Samoa is a country in the South Pacific Ocean, approximately halfway between Hawai’i and New Zealand. Up until 1997, it was known as Western Samoa and is not to be confused with American Samoa, although both island chains are within the same archipelago. The two main islands are Savai'i and Upolu; there are four smaller islands nearby. The capital city of Samoa is Apia. The Samoan Islands are a Commonwealth country, under Crown rule, although they are independent, and only came under Crown rule in the 1970 after independence from New Zealand took effect in 1962.
Samoa was first inhabited around 3,000 years ago by the Lapita people. The archaeological record supports the idea that prehistoric Samoans, Fijians, and Tongan not only traded and interacted but also intermarried. There were also close ties to the Filipino colonies. Even now, Samoa is considered the geographic and cultural heart of Polynesia.
The main international airport in Samoa is Faleolo International Airport. It is 40km west of Apia, on Upolu. Flights arrive from New Zealand, Hawai’i, Australia, Fiji, Pago Pago, and other, smaller destinations. Once in Faleolo, take the bus into Apia. There will also be taxi drivers waiting to take you; if you choose to do so, bargain with them on price before you get in. To get around the islands, just catch a local ferry.
The currency in Samoa is the Samoan tala. The main economy is agriculture and fishing, although many are reliant on family remittance from overseas and development aid. Tourism is a growing industry which now accounts for 25% of the GDP, and it is only expected to grow.
The climate in Samoa is equatorial/monsoonal. The rainy seasons occurs from November to April. The average temperature is between 24-30 degrees Celsius. Savai’i is the largest Polynesian island after New Zealand’s three and Hawai’i and Maui.
Budget accommodation in Samoa can be found across the islands. Traditional, European-style hostels are rare, but you may find a guesthouse, bed and breakfast, or inn for near the same price as a backpackers hostel. There are very few resorts on Samoa, so many travellers consider Samoa to be authentic and unspoilt. The inns, lodges, and guesthouses offer the same communal atmosphere of a hostel.
Once you have your accommodation sorted, you can explore this stunning paradise. Samoans still observe the fa’a Samoa, or the traditional Samoan way - in both culture and politics. Despite the influence of the Brits and Germans on Samoa, the islands retain their language, historical customs, and social and political systems. Many Samoans converted to Christianity after missionaries began arriving in the 1930s, but the ancient beliefs live alongside Christianity, especially in regard to the rituals and customs of fa’a Samoa.
Samoa is an intensely beautiful country. The lush forests and cerulean seas are picturesque and the cascading falls and coral reefs are worth exploring in detail. In the hot months, head straight to Papase’a Sliding Rocks, a mere 6km out of Apia and well-signposted, to take a dip in the refreshing waters. Apia is the main city, and there is plenty to do in town. Outside of town, visit the many villages, cultural icons, burial mound, and more that dot the landscape. Literature lovers can visit the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum, in his old Victorian villa off Cross Island Road near Apia. Be sure to hike through the Mt Vaea Scenic reserve to his gravesite at the top of the hill.
Lastly, do not miss the To Soa Ocean Trench swimming hole in Eastern Upolu. With that in mind, enjoy Samoa!
Hi, I'm Jakob Lombardi,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Samoa hostels. Welcome.