How to Plan a Family Trip to Upolu
When families are sick of the classic “Fiji” or “Bali” holiday and are perhaps looking to get off the beaten track in the South Pacific, they turn to islands such as Upolu. The arrival island of Samoa is easy enough to get to, should you seek that fly-and-flop family vacation, yet offers authentic cultural aspects and glorious natural attractions that make this island like nowhere else you’ve been. While the classic resort holiday exists, if you’re feeling adventurous, try out true Samoan hospitality at one of the beach fales or Apia’s budget hotels. Wherever you stay, a true sense of “Fa’a Samoa” will find its way to you through Apia’s famed Samoa Cultural Village or one of the captivating fiafia nights. In between, enjoy days at the beach or by the pool; this is the South Pacific, after all.
Plan the perfect family getaway to Samoa’s most popular island with this complete travel guide to Upolu for families.
Top 10 Family Activities on Upolu
What does a family getaway to Upolu look like? Here’s a quick overview of just 10 things to do on Samoa’s main island with kids:
- Check out Upolu’s best family-friendly swimming hole, the Piula Cave Pool
- Experience a fiafia night
- Take a day trip to Namu’a Island
- Experience the Samoa Cultural Village
- Have a blast at the natural playground of the Papase’ea Sliding Rocks
- Go waterfall sightseeing
- Get some beach time in
- Discover the famous “Ma Tree“
- Snorkel until their heart’s content
- Enjoy a resort day.
We go into detail on all of those points in the 10 Things to Do on Upolu with Kids. Otherwise, keep on reading for more inspiration…
How to Get to Upolu
Upolu is Samoa’s eastern island, lying about 3,000 km (1,864 mi) northeast of New Zealand and 3,700 km (2,300 mi) southwest of Hawaii. The island is home to Samoa’s only international airport and receives regular flights from New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii and Fiji, which are all well-connected to the rest of the world. Find out about airlines travelling to Upolu in our guide, Which Airlines Fly Directly to Samoa?
Alternative ways to get to Upolu include day trips with cruise liners, as well as via private sailing yacht. Find out more about your arrival options in Getting Here: How to Get to Samoa?
How to Get Around Upolu
Upolu is well-connected by a main coastal road around the island, which is approximately 185 km (115 mi), as well as three roads across the island. Car rentals, scooter rentals and bicycle rentals are an option – note that you’ll need a temporary diver’s license. Alternatively, bus services, taxis and guided tours are also readily available.
Find out all you need to know about transport in our Upolu Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get to (& Around) Upolu.
Family Activities on Upolu
What can families do together on Samoa’s main island? From discovering the island’s awesome natural attractions to being captivated by Samoa’s accessible culture, there are certainly some interesting experiences to be had for all ages.
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 Piula Cave Pool.
A hit with travellers, locals, families and freshwater fish alike, the crystal clear waters provide a cooling swimming experience with caves to explore and no tides to negotiate (although, the water is deep so keep an eye on weak swimmers).
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.
Find this attraction on the grounds of the Piula Theological College, Lufilufi village, signposted along the Main East Coast Road on the northeast coast of Upolu. For more unmissable swimming pools, check out the 10 Best Swimming Spots in Samoa.
Namu’a Island Day Trip
From spotting turtles on the boat journey across the lagoon to playing in the sands on an uninhabited island, a day trip to Namu’a is full of excitement and well worth treating the family to.
Boats run daily (except Sundays) from Mutiatele village, taking you to a stunning island with walks, amazing snorkelling and beach fales to make sure your family gets plenty of shade. There are toilets on the island, but no other facilities, so make sure to bring any lunch or snacks along with you.
For more information, check out The Travel Guide to Aleipata Islands: Nu’utele, Namu’a, Fanuatapa & Nu’uala.
Samoa Cultural Village
“Fa’a Samoa” means “The Samoan Way” and you’ll certainly get the full flavour of the Samoan culture at this family-friendly attraction.
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 (you might not want to let squeamish kids look too closely).
Finally, sit down with your freshly prepared umu lunch while watching a fiafia cultural performance including fire dancing.
Find this experience behind the Samoa Tourism Information Centre, Beach Road, Apia. For more cultural experiences to educate the kids, check out the 10 Best Cultural Activities on Upolu.
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 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. Note that this attraction is best for active kids; in other words, it’s unsuitable for toddlers.
Find this attraction in 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.
More Family-Friendly Activities on Upolu
This is by no means the end of the family-friendly offering on Upolu between the amazing snorkelling sites, waterfalls to find and easy walking trails such as the Ma Tree. Find more activities suitable for all ages in the 10 Things to Do on Upolu with Kids. Otherwise, if you have older children or teenagers that can do just about anything, you might also want to check out the 50 Best Things to Do on Upolu.
Family-Friendly Restaurants on Upolu
Although self-catering is a viable option if you’re staying in Apia thanks to the array of accommodations with kitchen facilities, as well as the abundance of convenience stores, remember that this is your holiday too. Treat yourself to some of the family-friendly restaurants on Upolu and don’t miss one of its famed fiafia nights!
Nothing captivates the kids more than watching an epic fire show! Just a small part of a fiafia night, these evening shows meaning “happy” include fire dancing, cultural dancing, singing and likely an ‘ava ceremony (kids can skip drinking this slightly narcotic drink made from the root of a pepper plant). And in true Samoan spirit, you will be encouraged to eat more than is reasonable from the buffet, which although has traditional Samoan dishes, there are usually a few western favourites should you have fussy eaters in your tribe.
See which fiafia night to book yourselves into in the 10 Best Cultural Shows (Fiafia) in Samoa.
Family-Friendly Cafes and Restaurants
Be transported to the Mediterranean and among the attractive patio gardens of Giordano’s Pizzeria. The closest European-style pizzas we’ve found on the island, Giordano’s combines family-pleasing Italian cuisine with a gorgeous garden setting. Get the kids to look out for geckos!
Another popular choice in Apia, enjoy the creative menu of Milani Caffe & Cakes, while the kids are treated to mind-blowing milkshakes and sweet treats. Additionally, don’t miss a stop at Chills ice cream parlour which also serves fried food and waffles. Get much more cafe inspiration from our 10 Best Cafes in Apia and Upolu.
Outside of Apia, Saletoga Sands Resort‘s restaurant is a popular choice whether you’re staying there or not with its extensive kids’ menu and well-presented international cuisine with plenty to please mum and dad. For more restaurants to try, check out The Best Places to Eat on Upolu: 10 Best Restaurants on Upolu.
And, for the full foodie guide, head over to The Food Guide to Upolu: Places to Eat & Food Tours.
More About Upolu for Families
That’s it for our complete travel guide to Upolu for families, but is by no means the end of our Samoa advice! Check out the following guides for anything we might have missed:
- 20 Best Things to Do in Samoa with Kids
- 10 BEST Beaches in Samoa
- The Complete Travel Guide to Savai’i for Families
Finally, if there’s any part of your family vacation that you haven’t planned, you’re likely to find the right advice in The Complete Travel Guide to Samoa for Families and 25 Tips for Your Family Samoa Vacation with Kids.