In Apia Harbour fishing boats bob beside container ships, ferries and yachts. Above the town, visitors make the winding pilgrimage up Mt Vaea to the tomb of Robert Louis Stevenson. “Home is the sailor, home from the sea, And the hunter home from the hill”. On a beach near Manasa, under a coconut palm, a large man, shirtless and tattooed, sits. Just sits. And looks out across the lagoon to the reef.


Talofa (hello) and welcome to fa’a Samoa (the Samoan way)

It’s hard to describe ‘fa’a Samoa’. It’s a paradox. Samoa is arguably the most intense Pacific destination, but also the most laid back. On one hand you find an ethos of not doing anything at all unless absolutely necessary, on the other the explosive knife and fire dancers if the fia fia. Religion and sensuality find a happy rhythm. Samoans don’t eat until they are full, they eat until they are tired but their body is their temple.

Heavily tattooed in another culture would be threatening, in Samoa it exudes a sense of calm and place. Visitors will find the locals welcoming, embracing and forthcoming – but they will never actually learn the total meaning of fa’a Samoa. That’s part of the experience – you are invited to flirt and be seduced but consummation is for the locals (in the metaphorical sense!).

This is a place to soak in the scenery and the traditional culture as well as modern Samoa. And the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum is a must, even for those who hate traditional museums. It may help in understanding that gap between the ‘palagi’ (white visitors) and the locals. This is a proud nation that welcomes visitors and the more you delve the more you will be rewarded. Plan to visit both islands (Upolu and Savai’i) for the dramatic and exotic landscapes, enjoy the comforts and hospitality of your resort(s) but, most importantly, immerse yourself in the simple pleasures of fa’ a Samoa.

Fascinating, beautiful, surreal. Lush, tropical, welcoming.

While there are excellent resorts (Aggie Grey’s Lagoon Beach Resort and Spa, Sinalei Reef Resort and Spa, Coconuts Beach Resort etc) you may find your piece of paradise in a traditional ocean side fale for AUD$25 a night (including breakfast and dinner). The country itself is a ‘Garden of Eden’ – lush vegetation, striking waterfalls and blowholes, clear, clean azure waters lapping on sandy beaches – but it is the Samoan people who will live in your memory.

On the activities side, there’s fantastic diving, surfing and exploring (waterfalls, lava flows, villages) but if you want to stay within your quality resort, fa’a Samoa will come to you through the staff and themed nights. These are, of course, tourist attractions, but also a way of keeping the traditional Samoan culture alive and healthy.

A few more pluses:

  • Great value when on the ground for food, beverage (Vailima beer is great) and attractions
  • Direct flights from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and America
  • Tipping is not part of the culture
  • Yes, there is a McDonald’s and there are traffic lights in Apia but a coconut’s throw away you are in an unspoilt island paradise

More Information

Some links for more on Samoa:

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