The Best Food Experiences and Places to Eat on Upolu
Upolu is a destination for treating all of the senses although, admittedly, not in the way you’re probably thinking. Sure, there are some marvellous hidden gems when it comes to dining, particularly in the capital, Apia. However, some of the richest food experiences on the island in Samoa can actually be experienced through the island’s fiafia nights, umu demonstrations, plantation tours and more. Samoan is a culture that’s eager to share its culinary delights, often better through its home-cooked beach fale meals than its more official eating establishments. Nevertheless, we go through where to have the best food experiences, through both food tours and eclectic places to eat, in this complete food guide to Upolu!
The 10 Best Places to Eat on Upolu
Where are the best places to eat on Upolu? Here’s our ultimate list of the best restaurants and cafes with something for all tastes and budgets.
- Paddles Restaurant (Apia)
- RiVaiv Cafe (Tanugamanono & Vaitele, Apia)
- Ava I Toga Restaurant (Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa, Maninoa)
- Cocolini’s by the Sea (Le Vasa Resort, Apolima-uta)
- Nourish Cafe (Apia)
- Waterfront Restaurant and Bar (Seabreeze Resort, Aufaga)
- Bella’s Kitchen (Apia)
- Giordano’s Pizza (Apia)
- Cornwall Cafe (Apia)
- Bistro Tatau Restaurant (Apia)
Scroll down to “About the Best Places to Eat on Upolu” to learn more about our top picks!
The Best Food Tours on Upolu
Make indulging your palate part of the experience by partaking in one of the amazing food tours on Upolu. From hands-on cooking classes to more relaxed Sunday to’onai, there are food tours on Upolu to suit a range of tones.
The traditional Polynesian method of slow-cooking fish, tropical root vegetables and dishes like palusami with hot rocks is usually saved for special occasions in Samoan culture, but there are a couple of ways to experience this special meal for yourself on Upolu.
The easiest way would be to join one of Samoa Cultural Village‘s free tours in Apia, where guests are shown how to weave their own plates before watching the umu demonstration and, of course, dining on the result while watching a magnificent cultural performance.
Alternatively, there’s also the opportunity to watch umu demonstrations at resorts such as Le Vasa Resort.
Chef John Tours
Combine sightseeing with gourmet island dining with Chef John Tours. Chef John offers both a half-day and full-day tours of Upolu, both visiting Apia’s fish, fruit and vegetable markets where you’ll pick out your own produce.
After stopping to snack on the best keke pu’aa (steamed pork buns) on Upolu, you’ll arrive at the refreshing swimming spot of the Piula Cave Pool where John will put on an impressive show of sprucing up a gourmet lunch with the ingredients bought at the market.
Finally, you’ll cool down with a stop at a local ice cream shop that John deems the best on the island! The full-day tour also includes stops at To Sua Ocean Trench, Lalomanu Beach and the Togitogia Waterfall. The tour includes accommodation transfers.
Samoan Cooking Classes
Take home a unique souvenir of the knowledge of how to cook Samoan dishes by partaking in a Samoan cooking class. This more hands-on foodie experience on Upolu can be experienced at resorts such as Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa and Taumeasina Island Resort.
The Sinalei offering is certainly an immersive affair which starts with a “sunrise supply hunt” gathering ingredients from the local plantations and markets. After a break with a dip in a freshwater pool, you’ll get stuck into your “sunset cooking class” where the resort’s chefs will guide you through creating a Samoan dish for you to enjoy in a private overwater setting once your creation is complete.
To’onai is a traditional Sunday lunch in Samoa, which brings the whole family together not only to eat the meal but to prepare it with each family member having a different role to play. Visitors can also experience a Sunday to’onai too which, admittedly, will be more about eating the food than cooking it yourself.
Try food like palusami and likely food that has been cooked in an umu at accommodations like Taufua Beach Fales, Taumeasina Island Resort and Leuaina Beach Resort. To’onai buffets usually start at midday; be sure to book your spot.
If you’re lucky (and friendly enough), your resort staff may invite you to their church service and then to their family home for a more authentic to’onai experience.
Ifiele’ele Plantation Tour
Samoans heavily rely on the tropical produce of its inland plantations, much like the Ifiele’ele Plantation. Either stay as a guest at the accommodation or book ahead if you’re a group with a minimum of four people to take a tour of this plantation famous across the island for its healthy dried fruit snacks, real fruit ice pops, as well as jams and chutneys.
The plantation experience includes an informative tour of Samoa’s quintessential edible plants (likely with some goats along the way), as well as a coconut demonstration and jam and dried fruit tastings.
More Food Tours on Upolu
And that’s not all the food scene on Upolu has to offer. Check out alternative food tours, such as:
- Join a fiafia night
- Browse local produce and try local snacks at the Fugalei Market or SWAG Market
- Try the street food of the Apia Night Market
- Be treated to a private dining experience at Taumeasina Island Resort, Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa or Seabreeze Resort
- Catch your own dinner on a Samoan fishing charter
- Treat the tastebuds at one of Upolu’s cafes or restaurants…
… For elaboration on each activity, check out the 10 Best Foodie Experiences on Upolu.
About the Best Places to Eat on Upolu
The vast majority of eateries on Upolu can be found in the island’s cosmopolitan hub, Apia. With that, we have a whole guide to the Apia offerings in The Food Guide to Apia: Places to Eat & Food Tours, which you might want to get stuck into should you be spending most of your trip in the city. Dining outside of Apia is usually limited to Upolu’s resort and beach fale accommodations.
Where to Eat: Restaurants in Apia
If you only have time to experience one restaurant in Apia, many locals and international visitors swear by the Italian and Samoan cuisine of Paddles Restaurant (Beach Road, Apia). Otherwise, Bistro Tatau Restaurant (Cnr Beach Road and Fugalei Street) offers a more upmarket dining experience with an eclectic international menu.
For the best pizzas in town in a gorgeous garden patio setting, check out Giordano’s Pizzeria (Falealili Street, Apia). If you want to eat where the locals eat, and for good reason, check out Bella’s Kitchen for its noodle bowls and thick shakes (Beach Road, Apia). Dive into more of Apia’s dine-in restaurants in the 10 Best Restaurants in Apia.
Where to Eat: Cafes on Upolu
Where Apia truly shines, however, is its cafes with the RiVaiv Cafes (Tanugamanono and Vaitele, Apia) combining its own turmeric health drink with lattes and lemonades, as well as providing a creative menu with highlights such as vegan sushi bowls and pesto paninis and burgers.
Nourish Cafe (Convent Street, Apia) offers respite from Upolu’s otherwise deep-fried-heavy cuisine with its healthy meals made with local ingredients.
And if you’re looking to stop somewhere for refreshing juices and great coffee, stop by the rooftop Cornwall Cafe (Cnr Vaea Street and Atenae Street, Apia). Check out more details about these cafes and more in the 10 Best Cafes in Apia & Upolu.
Where to Eat: Restaurants Around Upolu
Spread your wings and head outside of Apia to find fine dining at Ava I Toga Restaurant, the afternoon and evening restaurant of one of Upolu’s most luxurious resorts, Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa. Find out more about it in the 5 Best Fine Dining Restaurants in Samoa.
For something a little more casual, try Cocolini’s by the Sea of Le Vasa Resort with its traditional Samoan interiors of exposed beams, thatched roof and hand-carved poles providing a memorable setting for South Pacific and Mediterranean fusion cuisine.
Finally, at least book one night for dinner at the elegant Waterfront Restaurant and Bar nestled into coastal cliffs, offering a range of a la carte cuisine on impeccably presented plates. Discover more about these eateries and others in the 10 Best Restaurants on Upolu.
Where to Eat: Markets on Upolu
Finally, don’t rule out the markets as places to eat on Upolu. Fugalei Market (Fugalei Street, Apia) is the largest market in Samoa where, between the stalls with large mounds of tropical fruit and vegetables, are vendors selling traditional Samoan meals, such as palusami and fai’ai elegi (see 20 Foods to Try in Samoa).
On the other hand, a congregation of street food await at Apia’s monthly Night Market, happening on the last Friday of the month from around 4 pm. Dive into the details of each market in the 8 Best Markets in Samoa. Plus, discover more street eats in The Top Cheap Eats in Apia & Upolu.
More Options for Food on Upolu
So, with limited eateries outside of Apia, as well as almost no self-catering accommodations outside of the city, what happens if you’re staying somewhere without a restaurant? Luckily, your Samoan hosts will absolutely not let you go hungry!
Dining at Beach Fales
One of the best ways to sample the local cuisine on Upolu is by staying at a beach fale where a substantial local breakfast and dinner are all part of the experience. Food is enjoyed family-style in the accommodation’s dining fale where breakfast is usually the likes of chocolatey koko rice, hearty papaya soup (supo esi), and perhaps toast or omelettes with a selection of fresh local fruit. For dinner, Samoans love curries, chop suey and stir-fries but you’re also likely to try local dishes like palusami with sides of taro and breadfruit. Find out more about Samoan dishes in the 20 Foods to Try in Samoa.
See our list of recommended fales where you can enjoy this dining experience in the 10 Best Beach Fale Accommodations on Upolu.
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 Apia but you might be lucky to see large signs saying “$10 BBQ” or “Hot BBQ” propped up outside of family homes in other villages too. What do you usually get for these “$10 BBQs”? Expect something along the lines of marinated chicken drumsticks or lamb with either taro, banana, rice and/or chop suey. A drink is not usually included.
For more tips for acquiring cheap local food on Savai’i, check out The Top Cheap Eats in Apia & Upolu.
Alternative Things to Do on Upolu
As much as eating is exciting, you can’t travel all the way to Upolu just for the food. You’re on one of the most adventurous islands in the South Pacific! So balance out your stay with some of the alternative activities, such as:
- To Sua Ocean Trench – Upolu’s famous swimming hole
- Piula Cave Pool – Freshwater swimming caves
- Vavau Beach – Beach and picturesque lagoon islands
- Namu’a Island – Island day trip with snorkelling
- Savaia Giant Clam Sanctuary – Swim with giant clams
- Spa day – Indulge in an island massage
- Abseiling – Abseil down a waterfall with Tropical Tours
- Museum of Samoa – Learn something new
- Coastal Walk – See coastal arches and pandanus forest…
… and much more! Check out the details of these activities and get more inspiration in the 50 Best Things to Do on Upolu.
More About Upolu
That’s it for our food guide to Upolu and the best places to eat on Upolu, but not the end of our Upolu advice! Check out these other guides that might not necessarily fall under the “foodie” category, but are still pretty useful:
- The Complete Travel Guide to Upolu on a Budget
- The Luxury Guide to Upolu
- The Wedding, Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Upolu
- The Complete Travel Guide to Upolu for Families
- The Adults-Only Travel Guide to Upolu
- The Complete Travel Guide to Upolu
Finally, discover even more foodie trip tips in The Food Guide to Samoa: Places to Eat & Food Tours and plan your foodie road trip with the Samoa Food Itinerary: 10 Days and Samoa Food Itinerary: 7 Days.