What's the big attraction here?
Is it difficult to get there?
Do I need any visas or vaccinations to come?
Is Samoa as hot and rainy as they say?
What about cultural barriers?
Where can I find more information about Samoa?
Samoa (formerly Western Samoa) is the ecotourism capital of the South Pacific islands with numerous small, family-operated resorts on many beaches of touristic interest. To sleep on a mat in an open-sided Samoan fale with the sound of the waves beating a few meters away and the wind rustling through the thatched roof is one of the top travel experiences the Pacific has to offer. It's quite unlike hotel accommodation! Your hosts will feed you fruit and vegetables from their own gardens, plus fish from the adjacent seas, and there's hiking, surfing, kayaking, snorkeling, and storytelling to keep you entertained. You could even get a Samoan tattoo.
From North America Fiji Airways has flights to Apia via Nadi. From Honolulu you can fly to Pago Pago on Hawaiian Airlines, then catch the frequent shuttle to Apia from there. From Australia and New Zealand, Virgin Blue offers no frills flights to Apia at bargain rates. Air New Zealand arrives from Auckland.
None of the South Pacific countries (other than Papua New Guinea) require visas or vaccinations of most visitors. In theory, you might need to show a vaccination certificate if you were arriving within six days of having visited an area infected with yellow fever, but in practice this almost never occurs. What you will need is a ticket to leave Samoa, a standard requirement throughout the region. Although the immigration officer may not ask to see your ticket out, the check-in clerk at your airport of embarkation certainly will.
As one of the northernmost island areas in the South Pacific, the weather in Samoa is indeed hotter and more humid than places like the Cook Islands, Tonga, and Fiji. The average annual temperature at Apia is 79.1 degrees Fahrenheit or 26.2 degrees Celsius. Although the heat is almost constant yearround, the dry season with lower humidity and less rainfall runs from April to September. The windward, southeastern sides of the main islands receive considerably more rain than the sheltered north coasts. The hurricane season is from December to March.
The Samoans have a strong traditional culture based on the family unit, village law, and the authority of the matai (chiefs). Outside the capital, Apia, customary law is paramount. Because Samoan culture is a group culture, people can be over-friendly and unwilling to leave you alone. At times you may be viewed with suspicion in rural areas, but you can easily defuse the situation by smiling, waving, and saying talofa (hello) to those you meet. The many aspects of the complex fa'a Samoa (Samoan way) are discussed in most guidebooks and an awareness of them will greatly enrich your stay.
SouthPacific.org's Samoa Travel Guide has 103 pages of specific travel information. It's actually an updated version of the Samoa chapter from Moon Handbooks South Pacific developed over eight editions. Photos and drawings from author David Stanley's personal collection are scattered through the site and there are precise maps of Apia and Environs, Central Apia, Lake Lanoto'o, Letolo Plantation, Manono, Salelologa, Samoa, Savai'i, and Upolu. You won't find anything better on the web.