How to Plan a Trip to Manono
Across a 4-km (2.5-mi) stretch of turquoise lagoon lies the less-visited island of Manono. With just four villages and around 800 people, life here is certainly in the slow lane; a charming slice of Samoa. Simply walking around the island’s beautifully maintained trail – there are no roads, thus cars – is a wonderful cultural experience with locals eager to greet you and even show you their traditional fale houses. Visit just for the day or stay the night and follow the tips in this complete travel guide to Manono, which includes how to get there, where to stay, things to do and day tours.
Frequently Asked Questions About Manono
We’re here to tell you everything you need to know about Manono in Samoa, so we won’t waste any time in this Manono travel guide giving you the answers to the questions that most travellers have about visiting.
Where is Manono Located?
Manono is one of the islands located in the Apolima Strait in Samoa, approximately 4 km (2.5 mi) from Samoa’s main island, Upolu. Learn more about the location of Samoa in our guide, Where is Samoa Located?
Can You Visit Manono Island?
Yes, you can absolutely visit Manono! There are a few ways to visit the island between kayak tours, guided day trips or simply taking a boat from Manono-uta village. We go into details on how to visit Manono island in the guide below.
What is Manono Known For?
Manono is known for being the third-largest and third-most populated island in Samoa. The island has no cars or dogs, while historical sites like the Grave of 99 Stones and the ancient star mound atop Mt Tulimanuiva are also highlights.
What is the Population of Manono?
The population of Manono is approximately 800 people which, along with Apolima, represents around 0.5% of the population of Samoa. For more population statistics across Samoa, check out Who are the People of Samoa? Ethnicity, Population & More.
How Big is Manono?
Manono has an area of approximately 3 km² (1.2 mi²).
How to Get to Manono
Manono island is just a 4-km (2.4-mi) journey from the boat landing in Manono-uta village on the west coast of Upolu. It takes approximately 20 minutes to take a boat to the island, of which all of your options include small boats. It’s recommended to take some seasickness remedies before you depart.
Boat Transfer to Manono
The simple and cheap way to get to Manono is to catch a boat from Manono-uta village located on the western side of Upolu. The boat landing is next to Le Vasa Resort.
Boats don’t run on any sort of schedule, so just show up at the boat landing and ask the operator on-site when the next departure is. There are usually several morning departures and a late-afternoon departure, while afternoon departures are arranged according to passenger interest. Expect a trip to cost anywhere between ST$5 if you’re sharing a passenger boat with plenty of people to around ST$50 to charter a boat.
Day Trips to Manono
If you’re on a more limited schedule, guided day tours to Manono are available with boat transfers included. Check out the “Day Tours to Manono Island” section below for more information on operators.
If you book a stay with Manono’s commercial accommodation operator, Sunset View Fales, boat transfers from Manono-uta are included in the price and will be arranged upon booking. See the “Where to Stay on Manono” section below to learn more about the accommodation.
Where to Stay on Manono
It is possible to stay on Manono for the night (or two, or three…) thanks to the island’s commercial accommodation, which still provides a truly local experience with lodging and all food included.
Although the accommodation here is not like your typical fale on the beach, the hospitality is similar, so check out our Essential Tips for Staying in a Beach Fale in Samoa for some advice that also applies to Manono.
Sunset View Fales
Nestled in hillside tropical gardens are the nine colourful yet rustic accommodation units of Sunset View Fales connected by a winding garden pathway. All of the fully enclosed fales face the ocean with views of Upolu.
Five of the units can accommodate up to two guests, while the other four are elevated on the hill and have a double and single bed each. They also have an outdoor verandah with furniture to sit and enjoy the views. Only some fales have a private bathroom; otherwise, the rest use a shared bathroom.
Note that rates include breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Things to Do on Manono
Much of what Manono has to offer is along the well-maintained walking trail around the island. Anything else can be accessed by boat through accommodation and tour operators.
10 Best Things to Do on Manono
- Walk around the island
- Check out the Grave of 99 Stones
- Hike up Mt Tulimanuiva to see the ancient star mound and grave of Afutiti
- Snorkel at Aggie’s Reef
- Immerse in the local culture through a tour or simply by engaging with the locals
- Take a day trip to Nu’ulopa Island
- Listen to the choir at a Sunday church service
- Have a swim off the beach of Apai
- Enjoy the peace and quiet of no cars and no dogs
- Watch the beautiful sunset!
1. Walk Around the Island
A must-do on Manono is to simple walk around the island! It takes approximately 1h30mins to circumvent the entire island following a well-established trail through the villages, lava formations and beside the beaches. A highlight is often meeting the friendly locals who are always happy to have visitors to their island, while the children like to practice their English. There are also a couple of historical sites to see along the way, as described below.
2. Grave of 99 Stones
The Grave of 99 Stones is located on the 1h30mins trail that circumvents the island. The two-tiered grave, actually translating in Samoan to “Grave of the Missing Stone”, is dedicated to the high chief Vaovasa who was killed after the unsuccessful attempt to abduct his 100th wife from Upolu. The missing stone at the centre of the formation is said to represent his missing wife. Find this site in Lepuia’i village on the south end of the island.
3. Mt Tulimanuiva and the Star Mound
One of Samoa’s fascinating ancient star mounds, the Star Mound on Manono is one of the best examples and easiest to access. Although no one knows the true purpose of these 12-pointed rocky mounds shaped like a star, it is estimated that they were built up to 1,000 years ago.
The one on Manono is located at the top of the 110 m (361 ft)-high Mt Tulimanuiva, which takes about 1h30mins to 2 hours-return to hike to. At the site, you’ll also find the grave of Afutiti, who was buried standing upright so that he could “keep a watch” over the island. Learn more about hiking here in the 15 Best Walks & Hikes in Samoa.
The snorkelling off Manono is outstanding even if some of the coral is still recovering from the 2009 tsunami. Boat trips are included with stays at Sunset View Fales taking you out to Aggie’s Reef for a chance to see turtles, rays, reef sharks and an abundance of colourful fish. You also get the opportunity to snorkel on kayaking tours with Outdoor Samoa, while Pure Ocean on Upolu provides snorkelling and scuba diving trips off the coast of Manono.
5. Culture Tours
The day tours listed below are particularly good at demonstrating some of the cultural aspects of Manono, from tours of a typical Samoan home and where they cook to introducing you to villagers who are often eager to show visitors around. Those staying on the island will be treated to traditional island meals, such as an umu – food cooked in a hot-rock oven.
6. Trips to Nu’ulopa
Accommodations on the island, as well as kayaking tours with Outdoor Samoa, can take you on a trip to the neighbouring island of Nu’ulopa. Also known as “Bat Island”, the island does, indeed, have a colony of bats/flying foxes. It’s also an excellent place for a swim and a snorkel. Learn more about it in The Travel Guide to Nu’ulopa.
7. Church Choir
Whether it’s on a late Saturday afternoon during choir practice or at church during the 10 am Sunday service, listening to the melodies of the island’s locals is an experience not to be missed.
8. Apai Beach
Towards the northwest side of Manono, Apai is the village offering the best beach, should you need an excuse to cool off.
9. No Cars and No Dogs!
You won’t believe what a difference this makes until you get to Manono. Instead of vehicle sounds and being scared that you’re going to get chased by dogs down the walking trail (which is often a thing on Upolu), you can listen to the birds and the water lapping onto the shore.
10. Watch the Beautiful Sunset
Needless to say, the views from the Sunset View Fales is unmatched during sunset. With unobstructed scenery across the lagoon, either sunrise or sunset is heavenly on Manono.
Day Tours to Manono Island
Should you be on limited time, or you simply want the ease of a local guide to sort out the logistics and share their knowledge of the island, several day trips are available to Manono.
Samoa Scenic Tours
With accommodation transfers and boat transfers included, your trip to Manono couldn’t be easier than with Samoa Scenic Tours. Upon reaching the island, a host family takes you on a tour of their compound to show where traditional cooking is done and where food crops are grown, getting to sample some for yourself.
You’ll then spend the rest of the afternoon walking through the villages, stopping at a beach for your included lunch, swimming and relaxing before the transfer back to your accommodation.
The tour runs from 9:30 am until 4 pm, Monday to Saturday. Note that a minimum of two guests are required for the tour to go ahead.
Should you want a more active way to explore Manono, join Outdoor Samoa for a kayaking tour across the lagoon from Upolu to the island. Choose whether you want to take a kayak route completely within the reef or partially outside for a chance to see turtles along the way. Either way, it takes approximately two hours to make this exciting journey.
You can choose to either spend just a short time on the island, then paddle back and snorkel within the lagoon (or take a boat back). Alternatively, you can choose an overnight/multi-day package which means you have enough time to paddle to Nu’ulopa Island the next day.
Le Vasa Resort
With the perfect position in Manono-uta village to access the islands of the Apolima Strait, Le Vasa Resort is a worthy option for a day trip to Manono. They offer two tour options: with or without snorkelling. Without snorkelling, the tour lasts 2h30mins to 3 hours including a guided walk around the island and a picnic lunch. Alternatively, enjoy the tour described plus a snorkelling trip to make the experience last a total of 3h30mins.
Note that a minimum of two guests are required for the tour to go ahead.
More About Manono and Samoa
That’s it for our complete travel guide to Manono. For more of the less-explored islands to visit, check out the following guides:
- The Travel Guide to Apolima: Things to Do, How to Get There & More
- The Travel Guide to Nu’ulopa: Things to Do, How to Get There & More
- The Travel Guide to Aleipata Islands: Nu’utele, Namu’a, Fanuatapa & Nu’uala