Manono Island is one of the best places to sample the simple pleasures of Samoan life, mingle with the locals and learn how they plant, fish, weave and spend their free time. This super-traditional and adorably sleepy little island is situated just 4 kilometres off Upolu’s southeastern coast, and to get there you have to cross the lagoon by boat from Manono-uta on the mainland. Manono consists of just four fishing villages, where locals live in traditional ‘open-air’ fales. It’s pleasantly devoid of noisy cars (or dogs, which aren’t allowed here) and the only sounds you’ll hear are those of silence – and of the waves gently lapping at the shore. It takes less than two hours to circumnavigate the island (that’s if you stroll, not power walk) and you’ll pass all four villages in the process. On the way you’ll be tempted to make a pit stop to swim or snorkel in the marine-protected lagoon. The island interior is also worth a nosy, and there are tracks leading up to a number of archeological sites. One such attraction is the 12-pointed ancient star mount on the flat peak of Manono’s highest peak, the 110m-high Mount Tulimanuiva. At Lepuiai Village in the southwest of the island, there’s another archeological sight worth seeing: the Grave of 99 Stones. Each stone represents one of the wives of the great (and obviously highly fertile) chief Vaovasa. Being an intensely religious community, Sundays on Manono has its limitations. In fact, the only allowed activity is walking to and from church – not that there’s anything wrong with being forced to kick back for a day in such a serene spot.
Speaking of which – to make sure your stay on Manono is a hundred percent authentic, it’s recommended that you not only live like a local but also sleep like a local, in an open fale. There are beach fales available on the eastern side of the island, and the local villagers will be only too happy to arrange a bed for you here. They also organise guided walks around the island.