The Complete Travel Guide to Savai'i on a Budget
The Complete Travel Guide to Savai'i on a Budget

The Complete Travel Guide to Savai’i on a Budget

© Samoa Tourism Authority

The Only Budget Travel Guide to Savai’i You’ll Ever Need

One of the very few backpacking destinations left in the South Pacific, Savai’i swaps flashy resorts for authentic beach glamping and home-like hospitality at their wonderful beach fales. It’s a real adventure exploring the island’s glorious waterfalls, spooky caves, ancient star mounds and lava field ruins. So, if you’re willing to go with the flow and experience a true slice of the South Pacific that is unapologetically genuine, you’re in for a good time even with just a handful of Samoan Tala on the island of Savai’i. We’ll show you how with this travel guide to Savai’i on a budget.

Oh and be sure to also bookmark The Complete Travel Guide to Savai’i for more styles of travel.

5 Tips for Visiting Savai’i on a Budget

Before we jump into our complete budget travel guide for Savai’i, here are just a few ways you can save money on your vacation:

  1. The cheapest way to get around Savai’i is by taking the buses – see Taking the Bus in Savai’i: Bus Fares, Routes & More. If you’re on a tight schedule, however, we recommend choosing one of the alternative ways to get around Savai’i
  2. Speaking of transport, if that alternative is to rent a car, it usually works out cheaper to rent and fuel up on Upolu and transport it over on the ferry than to rent a car and refuel on Savai’i
  3. Note that most budget accommodations charge to hire snorkelling gear (when it’s available), so we highly recommend bringing your own, as you WILL want to go snorkelling – see the 20 Essentials You Need to Pack for Samoa for recommendations
  4. Pay the extra rate for food included in your beach fale; alternative dining options are difficult to come by outside of Salelologa
  5. While most natural attractions have very affordable entry fees, there’s the odd site that might cost more than you’re expecting; be sure to ask prices before setting off if you’re on a super tight budget.

For more budget tips that will help you across Samoa, check out the 20 Tips to Save Money in Samoa, as well as How Much Does a Trip to Samoa Cost?

The Complete Travel Guide to Savai'i on a Budget© SamoaPocketGuide.com

How to Get to Savai’i

Savai’i lies just 17 km (10.6 mi) west of Samoa’s main island, Upolu, and the country’s international airport. The cheapest (and only) way to get to Savai’i from Upolu is by taking the ferry across the Apolima Strait. Luckily, Malifanua Wharf is a 5-minute drive from Faleolo International Airport, making it an easy transition from your flight (providing flight times are favourable; if not, Transit Motel provides an affordable stay nearby).

The ferry crossing between Upolu and Savai’i, passing the islands of Manono and Apolima, takes approximately 60 to 90 minutes. For more information, check out our Samoa Ferry Guide.

How to Get Around Savai’i

Savai’i has a well-maintained sealed road of roughly 176km (109 mi) around the perimeter of the island. There are limited car rentals available on the island or you can bring your rental vehicle on the ferry from Upolu (which often works out to be cheaper than hiring on Savai’i). Alternatively, Samoa’s famous vibrant buses chug around the island at a relaxed pace providing the cheapest and most cultural way to get around. Find out more about your transport options in the 9 Ways to Get to (& Around) Savai’i.

The Complete Travel Guide to Savai'i on a Budget© SamoaPocketGuide.com

Cheap Activities on Savai’i’s South Coast

It’s like Savai’i was made for travellers on a budget! Although you are required to pay entry fees for all of the natural attractions and beaches on Savai’i (sites are owned by local families who use entry fees for site maintenance and their community), entry fees are usually very affordable, ranging from ST$2 to ST$20 per person. Note that most attractions are closed on Sundays.

Here are some of the top cheap attractions and activities to be discovered along Savai’i’s southern coastline.

Afu Aau Waterfall

One of the most stunning waterfalls and swimming holes in Samoa (and the South Pacific) awaits down a short and gorgeously maintained jungle trail on the southeast side of Savai’i. Enjoy a refreshing dip in the aqua-blue waters at the base of the 15-20m (49-66ft) Afu Aau Waterfall. Pay your fees at the fale just off the main road (the entry sign is easy to spot) then it’s a 650m (711-yard) drive on a relatively flat dirt road to the car park with a toilet block and changing room.

Siapo Demonstration

While visiting the Afu Aau Waterfall, don’t miss this impressive 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 hands-on demonstration of traditional canvas-making and painting techniques. From cutting down the young mulberry tree to leaving with a completed piece of gifted Samoan siapo (also known in the Pacific as tapa), the demonstration lasts approximately 45 minutes.

Alofaaga Blowholes

An icon of Savai’i and Samoa, the Alofaaga Blowholes put on a spectacular show of wave power between the fissures of volcanic rock on the coast of Taga village. Although a treat at any time, the best time to visit is high tide. It’s a short but rugged walk that can be slippery, so sturdy shoes are best. Note that you may have to pay two entry fees (totalling approximately ST$10 per person) as the attraction crosses two families’ lands. Locals will sometimes put coconuts on the blowholes for extra drama, while it’s worth asking to be pointed in the direction of the nearby and culturally significant Pa Sopo’ia Cave.

Of course, that’s not all the south coast has to offer, so take a look at the 25 Free & Cheap Things to Do on Savai’i for more inspiration.

The Complete Travel Guide to Savai'i on a Budget© Samoa Tourism Authority

Cheap Activities on Savai’i’s North Coast

Again, by paying a few entry fees you’ll access some spectacular natural attractions along the northern coast of Savai’i.

Saleaula Lava Field

Walk among 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 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 signs 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.

Falealupo and Cape Mulinuu

At the farreaching northwestern point of Savai’i are a number of noteworthy attractions. Drive down Falealupo Road and you’ll come across a scattering of natural and historical oddities, including Moso’s Footprint, the ruins of Falealupo Church that was destroyed by Cyclone Ofa, and the quirky stories of the Rock House lava tubes. You’ll come across the sweeping white sand Falealupo Beach, which you can enjoy from a day fale at the Falealupo Beach Fales.

It’s worth then continuing on the flat dirt road (suitable for 2WD) through the coconut groves to Cape Mulinuu to see the historical Mauga Fetu Star Mound, Ana O Vaatausili Giant’s Cave and Vaisuatoto Well. If there are villagers 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. Finally, catch the sunset from the beach and rock pools of Cape Mulinuu just across the road for a spectacular show (weather permitting). Here, it’s the westernmost point of Samoa and one of the best spots to watch the sunset.

Manase Beach

If you decide to not stay the night at one of the idyllic beach fales of Manase Beach (Tanu, Jane’s and Tailua Beach Fales), at least hire a fale for the day to enjoy this popular stretch of sand with spectacular snorkelling. Some of the fales hire out snorkelling equipment (but it’s probably best to bring your own) and many snorkellers are lucky to swim with turtles here. Otherwise, the sunsets are also spectacular.

Again, the north coast has much more to offer including lava caves to explore, so take a look at the 25 Free & Cheap Things to Do on Savai’i for much more inspiration!

The Complete Travel Guide to Savai'i on a Budget© SamoaPocketGuide.com

Budget Dining on Savai’i

Food can be very affordable on Savai’i, especially if you opt to eat like a local. We highly recommend choosing your chosen beach fale’s “breakfast and dinner” option which usually provides very good value for money in that your host will be eager to overfeed you. Incidentally, this may leave you only needing to grab snacks from the nearby village convenience store for lunch – check out some snack recommendations in the 20 Foods to Try in Samoa.

Note that accommodations with an a la carte menu (Vai-i-Moana Lodge and Vaisala Hotel, for example) will be more expensive than your average beach fale option.

Adria’s Cafe

A quaint Western-style cafe in the village of Lalomalava (east coast), Adria’s Cafe delights with coffee, cake and meat-lover meals to see you through your morning or afternoon. Enjoy eggs or pancakes (vegetarian) for breakfast or opt for a hearty beef and eggplant lasagne or teriyaki bowl for lunch. Also, try their custard tarts.

Salelologa Market

With the exception of Salelologa, finding cheap takeaways or restaurants (or any places for dining, for that matter) are few and far in between. Those exploring Salelologa have a few options for cheap eats, however, including the small food court area of Salelologa Market, which is located in the commercial centre to the south of town (turn left off the ferry then right past Lusia’s Lagoon Chalets).

$10 BBQs!

If you’re feeling adventurous and are not too fussed about “menus”, try one of Samoa’s famous roadside barbecues. Most can be spotted on the roadside leading in and out of Salelologa but you might be lucky to see large signs propped up outside of family homes in other villages too. “What do you usually get for these ‘$10 BBQs’?” you may ask. Expect something along the lines of marinated chicken drumsticks with either taro, banana, rice and/or chop suey. A drink is not usually included.

Taefu T. Matafeo Store (Netta’s Cake Shop)

Finally, at the northern end of Asaga village near Puapua is the Taefu T. Matafeo Store, which might be famous for its cakes, cupcakes and coffee but they also do an ST$10 meal, similar to the $10 BBQs stated above, usually with lamb (mamoe).

More Dining Options on Savai’i

If you’re willing to push the boat out, there are plenty more dining recommendations to be found in The Best Places to Eat on Savai’i. Otherwise, dive into more budget dining options in The Top Cheap Eats on Savai’i.

More About Savai’i on a Budget

That’s it for our complete guide to Savai’i on a budget but by no means the end of our advice. Check out more guides to help save the cents on your trip:

Finally, don’t forget to open The Complete Backpacking Guide to Samoa on a Budget and Samoa Travel Budget: How Much Does a Trip to Samoa Cost? to plan more of your trip later.

Author

Robin C.

This article was reviewed and published by Robin, the co-founder of Samoa Pocket Guide. He has lived, worked and travelled across 16 different countries before settling in the South Pacific, so he knows a thing or two about planning the perfect trip in this corner of the world. Robin works and consults regularly with the Samoa Tourism Authority, a local government body representing the tourism industry. Robin is also the co-founder of several other South Pacific travel guides and is a regular host of webinars with the South Pacific Tourism Organisation.

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