How to Plan a Luxury Trip to Upolu
Endless stretches of white sand, lava cliffs, turquoise waters and lush jungles climbing volcanic peaks; Upolu certainly looks the part of a luxury getaway in the South Pacific. With an emphasis on casual holidays that are more off the beaten track, however, finding the more “special” experiences comes with a little bit of challenge… But they do exist. Among the traditional fale accommodations lining the beaches is a sprinkling of more upmarket resorts you’ll be thankful to discover if seeking a “treat yourself” getaway. Discover the most lavish accommodations, the most indulgent experiences, and the finest eateries in this complete luxury guide to Upolu.
One thing to note before we bring you this luxury guide to Upolu is that “five-star” luxury simply does not exist on the island. It’s best to leave those expectations of your every whim and want to be seen back home. The real luxury, however, is that this is a part of the South Pacific much less developed than some of its counterparts; resulting in a more authentic and fun Pacific getaway rather than spoiled and touristy.
Top 10 Luxury Activities on Upolu
If all you need is an overview of what a luxury getaway to Upolu looks like, here are some of the tours and activities you could be experiencing:
- Explore Upolu’s most breathtaking waterfalls or the cosmopolitan ambience of Apia on a private day tour
- Be treated to a private dining experience
- Experience Apia’s vibrant shops and markets
- Stay at one of Upolu’s luxury resorts
- 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
- Treat the tastebuds at one of Upolu’s fine dining restaurants
- Experience yoga in paradise…
… And the list goes on in the 10 Best Luxury Experiences on Upolu, or simply continue reading…
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.
Luxury Tours and Activities on Upolu
While the menu of luxury experiences doesn’t extend too far from simply staying in luxury resorts on the island, Upolu offers a few extra experiences that are a cut above the rest when it comes to luxury.
Private Island Tours
You don’t have to worry about large tour buses on Upolu. You can see the island’s breathtaking sights, including waterfalls, glorious beaches and swimming holes on a private guided tour. Operators like Rainforest Runaway Ecotours and Tour Samoa, as well as some resorts like Seabreeze Resort, offer private bespoke tours, either heading to their recommended waterfalls, beaches, historical sites and swimming holes or to the attractions on your bucket list. Inspire yourself for things to do with Sightseeing in Upolu: Top 10 Sights on Upolu.
Alternatively, each tour operator tends to offer an “Apia tour”, should you want to experience a very different side of island life. Get ideas for what to see in Apia with the 25 Best Things to Do in Apia. Plus, choose your tour operator from our 10 Best Day Tours of Upolu.
Shopping in Apia
Home to talented craftspeople who have passed down techniques from generation to generation, Samoa certainly entices with unique woodwork, gorgeous siapo paintings, hand-printed clothing and much more – just see the 10 Best Souvenirs from Samoa for an idea of the amazing handicrafts available. With this in mind, those looking to treat themselves should definitely spare some time to peruse the markets and crafts shops of the nation’s capital, Apia.
Discover our favourite markets in the 8 Best Markets in Samoa and check out more retail highlights in The Guide to Shopping in Samoa + The Best Places to Shop.
Upolu might be known for its active experiences, but there’s plenty of room to relax too, especially when it comes to spa treatments. Book yourself into one of Upolu’s serene spas. From the selection of locally-run spas in Apia, such as J Spa, Touch of Samoa and Misiluki Spa to Upolu’s glorious resort spas at Coconuts Beach Club Resort & Spa, Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa and Taumeasina Island Resort, you are never too far away from finding your zen. Check out the full list of spas to compare in the 10 Best Spas in Samoa.
Vibrant coral gardens, dramatic canyons, swim throughs and deep pinnacles; there are many exciting adventures to be had in the waters surrounding Upolu and the nearby Manono island. Pure Ocean offers a range of dive trips to get to these untouched pieces of paradise, with morning and afternoon boats, two-tank dives and the Tava’e wreck dive of a 30m (98ft) tug boat. There is so much to unpack when it comes to diving from Upolu, so check out The Best Scuba Diving in Samoa or find out more about learning to dive with Learn to Dive in Samoa: Where to Get Your Scuba Diving Certification.
More Things to Do on Upolu
More lavish experiences await on Upolu, from private fishing charters to one-on-one yoga sessions. Read more about them in the 10 Best Luxury Experiences on Upolu. For all of those activities that don’t necessarily fall into the “luxury” category but are just as enticing, check out the 50 Best Things to Do on Upolu.
Luxury Dining on Upolu
Turn tastebud satisfaction into an elevated experience with fine dining or a private dinner on the beach. Upolu offers a very small but delightful selection of upscale restaurants, as well as private dining experiences.
Fine Dining on Upolu
When it comes to fine dining on Upolu, most will point you in the direction of Ava I Toga Restaurant, the restaurant of one of Samoa’s most luxurious resorts, Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa. Delight in fresh seafood and South Pacific fusion dining with something for all tastes and diets, including an extensive and pleasingly creative vegan and vegetarian menu – for more, check out Samoa for Vegans & Vegetarians + 10 Best Restaurants.
Even if you’re not staying at the adults-only Seabreeze Resort, at least book one night for dinner at their elegant restaurant nestled into coastal cliffs, the Waterfront Restaurant and Bar. Offering a range of a la carte cuisine on impeccably presented plates, Waterfront is a must-do for comfort food turned fine dining, all accompanied by an enviable sunset position.
Meanwhile, in Apia, Bistro Tatau Restaurant is a good go-to to impress with its speciality Asian cuisine, as well as European, Mediterranean and Australasia influences. The restaurant offers a relaxed yet sophisticated environment of slick tiled walls and tones inspired by Samoan skin tones and tatau (tattoo) ink.
For more fine dining examples, be sure to take a look at the 5 Best Fine Dining Restaurants in Samoa.
Make your evening meal an exclusive experience, perhaps to celebrate a special occasion or “just ’cause”, by treating yourself and your partner, family or friends to one of Upolu’s private dining experiences. Indulge in a three-course dinner with bubbles either on your room’s balcony or by the beach at Taumeasina Island Resort, choose a private decorated setting at Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa or have a candlelit dinner with personal waiting service on the deck of your luxury villa at Seabreeze Resort. Discover more couple-centric experiences like this in the 10 Most Romantic Things to Do on Upolu for Couples.
More Dining Options on Upolu
Of course, there are many more places to eat on Upolu, including Apia’s quaint cafes and several other resort restaurants. Take a tour through Upolu’s best restaurants and foodie experience with The Food Guide to Upolu: Places to Eat & Food Tours.
More About Luxury on Upolu
That’s it for our complete luxury guide to Upolu but by no means is the end of the advice we can offer to help you plan the perfect trip. Check out other guides from the Samoa’s largest travel guide:
- The Adults-Only Travel Guide to Upolu
- The Wedding, Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Upolu
- The Complete Travel Guide to Upolu for Families
Finally, you might also be interested in The Complete Luxury Guide to Samoa in case there’s anything you’re missing in your vacation plan.