To Sua Ocean Trench: How To Get There (And is it Worth it?)

to sua ocean trench
to sua ocean trench

The term “must do” is somewhat overused in the online travel world. It certainly brings on a slightly bitchy eye-roll from myself, often meeting such bold claims with a hint of snarky suspicion. 

However while travelling around Samoa during my South Pacific Islands trip, I was intrigued by the rare promise of a particular place with natural beauty, relatively untouched by tourism; To Sua Ocean Trench.

The prospect of experiencing a 100-foot sinkhole in an isolated tropical paradise was all I needed to make this a priority for my Samoa Itinerary. 

So let’s take a look at everything you need to know about To Sua Ocean Trench – all the usual logistics, do’s and don’ts and whether it’s worth your time and energy to make it a priority for your Samoa Travel bucket list.

What is To Sua Ocean Trench?

To Sua Ocean Trench is a Samoan icon. While the Pacific Islands region boasts a fair amount of bragging rights for water landmarks, this bad-boy stands alone in terms of “wow” factor.

The name “To Sua” translates in the locals’ native tongue as “big hole.” The beauty in To Sua isn’t just in the aesthetics, but in the story behind how this natural wonder formed.

The gorgeous sinkhole was once a cave made up of two holes that eroded thanks to lava from an ancient volcanic eruption. This event, plus a couple of thousand years of wear and tear due to tidal waves from the nearby ocean, resulted in the magnificent spot that is today’s To Sua Ocean Trench.

Where is To Sua Ocean Trench (& How To Get There)

To Sua Ocean Trench is located on Lotofaga Village in the city of Apia, on Upolu Island. Most people who visit stay in Apia, reaching the sinkhole by bus, taxi, or rental car.

If you are making your way from Savaii Island, there are also ferry and flight options noted below. The drive via car to To Sua should take around 1 and a half hours.

Rental Car

Renting a car in Samoa is highly recommended for those with less-than-ideal patience levels. Public transport in Samoa simply comes when it wants and so you can’t rely on it for tight time frames. 

Rentals typically cost anywhere between $ST120 – $ST300 per day. Reputable car rental companies include:

  • Taumeasina Rentals 
  • Blue Pacific Car Hire 
  • Sa’Moana Rentals

All 3 of the above companies will also arrange your temporary driver’s licence for you.

Cheaper Car Rental Options

  • AA Car Hire 
  • Funway Rentals

The above companies advertise cheaper prices, this may or may not be due to a lack of service for a temporary drivers’ licence. It’s best to ask beforehand if it comes as part of the package, but if you do want to get a hold of this document yourself in Apia you will have to apply at the Land Transport Authority (open 9am-5pm Monday-Friday, closed on weekends).

The car park is only 100 metres from the trench, making it ideal for individuals who have difficulty walking.

Taxis

Taxis are available all across the island, particularly near the airport and Apia city centre. They are not metered, and prices should be negotiated before travel. If you find a driver you like and trust it’s worth getting their number and hiring them for day trips. 

  • From near the airport $ST100 return
  • $ST150 for the day. (They will wait for you and drive you back to your initial destination).
  • Pio from Freddy’s Taxi Service – the whole day, anywhere and everywhere on Upolu for around ST$350.

Public Bus

If you have all the time in the world, or are like myself and you like to experience travelling like the locals, then you’re in for a funky surprise!

Samoan buses are colourful, come whenever the hell they want and blast out R&B and reggae music during your trip. There are no official bus stops in Samoa, just flag one down and get involved.

This will double your time getting to To Sua, but the experience is worth it. You pay the driver as you get off the bus, oh and don’t be surprised if a female stranger parks her bum on your lap if the bus is full; this is completely normal in Samoan culture.

Ask Your Accommodation To Organise a Taxi

Most upscale places will happily do this for you, at a premium of course.  Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel & Bungalow have rave reviews as do most places in Apia due to Samoans being a lovely bunch of hospitable people.

Taking a Ferry to Upolu Island

I took a ferry from Savaii, it was fast (1 hour 15 minutes) but incredibly bumpy, which was fine for me. Quite a lot of locals were vomiting at one stage, so if you have the propensity to sea-sickness you should bear this in mind.

However, this cheeky little chappy made the madness easier for me…

Samoan Kid
Day From Upolu (Mulifanua)From Savaii (Salelologa) 
Sunday1200 – Big Ferry
1700 – Big Ferry 
1000 – Big Ferry
1500 – Big Ferry
Monday,
Wednesday,
Friday &
Saturday
0600 – Little Ferry / Barge
0800 – Big Ferry
1200 – Big Ferry
1400 – Little Ferry / Barge
1600 – Big Ferry
0600 – Big Ferry
0800 – Little Ferry / Barge
1000 – Big Ferry
1400 – Big Ferry
1600 – Little Ferry / Barge
Tuesday &
Thursday
0600 – Little Ferry / Barge
0800 – Big Ferry
1000 – Little Ferry / Barge
1400 – Little Ferry / Barge
1600 – Big Ferry
0600 – Big Ferry
0800 – Little Ferry / Barge
1200 – Little Ferry / Barge
1400 – Big Ferry
1600 – Little Ferry / Barge

Ferry Prices

AdultsST$12BikesST$10
2-12yrsST$6Small CarsST$80-$95 (includes driver) 
0-2 yrsFree   
(cash only)

Prices may change without notice. Purchase passenger tickets at the ticket office in the main area, car tickets at the office at the back of the wharf building. 

Duration

Big Ferry: MV Lady Samoa III – crossing takes 1¼ hours. Air Conditioned lounge/Airy upper deck, refreshments available. 

Little Ferry / Barge: MV Samoa Express / MV Fotu O Samoa – crossing takes approx 1 ¾ hours. Seating area available. 

Taxi from ferry

Mulifanua Wharf is 5 minutes drive from Faleolo International Airport. Turn right on exiting the airport. 

Taxi Fare between Mulifanua Wharf and: 

  • Airport: $7.20 
  • Apia: $60.50

Opening Times and Prices

Tuesday8:30AM–5PM
Wednesday8:30AM–5PM
Thursday8:30AM–5PM
Friday8:30AM–5PM
Saturday8:30AM–5PM
Sunday12:30–5PM
Monday8:30AM–5PM
  • Adults: $ST  20
  • Children 6-11 years: $ST 10
  • Children under 6: Free

Best Time (Of Day and Year) To Visit To Sua Ocean Trench

Go as early as possible upon the grounds opening, if you want to be around less people in the sinkhole. No brainer no matter where you are in the world!

Hot and wet season is between November and April, but showers tend to be short and those visiting between September and November may be fortunate enough to catch a bit of impromptu whale-spotting nearby.

To Sua Ocean Trench is open all year around, but as Samoa is a deeply religious country you should check that it’s not closed on the following public holidays:

  • New Year’s Day – January 1 & January 2
  • Good Friday & Easter Monday
  • Anzac Day April 25 – To remember those who died in the two World Wars
  • Mothers’ Day – The Monday after the second Sunday in May
  • Annual Independence Celebrations – June 1 – 3
  • Labour Day – The first Monday in August
  • White Sunday – The Monday after the second Sunday in October, in honour of the preceding White Sunday
  • Christmas Day & Boxing Day

Things To Consider When Visiting To Sua Ocean Trench

Avoid upsetting locals and stay safe…

  • Don’t leave any litter in the premises. Keep this beauty intact, carry a wet bag for convenience for your personal belongings.
  • No drones. They are simply not allowed. Would drone footage of this absolute marvel make you more popular at dinner parties? Absolutely. But it’s not worth the risk of getting kicked out.
  • Be careful on the ladder. Take your time and don’t rush other people. The surface is slippy, let everyone (including yourself) get there at their own pace.
  • Don’t jump if you don’t want to. I jumped because it was high tide and so did my mate. If he didn’t want to, I wouldn’t have given him shit and vice versa. Do what you want, peer pressure is stupid.
  • Take a picnic. To have in the nearby pretty gardens overlooking the ocean.
  • Don’t be whiny about “over-tourism.” We had most of it to ourselves when we went. The secret is almost out now, but over-tourism isn’t other people enjoying what you also have the right to enjoy. Be thankful you’re there and go early doors if you really want as much solitude as possible.
  • Avoid the current. If you venture too far out and it feels weird, then go back towards the main part. Sadly a local and a Chinese lad were taken away by a strong current and died in 2018.
  • It’s not for those afraid of heights. The ladder is pretty high and daunting even for me who has little to none acrophobia.
  • Be a gent/lady. Behave yourself and be polite like the Samoans while you are visiting their home
  • You will be charged even if you are only taking a picture. 

Conclusion: Is To Sua Ocean Trench Worth The Visit?

We got our first taste of the funky busses Upolu-style from early in the morning and made our way to the To Sua Ocean Trench, armed with our daysacks, high on curiosity and excitement to see if the experience matched the photos. 

The bus experience was exactly the same as on the island of Savaii; chaotic, loud, lively and colourful. Friendly locals knew exactly where we were heading and made sure we got off at the right stop in good time, bless ‘m!

After buying our tickets at To Sua right at the dot of 8:30am, we figured we’d check the ‘bonus’ parts of the grounds after we completely got the true taste of To Sua Ocean Trench. We couldn’t wait to get in there after taking the photos from the top, the ladder that acts as an entrance to the water really compliments the Trench and adds layers to its beauty. 

Upon approaching the eye candy that is To Sua Ocean Trench, we saw a local guy jump in. He lived to tell the tale and looked all giddy, although the jump from my view looked ballsy as f**k. 

I wanted to do the same, even though it looked absolutely terrifying. I gathered that the longer I thought about it, the more chance I’d have to talk myself out of it, so taking the (quite literal) leap of faith, I propelled myself forward and before I knew it my friend followed me into sinkhole paradise.

It was hands down the most jaw-dropping natural beauty I had ever seen on my travels. Crystal-clear waters, perfect views of darting tropical fish everywhere, and the backdrop of lush green fauna around me was almost too much allure for my hypnotised eyes.

To ask whether the experience matched the photos is laughable to be honest; it should be the other way around. And no, the photos do not do this slice of heaven any justice at all.

The ladder back up was a little dodgy, so I’m sure it’s even more intense coming down. It was sturdy, but slippery and I was holding on with a vice-like grip to get back up. Some people suggest it’s silly to jump and maybe they are right, but the ladder also comes with a degree of risk, hold on tight. Screw the selfies, just get in there in one piece and be thankful that you are there.

The gardens in the grounds were picturesque and perfectly peaceful, providing us with much-needed decompression after the buzz of finally getting to appreciate To Sua in all of its glory.

We spent 4 hours in the sinkhole/cave itself, soaking up every second of it, repeating an animated “wow” every now and then, sandwiched in with raptures of hysterical laughter. I’m forever grateful to have had the life experience of visiting this magnificent place in one of the most isolated and least visited countries on earth and I thoroughly enjoyed the country of Samoa.

Anthony Middleton

Former loser who took a risk. Visited over 100 countries. Trying my best to not get skinny-fat during Covid.

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Hi, I'm Anthony!

In November of 2010, I took on a mammoth challenge against the clock in a quest to upgrade my miserable life. I went out of my comfort zone and turned it all around. Ten years later, I’m completely location independent…

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