Sopoaga Falls

We spent the last three days in a rental car touring the island, and Samoa proves to be a place of superlatives: the most luscious waterfalls, the most glorious beaches, the most magnificent flora, the most secretive swimming holes, the best landscaped roads, the cleanest, most colorful villages, the most scrumptious restaurants, and the fewest tourists of any island we have visited. While exploring, we ran into one other yachtie, a few Kiwis staying at the smattering of modest bungalows around the island, and two backpackers paying about $20 per night to stay in open-air fales on the beach (fales are the ubiquitous form of Samoan abode: a raised paved or wooden platform with pillars supporting a domed roof).

On our first day out, we stopped on a whim at Sopoaga Falls. There was a small sign on the road and an icon on our map, nothing to indicate the glories within would rival the grandest waterfalls in Yosemite or Hawaii. We pulled into a small driveway and found ourselves in the front yard of one of the village homes. A woman ambled out of her family’s fale and collected a small fee for visiting the falls. There is one area of the island reserved as a national park, all other points of attraction fall, literally, in someone’s backyard.

And what a backyard it is: an impeccably manicured tropical garden path gives way to vertiginous cliffs where vines and ferns cascade down lava rocks in symphony with the falling water.

We relaxed in the nearby guest fale, enjoying the seclusion and letting ourselves be hypnotized by the charging sound of water plummeting 350 feet. We stretched our eyes down the ravine, trying to find an end to the green, or the point where freshwater meets salt. We never did, but it still manages to be the most sublime afternoon I can remember.