How to Plan the Best Trip to Upolu
Lying just below the Equator in the middle of the vast South Pacific, Upolu is the most populous island of Samoa. If you want that effortless island resort experience, then it’s here. But Upolu certainly isn’t “full” of resorts, making it one of the few remaining South Pacific destinations that still feels like true Polynesia. If you prefer, opt for one of Upolu’s traditional beach fale accommodations which combine a stunning on-the-sands location with genuine local hospitality.
In between unique accommodation experiences, explore the 1,125 km² (434 sq mi) island that juts from the South Pacific Ocean with jungle-clad mountains sloping down to lava cliffs and pristine beaches. Deep in the lush rainforests are waterfalls – so many waterfalls – while villages, connected by an entertaining network of suited-up buses, radiate character and charm. And if you crave that little bit of cosmopolitan comfort, well, Apia is a whole different story that you can read over in The Complete Travel Guide to Apia.
Whatever your travel style and whatever your interests, you’re in the right place to plan the ultimate trip to Samoa’s main island with this complete travel guide to Upolu.
Frequently Asked Questions About Upolu
We’re here to plan the best trip ever, so we won’t waste any time in this Upolu travel guide in giving you the questions that most travellers have.
Is Upolu Worth Visiting?
Absolutely! With an idyllic blend of cosmopolitan culture in Apia and traditional Polynesian culture across the island’s villages, Upolu is definitely worth visiting. The unspoiled and less-touristy ambience of Upolu is what sets it apart from many other South Pacific islands.
What is Upolu Known For?
Aside from being home to around three-quarters of Samoa’s population, Upolu is known for its beautiful beaches, lush forests with numerous waterfalls and the Samoan culture.
What is the Capital of Upolu?
The capital of Upolu (and Samoa) is Apia, located on the north coast of the island. Most of Upolu’s accommodations, restaurants and shops can be found in Apia, which you can learn more about in The Complete Travel Guide to Apia.
What is Savai’i and Upolu?
Savai’i and Upolu are the two main islands of the country of Samoa. Learn more about each in the What are the 9 Islands of Samoa?
Is Upolu a Village?
Upolu is not a village, but an island in Samoa containing hundreds of villages, locally known as nu’u. Learn about its largest villages in The 5 Biggest Towns & Villages in Samoa.
What is the Currency of Upolu?
Upolu uses the Samoan currency of Samoan Tala, seen as “ST$”, “WS$”, “WST” or “ST”. Some shops in Apia, the capital of Upolu, also accept foreign currencies, such as New Zealand Dollars, Australian Dollars and United States Dollars. Find out more about currency in What is the Currency of Samoa?
What to Do on Upolu
Nature and culture are your main draws to Upolu, as the island is awash in waterfall attractions, glorious beaches, superb snorkelling, fairytale-like swimming holes and quaint villages where Samoan traditions and architecture are easily accessible.
The Top Experiences on Upolu
What are the must-dos? Here are some of the Upolu highlights:
- Plunge into paradise at To Sua Ocean Trench
- Experience Upolu’s natural waterpark, Papase’ea Sliding Rocks
- Marvel at the stunning Sopoaga Falls
- Refresh at the Piula Cave Pool
- Enjoy the white sands and lagoon islands of Vavau Beach
- Snorkel among thriving coral at Palolo Deep
- Take a journey of “Fa’a Samoa” at Samoa Cultural Village…
Rainy Day Activities
Being a tropical island, it’s no secret that Upolu gets its fair share of wet weather. Although we’d advise “just to get on with it”, as the rain often passes quickly and the hot climate with dry you off in no time, some indoor alternatives include:
- Learning something new at the Museum of Samoa, Falemata’aga
- Mingling with the locals at one of Apia’s markets
- Indulging in a spa day…
… And much more that we mention in the 15 Things to Do on Upolu on a Rainy Day.
Things to Do at Night
From partying at Apia’s bars and nightclubs to relaxing as you watch the sunset from a beach fale, there are many ways to keep the holiday vibes fresh even after dark. Some things to do on Upolu at night include:
- Delighting in some sundowners or party into the wee hours at Upolu’s nightclubs and bars
- Joining a fiafia night for a night of cultural dancing and Samoan cuisine
- Watching the sunset and sleeping on the beach in a beach fale…
… And find more after-dark entertainment in The Guide to Apia & Upolu Nightlife + 5 Things to Do on Upolu at Night.
Where to Stay on Upolu
Aside from our top recommendations listed beside this complete travel guide to Upolu (or below, if you’re reading this on mobile), we’ve compiled the best accommodations and resorts based on price, suitability for couples or families, as well as more upmarket offerings. What’s more, each article is written by real travel writers; not some dodgy algorithm!
- 16 Best Resorts
- 10 Best Beach Fale Accommodations
- 10 Best Boutique Resorts & Accommodations
- 10 Best Self-Catering Accommodations
- 10 Best Holiday Homes
- 25 Best Hotels
- 20 Best Budget Accommodations
- 7 Best Luxury Resorts
- 10 Most Romantic Wedding & Honeymoon Resorts
- 20 Best Family Resorts & Accommodations
- 7 Best Motels
And for a comprehensive list, see Where to Stay on Upolu: The Best Upolu Accommodations.
Where to Eat on Upolu
There’s certainly a cosmopolitan side to Upolu, with Apia brimming with international and local cafes, restaurants and takeaways. When it comes to dining around the rest of the island, however, you’re reduced to the restaurants of Upolu’s resorts and beach fales along with their “resort rates”. Nevertheless, local snacks and baked goods can be picked up at most convenience stores to fuel you in between meals. There’s limited self-catering accommodation outside of Apia, should you want to be in charge of your own meals, while beach fale hosts will keep patrons well-fed, usually, included in the rates.
The whole dining situation is laid out in The Food Guide to Upolu: Places to Eat & Food Tours; a must-read if you also consider yourself a foodie.
The Best Cafes and Restaurants on Upolu
- Paddles Restaurant (Apia)
- RiVaiv Cafe (Tanugamanono & Vaitele, Apia)
- Ava I Toga Restaurant (Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa, Maninoa)
- Nourish Cafe (Apia)
- Bella’s Kitchen (Apia)
See the complete listing of our top dining recommendations in The BEST Places to Eat on Upolu: 10 Best Restaurants on Upolu and 10 BEST Cafes in Apia & Upolu.
Things to Do on Upolu for Foodies
- See an umu demonstration
- Join Chef John for a food tour
- Take part in a Samoan cooking class
- Browse local produce and street food markets
- Tour the Ifiele’ele Plantation…
… For elaboration on each activity, check out the 10 Best Foodie Experiences on Upolu.
Dining at Beach Fales
For travellers staying in Upolu’s beach fales, a generous breakfast and dinner are all part of your host’s hospitality where food is enjoyed family-style in a dining fale.
Self-Catering on Upolu
Upolu has several options for large supermarkets, as well as many smaller convenience stores. These are typically stocked with a mix of local and imported brands from New Zealand and China, as well as local fruit and vegetables. Produce can also be purchased from roadside stalls and markets in Apia.
See a full list of the largest grocery stores, as well as other useful services such as banks and WiFi hotspots in our guide, Information, Shops & Services on Upolu.
Prices are similar to supermarkets in New Zealand but more expensive than what you might experience in Australia and the US. See typical grocery prices in The Cost of Food in Samoa: Restaurant & Grocery Prices, as well as more advice for self-catering in A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Samoa.
Budget Holidays on Upolu
Despite the resort reputation of the South Pacific, Upolu is home to some quintessentially Samoan tourist accommodations and attractions that make it incredibly easy to stick to a budget. Although most natural attractions on Upolu have an entry fee, which you can learn more about in Samoan Etiquette: Samoa Customs & Traditions, these are often just a handful of tala per person. Get more tips for an affordable holiday in The Complete Travel Guide to Upolu on a Budget.
Things to Do on Upolu on a Budget
- Experience crafts, food and dancing at Samoa Cultural Village
- Check out sea arches and pandanus forest on the Coastal Walk
- Have a swim at Upolu’s free waterfall, Sauniatu Falls
- Learn something new at Falemata’aga Museum of Samoa
- Marvel at the architecture and gardens of the Baha’i Temple.
Find out more about each activity in the 25 Free & Cheap Things to Do on Upolu.
Cheap Accommodation on Upolu
Any of the beach fales on Upolu comfortably fit into the budget category, while guesthouses and budget hotels in Apia fill up the remaining spots. Check them out in the 20 Best Budget Accommodations on Upolu.
Luxury Holidays on Upolu
Much more down-to-earth than elsewhere in the South Pacific, Upolu’s luxury offerings are more the island’s exclusivity and thus tranquillity; it’s easy to find a place untouched rather than spoiled and touristy. There are a couple of upmarket resorts to really treat yourself to, while private guided tours of the islands, as well as adventure activities, like scuba diving, fishing and golf, are how you can spend your time. Plan it with ease using The Luxury Guide to Upolu.
Luxury Activities on Upolu
- Be treated to a private dining experience
- Indulge in a soothing spa treatment
- Take the plunge on a scuba diving excursion
- Reel in Pacific pelagics on a Samoan fishing charter
- Have a swing at one of Upolu’s golf courses.
Dive deeper into these activities in the 10 Best Luxury Experiences on Upolu.
Luxury Accommodation on Upolu
Upolu only has a couple of resorts that can be deemed “real” luxury, but there are also a handful of boutique 3/4-star offerings that will also please the discerning traveller. Discover them all in the 7 Best Luxury Resorts on Upolu.
Weddings, Honeymoons and Romantic Getaways to Upolu
Begging to be explored in order to seek out its amazing natural attractions, Upolu is the ideal place for couples to adventure together and reconnect along the way. Even if you’re celebrating a special occasion, Upolu’s wedding, honeymoon and anniversary services will make your time extra special in paradise. There’s a lot to go through, so check out The Wedding, Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Upolu to ensure your trip is ignited with romance.
Romantic Activities on Upolu
- Spend the day on an uninhabited island
- Visit Upolu’s most romantic beaches
- Test your teamwork in a double kayak
- Wrap your arms around your loved one on the back of an ATV
- Treat them to a private dining experience at Taumeasina, Sinalei or Seabreeze Resort.
Get plenty more ideas from the 10 Most Romantic Things to Do on Upolu.
Romantic Accommodation on Upolu
From upmarket resorts with infinity pools to humble beach fales in paradisical locations, whatever you consider “romantic” you’re bound to find something to suit on Upolu. Our top recommendations can be found in the 10 Most Romantic Wedding & Honeymoon Resorts on Upolu.
Weddings on Upolu
Your wedding is made as easy as an island breeze thanks to several resorts offering enticing wedding packages for couples looking to tie the knot in paradise. Check out the hottest resort and garden venues in the 10 Best Wedding Venues on Upolu. Plus, learn about the rest of your wedding formalities in How to Plan a Wedding in Samoa.
Family Holidays on Upolu
Whether you crave that easy family resort holiday or prefer to educate the kids (and yourselves) about the eco-system and cultural customs of an exotic island, both vibes can be catered to on Upolu. With waterfalls, natural waterslides, safe swimming holes and pristine beaches, Upolu puts on an amazing playground for families to experience together. Plan the activities, places to stay and even where to eat with The Complete Travel Guide to Upolu for Families.
Family Activities on Upolu
- 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
- Have a blast at the natural playground of the Papase’ea Sliding Rocks
- Discover the famous “Ma Tree”.
We go into detail on all of those points and more in the 10 Things to Do on Upolu with Kids.
Family Accommodation on Upolu
That effortless resort holiday awaits on Upolu or you could even opt for a family set-up in a large beach fale. There are plenty of options, so get browsing the 20 Best Family Resorts & Accommodations on Upolu.
Adults-Only Holidays on Upolu
As “adults-only” becomes more of a trend across the South Pacific, Upolu is slowly catching up with a couple of accommodations offering no-child policies to keep your holiday vibes as peaceful as intended. On the other hand, if there were experiences you were perhaps wanting to do while you hire a babysitter for your little ones, or you simply don’t want another experience like that time in Fiji or Bali that was “full of kids” like that time in Fiji or Bali, then there are activities that are exclusively for adults on Upolu. Plan the perfect kids-free getaway with The Adults-Only Travel Guide to Upolu.
Activities on Upolu for Adults
- Hit Upolu’s uncrowded waves on a surf tour
- Discover Upolu’s vibrant nightlife
- Scuba dive at the island’s wreck dive
- Tee off at one of Upolu’s golf courses
- Go off-roading across Upolu’s plantations on an ATV tour.
Learn more about these experiences in the 10 Adults-Only Activities on Upolu.
Adults-Only Accommodation on Upolu
At least you won’t be overwhelmed with choices between the luxury Seabreeze Resort exclusively for 18+ or the boutique Vaea Hotel Samoa for 11+ years. Get more guidance from The Best Adults-Only Resorts in Samoa.
More About Upolu
That’s it for the complete travel guide to Upolu but by no means the end of our Upolu advice! Check out the following guides for more Upolu goodness:
- 10 Best Beaches on Upolu
- 10 Best Day Tours of Upolu
- 10 Best Tours on Upolu
- 10 Best Historical Sites on Upolu
- Sightseeing on Upolu: Top 10 Sights on Upolu
- The Top Cheap Eats in Apia & Upolu