Samoa or the Samoan Islands consist of a group of nine islands in the South Pacific about halfway from Hawaii to New Zealand. Only the western half of the Samoan Islands archipelago is part of Samoa. The eastern half of the islands, known as American Samoa, belongs to the United States. The largest of the Samoan Islands is Savai’I, which many describe as “Polynesia at its truest”. The second largest island and most populated is Upolu. Apia is Samoa’s capital and is located on Upolu. The other seven Samoan islands are more like small islets and include three in the Apolima Strait – Apolima, Manono, and Nu’ulopa – and four in the Aleipata Islands – Nu’utele, Nu’ulua, Fanuatapu, and Namua.
Samoa’s history begins 3500 years ago when the first Southeast Asians arrived and settled on the islands. Only at the turn of the 18th century was there initial contact with the Europeans. In the 19th century, European missionaries, traders, and explorers began arriving in waves with the United States, Germany, and UK all making claims to various parts of Samoa. The islands were shelled by the British and U.S. navy in 1899, and the islands were subsequently divided into a western and eastern part with the Germans gaining hold of western Samoa through a trade with the British and the Americans receiving eastern Samoa. In WWI, New Zealand sent forces to seize and occupy Germany’s western Samoa. New Zealand continued to administer the islands until Samoa gained independence in 1962.
The scenery in Samoa is a stunning one. You’ll find aquamarine lagoons, coconut plantations, volcanic hills and ridges, steep gorges, lava fields, majestic waterfalls, white-powdery beaches, and turtle-shaped roofs supported by poles dug into the shores. No doubt, this was what drew the famous Scottish author of “Treasure Island”, Robert Louis Stevenson, to spend the last days of his life here.
The tourist highlights of Samoa include visiting the Alofaaga blowholes in the village of Taga or going on guided hikes to explore Samoa’s lava tubes and caves like the Pe’ape’a or the Paia Dwarf. You can also tour Samoa’s Falealupo and Tafua Peninsula rainforests, or Samoa’s Fuipisia, Togitogiga and Mu Pagoa waterfalls. The volcanic crater walk at Lalomanu is another popular attraction. Beyond that, there are also cave pools, waterfalls, and beach fronts where you can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, diving, fishing, and surfing.
If you are interested in attending local Samoan festivals, the later months of the year may be the best time to visit. The Teuila takes place in September and is a weeklong cultural display of carving, weaving, and traditional dance. The event also encompasses canoe racing and cricket tournaments as well as beauty pageants. And in late October, you can attend the Palolo festival and sample the Palolo, a Samoan cavier delicacy.