Manono Island: an idyllic Samoan retreat

January 12, 2024
November 30, 2023

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Imagine a place in the South Pacific with crystal clear waters, white sand beaches, and lush greenery - a paradise on earth. Manono Island is that place.

It's a small island located in the Apolima Strait, situated just 4 km off the coast from Samoa’s main island, Upolu. Though it’s only 3 square kilometers in size, it’s the third most populated island in Samoa.

Manono Island offers a peaceful and traditional way of life where no cars or dogs are allowed to disturb the tranquility. It's an ideal destination for those who want to enjoy nature at its best.

From the journey to the island, where to stay, and what to experience, we have got you covered. In this article, we'll take you through all the essential information for traveling to Manono Island and what makes it worth a visit.

An aerial view of Manono Island in Samoa.

How to get to Manono Island

It's quite a journey! First you have to catch a bus to Mulifanua Wharf or a taxi directly to Manono-uta Wharf on Upolu Island, Samoa's main island. Then you will have to take a boat trip across Apolima Strait organised with your accommodation in advance.

We travelled by taxi to the Old Apia Market (flea market) to catch a local bus to the pick-up point for our stay on Manono Island. There are various buses that go to Manono-uta Wharf. Look for one heading to Manono, Falelatai or Samatau, or ask a local which one to catch.

As it turned out, the bus we caught terminated at Mulifanua Wharf. We had to catch a taxi to take us the rest of the way to the pick-up point.

Once at Manono-uta Wharf, we saw the transport had been waiting for us along with some other locals returning to Manono Island. It was a short trip across the strait.

A turtle bopped his head out of the water as if to welcome us to the island! After making a couple of stops on the near side of the island, we made our way around to our accommodation.

A composite image showing the coastline of Manono Island.

Where to stay at Manoa Island

There are only two accommodation options on the island, and we highly recommend going with Sunset View Fales.

The other accommodation catches turtles out of the water to entertain tourists. Please if you see such an activity, don’t participate and let your guide/host know that this is extremely unethical.

Our experience at Sunset View Fales

Margaret from the host family at Sunset View Fales was on the pier waiting to greet us. She walked us to our bungalow situated at the top of the hill near her family’s house.

It was a large bungalow with two bedrooms and a private bathroom. There was a pedestal fan to help keep the bungalow cool. Breakfast and dinner are included in the daily rate of 150 WST. The meals are a mix of Western and Samoan food and Margaret was able to make vegetarian meals for us.

What to do on Manoa Island

Although it's a small island, there are still many activities to keep you busy!

Swim at a white sand beach

There is a nice shallow beach at the village nearby, just a five-minute walk from Sunset View Fales. Depending on where you go on the beach, you pay the family who owns that section 5 WST per person to swim there.

The beach nearby Sunset View Fales on Manono Island that we swam at.
An aerial view of the beach we swam at and the village behind it on Manono Island.

The people in this village are very friendly and even invited us to have lunch with them (we politely declined as it was a meat-based meal). We spoke to one woman who was drying out the leaves of coconut trees and then her neighbour who takes those leaves to weave mats.

A composite image showing a local woman weaving mats with dried out palm leaves on Manono Island.
A composite image showing palm leaves drying on the ground in the sun on Manono Island.

Hike around the island

You can walk around the entire island in about two hours via a footpath along the Manono Island Trail. This path runs along the coastline of the island. There are four villages on the island and several shops where you can buy some food and drink if needed.

A local shop owner on Manono Island.

The topography of the island is interesting, with giant crab holes, volcanic rocks and grass that looked soft but was actually tough to touch. There are lots of palm trees decorated with colourful scarfs. We could also see some food crops planted by the locals.

Some local kids walking along the coastal trail on Manono Island.
The coastal walk with colourful scarves wrapped around the palm tree trunks.

The island has 110-metre tall Mt Tulimanuiva accessible by walking tracks. Located on the peak is a star mound built by Tongans when they occupied part of Samoa.

Another one of the historical sites worth visiting is the Grave of 99 Stones, dedicated to the high chief Vaovasa. It's located in the southwestern part of the island at Lepuia'i Village.

The grave consists of two tiers and 99 stones, each supposedly representing one of the chief's wives. The missing 100th stone represents his failed attempt to abduct his 100th wife home from Upolu, in which he was killed by villagers there.

Go kayaking

Kayaks are available for hire from Sunset View Fales for a small fee. The water around the island is protected by the reef, so it's very calm and makes it perfect for a kayak trip.

There is a small island nearby called Nu’ulopa that can be reached by kayak. It’s inside the reef and has a small sandy beach. You’ll need to pay 50 WST to the land owners in order to visit the island.

Snorkel or scuba dive at nearby reefs

We went for a snorkel around the pier and could see some coral. But we'd recommend organising a boat trip further out to the reefs nearby to experience better coral and sea life.

Go for an adventure on the remote island of Apolima

Apolima is an isolated island full of mystery and wonder located between the two main Islands Upolu and Savaii in Samoa. It is a lush green island and only has one populated village.

Situated behind the volcanic crater cliffs, this tiny village is home to only 100 residents, with 20 families. People here managed to maintain their self-sufficient traditional lifestyle for centuries.

To get here is a real challenge that includes navigating through the narrow beach and volcanic cliff fortress. Our host Margaret told us that anyone with a local boat could organise the trip there in the past. Because you actually have to cross an open ocean and due to the difficult navigation now, you can only organise a tour with someone from Apolima.

An aerial view looking out at Apolima Island from Manono Island.

Margaret reached the people of Apolima and confirmed for us that the boat ride will cost us 250 WST for two people. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t on our side and with lots of rain we had to leave this adventure for next time.

However, we have heard that locals there are very friendly. You will also have the opportunity to experience the traditional Samoan way of life, from preparing authentic cuisine to crafting intricate handmade objects.

If you want to organise this experience, you have to let your host know as soon as possible so she can confirm the availability of a boat.

A composite image showing the coastline of Manono Island and looking out at Apolima Island.

Join locals for a church ceremony

If you stay on Manoa Island during the weekend, make sure to visit one of the churches on Sunday or just head to the village. Everyone is wearing white outfits to the church.

Most people in Samoa are very religious and take church business seriously, so it's a great opportunity to dig deeper into their culture. All the families gather together at church. After the church ceremony, families usually prepare umu, a traditional way of cooking.  

A composite image showing an aerial view and a close view of the church at a village on Manono Island.

Final words...

What we loved the most about Manono Island is the peace and quiet. If you want to unwind or learn more about the Samoan way of living, we highly recommend visiting!

Travel itinerary for Samoa

If you haven't already, read our comprehensive 14-day suggested travel itinerary to make the most of your trip to beautiful Samoa.

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