiquette: Samoa Customs & Traditions.
1. To Sua Ocean Trench
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 don’t attempt to swim through it. Ropes cross the swimming pool so there’s something 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 throughout 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.
Location: Signposted along Main South Coast Road between Lotofaga and Vavau villages on Upolu’s south coast.
2. Papase’ea Sliding Rocks
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 slope with a little drop at the end for 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. For more weird and wonderful attractions like this, check out the 10 Most Unique Things to Do in Samoa.
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.
3. Sopoaga Falls
Upolu has no lack of waterfalls, many of which you can oggle at through the 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.
4. Vavau Beach
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. Piula Cave Pool
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 the 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 by a short underwater tunnel. Alternatively, you can walk a few metres around the cave to find the other entrance.
Location: On the grounds of the Piula Theological College, Lufilufi village, signposted along the Main East Coast Road on the north east coast of Upolu.
6. Palolo Deep Marine Reserve
The real sight of Palolo Deep Marine Reserve is, in fact, 100 m (328 ft) from the shores of Apia and under the lagoon’s surface. Hire snorkelling gear from the kiosk 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, just so you know. Note that the water is way too shallow for enjoyable snorkelling when it’s not close to high tide, so time your visit accordingly. For more sweet 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. Immaculate Conception Cathedral
This striking cathedral looming over the Apia Harbour is undoubtedly one of the most awe-inspiring in Samoa, from the outside and within. The inside of 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.
8. Fugalei Market
The largest market in Samoa and a hotspot for all sorts of cultural goings-on, Fugalei Market is a sight not to be missed on Upolu. Browse handcrafted carvings, clothing, jewellery and more, then wade through a colourful crop of tropical fruit and vegetables at this vibrant market, open from 6am to 6pm except Sunday. The bustling Fugalei Bus Station is also just outside, giving you plenty of opportunity to check out Samoa’s iconic buses. For more markets to check out throughout Upolu, check out the 8 Best Markets in Samoa.
Location: Fugalei Street on the western side of Apia town centre.
9. Mashriqu’l-Adhkár – Baha’i Temple
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 has information panels about the history of the Baha’i Faith, the 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.
Location: Malololelei village along the Cross Island Road, approximately 8 km (5 mi) south of Apia.
10. Robert Louis Stevenson Museum
The impeccably maintained grounds and villa of the famous 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 how 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.
While visiting the museum, don’t forget to check out the Tomb Track to experience the stunning rainforest of Mt Vaea and see the Tomb of Robert Louis Stevenson. Learn more about the trail in the 10 Best Walks & Hikes on Upolu.
Location: Signposted along Cross Island Road in the village of Avele, just south of Apia on Upolu.
More About Sightseeing on Upolu
That’s it for the best sights on Upolu and our complete guide to sightseeing on Upolu. Now, discover more sights and attractions with these lists:
- The 10 Most Famous Places in Samoa
- 10 Best Sightseeing Tours in Samoa
- Where to Take Pictures in Samoa: 10 Best Photography Spots