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Once you experience the tropical paradise of Samoa while on a cruise to Australia and New Zealand, you’ll be quickly enamored by the South Pacific. Most people come here for the beaches, but Apia is a hidden gem where some of Samoa’s best beaches are just a short car ride away. If you’ve ever heard of the American reality TV show “Survivor,” you’ve likely seen some of the Samoan landscape featured in this long-running series, which has been shot on the island.
Apia cruises offer travelers a unique glimpse into daily life in the South Pacific. Beachy and ideal for nature lovers, in Apia you can swim, snorkel, and sunbathe while surrounded by lush rainforest. Get in touch with your inner kid when you slide down the Papaseea Sliding Rocks, natural water slides formed by rock formations. Or spend an afternoon learning about the famous author Robert Louis Stevenson at the museum dedicated to him in Apia. No matter how you choose to enjoy your cruise to Samoa, there’s plenty of fine dining, nature excursions, and quaint local markets to keep you occupied.
If you’re unfamiliar with Samoan culture and history, the Samoa Cultural Village on Beach Road is your best bet for experiencing a thoughtful dive into Apia’s rich traditions. There are demonstrations on tatau, or Samoan tattooing practices, weaving, woodworking, and dance.
On a cruise to Samoa, don’t miss the Piula Cave Pool, one of the area’s top natural attractions. It’s about a 45-minute drive from the center of Apia. The water is crystalline and sparkling, and you can usually see down into the bottom of the pool. Swim in the cool waters, even exploring deep into the cave, and bring a snorkel.
Apia’s 24-hour market on Fugalei Street is a shopper and souvenir searcher’s dream, where the bustle of the market means your shopping experience is bound to be exciting. Locals mostly shop for produce at Maketi Fou, but souvenirs, colorful sarongs, and locally made jewelry aren’t too far out of sight. To stay hydrated, enjoy a drink from a local coconut.
Just a 15-minute drive from the center of Apia are the fun (and slick) Papaseea Sliding Rocks, naturally formed water slides made from thousands of years of water running against the rocks. Slide in, swim, and cool off on a hot Samoan afternoon. They’re open Monday through Saturday.
Beloved author of classics like “Treasure Island” and “Kidnapped,” Robert Louis Stevenson lived in Apia for several years before his death. A 45-minute guided tour of the mansion offers tidbits about his life and his work, and why Samoa had a glamorous lure for the Stevenson family. Head up the base of Mt. Vaea to see where Stevenson is buried and catch stunning panoramic views of Apia below.
The rocky Vaiala Beach isn’t the white sandy version you might be used to from other stops in Australia and New Zealand, but that means it’s a much more rustic, undisturbed beach for hammocking, swimming, and relaxing. Nearby at the Palolo Marine Reserve, you can snorkel and see the local sea life.
Pacific Jewell's Garden Cafe
Address: Levili Village, Apia, Upolu 0685, Samoa
Enjoy the outdoor seating of this quaint garden cafe, where fresh salads, sandwiches, and wraps are menu staples. Brunch items like waffles and banana pancakes are popular, too. Pacific Jewell’s frequently makes “best of” lists in Apia. Come early for lunch because the cafe closes at 3pm.
Address: Main Beach Rd | Matautu-Tai, Apia, Upolu 1790, Samoa
Family-owned Paddles is one of Apia’s must-visit restaurants. It has a bit of cult status among tourists for its harborside sunset views and quality ingredients. The dishes are a mix of Samoan and Italian, so you’ll see menu items like shrimp curry and gnocchi and desserts like panna cotta.
Address: Mulivai Street, Apia, Upolu, Samoa
There’s a lot to choose from at Nourish Cafe, whether you’re looking for Polynesian classics or comfort foods like fish and chips. They source ingredients locally to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes like sweet and savory crepes, fish tacos, and vegetarian and vegan options for all kinds of taste buds.
Address: Corner of Main Beach Road & Fugalei Street | Savalalo, Apia, Upolu, Samoa
If you’re looking for more upscale dining in Apia, check out the romantic Bistro Tatau downtown. They have extensive wine lists, and the dinner menu heavily features fresh catches from lemon pepper fish to seared tuna on a bed of creamy risotto. Try the classic ribeye or the creative papaya and tomato curry.
Apia was founded in the 1850s and became the capital of Samoa in 1959. Before that, native populations lived on the islands for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans. When the Europeans came to Samoa, they brought diseases that greatly hurt the populations living in Apia and the surrounding areas. In the 1800s, Germans, British, and American colonizers all fought for occupation, which made the Apia harbor more popular than ever. Finally, in 1962, Samoa declared independence from New Zealand, and each June, Samoa has a celebration in honor of the country’s independence.
Cruise ships usually dock at Matautu Wharf. It’s about a 20-minute walk into the center of town from the cruise port. There are also typically plenty of taxis roaming the streets here. To get to the area’s beaches from the cruise port, a taxi is your best bet. There’s also a tourist information center at the wharf with maps and other relevant information.
Apia, Samoa is a taxi town, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a street that doesn’t have a taxi nearby. Taxis are typically very affordable in the area. You can arrange multiple stops with one taxi driver if you want to visit multiple sights in Apia. There’s also a city-wide bus system available for getting around.
The farmers markets in Apia are frequented by locals looking to buy fresh produce, fish, and other specialty items. Near the beaches, you’ll find grocery stores and supermarkets to buy snacks and beverages for your South Pacific beach day.
The Samoan dollar is called the tala, where one tala is 100 sene (cents). When you’re headed on a cruise to Samoa, be sure to carry cash with you, as credit cards and debit cards are unreliably accepted once you go beyond the more urban areas. There are ATMs in Apia, but it’s recommended you get to them earlier in the day to get the bills you need. Tipping isn’t regular practice in Samoa, either, except if you’re dining at an upscale restaurant, where a 10% tip is very appreciated.