We planned to go to Vanuatu for our island holiday this year but with cyclone Pam, we had to reroute to (Western) Samoa. We were in Samoa for a week at the end of May-beginning of June. Samoa is an hour ahead of New Zealand so if you take an afternoon flight you will arrive in Samoa quite late in the evening. However, the upside of the afternoon flight from Auckland is that you don't have to beat the morning traffic to the airport, you still have time in the morning to pack your last minute necessities, enough time to send those last emails and put your pets in the kennels.
Main Samoan island is Upolu (not in term of size but you know what I mean) which houses Apia, its capital and its international airport, Faleolo International Airport on the west coast about 50 minutes away from Apia.
We landed in Samoa around 8.30 at night and took a small coach transfer to Apia where we stayed for a couple of nights. We chose to stay in Apia for a bit so that we could pick up our rental car and explore the east coast as it would be a much shorter drive.
The ride into Apia was uneventful and we could not see much because it was dark and no street lights but we got a glimpse of the sea and small villages. We hit the hotel by 10.00 - the check-in was smooth but..but...but they did not have hot water after 10.00. Shocking horror, for the price of over 200 bucks a night this was not acceptable. We didn't have a choice as we booked this holiday through Our Pacific and they don't have any other hotel in their book because Sheraton Aggie Grey's in Apia is still a long way to be completed (we initially dealt with Our Pacific with Amy, a wonderful consultant that was on the ball every minute but she left the company mid-April for the better job, I guess. and we ended up with quite a useless replacement). We read less positive reviews of this hotel on TripAdvisor and remembered there were a couple of reviewers mentioning about this hot water (or lack of, to be exact) and we just thought that it might be some technical or electrical glitches but now we can confirm that it's a norm for the hotel as it also happened on the second night.
This little problem, however did not mar the beauty of Samoa and its people. Luckily we didn't stay there for long. Our holiday was much more fun at the Sheraton Aggie Grey's Resort on the west coast. In fact, as we got to know Samoa a little bit better than when we first arrived, this small island nation and its people have grown on us. The people are happy and friendly. Hotel staff were trying to be helpful and didn't hang around for tips.
There are things to be noted for the trip to Samoa:
1. Shop around with Travelling Agents for special deals if you don't want to book everything yourselves. Our Pacific is not the only Pacific Islands specialist in New Zealand.
2. Don't stay at Tanoa Tusitala if you plan to have shower after 10.00 o'clock. You might as well stay at The Amanaki Hotel next door (they are often fully booked - so reserve your room early). They have wonderful food at a very good price and a cute terrace restaurant cat to entertain you.
3. Do eat at Paddles and The Amanaki Hotel in Apia. If you travel south west - do stop for lunch at Return to Paradise Resort. Sinalai and Le Vasa have beautiful setting and views, especially the latter but the views are better than the food in both cases.
4. Do hire a car - 4WD is recommended. Our one was the old beat up Rav4 with so many things that didn't work and it was not clean but it was cheap and it functioned well enough. With a car you do not need to stay in Apia for more than 2 nights as you can drive around no matter where you stay in Upolu. GPS is not required, you only need 4-5 copies of Jason's map (they disintegrated after a while). You will be mobile and have freedom to go places. Speed limits are 56/57 k/hr between villages and 30 k/hr through Apia and villages. The people are laid back so driving here is easy. Do stop for people and animals - and let other vehicles pass if you'd rather enjoy the beautiful scenery.
5. So many good and beautiful things are for free like Baha'i Temple and Papapapaitai Water Falls.
6. If you have to pay entry fee for anything, Robert Louis Stevenson museum is worth it. Not quite so for Falefa Waterfalls.
7. Fia Fia night at the Sheraton Aggie Grey's Resort was fun and the food (Samoan style buffet) was scrumptious. For a-la-carte, Karaage Chicken at the Pacific Restaurant was also wonderful - should have eaten more!
8. Samoans are friendly and collectively moral - don't afraid you'll get lost. People are willing to help with directions.
More to come.....