How To Visit Samoas Saleaula Lava Field

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Visit Samoa's Sale'aula Lava Fields, Savaii

Visiting Sale’aula Lava Fields on Samo’s largest Island of Savaii is on most tourists agenda and if its not, it should be. It is way more interesting than you might think. 

We had previously hiked the black lava cliffs of Upolu and almost didn’t visit these additional lava fields on Savaii as it felt like we would be seeing the same thing just in a different location.

The tiny $5 Thala entry fee (at only around $2.50 AUD) convinced us that it was worth stopping the car on the way back from the markets and having a look around for an hour or so. That was a great decision and I personally think these are the best lava fields Samoa has.


The history behind Sale'aula Lava Fields

Mount Matavanu erupted in varying degrees over a six-year period between 1905 and 1911. It’s multiple eruptions devastated this region and buried 5 villages beneath the boiling fields of lava that spilled out of the mountain.

The resulting lava flow is up to 40km wide at one point and is spread over around 100 square kilometers. In some areas, the lava is said to be up to 400 feet deep! While it hasn’t erupted for over 100 years now, Mount Matavanu is still considered to be an active volcano to this day.

Entrance to Saleaula Lava Fields

What is there to see at Sale'aula Lava Fields?

One of the most photographed buildings is the London Missionary Society church the remains of which still stand today. While lava consumes everything in its path, it is usually slow-moving, demonstrated in the LMS Church’s still-standing walls.

You can imagine that if this lava field had been moving at any pace, it would have demolished the church. Instead, it still stands as a testament to either great building techniques or the crawling pace of the lava flow. While the walls remain intact for the most part, the roof has long gone as have the window and door frames.

This would have been an impressive building for its day and the fact that it is still standing firm lends weight to the construction techniques of the day. Trees are starting to grow through the concrete and moss lines some parts of the walls giving it a reasonably eerie feel.

LMS Church still standing after the eruption of Mount Matavanu in Samoa
LMS London Missionary Society Church in the lava fields of Sale'aula, Samoa

Another popular site is The Virgin's Grave, which was left untouched by the flow of lava. It is believed to be the grave of the daughter of a High Chief from one of the local villages. It is said that the grave site was so pure that the lava flowed around the Chief's daughters grave, not touching it.

Today colorful Cordylines or possibly Crotons (plants aren’t my thing) grow inside the pocket left by the gap in the lava, and it very much feels like flowers on a grave should. I thought it felt like Samoa's earth was confirming that this was indeed a very important grave site. Maybe some locals planted them, I don't know, however it does look great to see the color in the middle of the pitch black lava.

As you wander around the site you will see nature has started to reclaim the land that has been so barren for over a century. Plants are growing through cracks in the lava and trees and encroaching on what remains of the buildings which reminded me of Angkor Wat on a much smaller scale obviously. .

Samoa’s climate is perfect for growing almost anything so its no real surprise that the land is starting to regenerate itself. Some of the lava has impressions of fully grown trees that would have fallen, creating the shape and then have rotted away leaving only a tree shaped impression in the lava.

The virgins grave at Saleaula Lava Field Savaii Samoa
The virgins grave at Saleaula Lava Field Savaii Samoa

Where is Sale'aula Lava Field on Savaii?

This lava field is on the northern coast of Savaii and is very easy to find. From Salelologa Wharf you turn right onto the main road that rings the island and follow it for around 45 kilometres. You will start to see the black of the lava fields in the village of Mauga and shortly thereafter you will pass a small info post before you see the sign for the lava fields.

How Much Does It Cost To Get Into Saleaula Lava Field

The entrance fee is 10 Thala (correct at Jan 2023) per person and parking is mostly free. I say mostly because others told me that they did in fact pay 10 Thala to park their car, however we weren't asked to pay that.

This map will show you the location of the lava field.

North Coast Road rings the island so its pretty hard to get lost. Sim cards in Samoa are cheap and work well so I would suggest getting a sim card to use Google Maps for your driving.

While it is only 45km from Salelologa Wharf, driving on the roads in Samoa is often limited to 60km per hour so it will be an hours drive for sure.

Inside the church at the Savaii Lava Fields
Inside the church at the Savaii Lava Fields

How to Get To Savaii

Flights into Samoa land at the main airport on Upolu, the smaller but more populated island. Sale’aula Lava Fields are on Savaii, the northern smaller island of Samoa.

To get to Savaii you can take the ferry either with your car or on foot as a passenger. Leaving from Mulifanua Wharf, on the northern end of the island just past the airport, the ferries sail multiple times per day to and from Savaii (Salelologa Wharf).

If you want to take your car it is essential to book. They don't seem to answer their emails so you will have to call. They speak English well and it was easy to communicate what times and dates I wanted to book for.

Be sure to ask for a booking number which is usually just the number of cars booked to date on that day. We were car # 7 for both over and back bookings and I didn't have any challenges paying for the trip on the day of travel. I did copy the ladies name and had my booking number at the ready just in case but it wasn't necessary.

When you get to the ferry terminal at Mulifanua Wharf, you have to use the main carpark and then go inside the building to get your tickets.

Once you have done that you then have to come outside and then queue up for the ferry. You can't get inside the gate with your car until you have your ticket.

Ferry timetable from Mulifanua to Salelologa (Upolu to Savaii)

Below is the current ferry timetable for Samoa Shipping that runs the ferries between Upolu and Savaii. The timetable does change seasonaly so please check via their website for the most up to date timetable.

!! Be very aware that Samoa is a deeply religious country and ferries do not run on Sundays.

DayMV Lady Samoa IIIMV Foto-O-Samoa II
 Depart SalelologaDepart MulifanuaDepart SalelologaDepart Mulifanua
SundayNo TripsNo TripsNo TripsNo Trips
Monday06:00 AM 10:00 AM 2:00 PM08:00 AM 12:00 PM 4:00 PM06:00 AM 10:00 AM 2:00 PM08:00 AM 12:00 PM 4:00 PM
Tuesday06:00 AM 2:00 PM Only08:00 AM 4:00 PM Only06:00 AM 10:00 AM 2:00 PM08:00 AM 12:00 PM 4:00 PM
Wednesday06:00 AM 2:00 PM Only08:00 AM 4:00 PM Only06:00 AM 10:00 AM 2:00 PM08:00 AM 12:00 PM 4:00 PM
Thursday06:00 AM 10:00 AM 2:00 PM08:00 AM 12:00 PM 4:00 PM06:00 AM 2:00 PM Only08:00 AM 4:00 PM Only
Friday06:00 AM 10:00 AM 2:00 PM08:00 AM 12:00 PM 4:00 PM06:00 AM 2:00 PM Only08:00 AM 4:00 PM Only
Saturday06:00 AM 10:00 AM 2:00 PM08:00 AM 12:00 PM 4:00 PM06:00 AM 10:00 AM 2:00 PM08:00 AM 12:00 PM 4:00 PM

The image below of the google maps overview of the Ferry Terminal at Mulifanua Wharf should show you where to park, where to pay and where to queue for the ferry to Savaii.

  1. Pull in and park in front of the ferry terminal. Don't try and get into the queue without your ticket or they will just push you back.
  2. Head into the terminal to pay for your booking. Just tell them your booking/car number and they will take your money. NB: They won't take the money for the journey home you will have to do the same proceedure at Salelologa to come back.
  3. Now you have your ticket (and any for extra persons) get your car and head to the gate that takes you into the line up area
  4. Queue for the boat here. They will direct you on and off the boat.

!! They pack you in very tight so if you have other people in the car make sure they get out before you wedge yourself into your spot or they won't be able to get out.

Image showing you where to check in and park for the ferry from Upolo to Savaii

Fares for the ferry between Upolu and Savaii

At this time, fares are as listed below (one way and return) and are in Thala.

Adults $12 / $24

Children (2-12 years) $6 / $12

Infants FREE

Vehicles:

  • Category A (small cars mostly 2 doors 9-12 feet long) $80 / $160
  • Category B (4wd Hilux, Landcruiser, Larger Sedan, 7 seaters etc 12-15 feet) $95 / $190
  • Category C (LIght trucks, F150, 15 seaters, 10 seater vans 15-18 feet) $100 / $200

They do take larger trucks but you have to talk to them first.

Motorbikes are $30 each way and bicycles are $10 each way.

From memory the price for the car included the driver and we had to pay extra for the 3 extra passengers, however they will be able to help you with that.

If you don't have a car, make your way to the Salelologa Market and grab a bus from there. Everyone is very helpful but be prepared to be crammed in. Just ask to be let off at the Lava Fields and the driver will yell to you when it is time. The buses in Samoa are awesome and something you have to do at least once.

The beautiful waters of Samoa from the ferry crossing from Upolo to Savaii
The beautiful waters of Samoa from the ferry crossing from Upolo to Savaii

Where to stay on Savaii

These three accommodation options (pictured below) on Savaii are very close to the Sale'aula Lava fields (and the turtle swimming) so are all about an hour from the main town of Salelologa. We stayed at Le Lagoto Resort and Spa and loved it, however this was our splurge for the trip so it wasn't cheap. We had our own little beachfront bungalo where we took about 15 steps out to the deck over the water. BLISS!

If you would like more budget accommodation, there are a few options in Salelologa like Lusia's Lagoon Chalets or Jet Over Hotel. Lusia's is very budget, but the restaurant food is good (we ate there once). The insects however can be HORRIFIC! So if you do stay, make sure to have spray and/or a mozzie net.

We didn't really have any trouble the day we were there but we were there at lunch. A young woman we met who had been staying a week told us they were terrible in the evening. It is over the water so to be expected.

Le Logato Resort And Spa

TOP END:
This was our little splurge for Samoa and I can highly recommend this resort. It is the top end of the price range at aprox $270 AUD per night. Book via their website.

FAQ's on travelling to and around Samoa
Le Lagoto Resort and Spa. Our bungalow was right next to the timber deck you see that goes directly into the water.

Savaii Lagoon Resort

MID RANGE:
This resort is right next door to Le Lagoto and is more reasonably priced at $215 AUD per night. This bay is beautiful.

Check Prices

Stevensons At Manase

LOWER RANGE:
$177 AUD (aprox) per night will enable you to stay in this beachside hotel! A huge pool, cafe and bar are available to all guests but it is a bigger resort and does get very busy.

Check Prices.


Check out my USA Destination Page for all the info, posts & places to visit in Samoa



Jenny Marsden - Charge The Globe
About the author

Meet Jenny, a passionate Australian travel blogger who has explored 103 countries to date. With over 30 years of travel experience, Jenny has a wealth of knowledge to share with her readers about the cultures, landscapes, and people she has encountered on her journeys. She's always battling unfashionably frizzy hair and you will never catch Jenny in anything but comfortable shoes. Learn more about Jenny and her travels.


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