Where to Stay on Upolu’s Southeastern Coast
Saletoga Sands is a lovely resort on the Southeastern coast of Upolu between Utulaelae and Matatufu. If I had my time to do over in Samoa, I might have stayed all four days here. The resort offers an airport transfer for a fee and has a variety of tours. For anyone who wants more freedom, they also rent both cars and scooters. Having seen the potholed roads, I’d stick to a car.
I spent two days in Apia, the capital of Samoa, and rented a car from Talofa Inn in order to get to the southeastern coast. The rainy weather wasn’t too conducive to beach going so I made a handful of stops along the Cross Island Road which cuts across the middle of the island.
Baha’i House of Worship
My first stop was at Baha’i House of Worship. The structure with nine entrances is one of only eight in the world. It is where followers of the Baha’i Faith worship. The religion began in Persia in 1844 with the Báb, a merchant who declared God would send a prophet in the same way manner of Jesus. In 1863, Baha’u’lláh announced he was the prophet and spread the teachings of the Báb.
The Báb was publicly executed at the age of 30 and Baha’u’lláh spent much of his life in prison or exile, the beliefs of the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of humanity were passed on to their descendants. Somehow, I have never heard of this religion, but found their message that there should be harmony between all religions, races, classes as well as between education, science and religion, very practical.
They don’t have many places of worship. Much of their discussions take place in people’s home as there is no clergy leadership. It is up to the individuals to learn the faith though there is an elected body for administrative purposes.
The religion came to Samoa via an Australian named Lilian Wyss. Construction on The House of Worship began in 1984. It turns out that I arrived on the beautifully manicured grounds while they were preparing for the 200th anniversary of the birth of Báb. The girls, practicing their dances for the 7pm celebration, invited me to come.
The Baha’i House of Worship was too far from Saletoga Sands Resorts for me to feel comfortable driving on the opposite side of the pot-holed road in pitch darkness as people walk along both edges and vehicles tend to drive down the middle. Otherwise, it probably would have been an interesting event to see.
Not much further along the Cross Island Road is the Papapapaitai Falls, which is simply an overlook with lovely falls in the distance. Trip Advisor reviews had complained about trash in the pullout, but when I visited the parking area was very clean and included a trash can. It was a nice quick stop where a few friendly dogs said hello.
Continuing south I visited the O Le Pupu-Pue National Park Ma Tree. When coming from Apia there is an entrance on the right-hand side of the road for a coastal walk. A little farther is the entrance to the visitors center. A bumpy gravel road splits to the right and the left. The fork to the left leads to toilets and an unmanned visitors center with a sign in book. The right leads to a parking area for a short hike to the Togitogiga Falls.
The short trail travels upriver through the jungle to a double cascade. The water level changes based on the weather and the waterfall may range from a trickle to raging. The correct amount of water provides a slide and a swimming hole. I, along with a French couple visited when the river was raging. There was definitely no swimming with water covering the base of the staircase which leading down to the bank.
Perhaps there would have been enough water at Papaseea Sliding Rocks for a visit yesterday despite recent reviews of no water, but other reviews discussed dangerous conditions, stolen wallets, and flash floods, so it was probably still good to skip while solo traveling.
The O Le Pupu-Pue National Park Ma Tree was my final stop before reaching Saletoga Sands Resort. Upon turning on the the Main South Coast Road, I passed through countless villages. At each village, the road was lined with plants, flag posts, coconuts, and decorative tires painted in white, just to name a few items marking each town.
Families own all the land in Samoa. Their basic home, often with no water or electricity, pair with a giant, open air meeting house where the locals rest in the breeze. With a simple life, few expenses, and land to grow crops for food, many of the Samoans do not have to work, though I did meet several hard working locals at the New Zealand owned Saletoga Sands Resort.
Saletoga Sands Resorts
In exchange for an upgrade to a beach front room, I agreed to write a review of the resort. My opinion below, however, is not influenced by the upgrade. I truly loved this property, which I booked through hotels.com. I selected the “pay later” option, which I don’t recommend as the resort expects a payment a month before arrival which is a pain with faulty, secure links. Ultimately, they let me pay upon arrival. In addition a credit card fee is applied as with most places in the Pacific Islands.
Beyond the payment challenge, my stay at the resort was wonderful. The room, with floor to ceiling glass windows and door provided a magnificent view of the ocean. It’s definitely worth upgrading to a beach front villa from a garden room. While the wending paths through the impeccable garden provide a nice atmosphere for any stay, the beach villas benefit from the cooling breeze off the ocean.
Those who prefer a ceiling fan and natural air may open the shutters to screened windows. Anyone who likes a colder room may switch on the air conditioning. The bathroom, with two sinks, also includes an indoor and outdoor shower.
While the large room is very nice, I spent most of my time taking advantage of the free kayaks and snorkeling. Kayakers may paddle around in a large bay area roped off with buoys.
The best place to snorkel is to the right of the third post that extends from the dock. The fish life on the shallow coral reef is quite nice and includes starfish, clams, clownfish, giant triggerfish and more.
In addition to ocean activities, there is also a pool, small gym, and tiny spa providing something for everyone.
The resort features two restaurants and a bar. Daily happy hour takes place at the small out door bar overlooking the sea. The restaurant near the water serve lunch and a casual dinner with limited, but very good options.
A nicer dinner option is available under the large fale by the lobby. This is also the breakfast buffet area which includes an array of fruit, breads, sweet rolls, yogurt, and cereals. The continental breakfast is included in the price of the room.
Guest may reserve a space for fiafia night which is every Wednesday. The price includes a buffet of traditional Samoan food and a dance show. The dance group has won the best production in Samoa the last three years. My reservation got messed up, though they still seated me alone at a table. Fortunately, Sarah and Alister, who I met while snorkeling earlier in the day, invited me to sit with them.
The only things missing from the resort is television, DVD’s only, and WiFi which may be purchased, but is only available in the warm lobby. For unlocked phones, there is a SIM card option. I have free unlimited data with my cell phone plan, so though intermittent and slow, I used that.
As I previously mentioned, the resort offers several tours including visiting the Apia markets, swimming at Togitogiga Falls, Papaseea Sliding Rocks and the To Sua Ocean Trench.
To Sua Ocean Trench
Since I rented a car, I didn’t join any tours. Instead, I took a day to visit the southeastern coast of Upolu on my own. My first stop was at the To Sua Ocean Trench just a few miles east of the resort. I expected I’d stay only 30 minutes and not really get my money’s worth for $20 Tala.
Boy was I wrong! I stayed a few hours and could have stayed longer if I didn’t want to see more of the island. Obviously, the main attraction is the To Sua which means giant swimming hole, but the beautiful gardens, tide pools and blow holes invite guests to explore the grounds and relax in surrounding fales.
I was the first to arrive to the emerald pool, thirty meters deep and accessible by a steep ladder. As a result, I had the hole which is fed by the ocean through an underwater lava tube all to myself for 45 minutes.
I swam with the surge of the surf while briefly exploring the tunnel that leads to To Le Sua, a dry hole nearby, and then did some snorkeling. Though there weren’t too many tropical fish, four blennies, who normally hide in there holes all rested on top of the rock. It was a treat to see.
Tide Pools and Blow Holes
Once more visitors arrived, I climbed out to see other parts of the property. Stairs lead down to some tide pools and impressive blow holes. I really enjoyed meandering through the manicured gardens while checking out the coastal view.
Lalomanu Beach Fales
After a few hours at To Sua Ocean Trench, I continued along the Main South Coast Road toward the Lalomanu Beach Fales and Aleipata Islands. The road intermittently changed between paved, pot-holed, and dirt with some maneuvering required.
Though Lalomanu Beach certainly is picturesque, I quickly realized, the resort with lounge chairs and an air-conditioned room would be more comfortable. So after enjoying the scenic drive, I returned for some kayaking and snorkeling and wished I had more than 1.5 days at Saletoga Sands.
The following morning, I was flying to Tonga so I returned the rental car after driving a different route back toward the north coast of Upolu along Le Mata Pass and Richardson Road. The views of farmland land with the ocean in the distance were just stunning. The scenic drive was a nice way to end my short visit to Samoa. To be continued in Tonga…ETB