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Apia, Samoa

Apia is the capital of Samoa. It is on the island of Upolu and has a population of around 40,000.

Apia was founded in the 1850s and has been the official capital of Samoa since 1959. The harbour was the site of an infamous naval standoff in 1889 when 7 ships from Germany, the US, and Britain refused to leave the harbour when a typhoon was approaching, for fear of losing face. All the ships were sunk, except for one British cruiser. Nearly 200 American and German lives were lost. During the struggle for independence in the early 1900s, organised by the Mau movement, a peaceful gathering in the town resulted in the killing of the paramount chief Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III and ten others by New Zealand police on 28 December 1929.

As with most Pacific Island capitals, Apia is a little shabby and run down. Reasonably small in size and with few obvious... Read more

Apia, Samoa


Apia is the capital of Samoa. It is on the island of Upolu and has a population of around 40,000.

Apia was founded in the 1850s and has been the official capital of Samoa since 1959. The harbour was the site of an infamous naval standoff in 1889 when 7 ships from Germany, the US, and Britain refused to leave the harbour when a typhoon was approaching, for fear of losing face. All the ships were sunk, except for one British cruiser. Nearly 200 American and German lives were lost. During the struggle for independence in the early 1900s, organised by the Mau movement, a peaceful gathering in the town resulted in the killing of the paramount chief Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III and ten others by New Zealand police on 28 December 1929.

As with most Pacific Island capitals, Apia is a little shabby and run down. Reasonably small in size and with few obvious attractions, Apia is very useful as an initial stop-off point for first time visitors to get their bearings, plan travel around the island of Upolu, organise accommodation on the beach, and recover from jet lag. The vast majority of Samoa's highlights can be found outside this town, although most are within a very short drive.

Tourist information

The Samoa Tourism Authority1 manages an information centre offering maps, brochures and other information for tourists.

  • STA Visitor Information Fale, Beach Rd, Matafele (next to the government building on the harbour), ☎ +685 63520, +685 63521 (info@samoa.travel, fax: +685 20886), 2. 9-5pm Monday to Friday and 8am-12pm Saturday morning.  

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Apia, Samoa: Port Information

Apia is located on the central north coast of marvelous island Upolu and is the capital of Samoa.
Cruise ships dock at the busy port of Apia harbor.
The city center is near, after the 20-minute walk, you'll be right at your destination. Or you can hire a car or take a taxi for a tour around or go to the center. 

Get around Apia, Samoa

Much of Apia is within walking distance, although this may not be a comfortable experience on a hot and humid Samoan Day. Another thing to consider is the number of aggressive dogs towards dusk and in the evening. A walk from the suburbs into the centre is best avoided at any time for this reason. Most households have a dog, and even an innocent walk past their driveway could encourage an attack. Culling prior to the South Pacific Games (Aug 2007) reduced the numbers in the centre of town.

Taxis are cheap, safe and easy to hail down but single women are advised to sit in the back seat, particularly if wearing a short skirt.

Buses fan out to the whole of Upolu from downtown Apia.

What to see in Apia, Samoa

  • Robert Louis Stevenson's House, 3. 09.00-16.00 Mon-Fri; 09.00-12.00 Sat.. About 5 km south of town in the village of Vailima. This was built by RLS during the final years of his life, which he spent in Apia. It is now a very well-kept museum with a good collection of items either originally from the home or equivalents. 
  • Robert Louis Stevenson's grave, at the top of Mt. Vaea overlooking the home, is best visited in the early morning. As long as there has not been a lot of rain the longer and shallower path takes about an hour and is an easy walk. The steep path downhill is an option if it has been dry recently. Take water. From the grave, there are good views to the east and across the Pacific. There is no charge to climb to the grave.
  • Aggie Grey's ''Fia Fia'', Aggie Grey's Hotel, ☎ (685) 22880 (aggiegreys@aggiegreys.ws). Every Wednesday evening. This is a must-see. Traditional Samoan dancing, singing, drumming, and the amazing fire-knife dance! Fia fia literally means "happy," although it really means "party hearty". As long as you're there you might as well splurge on Aggie's buffet dinner, which is very good. This isn't the only fia fia in Samoa, but it is the best. All the performers work at the hotel. Make sure you keep both your main course and desert tickets. 
  • Museum of Samoa. 10.00-16.30 Mon-Fri. Formerly located on the first floor of the courthouse building on Beach road, this museum has been temporarily relocated to the Ministry of Education, Sports & Culture Headquarters. Among other things it has Lapita pottery and stone adze heads, used by the early arrivals to the islands; a good selection of historical photos; information about tatoos, and examples of Samoan birds.  
  • The fish market is worth a visit at 6AM on Sunday morning. This is when the locals go to buy fish for the special meal of the week, Sunday tonai.
  • Mulinu'u peninsula holds parliament house, the law and titles court, the historic observatory, and many important tombs.
  • Vailima Brewery Tour, Vailima, Upolu (10 minute drive west of Apia), ☎ (685) 20 200 (vailima@vailima.ws). Make reservations because tours are only given on certain days. 

What to do in Apia, Samoa

  • A walk along the sea wall is enjoyable. But only on a milder day (i.e. 25 degrees), and not after dusk because of dogs. Many Apians walk along the sea wall in the late afternoon.
  • Palolo Deep Marine Reserve, Vaiala Beach, Apia. The only beach in Apia to the East of the harbour. Not really much a beach, though, it's mostly coral gravel. It's an official underwater park. The snorkeling initially seems pretty poor but if you venture further out (probably a good quarter mile swim) it gets a bit more interesting with the occasional turtle and black tip reef shark. Ask at the entrance where to swim - there's a marker post that helps. If you are stuck in Apia it's not a bad way to kill a few hours or just hang out at the "beach". You can rent snorkels here although it's a good idea to take your own. Also check the tide chart at the gate before you pay, at low tide there is a long paddle out over very sharp coral to get anywhere deep enough to snorkel. 
  • Fishing. Samoa is a popular fishing destination and most of the charter companies operate out of Apia. The Samoan International Game Fishing Association is based near the port and can provide information about boat companies. Every year it runs an International tournament, attracting anglers from all over the world. Fish in the local waters include blue and black marlin, sailfish, yellowfin, and the giant trevally. Charter companies include:
  • Samoa Sport Fishing
  • Troppo Fishing Adventures
  • Golf. Two courses are close to Apia: the Royal Samoan Country Club near Fagalii Airport and a more recent development, the Faleata Country Club, which is close to the sports complex constructed for the South Pacific Games. Guests of Aggie Grey's Hotel get free green fees at the Royal Samoan.

What to eat and drink in Apia, Samoa


Apia has several quite reasonable places to eat. Beer and soft drinks are available at most places.

There are numerous restaurants that cater for locals on a budget and will sell the sort of food that is eaten in the average household. The menu is likely to include chop suey, chicken curry, and mutton flaps. Umu or earth oven cooked local food include roast pig, and the great delicacy, palusami. Palusami is made of onions, and coconut cream with possibly chicken or prawns, all wrapped in a new taro leaf and baked. This is a "must try" and goes well with taro.

Remember that restaurants tend to close early by Western standards and that, with a few exceptions, the restaurants in the big hotels are the only ones open on Sunday. There are no street numbers in Apia so you will have to ask for directions if you do not take a taxi. The town is divided into lots of smaller villages and the restaurant location is given by village, road (e.g. Beach Road, which is a couple of miles long), or the building, which is not much use to foreigners.


  • Amanis Restaurant, (from farmer Joe's supermarket, 200m more inland, on the right just before Tatiana motel), ☎ 25363. Breakfast/Lunch only. Delicious local food by the scoop for takeaway or eat-in. Good Oka! 
  • Hotel Amanaki (on the beach road, towards the Mulinu'u peninsula, the second one after the park) has decent food for decent prices (WST 20 for fish steak w/fries). A popular meeting place for locals and ex-pats.
  • Uncle Bills, (At farmer Joe's supermarket,). Has delicious fish 'n chips. 
  • Up Cross Island Road and just before Vailima (the RLS museum) are the Indian Curry House and Koko Banana, with both offering reasonable food and good views.
  • The Italiano cafe on the beach road, halfway between the the tourist office and Aggie grey's has decent pizzas for 18/27/36 (small/med/large)WS$. A “medium” is enough for 2 ;-)!
  • At the Fish Market you get delicious fush and chups.
  • At the Flea Market and at Marketi Fou there are lots of food stalls selling local food, mostly fried stuff. "The Samoan pancakes" (small fried banana dough balls) are delicious and cost 10 sene each.
  • Marketi Fou, Saleufi Street (Entering Apia from the Airport, turn right at Mr Lava Lava). Mon - Sat. The main produce market in Apia. Operates 6 days a week with a few additional traders on a Saturday. A great selection of local food and exotic fruits, including fresh limes, mango, avacado, pawpaw, pineapple, soursop, breadfruit, coconut, taro, leafy greens, and several varieties of banana (including red ones). Absolutely try the palusami (taro leaves baked in coconut cream). It's a good idea to stock up on fruit here before heading anywhere on the islands.  


  • Swashbucklers Restaurant, at the Yacht Club on Mulinu'u peninsula, ☎ 28584. Tues-Sun from 17.00. Deck overlooking the harbour and serves decent food. Excellent Poke and Sashimi! 
  • Sails Restaurant, Beach Road, Mulinu'u Apia (on the waterfront just past Parliament House), ☎ 20628. M-Sa 11AM till late, Su (dinner only) from 6PM. Oldest restaurant in Apia, now in its new location. Excellent food—steaks, seafood salads, and pastas—and well priced. Jazz nights, huge deck overlooking the harbour, very friendly service. 
  • The Seafood Gourmet near the wharf has good food for reasonable prices and provides a view over the harbor.


  • Paddles, (Far end of Beach Road close to the harbor.), ☎ 21819. Popular, if slightly overrated, Italian-style restaurant.  
  • Bistro Tatau, Beach Road, corner of Fugalei St., ☎ 685) 22 727. Monday-Friday 12.00-14.00 and 18.30-21.00. Dinner only on Saturday.. Australian-run restaurant generally agreed to be the best in Apia. Guys running the place reportedly a bit distant. 
  • Apaula Heights has a deck which affords views across the eastern part of Apia and the Pacific. It is a must for a full-moon night. The food is above average standard for Apia and prices range from tala 30-70 a main course.
  • Giordano's, Falealili St (2km south of Beach Road on the Cross Island Road). As name suggests, an Italian restaurant, popular for its pizza.  
  • Tu-I-Moana cafe and bistro in Beach Road near the flea market in the new multi-storey building. Good food and a bar with a live band.
  • The Hotel Millenia just down the road is a favourite meeting place for locals for a drink and a bite to eat in the late afternoon.
  • The Blue Marlin in Fagali'i (about 3 km east of Apia) has a great view and reasonable food.
  • If you are wandering around town and absolutely stuck for a place to eat, the most westerly and remote McDonalds in the world can be found in central Apia.


Alcohol can be bought at almost all restaurants. Soft drinks and bottled water are generally available and safe. While the purity of the tap water is questionable, all factory-bought ice is safe. It is only later handling that can contaminate it.

  • Kava at the market. (see Samoa)
  • There is a mall (meaning a pedestrian street) in the centre of town with two coffee shops, the Sydney Side Cafe and Cappuccino Vineyard both offering a cafe atmosphere and a great place to sit and watch people passing by.
  • There is a string of bars in the centre of town between the fire station and the Australian High Commission. This is a good area to visit in the late afternoon and early evening but is best left before closing time when things can get a bit troublesome.
  • Le Well liquor store sells a good range of spirits and wines that are much cheaper than buying them by the glass from your hotel.


At the end of 2010 the Apia bar scene had been thrown into some confusion by the puritanical tendencies of the Prime Minister, who was trying to get them closed by 22.00. Given the confusion opening hours are not specified here. You should check when you arrive. All bars are closed on Sundays.

  • Hennie's Sports Bar, Fugalei (opposite Hennie's Motel). Large screens for watching sport with occasionally loud bands that disturb the neighbours.  
  • Mount Vaea Nightclub, Vaitele St. Fairly rough place that can get so crowded you can hardly move. Good place to connect with locals of the opposite sex. Cover charge after 20.00.  
  • On the Rocks, Beach Road (just west of the Clock Tower). Well-established cocktail bar, often with some attractive Samoan girls seeking the "company" of foreign tourists.  
  • The RSA Club on Beach Road is a local club that tends to be a bit rough and ready and caters to an older, beer-drinking clientele, but is a great way to meet locals and chat.

Shopping in Apia, Samoa

Markets in Apia are host to many interesting stalls and locally made souvenirs. Note, however, that many of the items on sale, such as cloth in Samoan patterns, are actually imported from China.

  • The flea market nearby the fish market to the west of the Clock Tower, sells a variety of local handicrafts and imported items.
  • The new market or marketi fou is a traditional market selling all sorts of local produce as well as some handicrafts. One section sells kava by the cup.
  • Janet's, Vaea Street, Apia, ☎ +685 23371. 9am to 5pm. Janet's is Samoa's longest serving and best known Gift Shop focused on authentic Samoan and Pacific Made products (clothing, jewelry, crafts, artwork, carvings, home ware etc). It is located in the Lotemau Building on Level 2 in the same complex as the Air New Zealand Office on Vaea Street. McDonald's is also nearby. A landmark of Apia Township and must see. 

Safety in Apia, Samoa

Samoa is generally very safe. Locals who strike up a conversation are unlikely to have sinister motives, which isn't to say you should be complacent.
A major risk in Apia is from dogs. Think of it like packs of wild wolves roaming the town, and you'll get a decent grasp of the severity of the situation. Recent culling has improved matters in the center of town, however it is still a very serious threat. If confronted by a dog or pack of dogs, back away out of their territory. If you have no means of escape, reach down as if you are picking up a rock. Alternatively, carry a pointed object with you such as an umbrella when out walking.
Nearly all of Samoa's nightlife is centered in Apia, and so, like anywhere in the world around closing time, it can get a bit rowdy. Samoans are, on the whole, extremely friendly and despite their size, remarkably relaxed and gentle people. This does not mean you should let your guard down.
The concept on ownership in Polynesia is different. Locals believe in sharing everything, and this does mean that items can be swiped. Do not leave anything of value lying around.

Language spoken in Apia, Samoa

Samoan (Polynesian), English


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September 16, 2019


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