Dive into Samoa’s secret swim spots

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The Piula Cave Pool is 45 minutes from Apia

Some of the Pacific’s best-kept secrets are Samoa’s hidden swim spots.

From ancient lava tubes filled with spring water, to deserted lagoons – the country’s two main islands have no shortage of places to find a bit of solitude. Here are our favourites:

THE WATERFALL ISLAND

Samoa’s second island is like taking a step back in time. Savai’i may be bigger than the main island of Upolu, but the pace is much slower; the traditional village-focused way of life is still mainstream. Don’t expect good wi-fi, credit card machines, or glitzy resorts – the island is all about authenticity.

One of the island’s hidden gems is Afu Aau Falls – an elaborate series of jungle waterfalls that flow down a newly-landscaped valley. Few tourists head to Savai’i, so you’re likely to have the waterfall to yourself. If, however, someone happens to be there – you have four other waterfall pools further down the valley to call your own.

THE LAVA TUBE POOL

Mother Nature has sculpted one of Samoa’s most beautiful swim spots, the Piula Cave Pool. It’s an old lava tube that is now fed by a freshwater spring.

The pool isn’t just a refreshing place to escape the tropical heat; it’s also full of curious fish that like to swirl around you, making it great for underwater photos.

SURVIVOR BEACHES

The long-running reality TV series Survivor loves Samoa; the US, Australian and South African versions have been filmed on the main island Upolu.

The major attraction for filming in Samoa is the sheer number of secret beaches, where you won’t find a soul.

They are pretty hard to find, so the easiest way to track one down is by asking a local; Samoans are some of the friendliest people you’ll meet. Almost all locals have their favourite secluded beach, and many will offer to take you down for a look.

INFINITY ROCK POOL

Tucked away on Samoa’s sandy southern coast is one of the island’s best budget-friendly resorts: Sa’moana Beach Bungalows.

This is the place to head for a hefty dose of zen; there is no wi-fi or other modern distractions – it’s all about swimming, snorkelling and relaxing by the beach. The resort also has an infinity pool, carved into the side of coastal lava rocks. The result is the coolest rock pool in the Pacific.

A SWIMMING HOLE LIKE NO OTHER

The To Sua Trench is hardly a secret; the ancient lava tube – which appears like a giant sinkhole – is Samoa’s top attraction. But no visit to the country is complete without a dip in its emerald waters. A warning, the trip down into the pool is on an old rickety ladder, but once there – the view up is worth it; it’s like swimming in a giant volcano crater.

The secret to avoiding the crowds is to arrive just before it opens, then head down the minute it does.

More information: samoa.travel

Getting there: Air New Zealand and Samoa Airways each fly five times a week, on a reduced schedule due to coronavirus.

Staying there: Samoana from $120 a night. See: samoanabeachbungalows.com. On Savai’i, a great option is Amoa Resort, from $193 a night – best rates on Google Hotel Search.

Coronavirus: Samoa has strict entry rules to prevent the spread of the virus. Each traveller is required to undergo a medical examination by a registered medical practitioner within three days of arrival. This medical clearance report is required for check-in. For the latest requirements, see: health.gov.ws

Carbon footprint: A return trip for one passenger in economy class flying from Auckland to Apia would generate 531.6kg CO2. To calculate and offset your carbon emissions head to airnewzealand.co.nz/sustainability-customer-carbon-offset.