For me Samoa was the South Pacific dream come true. Rarely do you see so much unspoilt tropical beauty in one place, devoid of make-shift housing constructions, modern supermarkets and the hectic pace of modern life. From the second we stepped onto the island we felt at home, thanks to the welcoming and friendly way we were treated by the locals and the inclusive, close-knit structure of the Samoan community.
Related Blog Posts: Samoa
The small island nation of Samoa is located in the middle of the South Pacific. It is also known as the Independent State of Samoa or Western Samoa to differentiate it from American Samoa. It mainly consists of two major islands, Upolu with the capital Apia, and Savai’i.
Samoa enjoys a warm, tropical climate with lots of rain, offering perfect conditions for a rich vegetation and beautiful flowers. It is rich in culture and still very traditional, with most people living in village communities that are built in the traditional style. Village and family are still the binding factors in the Samoan society – income earned for example will be shared with the family rather than used for personal benefit.
People here still live mostly in close-knit village communities where elders enforce locally recognised laws and codes of conduct. Alcohol for example is mostly shunned and alcohol abuse or other misconduct will be punished to the point that the individual is excluded from the village community.
Just like what you would expect from a tropical paradise, people are usually not employed in the modern sense, much to the despair of tourism operators and accommodation providers who are working hard at staff retention and loyalty.
All of these aspects and more can be easily summarised as the Fa’a Samoa, the Samoan way of life, an expression will encounter a lot when doing your research about this island nation.
What makes Samoa such an appealing travel destination is also the fact that it is almost crime free and very safe, thanks to the rigid society structures in place. This makes it ideal for backpackers and young women who want to explore the islands not just from the safety of their resorts but also beyond. And there is so much to see here: massive banyan trees in the forests, for example, waterfalls and waterholes, endless beaches, dramatic volcanic coastlines, and beautiful gardens.
There is no malaria present but Dengue fever can be a problem, so ensure you have tropical grade mosquito repellent in your luggage.
Accommodation options range from simple oceanfront beach fales without walls and private facilities to high-standard Western style holiday resorts with pool, gym and restaurant.
Facts at a glance:
What to eat: Fresh fish and tropical fruit are the best things to try in Samoa. Don’t rely on Westernised foods such as pasta, pizza and burgers. A curry can be a good alternative, too if the chef originally comes from Fiji.
What to buy: In Apia you can have your fare share of souvenirs, such as shells, carvings, t-shirts and jewellery which you can buy at the big market close to the port. The lava-lava is the traditional Samoan skirt, worn by both men and women.
Best beaches: Samoa is a true tropical paradise with many great beaches to choose from. Lalumanu and Manase beaches are both crazily attractive, and so is Virgin Cove or Sinalei on the South Coast. Swimming and snorkelling may not always be possible on Samoan beaches, but from a visual point of view you’ve just found paradise.
What to pack: Swimwear, a good camera, loose long clothes if you want to venture out into less touristy areas, sun protection, stationery for the kids when planning a visit to a village.
When to go: Avoid the wet season from November to March but expect rain throughout the year. The Aussie and Kiwi school holidays are in December and January, so another reason to avoid the islands if you want to find a good deal.
Good to know: Samoans have beautiful voices and are physically quite attractive (if I may say so). Dance and music performances are not to be missed. Also: If you consider road tripping or backpacking in Samoa, be mindful that almost all land is in private hands, and that beaches are usually only accessible after paying a small fee to the local village.
What I like most about Samoa: Samoa is just stunning inside and out – if you love tropical beaches, lush forests, beautiful voices and welcoming people, then this is the place for you.
What I don’t like about Samoa: Not much! However, just like other small island nations that are still in their tourism infancy stage Samoa is trying hard to please affluent travellers but don’t expect a first-class experience when it comes to cuisine or customer service.
Must-do’s: A swim in the To Sua Ocean Trench is unforgettable, if you don’t mind climbing down a slippery ladder. Snorkelling in the north part of the island is also an unforgettable experience (the south has been hit by a tsunami a couple of years ago, and the reefs are still recovering).