A tiny island nation, little-known to the rest of the world, Samoa lies in the South Pacific Ocean, 1000 kilometres north-east of Fiji. Known as ‘The Treasured Islands of the South Pacific’, the country is made up of two main islands, Upolu and Savai’i (which account for some 96% of the total land area) and eight smaller islands.
Samoa is only slowly awakening to tourism and it by no means offers an array of luxury hotels to rival those in other parts of the world – yet, visitors to this island paradise will be rewarded with pristine and unspoiled scenery, a rich history and culture, some of the most friendly and genuine people in the world and a wonderfully unhurried pace of life!
The island of Upolu is home to the capital, Apia, and Faleolo International Airport – it is here that most visitors will spend the majority of their time. Magnificent white and black sand beaches, secluded coves fringed with palm trees and beautiful turquoise waters surround the island, whilst the interior is decidedly rugged with towering waterfalls, jagged mountains and pristine waterholes which provide the perfect spot for a refreshing dip!
It would be impossible to talk about Samoa without mentioning the historic and legendary Aggie Grey’s Hotel! Located in Apia and made famous, of course, during World War II, Aggie Grey’s is now something of a Samoan landmark. Also well worth visiting is Robert Louis Stevenson’s former home – a mansion which still contains many of his belongings, and is now a museum. His tomb is just a short walk away, at the top of nearby Mount Vaea – where you can also enjoy superb views of some of Samoa’s best beaches, which are located all along Upolu’s south coast.
Nature runs wild in Savai''i – a one hour ferry ride or short flight west of Upolu. This is actually Samoa’s largest island, albeit far less developed with an extremely slow pace of life. Dramatic lava fields, rainforests and picture-perfect beaches sprinkled with traditional falés (bungalows) punctuate the landscape – and the north coast is renowned for being home to some of Samoa’s best beaches. Accommodation in Savai’i is more simple than on Upolu, but is charming and perfectly comfortable.
Beach falés (open-sided thatched roof huts) are an integral part of Samoan life, acting as a meeting point for family and friends, often just steps from the water’s edge. The adventurous visitor may opt to spend some of their time in a beach falé, often joining the local family for meals. This certainly provides an insight into Samoa''s unique culture – but you need to be prepared for some very basic accommodation!
Samoa benefits from a typical South Pacific climate, with May to October (the dry season) being the more popular period during which to visit. November to April brings higher humidity and tropical showers, although temperatures are generally warm year round.
Travel from London to Samoa is possible with Air New Zealand on a weekly flight via Los Angeles – and the total flying time is approximately 26 hours (flights depart the UK on a Tuesday). There are more regular flights between Samoa and New Zealand.
Samoan is the official language (although English is widely spoken) and the local currency is the Tala.