If you want a warm break in winter, enjoy cycling, and only have a week to spare, then consider circumnavigating Savai’i – ‘the big island’ of Samoa. Bruce and Karen Yarnton did, and shared their experience with us…
Our plan was to cycle five of the six full days in Samoa, leaving one day for lounging on the coral sand and snorkelling in the lagoon. We traveled in June, when the average temperature was a high of 31deg C, so we planned to start early each morning and have the day’s cycling over with before the heat really set in.
Circumnavigating Savai’i is a trip of approx 220km around the perimeter road, and the daily distances we planned to cycle ranged from 40km to 70km. Most people who do the trip choose to cycle anti-clockwise, and the first 2/3 of the coastline has plenty of accommodation to choose from offering dinner, bed and breakfast.
On hand with as much or as little help as you need is Outdoor Samoa Cycle Tours. They will make your bookings, rent your bikes, and transport your gear depending on your requirements.
Day 1 – Arrival
We boarded our Air NZ flight to Samoa looking forward to seven days of sun, sea and cycling. We arrived in Apia about 1.30 local time, and were picked up by the Outdoor Samoa shuttle and transferred to their base about 20 minutes from the airport. After a bike fit and orientation, we cycled the quick 3km to the ferry to catch the 4pm ferry from Upolo to Savai’i, topping up bottled water along the way. This was a tight timeframe, as it was the last ferry for the day (make sure you get the fast ferry, by the way).
On arrival in Savai’i we were meet by Ray, who would transport our bags daily. We had six in our group, so Outdoor Samoa had given us a spare bike which travelled with our luggage. As it gets dark early (no daylight saving) it’s less safe to cycle after about 6pm, so we had scheduled only a quick 10 km ride to our first night’s accommodation at Savai’ian Hotel.
Day 2 – 38km and mostly flat
We set off at 8am, with the temperature already around 25 degrees. This was a very interesting coastline and a great introduction to village life: schools, enormous churches, local stores, roaming dogs and pigs. Every few minutes, small children would call out from their fales ‘bai-bai’ and wave frantically as we rode past; we spotted a group of ladies weaving mats who didn’t mind us watching for a while.
Our bags were waiting for us at Vacations Resort, where we slept in fales three steps from the coral sand beach and five steps from the crystal clear lagoon. (This was a busy stretch of resorts and accommodation with nearby sports bars, where you can watch NZ rugby if you like).
Day 3 – over 45km to Vaisala
Each morning started with a swim before breakfast and a feast of pawpaws and bananas. This day’s cycling covered a few more hills; it was also the hottest day, so we were continually stopping at roadside stores for extra water. These charming paw paw sellers made quite an impression!
Day 4 – more hills and on to Satuiatua
This was a Sunday, which means the shops are open only for a short time in the morning. Luckily we had planned ahead and stockpiled the water for the day. As we passed through several villages, we saw what an important part church plays in local life.
Falealupo is an optional loop at the tip of Sava’i island – we didn’t ride it this time, but we hear it’s very worthwhile and the accommodation is recommended. Our night was spent at Satuiatua Beach Fales, which offer basic accommodation in a million dollar setting.
Day 5 – Rest Day
A chance to charge up the batteries and enjoy the beach. Satuiatua Beach is a bit tidal but the neighbouring beach was ideal for all-day snorkeling.
Day 6 – the home straight back to Salelologa via the blowholes
This was the longest day’s riding, at 55km with optional side rides, and took us through more rural scenery than other days. We rode for several hours in heavy rain, which was very pleasant, and a bakery along the way was an added attraction not to be missed (pineapple pie!).
When we arrived in Salelologa, the markets were still up and running, with plenty of fruit and veges and a great selection of crafts to explore. Lusia’s Lagoon Chalets, located in a deep water lagoon, were a perfect spot to spend our last night.
Day 7 – back to Upolu to return the bikes
We ferried back to the island of Upolu, and Outdoor Samoa shuttled us back in to busy Apia. We found Apia not nearly as bike-friendly as Sava’ii, alas, with the traffic being much faster, the roads much busier and motorists not as respectful. But the Apia Markets are not to be missed, especially the fish markets, and the police marching up the main street at 9am each day with the band playing was a highlight. Also, Paddles restaurant was recommended to us and certainly lived up to its reputation (be sure to book!).
All in all, it was a marvellous week: the roads were excellent – all sealed – the scenery was gorgeous, and the people were ultra-friendly. We’d thoroughly recommend a bike tour around Sava’i to anyone looking for a break and an adventure on wheels.
— Bruce and Karen Yarnton