Before my trip to Samoa, I had a strong intuition that the culture here was exceptionally warm and welcoming. It struck me as a place of untouched beauty, a destination unspoiled by commercialization, where one could truly immerse themselves in an authentic experience free from the crowds of tourists. Samoa, to me, embodies that unique charm – and I genuinely hope it remains a hidden gem, preserving its distinctiveness and allure.
Hi, I’m Katy and in this article I will be sharing my experiences in Samoa and providing you with recommendations for your visit. But before I do so, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I’m from a small Iowa town with limited opportunities. Born into a middle-class family, I lacked the means to embark on extravagant vacations. While content with my everyday life, a desire to explore the world simmered within me. It wasn’t until I turned 18 that I witnessed the ocean for the first time and set foot on an airplane.
My parents, content with their routine lives, contrasted sharply with my longing for more. At 19, I made a life-altering decision to leave college and move to Los Angeles. There, I fully embraced a career in modeling. Subsequently, fate led me to participate in a TV show filmed in Cape Town which marked the beginning of my globe-trotting adventures. I ventured from Scotland to France and eventually back to Los Angeles, all while sharing my life with a significant other I had met and fallen in love with.
These travels ignited an obsession with exploring the world, leading me to combine my passion for travel with my dedication to self-love and female empowerment. I yearned to empower women from diverse backgrounds, sharing their stories with the world and giving them a voice.
Thus, One Model Mission was born. To support this project, I initiated a travel blog to reduce production costs, leveraging my writing skills and modest photography expertise to collaborate with top hotel and hospitality groups globally. This journey not only highlighted the unique beauty of women worldwide, but also showcased stunning locations and properties.
I’ve been incredibly blessed and I cherish the resourcefulness that has guided my path. God has granted me countless opportunities in return for my hard work and unwavering belief in my dreams. I firmly believe that one can achieve anything in their life through sheer determination and effort.
Currently, I’m working on relaunching my blog and seeking potential financing to enhance the production quality of One Model Mission. My ultimate vision is to have it featured on a major network and I dream of seeing it on Netflix as a documentary, with hopes of winning an Emmy. Though this journey may take time, I have full faith in its realization.
Additionally, I’ve recently ventured into the world of luxury real estate in Los Angeles – joining The Oppenheim Group, a renowned brokerage. This transition has been fulfilling, allowing me to collaborate with close friends and achieve an early sale within my first few months. I’m grateful for Jason (President of The Oppenheim Group) who has taught me so much in the first few months, and kept me positive and hopeful in a tough market.
My career is on the up and while I’m not yet at my ultimate goal, I embrace the journey as the true essence of life. My successes are a testament to my faith in God, my resilience and my resourcefulness. As a childhood underdog, I’m determined to prove that anyone can overcome challenges and achieve success and happiness – regardless of their upbringing.
Inspiration to Visit the Pacific Islands
During my time living in France, I became friends with people from the Pacific islands, South Africa and Australia. Residing in a rugby-centric town, my former partner was a part of the team and it included several Pacific Island players (a few Samoan). Our friendship with them was truly special – they exuded warmth, humility and an infectious zest for life.
They often spoke passionately about the beauty of their islands and I found myself irresistibly drawn to the idea of visiting. The turning point came when I attended a close friend’s wedding in Australia. While on that side of the world, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to explore the Pacific islands.
So, for my birthday, I found myself in Fiji – immersing in the world beneath the waves through diving and snorkeling. The coral reefs were just stunning, showcasing nature’s artistry. From Fiji, I ventured to Samoa and Tonga, each destination leaving an indelible mark on my spirit.
I even cried when I left Tonga – in some way the Samoan and Tongan people made me feel more seen, loved and special. I think it’s their warmth and selflessness that made me feel this. It was a feeling of being “home”, even though I wasn’t home, and that to me is true kindness and hospitality.
A Special Four Day Trip in Samoa
I spent just four days in Samoa, although I crammed in as much as I could. If I had my way, I’d have extended my stay by a few days to savor the experience at a more leisurely pace, explore Savai’i for some diving and bask in the beauty of the beaches. Nevertheless, it was a memorable trip.
During our time there, we ticked off numerous must-see spots including the Piula Cave Pool, the To Sua Ocean Trench (my personal favorite) and a series of waterfalls such as Sopoaga Falls, Fuipisia Waterfall and Togitogiga Waterfall. We also had a blast sliding down rocks at Papaseea Sliding Rocks, ventured into O Le Pupu-Pue National Park and indulged in local cuisine at charming restaurants savoring plenty of oka – a delectable Samoan dish featuring raw fish marinated in citrus and coconut milk.
We drove to and enjoyed the serenity of the white sandy beaches at Lalomanu Beach, Tanu Beach and Aganoa Beach. To top it off, we had a sunset dinner at the famous Return to Paradise Resort. One of the highlights was the Fiafia Night at our hotel, where the Samoan traditions of song and dance came to life. The night was filled with amazing dancing and fire shows, making it an absolute must-experience cultural event.
My Favorite Destinations in Samoa
Picking a favorite place in Samoa is quite the challenge because the place is truly special. What struck me is that while the list of must-see attractions may not be extensive, the gems on that list are worth every moment – each possessing its own unique charm. If I had to pinpoint a favorite, I’d likely choose the visit to the To Sua Ocean Trench or Sopoaga Falls.
What surprised me was the fact that Sopoaga Falls isn’t commonly found on “top things to see in Samoa” lists, yet we stumbled upon it by chance and it turned out to be my preferred waterfall. The lush greenery that envelops Samoa is breathtaking and showcases the country’s pristine beauty. If you have a deep appreciation for nature, Samoa is paradise.
Adding to the magic of our Samoa trip, we happened to be there on Earth Day (an event held on April 22 every year) – and so we decided to dedicate a day to picking up litter, creating a memorable and meaningful experience that further deepened our connection with this remarkable Pacific Island.
Amazing People & Culture of Samoa
Samoans are incredibly warm-hearted. They take pride in their culture, harbor affection for their homeland and genuinely wish you share in that affection. Their happiness is infectious, even though many may not possess a lot of material wealth. What I find admirable about them is their contentment with the simple joys of life, untouched by extravagance.
For Samoans, their core values revolve around love, kindness, family, friends and faith in God – and this aspect of their culture resonates with me. The dancing and singing – a vibrant part of their heritage – are embraced with enthusiasm, adding to the authenticity of the experience one enjoys in Samoa. It’s a place where you can truly immerse yourself in a genuine and heartfelt way of life. This made the visit to Samoa all the more remarkable.
Accommodation Options in Samoa
We stayed at the Sheraton using our points and it turned out to be an excellent choice, offering great value and comfort. The hotel’s location left us with no complaints whatsoever. If you’re exploring other options, consider accommodations like Return to Paradise Resort, Sinalei Reef Resort or Taumeasina Island Resort – which also offer fantastic experiences.
For those seeking an authentic stay, renting a villa or fale is a wonderful option. These places typically provide a unique beachfront experience. There’s a range of options to suit various budgets. While you won’t find many luxury hotels in Samoa, the ones available are more than sufficient and offer the essentials. Besides, you’ll likely spend most of your time outside the hotel as Samoa offers plenty of adventurous experiences.
Tips for Your Visit to Samoa
Getting to Samoa is straightforward, with Fiji Airways offering affordable flights from Fiji and other airlines providing flights from New Zealand. However, a word of advice: make sure your ticket includes luggage as we learned the hard way that you’ll get hefty fees if it doesn’t. This unexpected expense cost us $200 per person one way but it’s Fiji Airways’ policy.
We visited Samoa at the end of April, which brought a mix of rain and sun. We didn’t mind the occasional showers – and the green landscape that comes at the end of the rainy season was stunning. If you’d rather avoid rain altogether, consider going during the dry season from May to October. Personally, I prefer traveling during the shoulder months because it’s less crowded and more budget-friendly compared to peak tourist season.
As for packing, be sure to bring a raincoat, comfortable hiking or athletic shoes that can handle mud, swimsuits (modest ones), and lightweight trousers and shirts (preferably linen) to beat the humidity. Don’t forget mosquito spray, as there are a few buzzing around. Sunscreen is a must, along with a hat. Remember that Samoa is rooted in its religion, so when packing keep in mind the need for modest attire – especially on Sundays when you’ll see churches. Show respect for their culture and traditions.
One crucial tip: have cash on hand! There are very few ATMs, so I recommend withdrawing cash at the airport. You’ll need it for most attractions, which are often located on private lands and this income helps maintain these spots. While the prices are reasonable, it’s worth the cost. Tipping isn’t common, although you can leave a tip at the resorts if you wish. Bargaining isn’t well-received as prices are already reasonable.
Renting a car in Samoa is highly recommended. We rented one from a family owned business there. While buses and hitchhiking are options – having a car offers convenience, flexibility and the ability to explore at your own pace. Gas isn’t too expensive but be cautious when driving. Keep your speed in check and stay alert because you’ll encounter various animals – from dogs and pigs to chickens and goats – crossing the road. The roads are generally in good condition but watch out for the occasional pothole.
Gas stations can be spread out and some might unexpectedly close, so refuel when you see an open station – especially on Sundays when many are closed. Also consider bringing a USB for music, as radio stations are limited and Christian music dominates the airwaves. While I loved it, some might prefer more music variety during their travels in this Pacific paradise.
My Future Projects & Dreams
As mentioned previously, I run a travel blog called One Model Mission – and I’m thrilled to announce that on January 1, 2024 I’ll be launching a revamped version of the blog at iamkatyjohnson.com. The new website will offer a vastly improved and more diverse experience for visitors. I’m particularly excited about this website relaunch because it goes beyond just travel – it encompasses empowerment, food and fashion as well!
I’ve poured a lot of hard work into this project and I believe the revamped blog will compete with some of the top female travel blogs out there. I’m always on the lookout for like-minded individuals to collaborate with or travel alongside. One of the most rewarding aspects of this journey for me is meeting new people, learning about their stories and gaining valuable insights from their experiences. My insatiable thirst for knowledge and learning is a driving force behind my passion for traveling the world.
In the not too distant future, I aspire to complete One Model Mission and even dream of hosting my very own travel show. That would be the ultimate achievement! My overarching goal is to inspire people not only to travel but also to step out of their comfort zones and explore the less traveled paths, discovering hidden gems like the beautiful Samoa.