Church Samoa
Catholic church Falealupo
on the island of Savai’i, Samoa
Samoa coastline with palm trees and pony
Samoa Coastline

Words: Jane Hodges Photography: Maree Azzopardi

The pace is deliciously slow on the islands of Samoa. From the moment you step off the plane at Apia airport you know it. Even if you arrive in the middle of the night like we did, you’re greeted at the baggage carousel by smiling, guitar playing crooners festooned in garlands of tropical flowers and you begin to feel different. Relieved. Relaxed. Lighter.

It’s the island idyll of your mind’s eye – palm trees, squeaky white sand, crystal seas and waterfalls amid lush rainforest; but for all her adornment, Mother Nature has been harsh here too. Two cyclones, Ofa and Val, hit Samoa in the early nineties and an earthquake followed by a tsunami devastated much of the coast in 2009. Irrepressible, the locals simply cleaned up, rebuilt and got on with life. Some beachside buildings – traditional fale houses and the most amazing catholic church in Falealupo on Savai’i’s north-west coast remain in ruin – they’ve been re-imagined on higher, safer ground elsewhere.

Perched right on the beach, the beautifully desolate church ruin is open to the sky and only some of the walls remain. The locals sweep it out each day and keep a fresh lace cloth on the altar where the original statue of Mary still stands in her protected niche – an alcove of rocks sturdy enough to withstand the 14-metre wave that crashed through the windows, swept off the roof and carried the pews away.

It’s a serene and unexpected highlight on Savai’i’s north coast road – a wildly beautiful drive traversing shady coconut groves and hugging the coast past rocky coves and Bombay Sapphire gin-coloured bays.

[quote]Savai’i’s north coast road – a wildly beautiful drive traversing shady coconut groves and hugging the coast past rocky coves and Bombay Sapphire gin-coloured bays.[/quote]

There are many other diversions on Savai’i – you can snorkel on coral reefs just metres from the shore or swim with sea turtles at a sanctuary in Satoalepai; walk through a church which was engulfed by a lava flow in 1911 at Seleaula lava fields; and climb high into the treetops on a canopy walk at Falealupo Rainforest Preserve.

In his essay An Apology for Idlers, famed author Robert Louis Stevenson who lived in Samoa from 1890 until his death in 1894, wrote, “There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.”

It’s a duty you can ably perform in the Samoan archipelago.

[tabs style=”boxed” title=”Travel Facts”] [tab title=”Getting there”]Virgin Samoa flies to Apia three times a week from Sydney and once a week from Brisbane.
Inter-island ferry bookings


[tab title=”Where to stay”]

On Upolu stay at:

Litia Sini Beach Fales

Seabreeze Resort

On Savai’i stay at:

Lauiula Beach Fales

Stevensons at Manase Fales


[tab title=”Further information”]
For further information please visit[/tab]



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