Samoa Flag

Samoa Travel Guide

The North Coast

The road around the island continues past Asau, the main supply center on the north side of Savai'i. There's good holding for yachts in the well-protected small boat harbor in Asau Bay, but the channel is subject to silting, so seek local advice before attempting to enter. The breakwater protecting Asau Bay is actually an old American airstrip dating from World War Two and now washed out. Asau wharf is seldom used and the large sawmill is now closed. Like Salelologa, Asua is an uninteresting place unworthy of more than a brief stop on your way around the island.

From Asau, the paved road turns inland and climbs around a lava flow dating from an eruption in 1760. Very serious hikers can ascend Mt. Silisili (1,858 meters), Samoa's highest peak, from Aopo, 24 km east of Asau. The mountaintop isn't visible from the north coast road. The trail into the Aopo Conservation Area begins on the east side of the village and passes through some of the best bird-watching territory in Samoa.

The charge for the three-day trip includes a guide. A tent and warm clothing will be required. Accommodations in the village are easily arranged. Peapea Cave, a lava tube that runs under the highway five km northeast of Aopo, has an admission fee. A roadside stall here often has coconuts and pineapples for sale.

Soon after you rejoin the coast, you reach Matavai, 9.5 km northeast of Peapea Cave. The Matavai Pool here is fed by a strong freshwater spring (mata ole alelo) and male visitors can swim for a small fee. A fale is provided for resting. Ask a local to tell you the legend of "Sina and the spirit eel" associated with the pool. Robert Flaherty's classic, Moana of the South Seas (1926), was filmed in nearby Safune.

Banyan Tree
Banyan trees are an important element in Savai'i's vegetation.

You'll find more freshwater pools (vaisafe'e) at Safotu village, three km east of Matavai. Three huge churches stand in a row in Safotu: Catholic, Congregational, and Methodist. A picturesque beach lined with small dugout fishing canoes is opposite the signposted "crater" road just west of the Catholic church.

Three km south of Safotu is Paia village with a lava tube (nu'uletau), the "short people's cave," three km farther inland. You'll need guides and kerosene lamp to visit it (fee charged per group). People of small stature are said to live inside.

A grassy road beginning beside the Mormon church in Paia leads eight km south to the crater of Mt. Matavanu (402 meters), which the locals call mata ole afi (eye of the fire). This was the source of the 1905-1911 volcanic outbreak that covered much of northeast Savai'i with black lava. On the way up you'll be charged admission by the "crater man" who will act as your guide. Otherwise, you don't really need a guide to find the crater—just look for a trail to the left where the road dips, about two and a half hours out of Paia. Beware of deep crevices and crumbling edges as you near the crater; they have claimed at least one life.

The main north coast tourist resorts, Stevenson's, Tanu Beach, and Jane's, are only four km east of the turnoff to Paia at Safotu. The reef here has been damaged by humans walking on top of it and you may find the snorkeling a little disappointing. From May to October a safe, though exposed, yacht anchorage is found at Matautu Bay, two km farther east.

It's possible to swim with a dozen captive green and hawksbill sea turtles in a large pool at Satoalepai for a fee. Riding or holding up the turtles isn't allowed. The sign on the road says "swimming turtles".

Continue to   Around Savai'i: Lava Field   »