Finding authentic Polynesia in Samoa

It's images like this that have me longing for another South Pacific escapade. Dreams of palm-fringed beaches, colorful coral reefs, and tropical blossoms start to interfere with my concentration on mundane matters like work.

Kick the adventure quotient up a level, by making it an exotic island country you've never been to, where traditional ways of life still exist outside tourist shows. You'll find this place at Samoa. This island paradise is halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand, but seems like a million miles from "normal life". Perfect!

The Pacific island country of Samoa has gorgeous beach resortsThis scene makes me want to run away tomorrow, heading for the South Pacific and Samoa

Why travel to Samoa?

With the dreamy photo above, perhaps you don't really need any other reasons, but I'll give you a few anyway.

  • The beaches are never crowded. You have miles and miles of beaches, with your choice of black or white sand.
  • Around the islands are fabulous reefs with 200 kinds of coral and 900 species of fish. Like the beaches, the scuba diving and snorkel spots are refreshingly uncrowded, not overrun by tourists.
  • The islands have tropical rainforests, with towering banyan trees, splendid waterfalls and brilliant tropical flowers.
  • The weather is balmy all year round, with air and sea temperatures that facilitate instant relaxation.
  • You can visit traditional nu'u (villages), meet the locals, and experience a distinctive culture (Fa'a Samoa, the Samoan Way), that stretches back 3,000 years.
A traditional Samoan fire dancer A fire dancer performs in Samoa

The islands of Samoa

There are 10 islands in the country of Samoa, but not all of them are inhabited. They share a bounty of sandy beaches and beckoning turquoise water. The larger islands have rugged volcanic mountains, covered in tropical forest and laced with streams and waterfalls.

Samoa has splendid waterfalls, like Fuipisia Falls One of the stunning waterfalls of Samoa

Savaii is the biggest island, but Upolu is the one with the largest city and the international airport. You can take a ferry between the two to see them both.

Discover old Samoa on a teeny island

For the ultimate "get away from it all" experience, take a boat to tiny Manono Island. The island is small enough that you can walk all the way around it in a couple of hours.

This special place has four very traditional fishing villages, and no cars. Here, you can discover the old ways of Samoan life. Visit with the locals, and find out in person how they fish, eat, laugh, and live. If you cherish eye-opening cultural experiences, this is a great opportunity.

Staying in a beach fale

The traditional home in Samoa is a thatched roof bungalow called a fale. You'll see fales on beaches around the islands. They don't have any walls, which makes them breezy and comfortable. You sleep on a simple mattress under a sheet (and perhaps a mosquito net), with the peaceful sound of the waves lulling you to a deep and restful sleep. This is part of the Samoan Way, and you'll be missing out if you don't rent a beach fale for at least part of your stay here.

The traditional accommodation in Samoa - thatched fale Stay in an open-air beach fale for the real Samoan experience

Samoa travel tips

  • Where it is - Samoa is south of the equator, in the western Pacific Ocean near the international date line.
  • Country clarification - The independent country of Samoa is different than American Samoa, though they are close to each other in the Pacific. Samoa used to be known as Western Samoa.
  • Getting there - You fly into Faleolo International Airport, on the island of Upolu. Airport code = APW. You can take a ferry from Upolu to the other island.
  • Weather - Temperatures are perfect, with highs in the 80s and lows in the 70s, all year round. See Weather averages for Samoa.
  • When to go - You'll probably prefer the dry season (May to October). The rainy season (November to April) gets substantially more precipitation, though temps are still comfortable.
  • What to bring - Lightweight beach wear is perfect at a resort. For women, a sarong would be a good choice for village outings. If you want to explore the interior of the islands, bring some decent shoes for walking. Sun screen and a camera are obvious essentials.
  • What else? - Samoa is fairly traditional and conservative, so topless or nude sunbathing are frowned on. If you visit the villages, dress respectfully - you need more than a swimsuit for that.
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PHOTO CREDITS:  Beach & Fire dance - Polynesian Xplorer, Waterfall - NeilsPhotography, Fale - Sarah Kelemen


  1. It's not often that I see travel articles on Samoa. This article had me longing to return. Thanks.

    • Thanks, Kimberly! I can certainly understand why you want to go back! (-:
      - Deanna.

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