Visiting Samoa: Which is Better, Upolu or Savai'i?
Visiting Samoa: Which is Better, Upolu or Savai'i?

Visiting Samoa: Which is Better, Upolu or Savai’i?


Upolu Vs. Savai’i: Which to Choose for a Vacation in Samoa?

The two main islands that people visit in Samoa are Upolu and Savai’i. But which one is the best? This comparison between Upolu and Savai’i goes through the main differences and why you might like to choose one over the other.

Upolu and Savai’i aren’t the only islands in Samoa though! See The Best Islands to Visit in Samoa for more information about some of the other awesome destinations in Samoa.

Upolu Vs. Savai’i for…

Families: Upolu
Couples: Upolu
Backpackers: Savai’i
Beaches: Upolu
Resorts: Upolu
Beach fales: Savai’i
Hiking: Upolu
Snorkelling: Savai’i
Scuba diving: Upolu
Turtle swimming: Savai’i
Bird watching: Savai’i
Surfing: Upolu
Caving: Savai’i
Waterfalls: Upolu
Culture: Savai’i
Serenity: Savai’i

Visiting Samoa: Which is Better, Upolu or Savai'i?©

About Upolu

Upolu is the most popular island to visit and here are the main reasons why: it is the easiest to visit in Samoa as it’s home to the nation’s only international airport and the only port of entry, and it is the most populated island, which means there is more of a workforce to maintain a tourism industry here. But hey, we bet those facts didn’t get you dreaming nor really convince you to visit, so let’s get down to the real reasons why you’ll want to choose to visit Upolu over Savai’i…

Although Upolu is the arrival island for international flights and cruises to Samoa, it would be a shame to miss if you were to hop straight onto the next ferry for Savai’i. Upolu is home to some of Samoa’s most iconic attractions, such as To Sua Ocean Trench and many of its waterfalls, while there’s also a cosmopolitan culture of cafes, restaurants, shops and spas in the capital, Apia.

Tourist activities range from epic inland adventures on ATVs to abseiling down waterfalls and so much in between – just check out the 50 Best Things to Do on Upolu. Although sightseeing is a major thing to do on both Upolu and Savai’i, Upolu offers a lot more alternative tours and experiences.

There is also a wide range of places to stay, from an adults-only resort to family-friendly hotels, as well as an array of Samoa’s iconic beach fales. You have a lot more opportunities to find the perfect accommodation compared to Savai’i. Have a browse of Where to Stay on Upolu: The Best Upolu Accommodations for more of an idea.

So, if you’re looking for ease, a good balance of adventure and relaxation, a variety of things to do beyond sightseeing, cosmopolitan culture in the capital, and the most choice of accommodations, choose Upolu. Start your travel planning with The Complete Travel Guide to Upolu.

Visiting Samoa: Which is Better, Upolu or Savai'i?©

About Savai’i

At first glance, Savai’i is very similar to Upolu; it’s a large volcanic island awash in coastal villages with a proud Samoan culture. That’s where the similarities end, however, as those who visit will inevitably discover the pace of life is a lot slower and more relaxed here; where finding yourself alone exploring its lava fields, caves or beaches is a fairly common occurrence.

Although the tourism industry is a lot smaller, you will still find variety when it comes to accommodations, from the rare but complete resort experience to the more frequent beach fales offering true local hospitality. While there’s much less choice, especially in the resort and hotel sector, standards are also perhaps a little lower than what nitpickers are comfortable with. Have a look at Where to Stay on Savai’i: The Best Savai’i Accommodations.

In terms of things to do, sightseeing at the island’s lava fields solidified through historical villages, impressive blowholes and amazing lava tubes are just some of the experiences you won’t find (easily) on Upolu. Alternative activities are lacking in comparison to Upolu, but you’ll still be able to do scuba diving (seasonal), for example, while the best cultural demonstrations and plantation tours can also be found on Savai’i. Have a browse of the 50 Best Things to Do on Savai’i for more ideas.

There certainly isn’t the cosmopolitan vibe that Upolu has with Apia. Savai’i’s main hub, Salelologa only has a handful of eateries, while the market may seem a bit of a disappointment compared to the elaborate markets in Apia. But, like Upolu, dining options are extremely limited once you leave the main hub, with most travellers having to rely on their accommodations for sustenance.

All in all, if you want to get away from it all; experience stunning natural island beauty away from the crowds, and enjoy authentic cultural experiences, then Savai’i would be better to visit than Upolu. Start planning your trip with The Complete Travel Guide to Savai’i.

Visiting Samoa: Which is Better, Upolu or Savai'i?©

Which is the Best Island to Visit, Upolu or Savai’i?

Ideally, visit both. Both of these islands are small enough to experience most of what you’ll want to do within five days, so if you have 10-14 days in Samoa, we highly recommend visiting both to experience two different sides of the country and to keep things interesting. See The Best Samoa Itineraries for 10 Days and The Best Samoa Itineraries for 14 Days for trip ideas.

If you only have, say five or seven days in Samoa, this is where you’ll need to make a choice. Stay on Upolu if you want a resort holiday, want to see the iconic To Sua Ocean Trench and waterfalls, and are interested in exploring Samoa’s capital. On the other hand, visit Savai’i if your style of travel is getting off the beaten track, experiencing a more authentic slice of life, want to experience caves and blowholes, and would prefer to stay in beach fales.

More About Upolu and Savai’i

Want more ways to compare Upolu and Savai’i? Check out the following guides:

Finally, compare all of the islands using What are the 10 Islands in Samoa?


Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Samoa Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in the South Pacific over 10 years ago with nothing but a backpack and a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to explore a paradise such as Samoa. She knows the islands inside out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience Upolu and Savai’i’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also the editor of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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