Swim the To Sua Ocean Trench in Samoa

January 12, 2024
November 26, 2023

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You can’t leave the South Pacific paradise of Samoa without visiting its iconic attraction, To Sua Ocean Trench. Its photos have gone viral all over the internet with all kinds of image editing, making it hard to know what to expect and what to believe.

In this article we show you what this giant sinkhole really looks like and what to expect from your visit, based on our personal experience.

A composite image showing To Sua Ocean Trench from above the hole and when the ladder into the water.

What is To Sua Ocean Trench?

To sua means 'giant swimming hole' in Samoan and this one is 30 metres deep. The site is situated on an ancient lava field and tube system. Erosion caused the collapse of the roof of a lava tube. This formed two holes - To Sua and To Le Sua.

Ocean water flows into To Sua, which allows you to enjoy it as a natural swimming hole. If you like the cenotes in Mexico, you'll love this!

There are change rooms, outdoor showers, a mini mart, and open-style fales to make your stay there more comfortable and enjoyable. The entry fee is 20 tala per person. It’s open from 8.30 AM to 5PM Monday to Saturday and 12.30pm-5pm on Sundays.

Getting to To Sua Ocean Trench

To Sua Ocean Trench is located in the village of Lotofaga on the south-east side of Upola island in Samoa. It takes about one hour to drive there by car from Apia.

You can also catch a local bus from the Old Apia Market (flea market) heading towards Lepa. Just tell the driver where you want to go and they will drop you off on the main road.

It’s a five-minute walk down the driveway to the entrance. Pay your entrance fee at the mini mart located to the right as you reach the end of the driveway.

If you prefer, you can do what we did at stay at nearby accommodation in the area (south-east coast of Upolu).

Our experience at To Sua Ocean Trench

The local owners do a great job of maintaining the premises with grassed areas and small gardens. You’ll see three different sink holes surrounded by white fences when you arrive. Walk towards the ocean and over a small bridge to reach To Sua.

Keep going to see open-style fales along the coast that provide stunning ocean views. If you’re lucky enough to grab one of these like we were, they provide a great spot to relax and spend the day in-between swimming in the sinkhole.

A composite image showing Janna sitting in an open-style fale and the ocean view at Su Tua Ocean Trench.

To reach the swimming hole, you need to walk down a few flights of stone stairs before reaching a wooden ladder to climb down. It’s fairly steep and you need to make sure you climb down slowly while holding onto the ladder with both hands.

It can get quite slippery after it’s been in use for a while, so make sure you plant your feet carefully as you go down or back up it. As you reach the bottom of the ladder, you’ll come to a wooden platform with a section cut out of it with the ladder continuing all the way into the water.

A composite image showing a wooden ladder and Jon sitting on a wooden platform, and Janna climbing down the ladder into To Sua Ocean Trench.

The ocean water comes into To Sua via a trench on the left side when you’re standing on the platform and facing the water. It may be possible to reach the ocean via the trench when it’s low tide.

We arrived too late for this though, so can’t comment on what that’s like. If you're an experienced free diver, you may also be able to swim through the trench and then an underwater cave with air pockets at high tide. But we didn't see anyone attempting this and wouldn't recommend it personally!

When it’s high tide, it’s fun to jump off the platform into the water. Just watch out for some large rocks to the right of the platform in particular. Some adventurous locals were also climbing up the ladder to jump into the water!

To the right as you’re facing the water from the platform is a cave-like area where the water has dug out a section under the rock to form To Le Sua. It’s surreal to feel sand under your feet as you look up and see rock over your head.

There’s an exit to a small area where trees and plants are growing. You can see To Le Sua from above when you first enter the grounds near the mini mart.

The current can pull you a bit as the water comes in and out of To Sua. There are two ropes strung across the swimming hole to help you stay afloat and move across when needed.

Overall though, it’s very pleasant to float in the water and look up at the cavernous walls and the lush vegetation growing around the hole. The water is the perfect temperature and it's really bliss swimming there.

A composite image showing Janna floating in the water and the cave at To Sua Ocean Trench.

There were waves of visitors while we were there, but it didn’t become too crowded with swimmers at any point. It would be best to visit early in the morning or later in the day to avoid the crowds during high season.

Please note that using your drone here is prohibited. You can ask for permission from the owners of the land at the entrance and pay a very high fee (at the time when we visited it was $100 AUD).

Once you're finished relaxing in the swimming hole and the grounds, you can visit other places nearby. We'd recommend Vavau Beach and Sopo’aga Falls.

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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