For Mark and Autumn Raia, many of the boxes labeled “Potential Honeymoon Destination” had already been checked off. They’d been to Hawaii, used to live in Costa Rica and currently reside in Los Angeles.
The solution? Samoa.
Described by many, including Autumn, as a more lush, less touristy Hawaii, Pacific island nation of Samoa is the perfect choice for surfing, snorkeling, relaxing and meeting super-friendly locals.
“The people couldn’t be any nicer there, really,” Autumn said.
She noted that the hotel staff at Le Lagoto Resort on Savaii came out to greet them when they arrived, and the staff at Sinalei Resort on Upolu even volunteered to be her translator when she needed medical help.
“I got pink eye while I was there,” Autumn said. “It was Samoan Father’s Day, and they close everything down, but the food and beverage manager at Sinalei got one of the girls at the front desk to be our guide and take us into the city, Apia, to the government hospital. She stayed with us, did all the translating. Just that alone, the customer service and guest relations was just amazing. We had little miracles all the time, from the generosity of the people.”
Random hospital visit aside, Autumn and Mark’s trip in July 2013 was filled with a good mix of relaxing and exploring. They flew to American Samoa via Hawaii for their almost-three-week honeymoon. After a night in American Samoa (a U.S. territory), they flew on a small plane to the main Samoan island of Upolu and then took a ferry to the larger but less populated island of Savaii for the first half of their honeymoon. Autumn pointed out that certain days have direct flights to Upolu or you can fly through New Zealand, which she says she’d try the next time she visits Samoa.
The first hotel Autumn and Mark stayed at, Le Lagoto, is an intimate resort with plenty to offer honeymooners.
“It has beachfront bungalows and oceanfront rooms,” Autumn said. “You got to know all the other people staying there if you wanted to. And it had the best snorkeling I’ve ever done. I’ve visited the Big Island of Hawaii and I used to live in Costa Rica and did a lot of snorkeling there. In Samoa are all kinds of fish, all kinds of colors. And all sorts of shells. There’s so much coral out there.”
In addition to snorkeling right outside their room, the Raias also enjoyed the local Leilina’s Pizzeria near their hotel – “it was some of the best pizza I’ve ever had, which I thought was a little strange but it was so good” – and participated in the resort’s Fiafia night, similar to a luau.
Autumn pointed out that one aspect of the hotel may not appeal to all honeymooners though.
“It was kid-friendly,” Autumn said. “We didn’t mind the kids at all. But I could see if people were trying to be solely romantic it could be an issue. And if you wanted to be in the pool? Yeah, there were kids in that pool. But we didn’t really use the pool, we were there to be in the ocean.”
Autumn and Mark didn’t spend the whole first half of their Samoan honeymoon at the resort, though. They also rented a car and drove all around Savaii.
“We went to Aganoa Beach. We had heard it was the premier surfing place for that island,” Autumn said. “You have to go down this hectic road, but it was really neat; there were lots of Australian surfers down there. But lots of rocks and wave breaks, you have to be a pretty good surfer to surf there, it’s not a beginners’ spot. They also have these huge blowholes on Savaii. They’re pretty amazing.”
While exploring the island was definitely worthwhile for the chance to see the beaches and colorful residential architecture, Autumn said you do need to be careful.
“They drive on the other side of the road there,” she said. “People are always walking, kids are walking everywhere, there are dogs, chickens, and everyone keeps their livestock in their front yard. They honk their horns all the time there too. It’s a lot more rural on Savaii than Upolu. The locals say you haven’t been to the real Samoa if you haven’t been to Savaii.”
And while Autumn and Mark enjoyed exploring and surfing, they did have a few words of wisdom for other honeymooners bound for Samoa.
“We went swimming with turtles,” Autumn said. “We were really psyched but then you’re in someone’s backyard and these beautiful sea turtles are stuck not in their natural habitat. And just snorkeling around the resort you’ll see turtles in the water so we didn’t need to do that. And you need to be careful not to be taken advantage of at the blowholes. One man tried to charge us money to gather coconuts. For the most part, though, everyone is really nice and honest.”
After seven relaxing days on Savaii, the Raias made their way back to Upolu for the second half of their honeymoon.
“The first seven days were really great and we met some really great people,” Autumn said. “We almost didn’t want to leave there because we were treated so well.”
Luckily that stellar service continued on Upolu and the Raias were able to enjoy the five-star resort of Sinalei.