Lynn’s Getaway in Samoa

By Anne Taylor
This item appears on page 27 of the April 2019 issue.
Blowholes in Savai’i. Photos by Anne Taylor

Samoa is an authentic tropical South Pacific paradise. My friend John Harmon and I wanted to find the right base of operation that would allow us to truly explore the country and its culture. We ended up experiencing it all in a week at an unbelievably low cost of about $80 per person per day.

On Aug. 31, 2018, we arrived at Lynn's Getaway Hotel (Salanesa Rd., Motootua, Apia, Upolu 1561, Samoa; phone +685 20272, without any plans or particular expectations, yet every travel request was fulfilled. We found that Lynn Netzler and her family were uniquely able to provide private, custom tours of four Samoan islands plus everything else you'd expect at a great accommodation.

A safe and easy 5-minute walk from downtown, Lynn's Getaway is located in Samoa's capital city of Apia, where English is widely spoken and understood by all residents. Lynn is a well-respected businesswoman who opened this marvelous guest house about 10 years ago. Paulo, a New Zealand-trained chef, prepared daily breakfasts and fabulous multicourse dinners.

Prebooking Lynn's transfer service for the 50-minute drive from and to the airport (about $23 each way, included in our total) was also a good idea. I was so glad we had decided not to rent a car. Driving on the left side of the road would have been difficult. More importantly, we would have missed the descriptions of everything to see and do along the way.

On Sept. 2, Lynn served us Sunday lunch, a big event in Samoa. She invited some of her fascinating friends to join us for the buffet of local delicacies.

A giant clam seen while snorkeling off Upolu.

Our outstanding, all-day tours were organized and/or conducted by Lynn's children, Karl and Rosemarie Netzler. For our first tour, of the main island, Upolu, on Sept. 3, Lynn's employees Pina and Morgan filled the back of the modern SUV with towels, lavalava (sarongs), bottled water and snacks.

On the tour, we swam in a freshwater pond, soaked in the To Sua Ocean Trench (a giant swimming hole) and snorkeled in the ocean to see giant clams. Swimming through caves and being the only snorkelers in the ocean were exciting new experiences. Every tour included a swim in the ocean, so my swimsuit became my "foundation garment" for the next three days.

Most attractions charged a small fee (the equivalent of a few cents), so it was helpful to have small bills.

At dinner after our first tour, we bragged to some of the medical students staying at the guest house about our adventure-filled day. We were hooked and asked Lynn, "What's next?"

She suggested a day tour of Manono and Apolima islands led by Loa, the niece of the village chief of Apolima. As soon as she said "Apolima," Rosemarie asked if she could join us. Visitors must have permission from the village chief in order to set foot on the island, but that was no problem for us, thanks to Loa.

With Lynn's help, we negotiated a price with Loa for the 2-island tour hosted by her family. We paid her directly WST600 (near $231) for the two of us. Loa also arranged a delicious lunch of soup, chicken, fish and coconut sauce plus dessert.

We visited the islands on Tuesday on a boat piloted by Loa's relatives. We had an easy, 1½-hour walk on Manono, visiting a church and stopping to talk to women who were weaving fine mats, the signature craft of Samoa, before moving on to the forbidding island of Apolima.

Apolima is a flattop mountain, the exposed part of a submerged crater, which, at first, does not appear to provide a way onto the island. As we began to circle the island, a small space revealed a narrow beach. Our captain threaded the boat between the rocks, and we set foot on the island.

Very few people ever get the chance to spend the day on Apolima. Rosemarie had never been there, and she'd lived in Samoa for more than 30 years.

Like Manono, Apolima has only walking paths — no cars. A path with steps led us to the top of the island to see the lighthouse and enjoy a breathtaking view. After lunch, we took a short hike to see the giant's footprint and swim in the ocean. We then returned to Upolu island and the guest house.

Over dinner that evening, we met Karl and planned our 2-day driving tour of the big island of Savai'i, which was a highlight for me. With Karl at the wheel, it completed our tours of all four of the inhabited Samoan islands.

A car is necessary to tour Savai'i, so using the car ferry was a good decision. Upolu and Savai'i are the only islands with roads. The roads, which are well maintained, circle the islands; consequently, nearly everyone lives in a home with an ocean view.

Our plan was to do a leisurely drive halfway around the island to the Falealupo Peninsula, where Lynn had reserved uniquely Samoan accommodations at Falealupo Beach Fales (

Sunset on the Falealupo Peninsula — Samoa.

The cost was less than $27 for each fale for the night, with dinner and breakfast included. A fale is a small thatched hut, set on pillars, with woven side walls that roll down for privacy. There was a separate shower-and-toilet room farther back on the property for the six fales.

Each of our fales had no door, so we simply climbed up a few steps and got a stunning view of the white-sand beach and blue ocean. Snorkeling off the beach revealed lovely hard coral.

Later, we took a short stroll up the road to scramble up the lava rocks to view the sunset. We returned for a delicious dinner at the main building, then went for a drive to see what was going on that evening in the villages and in the sky. Polynesia looks up at the darkest sky on the planet. The Milky Way was brilliant, and the only sound was the lapping ocean.

The next day, after a morning walk, we continued to explore the other side of the island, stopping to swim in a freshwater pool and watch coconuts fly into the ocean after a local woman heaved them into huge blowholes.

Our visit to Sawai'i ended on Thursday, Sept. 6, when we caught the ferry back to Lynn's in time for dinner.

Friday morning, we took a flight to Pago Pago, American Samoa, where we had time to sightsee the day before our international departure. I still find it hard to believe our 30-minute flight set the clock back 24 hours, as it crossed the International Date Line.

Even more unbelievable, considering the personal attention given to us by everyone at Lynn's Getaway, was the price we paid for our comprehensive 7-day exploration of Samoa!

Not counting the special day trip to Monono and Apolima ($231 for the two of us) or the $27 each for our beach fales, John and I each paid Lynn $420, so the total for everything for the seven days came to $1,125 for the two of us. (At Lynn's Getaway, John and I shared a room with two beds.)

Every tour included the activities that we chose. If hiking isn't for you, you just need to say so.

Sarasota, FL