Samoa is much more than just an excellent place to cycle or kayak. It has coral sand beaches with safe swimming and dramatic coral outcrops teaming with colourful tropical fish. Much of Savaii has a near subsistence economy with strong traditional customs such as mat and tapa cloth making. Fiafias or dance nights in the small villages are events not to be missed.
The 200km ride around the coast of Savaii is a great way to see and experience traditional Samoan village life. Savaii is much less developed than Upolu and cycling provides a natural introduction. Stop and talk to villages, get involved in a game of kilikiti (local cricket), join a weaving group or just chat to locals in the fresh water pools or small village shops. Every night is on a sandy beach beside a calm lagoon with good, safe snorkelling.
The coastal route is sealed with a few hills but little traffic and the road passes the main attractions of the Alofaaga blowholes and the Afu Aau waterfalls.
Alternatively cycle the 160kms around Eastern and Southern Upolu. It's a little more developed but can be combined with kayaking, waterfall and coastering challenges to create as much excitement as you want. The route takes in To Sua Trench, Togitogiga Falls, the Coastal Walkway and the Giant Clams.
At present there are no formal downhill mountain bike tracks. There are a few rough back roads and routes on Savaii and we are slowly negotiating and building routes on Upolu.
With 29 degree open water temperatures and extensive lagoons Samoa is a warm and exciting place to kayak. The offshore islands of Manono, Nuusafee and the Aleipatas provide a range of trips for all abilities. Manono is a very traditional Island that can be reached entirely with the reef system, Nuusafee is uninhabited, remote, spectacular and accessed via a sheltered trip over the reef. Namua is a classic island retreat with just the small fale resort on the sandy beach as the only habitation. Nuutele island is outside the reef and often involves negotiating large swells and a challenging surf landing.
Kayakers will almost always see turtles, have opportunities to snorkel over the coral and will usually see a good variety of birdlife including frigate birds, ganets and shearwaters. We sometimes see whales, dolphins and eagle rays.
It was the pristine white sand beaches with fale accommodation on the beaches that first attracted us to Samoa. Waking up with the waves lapping within a few feet of the fale and the sun streaming over the water and peaking through the matting walls is still a highlight. Its a few steps from bed to the sea for an early morning swim in warm, sheltered and safe water.
There is no better place to learn to snorkel and when I work as a tour guide I spend at least an hour a day in the water. Look down and study the coral and colourful tropical fish or look across and hunt for turtles and manta rays, either way there is always lots to discover. The coral has suffered damage from bleaching and the 2009 tsunami but there is still some good coral on Savaii.
Samoa is intensely proud of its traditional culture with the village still the centre of activity for most people living away from Apia. Most families in these villages still regularly cook on an umu and rely heavily on fishing from small boats and on crops of taro, yams, banana etc grown on their family plantations. Preparing an umu is a labour intensive and skilled activity that is well worth watching. Eating the palusami and other delicacies that emerge is a delight. A small pig is cooked in under 40 minutes in these very hot ovens made by covering hot rocks with banana leaves. Visiting a plantation and seeing cocoa and coconuts processed is also an activity not to be missed.
Women in the villages tend to meet for at least one day a week to weave fine mats. We often stop at these and I suspect that while the mats are important, it is the gossiping and laughter that keeps the village together. There are also opportunities to see Tapa cloth (Siapo) being made.
Besides the cycling and kayaking Samoa has plenty more to offer. Our favourites are the Waterfall Tour (4 hours with as many and as high a waterfall jumps as you dare) and the Coastering Challenge (whole day of climbing, scrambling, bush bashing and swimming).
Other attractions include:
- sliding rocks
- Diving (4 Padi places)
- Big Game and regular sport fishing
- kite surfing
We can often arrange these as part of your tour.
There are flights 3-4 times a day from Auckland with Air New Zealand, Virgin and Samoa Airways (flight times are under 4 hours). Increasingly Air NZ flights are on wide bodied jets.
Virgin and Samoa Airways fly several times a week direct from Sydney and Brisbane (5 hours) and most days from Australian cities via Auckland.
Fiji Airways has flights from several countries including the USA, Australia and New Zealand. These flights mostly overnight in Fiji. Fiji has recently committed to flying 737s/A320s on the Samoa leg, which should improve reliability.
See Planning for more details on Flights.
Ideas certainly differ regarding the perfect holiday. Because of this, we specialise in customising tours to fit individual preferences and interests.
Start with a draft itinerary or just tell us how much time you have and what type of holiday you want. We can provide bikes, kayaks, gear transport, support vehicles, accommodation and of course comprehensive itineraries.
Just pick one of the itineraries on these pages. But don't hesitate to tweak it with extra nights, accommodation upgrades, fishing trips, helicopter rides, lava tube caving etc. Or just add on a few resort days.
Supported or Guided?
These trips are lead by an experienced guide who is cultural interpreter, snorkelling coach, rider and general enthusiast on all things Samoan.
We visit special places and gain insights to the culture that are more difficult to achieve as independent travellers.
Trips are all inclusive with all meals, entrance fees and customary fees covered in the trip price.
The guide is responsible for any bike maintenance, removing any need for bike mechanic skills.
These trips work well for individuals and couples wanting to join a larger group as well as for a larger group wanting an external and experienced leader with extensive local knowledge.
A support van carries your gear and accompanies the trip ensuring you can catch the van for hills or even for the whole day if required. This is a great option if you are uncertain about your fitness, have younger kids or have non-riders in the group.
The driver will usually assist with introductions to local activities and where able, will assist with any bike mechanical issues, but is not a trained bike mechanic. Note that a supported trip does not have a guide riding with the group and does not include water (a water filter can be hired) or customary fees.
Gear Transport Only
We transport your gear each morning and provide your accommodation, most meals , bike hire and airport transfers etc. This option works well for some fitter riders with confidence in their abilities or those wanting to make sure they have earned the beer at the end of the day.
Hire a touring bike, buy our Bike Samoa booklet and just strike out round the islands with your gear on the panniers. Note: This works really well for seasoned travellers used to travelling without bookings and confident of their resourcefulness and mechanical skills.
Accommodation bookings only
We do not offer this service as the support van is part of our process of ensuring that accommodation providers are expecting you.
Samoa is a developing nation and things don't always work the same way as they do in the developed world. In addition to this Savaii is a relatively remote island with only one small town. Simple things like Internet, email, credit card processing and Internet Banking are often unreliable or poorly understood. Some of the resorts are good at answering emails and reliable in processing bookings but for many there is no daily discipline of processing emails and only a loose management of bookings and payments.
Every time we ride around Samoa we meet people who are quite stressed about lost bookings and lost payments. It usually gets sorted and the mistakes are not deliberate, but the stress isn't the reason for holidays. That's why we say freedom hire works really well for experienced travellers who are happy to travel without bookings. We spent a lot of time developing systems to remove this stress from our clients.
Understand your bike maintenance skills
There is only one bike shop in Samoa (it's in Apia) and it carries a very limited range of spares. If you are travelling independently you need to be competent in bike repairs and carry a toolkit suitable for a remote area trip (we provide the toolkit as part of the bike hire). We use quality bikes and fully service them between trips. In the rare event of a serious bike failure we will get you a replacement bike quickly (minor repairs and punctures are the responsibility of unsupported riders). If no one in your group can change a puncture on a rear tyre then the minimum level you should choose is Supported.
Understand your fitness
40 kms a day doesn't sound very far, but Samoa is warm (average daily max about 31 degrees in the shade) and the route contains a moderate amount of climbing (the toughest day has 400m of climb). Carrying panniers makes everything much harder. Having a bag carry service makes a huge difference to enjoyment. Having a support van takes all the stress away as you can ride in the van whenever the going gets too tough to be fun. Every year we meet independent riders who are either stressed out and defeated or upset at how expensive the taxis they hired were.
Understand the inclusions
Our tour prices generally include: airport transfers, bike hire, accommodation, most meals and whatever level of vehicle support you have selected. While there are some customary fees (entrance fees of a few tala) there is seldom a need to add extra transport, activity or tour costs. By comparison a "cheap" holiday at a single resort will often involve expensive tours and if it's a motel/hotel, meal costs.
On fully guided trips we also include virtually all meals and all customary fees and we provide drinking water. The only costs we don't cover are alcoholic drinks and personal items like souvenirs.
Value your time
We aim to make trip planning as simple as possible for you and to ensure you use your holiday time doing the things you want to, not having to sort hassles or wasting days due to poor itineraries. A classic issue we see almost every month is not realising the airport is near the ferry and a long way from Apia. Staying the first night in Apia on the way to Savaii nearly always results in a lost day. We work hard to ensure you get the type of accommodation you expect, an itinerary that matches your interests and a travel experience that is far more than just a bike tour.
There are several other ways to reduce direct costs:
- The biggest is to book flights early (see Planning below).
- The second is to understand currency conversion costs. Essentially the effective exchange rate you can buy Tala is at least 6% and often more than 10% below the mid-rate that shown on a simple Google. This means that tour prices in NZD or AUD are often a lot sharper than they seem. To compare use the rate from your prefered bank to buy WST cash. Using Visa often ends up even more expensive.
To get the best rates:
- Change cash on arrival at the airport (one of the few countries where this is a good idea)
- Shop around for exchange rates and include fees in calculating rates
- Do the minimum number of transactions to minimise fees
- Remember that Visa payments in Samoa are usually subject to a 4% premium and TTs (Telegraphic Transfers) often cost $20 each to both to both buyer and seller.
- You can pay us in NZD to our NZ account or AUD to an Australian account - avoiding nearly all transaction fees. We do on-charge the cost of Visa transactions if you want to pay by Visa.
Contact us early
We like to help you plan a trip that will fit your interests, comfort expectations, fitness and budget. If you contact us early in your planning we can recommend options and ideas. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact us button. We can advise you on trip options and indicative prices.
If you are travelling on a budget, the biggest variable cost will be the airfares. Generally speaking the sooner you book flights the better the price. For the July school holidays you will need to book 9 months ahead for a good price. The Easter and October breaks fill up a bit slower and are often a better alternative if school holidays are important to you. See Airlines below for more details.
The most frequent comment we get from one week visitors is "wish we had booked a longer trip". Extra nights along the way at Fale type accommodation add very little to the cost. Another common comment is that most of the beach resorts deserved a second night and the usual adventure pace of bike/kayak every day was less appropriate in Samoa. A few extra days will also give you better access to pleasanter flight times.
With confirmed flights we can finalise your itinerary and invoice you (see FAQs for billing and cancellation details).
Once your tour is confirmed (by payment of deposit) you will receive a booklet on touring Samoa, vouchers for accommodation and comprehensive itinerary notes. These include more notes on what to bring (generally less than you expect) and how to prepare.
Cycle Samoa Booklet
We wrote a small book on Cycling Samoa. It covers more on where to go and what to bring. You can order it here.
Air New Zealand has the most flights (all from Auckland, but with good connections from Australia and NZ). Samoa Airways flies from Auckland and Sydney, Virgin flies from Sydney and Melbourne (with good Australia connections). Fiji Airways flies from various Australia and NZ locations via Nadi and direct from Hawaii. Booking flights directly using the airlines booking sites tend to provide the best value deals. For travel originating outside New Zealand and Australia your travel agent or specialised flight aggregator site may provide a better deal.
When planning flights consider the total flight duration and timing. There are flights from almost every city in NZ that will get you to or from Samoa in a day at reasonably civilised hours and without the extra cost of a night in Auckland. The direct flights from Sydney and Melbourne with Virgin tend to run at odd hours meaning that you will arrive very sleep deprived so its worth considering the options via Auckland. Samoa Airways afternoon flights to Sydney are well timed, the other way is not so civilised.
FAQs for Cyclists
Year round, the daily maximum temperature is about 31°C and the overnight minimum seldom drops much below 24°C. Samoa doesn’t really have true wet and dry seasons, but May to October tend to be drier and November to April wetter and more humid.
Cycling hills on a windless sunny afternoon can be unpleasantly hot. We find riding in the mornings before 10am often really pleasant and cycling through lunchtime showers with no coat - refreshing. Regardless of the time of year, you are likely to have lots of mostly fine days, a good change of 2-3 wet days and almost certain to have an afternoon shower or two. The locals seldom wear waterproof coats, as they choose to just enjoy the showers. Mind, an umbrella is a good idea for tripping between fales and dining room and bathroom etc.
The cyclone season is December to April, but cyclones average less than 1 per year. With global warming the pattern is changing, with more rain December to April and a later cyclone season. But at present most cyclones are forming well to the West of Samoa and tracking below it.
Mostly sealed (but pot holed) roads circle the two main islands offering a total of about 400kms of riding. The speed limit outside the main town of Apia is 35mph (56kmh). In 2009, traffic changed to driving on the left. The speed limit is not particularly well observed, but pedestrians heavily use the roads and cyclists are generally given plenty of room. Other than the stretch between Apia and the airport/ferry terminal, traffic tends to be light and on Savaii you may only see a dozen vehicles an hour.
Despite being a coastal route, there are hills. The route around Savaii has a total of about 1,000m of climbing and it is about the same around Upolu.
Many villages offer fales (pronounced far-lays) as tourist accommodation. These beach huts consist of thatched roofs, matting sides, and wooden floors.
The huts are often in the most stunning settings and allow you to sit or lie on your bed and look out across the beach to the most amazing sunsets. Breakfast and dinner are usually included and served in a common dining room and the bathrooms are shared facilities. Mattresses, mosquito nets and bed sheets are included.
The fales are equivalent to a permanent campsite and the more traditional ones like Namua are often a highlight for guests. Fale resorts are changing with the times and some offer lockable rooms, corrugated iron roofs, hot showers and ensuites. However, the traditional units are often cooler and much more pleasant.
Hotels and upmarket resorts
These come in all shapes and sizes with all manner of reputations. Unfortunately, they are not distributed to fit with a cycling tour and the very good ones are usually too full to want cyclists for 1-day visits while the poor ones are less enjoyable than the fales. We use several (see the itineraries) because they are conveniently located and usually offer something quite unique.
There are no camping grounds and generally camping is not worthwhile. This is because there are no public beaches, as all beaches are communally owned by the local village. So if you are not staying in a resort or village fale you will be asked to pay for your camping spot. Tents tend to be too hot and not nearly as pleasant as a fale. So it just becomes easier and not much more expensive to stay in a fale and take the opportunity to interact with the locals.
Samoan currency is the Tala, often abbreviated to WST (Samoa changed its name from Western Samoa to Samoa, but do not confuse it with American Samoa, a dependency of the US located 60kms to the east).
A Tala costs 60 to 70 NZ cents or 50-60 Australian ones (Ignore the googled rates, these are "mid-market" positions and not available to travellers). Exchange rates vary hugely and the gap between buy and sell rates is larger than for most countries. On Savaii in particular you will need to pay for most of your expenses in Tala cash. The economy end resorts often do not take Visa or NZ$. The best rate for buying Tala is often at the airport on arrival with cash (even at 2am). ANZ banks in NZ and Australian cities have much better rates than those at Auckland and Sydney Airports.
There are ATMs that accept NZ cards in Apia, Salelologa and Manase. Rates are reasonable, but fees can be substantial.
Never travel anywhere overseas without at least Medical Travel Insurance. Client feedback indicates online deals from Tid.co.nz are competitive. SCTI.co.nz is often well priced.
The best time to purchase travel insurance is when you decide to travel, as it also covers travel cancellation due to health issues.
There are no poisonous land snakes, spiders or scorpions or large preditory mammals. There is a giant centipede that (from personal experience) has a very unpleasant bite, but it is not fatal.
Malaria and yellow fever are not considered risks but dengue, zika and chikungunya are present. Do use mosquito repellent at dusk and do sleep under the supplied mosquito nets or in mosquito proof rooms.
Many Samoans keep small dogs and they wander. The tourism authority has been shooting/spaying strays and the problem is mostly under control. The guidebook has suggestions on managing dog concerns.
This is the biggest and most commonly seen issue. Drink plenty of fluids, always carry spare water and watch your companions. Coconuts and Coke are incredibly refreshing, even if you usually avoid fizzy drinks!
Food and Water Quality
Despite a solid program to supply safe piped water to all villages, tap water is often not safe to drink. Bottled water is cheap and available in all resorts and some villages. For 2018 we will be supplying filtered water on all Supported trips. We also have some water filters can be hired for other trips - see What to take.
We have seen occasional incidences of upset stomach, but think this is seldom related to food. Swimming in the turtle ponds is strongly recommended against as the water is badly contaminated. Watching water quality will generally keep stomachs at optimal efficiency.
The hot climate keeps bugs alive and skin infections can quickly turn nasty - take a good antibiotic with you and know how to use it. Treat even minor cuts with an antiseptic and cover.
What to bring/Hire
See the What to bring page for essential items and other gear we hire.
Cycle Samoa Book
We wrote a small book on Cycling Samoa. It covers more on where to go and what to bring. You can order it here.
Bookings and Cancellations
See our Booking and Cancellations page
What to Take/hire
Less Clothes more Attitude
The old saw is take half the clothes and twice the money. That is only half true on our trips as there is little to spend money on and most of our trips include transport, accommodation and most of your activities and meals.
The half the clothes part is true. It's a lovely warm climate, something almost impossible to fully imagine when you are packing in winter is that you will not wear a jersey at all. The casual style of the resorts also reduces suitcase size, but do be aware that conservative dress outside the resorts is important.
Do bring a sense of adventure and a willingness to try new things. Samoa is not particularly sophisticated and not everything works quite as well as it might in an expensive resort would. However being a caring host is a core part of the Samoan way, so with a little tolerance for a different set of priorities, you will have a great experience.
Cycling is best in light, modest clothes. If you wear cycle pants either wear baggies over them or use mountain bike shorts. Light nylon shorts make it easier to take a dip whenever you want.
The guidebook (provided with all trip bookings and also available for purchase separately) contains a fuller list and recommendations on preparation and what to bring.
Several little things are worth preparing for and in most cases we have ways of helping with hire gear.
Remember that the international airport is near our base and the ferry terminal, but an hour from Apia. If you are touring Savaii you will only get to Apia at the end of the trip (if at all). Compounding this is that all town shops are shut from midday Saturday till Monday morning. Salelologa is only one town on Savaii and it will be closed by the time you arrive on a Saturday.
We supply tool kit, pump, spare tube and handlebar bag. You are welcome to bring your own pedals and saddle, but most people find our comfortable saddles most appropriate.
There is none for sale on Savaii and very little available in Apia. Bring your own or hire from us.
Mobile phones and Internet
Roaming charges from NZ and Australia in Samoa were prohibitive but check with your provider as some now offer $5 a day deals. The best value for most people will be to get a local SIM in their phone.
There are two local GSM providers. Both are open for most flights at the airport and sell Sim cards and economic prepay deals. If you miss out at the airport the only other options are Salelololga and Apia (with their limited hours). Make sure your phone is not locked and you know how to configure new sims for data.
Wifi access is limited and expensive (around 12 Tala per hour). There is almost no free wifi in Samoa. With the new cable to samoa now operating the prices for Internet are coming down, but as almost all Internet is distributed via 4G, the cheapest option by far is to buy a local sim card.
If you are staying in fales there is no lock on your room. It is always a good idea to bring a lockable suitcase. Some people also like to keep their wallet and phone in a small packsafe that can be locked into the rafters. We have these for sale and hire.
Tap water is generally not regarded as potable (there is a good reticulation and a coarse filtration system but chlorine usage is at best spasmodic). While bottled water is available in all resorts and some shops a high quality water filter is easier on the pocket and probably more reliable.
Gear is available for hire to people booking tour or bike hire only.
Items for Rent 7 day hire 10 day hire 2 Week hire 3 week hire Mask & Snorkel Set (Atlantas Spree or Epselom E-Visio) Includes mesh bag for easy carrying NZ $ $30.00 $35.00 $40.00 $45.00 Samoan Tala 50 Tala 60 Tala 70 Tala 80 Tala Fins (Apollo Rubber Fins) - Includes mesh bag when hiring NZ $ $20.00 $25.00 $30.00 $35.00 Samoan Tala 35 Tala 40 Tala 50 Tala 60 Tala Pack Safe NZ $ $20.00 $25.00 $30.00 $35.00 Samoan Tala 35 Tala 40 Tala 50 Tala 60 Tala
Hire gear invoiced before travel will be charged in NZ$. Request equipment hire when confirming trip itinerary.
See also Hire bikes for bike hire rates and details.
Bikes especially for touring
We have a fleet of 100 mostly GT touring bikes available for hire. Bike hire is included in our structured tours, however the bikes can also be hired for freedom tours.
You have a choice between conventional mountain bikes and women's low bar frames. We also have a growing fleet of ebikes.
The 2018 and 2019 bikes are GT Avalanches with 27 speed Deore derailleurs, Shimano Disk brakes and 29" wheels (27.5 on small and XL).
Most bikes have Conti Tour Ride tyres, but off-road tyres are available on some.
eBikes are mostly GT ePanterra Mountain bikes with Shimano Steps E6000 mid mounted motors on mountain bike frames. These are pedal assist only and on an eco setting will cover over 100kms on a single charge (Shorter distances on higher assist levels).
We also have 4 Smart Motion eCity step through bikes. The remainder of the main fleet are 2016 GT Aggressors, but we have an increasing selection of other styles - see the pictures at the bottom.
Each bike hire includes
- Comfortable Gel seat
- Handlebar bag (much better than a backpack in a hot climate)
- Pump, spare tube, basic tools
- Rear Carrier
- Rear Panniers
All bikes are cleaned and serviced between hires and fitted to you.
More bike photos at bottom
We have a fleet of 16 Electric bikes available for hire. First preference for these will go to groups of regular cyclists who have some members of the group who want or need more assistance.
These are GT Panterra mountain bikes and Smart Motion e-City bikes.
We have a range of childrens bikes, a tagalong, kiddy seats and a bike trailer for children.
The tag-a-long, bike trailer and child seat are only hired in conjunction with an adult bike hire.
New Zealand Dollars
Half Day Daily Rate 7 Days Extra Days (after 1 week) Extra weeks Bike Hire $NZ 40 $NZ 50 $NZ 210 $NZ 30 $NZ 90 Electric Bike Hire $NZ 50 $NZ 80 $NZ 370 $NZ 60 $NZ 240 Pannier Hire $NZ 5 $NZ 5 $NZ 25 $NZ 5 $NZ 15 Children's bikes $NZ 15 $NZ 25 $NZ 90 $NZ 15 $NZ 35 Tag-a-long/ Child trailer $NZ 15 $NZ 25 $NZ 50 $NZ 10 $NZ 25 Kiddy seat $NZ 10 $NZ 10 $NZ 25 $NZ 5 $NZ 15
Samoan Tala (WST)
Half Day Daily Rate 7 Days Extra Days (after 1 week) Extra weeks Bike Hire WST 70 WST 85 WST 350 WST 50 WST 150 Electric Bike Hire WST 85 WST 140 WST 680 WST 100
Pannier Hire WST 10 WST 10 WST 45 WST 10 WST 30 Children's bikes WST 30 WST 45 WST 160 WST 30 WST 65 Tag-a-long/ Child trailer WST 30 WST 45 WST 90 WST 20 WST 45 Kiddy seat WST 20 WST 20 WST 45 WST 10 WST 30
A deposit is required when hiring. This is usually a 900 Tala pre-authorisation on a credit card.
Rates Effective July 2019
Womens low-bar bikes
Hybrid Touring Bike
The Transeos have more efficient tyres,but require a sports riding position and are not suitable for gravel tracks. They suit regular touring riders but occassional riders will be more comfortable on the Aggressors.
Aggressor Mountain Bikes
These have hydraulic disc brakes and off road tyres. They are intended to be used on mountain bike trails as we develop them around Mulifanua, but some riders will enjoy trying the gravel tracks and roads found on the general tours.
We have 2 of these trailers. They can take two children each (max loaded weight of trailer 45kgs). They can be used as luggage trailers.
Suitable for children from 9-20 Kgs or 1-4 years old.
Best suited to 4-8 year olds.
24" bikes for kids 6-10. We find that kids from 8 up can generally ride the XS 26"Aggressors and appreciate the extra efficiency they offer. We hire these aggressors to people under 12 for the kids bike prices. Our youngest person to ride all 200kms around Savaii was 9.
Update for 2020
There are several changes to flights for 2020.
- Air New Zealand now has one flight a day from Auckland. Half of these depart Auckland at 3:50pm allowing connections from anywhere in NZ. The other half leave at 8:50am - but return in time to connect with anywhere in NZ.
- Samoa Airways has 7 flights a week from Auckland (these are timed to fit with same day connections to most NZ cities)
- Virgin flies direct from Sydney and Brisbane 3 times a week. The Friday night flight from Sydney can connect with the Friday 10 day Savaii Escape.
- Samoa Airways is also offering 4 flights a week form Australia (from Sydney and Brisbane).
- Fiji Airways is expanding its services to Samoa and upgrading to 737s on the routes. Fiji flights are sometimes available as Qantas code shares.
- Virgin has 3 flights a week (from Sydney and Brisbane).
The most variable part of the cost of the holiday is typically the flight. Airlines are very focused on selling direct via the web with big discounts for early, fixed bookings. Air New Zealand in particular, periodically has 1-3 day Islands on Sale" specials. Our general advice is book these when you see them. We have created more fixed- start-date tours to make this easier.
Note that at time of writing none of the discount flight searchers (e.g. Webjet) covered all the above airlines, so some manual searching or a good agent is needed.
Arriving From NZ
For people living outside Auckland, Air NZ is the most convenient with good connections via Auckland. However Samoa Airways can be both cheaper and at more convenient times (albeit with 2 separate tickets).
The Air New Zealand afternoon flights to Samoa have connections from most parts of the country. The flights arrive in Samoa about 8:30pm. The Air NZ morning flights (Usually Tue, Thu, Sat and some Sundays) are often on Dreamliners and very convenient for Aucklanders, but too early for a same day connection from the rest of NZ.
Air NZ afternoon flights from Apia (Tue, Thu, Sat) are nearly perfect for everyone as they get back to Auckland in time for connecting flights to almost anywhere in NZ.
Fiji Airways is a good choice for people wanting to visit multiple Pacific Islands and sometimes a backup for last minute bookings when there are no discount fares on the other airlines. They have recently committed to 787-800 jets on the Apia leg - so we may see some sharper pricing.
Arriving from Sydney or Brisbane
Virgin and Samoa Airways offer 7 direct flights a week from Australia. These are overnight flights arriving before 6am. The flights are only about 5 hours, with a 3 hour time difference and the first day becomes a bit of a write-off.
Samoa Airways flights to Australia are very conveniently timed at 6pm, arriving before 8:30pm. Virgin flights require a 3 or 4am start and are not such a good end to a holiday.
Air NZ offers many connections from Australia via Auckland to Samoa. These take a bit longer and sometimes are a bit more expensive, but they can be at much more civilised times.
Fiji Airways sometimes has flights that work and as they can be booked on a Qantas codeshare, are appealing to Qantas frequent fliers.
Savaii Escape Tours in 2020 start every Friday (riding from Saturday) from Fri 3 April 2020 until Friday 30 October 2020. Additional standard tours will be added to meet demand at Easter and over July, August and October.
Outside these dates (i.e. Prior to 2 April or after 30 October) tours can be arranged for any start date and will be priced at Scheduled tour rates for groups of 2-4 (For larger groups custom tours are generally cheaper).
Upolu Escapes start on the first and third Mondays of every month from April to October.
Savaii Tasters are run on demand for 2-4 people. (no starts on Tuesday due to ferry timetables)
Multi day kayak tours are best as custom tours as ability varies too much to run public tours.
Date Type Available Thu 9 April 2020 Savaii Escape Full Fri 10 April 2020 Upolu Escape 8 Places Sat 11 April 2020 Savaii Escape 8 Places Mon 13 April 2020 Savaii Escape 8 places Fri 17 Apr 2020 Savaii Escape 8 places Every Friday Savaii Escape Sat 4 July 2020 Savaii Escape 2 Tours -Full Mon 6 July 2020 Savaii Escape Full Tue 7 Jul 2020 Upolu Escape 8 Places Wed 8 Jul 2020 Savaii Escape 8 places Thu 9 Jul 2020 Upolu Escape 8 Places Fri 10 Jul 2020 Savaii Escape 8 places Sun 12 Jul 2020 Savaii Escape 8 places Every Friday Savaii Escape
The high season has now finished, but it is almost a better time to visit with fewer people around. Summer will be 1-2 degrees warmer and a bit more humid but there are still lots of fine days. While it is cyclone season, the chances of being in one are very small and they are forecast well in advance. Winds are overall ligheter and the kayaking is better.
Tours can be arranged starting on almost any day. Just call or email to arrange a tour to fit your dates
NZ vs Samoa Rides
New Zealand Great Rides vs Samoa rides
We spent a wonderful 6 weeks over summer 2019 riding many of New Zealand’s bike trails. We rode them mostly because we enjoy cycling, but also to see how our Samoa trails compared. We love both Samoa and New Zealand as cycling destinations but came to realise they have some significant differences. These included:
Many of the NZ trails have spectacular scenery, mountains, Otago landscapes, native bush, historic bridges etc. Samoa has great seascapes and a wide variety of village and rural scenes. We often stopped in New Zealand to photgraph landscapes and mountainscapes. In Samoa it's usually seascapes and village scenes in the camera lens.
The overnight stops in NZ are often in small towns or historic villages. In Samoa, virtually every night is on a lovely beach beside the lagoon with good swimming and snorkelling. The Beach Fale resort is usually in a village and run by the village. So there is far more to do each day and far more reason to stop for an extra day. The cultural components offered by staying within the village also offer another dimension.
There was no standard trail condition in NZ, we rode great winding single track, quiet back roads, main highways, gravel paths, canal paths and rutted gravel roads. In Samoa nearly all the trails are on quiet, sealed roads. While these roads go around the perimeter of the islands they often undulate include steep sections and each island has about 1,000m of climb. We are building some single track, but this is not yet part of a regular multi-day trip.
Most trails in NZ are 2-4 days. Our Samoa trips are 8-10 days. This is only partly because they are longer, its mostly because there is more to do besides ride.
In NZ there was a wide variety of accommodation, much of it hotel/motel standard with ensuite options (and prices to match). In Samoa the bulk of the accommodation is in Beach Fales, which can be thought of as open sided shelters with mattresses, mosquito nets and meals included. So the per night accommodation and meal cost is much lower in Samoa and often in stunning locations, but the higher end options are currently missing (we are working on it).
We had some hot days riding in Otago and Canterbury and some wet days on the west coast. Samoa is no hotter than a norwester in Otago, but it is more humid and can feel hotter. In the cycling season - April to November we get showers to match the west coast, but they seldom last and its always warm enough to swim.
Bikes and Bike Hire
We came across people riding all sorts of bikes from heavily laden road/touring bikes to full suspension mountain bikes. The hire bikes were mostly hard tail mountain bikes of a similar specification and quality to ours. We keep our bikes a bit longer as there is no second-hand market for quality bikes. eBike fleets were moving to Shimano mid mount motors on mountain bike frames and we have purchased the same for Samoa in 2019.
Our Samoa packages are generally twice the length and inclusive of far more (meals, bike hire, transfers, support) than the New Zealand offerings. They also stay in more basic accommodation but cost about half as much on a per diem basis