The island of Savai'i is one large shield volcano and between the years 1905 and 1911 the crater of Mount Matavanu erupted; the lava flowed down towards the sea and buried inland villages, all the way to Sale'aula on the north coast. In some places the lava was well over 100 metres deep.
In Sale'ula the ruined churches can still be seen; the lava flowed into the Methodist church, the iron roof collapsed and its imprint is clearly visible in the solidified lava. Nearby is the grave of a village taupau, the daughter of a High Chief who had died of tuberculosis as a teenager, and, it is said, was so pure that the lava flowed around her grave, not touching it.
It is possible to walk up from the coastal village of Safotu, with its huge Sacred Heart Church, to the top of the crater of Mount Matavanu, where a lone guardian, Seu Api Utumanu, known as "Da Craterman" maintains the track and has put up signs about the visitors that have made the trek. Just east of Safotu is the village of Manase, where a number of beach fale places can be found along the beach to stay. Not far from there, in the village of Fagamalo, are two more upmarket resorts offering comfortable lodging on a wonderful beach.
From the village of Sasina the road going west turns inland and crosses lava fields from a much earlier eruption (in 1760) to the village of A'opo; after that many years it is no longer obvious. The road reaches the coast again in the village of Asau, nicely located on Asau Bay. It is the main business centre of western Savai'i and used to be the centre of timber industry, now closed. There is an airstrip that may be used for charter flights here.