Food and Drink in Apia, Samoa (formerly Western Samoa)
Eating and celebrating is part of Polynesian culture and no more so than in Samoa.
Enjoying a hot, cooked meal straight from an umu (earth oven) is an experience not to be missed and will likely be offered in your cruise itinerary. Otherwise, most resorts offer umu-cooked food as part of their weekly fiafia (cultural) nights, or you can join a cultural tour that specialises in this attraction.
Make sure you sample some of the traditional local fare such as palusami, a most authentic dish made with taro leaf and fillings such as corned beef, fish, shrimps and onions and then cooked by slow baking in the umu. You can find palusami at the markets in one of the numerous street stalls.
As an island nation, Samoa is the ideal place for lovers of seafood and it doesn't get fresher than in the market in Apia. Either try any of the various seafood dishes available in Samoa's restaurants and cafes, or head down to the Apia fish market. There, the daily catch is always a huge variety, including many types of fish, crayfish and octopus.
Beaches in Apia, Samoa (formerly Western Samoa)
It should be noted that the postcard-perfect natural beaches are not found near rocky Apia, rather by a pre-arranged excursion or taxi to the southern coast (about 35 to 40 minutes by road) where surfers and beach bums abound.
Best for a Half-Day Visit: Taumeasina Island Resort, right next to the port, is the easiest for those hanging out for a dip in the sea. The imported sand beach is manicured to perfection and there is also a pool, bar and excellent restaurant. A nominal day-use fee is payable to the resort representative who will greet you at the wharf. (Beach Road; +685 61000; open all day) Note: Vaiala Beach is also listed as nearby, which is fine for a stroll and a paddle, but it is not an ideal swimming beach.
Best for Active Types: Again, just a short pebble toss from the port is Palolo Deep Marine Reserve, which is the most accessible location for snorkelling and swimming among the coral reefs. There are toilets, showers and changing rooms and snorkel gear can be hired on site. Reef shoes may be handy, but for the best experience, time your visit for high tide where possible. (Beach Road; +685 7242521; Mon-Sun: 8 am to 6 pm)
Best Secluded Beach: choose one of many out-of-the-way beaches on the southern coast, which you will need to access by taxi or tour. One of the best-rated locations for seclusion is Lefaga Beach on the Main South Coast Road. The Return to Paradise Resort is also located there and is famous as the filming location for the 1951 romantic adventure movie of the same name. A nominal access fee is payable (Main South Coast Road; +685 35055; open all day)
Don't Miss in Apia, Samoa (formerly Western Samoa)
Fugalei Market: Apia's central market sells everything from fresh local fruit and vegetables through to souvenirs and clothing. You can find real hand-made local artefacts as well as 'stocking stuffers', so you're covered. If nothing else, it's always fun to stroll around local produce stalls and maybe pick up a healthy fruit snack. (Vaitele Street ; +685 29253; open weekdays 8 am to 4 pm; Saturdays until noon)
Eveni Carruthers: You've heard all about Hawaiian shirts. Well, get ready for Samoan shirts and the Eveni label is a special one. Wonderfully vibrant, with exquisite, male and female Samoan-themed designs. A great gift. (Beach Road; +685 21414; open weekdays, 8.30 am to 5 pm; Saturdays until 2pm; closed Sundays)
Fiafia Nights: Held at most resorts, and at some other accommodation providers, fiafia nights include a feast that usually includes food cooked in an umu, an earth oven using heated volcanic stones, and a cultural performance that may include singing and definitely will involve lots of dancing. Samoan dance today is a mixture of the old and the new, and they are very distinctive in their style and movements from their Polynesian cousins around the Pacific. The famous (Sheraton) Aggie Grey Resort near the port is a popular venue. (Main Beach Road; +685 846 2800; call for showtimes)
Palolo Deep Marine Reserve: is a protected sanctuary that is an excellent snorkelling spot. Located next to the port and accessible from the beach, it is also a great site for beginners. For best experience and ease of access, try to time your visit for high tide. (+685 7242521; open daily, 8 am to 6 pm)
Taumeasina Island Resort: If you just want to hang and sip a cocktail next to the pool, Apia's own island resort is just a short walk from the port. It has its own fiafia night and Sina's Restaurant is well-known among expats and prominent locals. (Beach Road; +685 61000; open daily)
Samoan Cultural Village: Right in the centre of town, next to the Visitor Information Office is where you will find the Samoan Cultural Village. Expect cultural displays, interpretation, handicrafts and dancing, which will almost certainly be scheduled for your cruise ship visit. Enquire with your cruise director for showtimes or phone +685 63521.