Even the sound of Samoa's name conjures up images of an exotic, end-of-the-Earth paradise. A former colony of New Zealand, the island nation (not to be confused with American Samoa) still draws mostly Kiwis and Aussies, but more Americans are catching on to its appeal. Cruise ships dock in the city of Apia, Samoa's capital and commercial hub, on the northern coast of the most populous island, Upolu.
What We Love
Surfing: Serious surfers are starting to head to Samoa, which has great, uncrowded breaks and a pioneer feeling reminiscent of Waikiki in the '50s or Bali in the '80s.
Vailele Village: This is the best spot to learn about traditional Samoan village life. The cultural center welcomes guests with a kava ceremony and dance performance and treats them to a local favorite dish: fish cooked over hot stones covered with breadfruit and banana leaves.
Best Known For
White Beaches: There’s no shame in finding yourself a chair or a hammock and calling it a day.
Sopoaga Falls: Easily reached via a short, well-maintained garden path from the main road, the falls are worth the (nominal) price of admission.
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Who It's Best For
Beach Bums: The sand is seriously spectacular, and the pace of life is very slow — sometimes there’s not much else going on.
Amateur Anthropologists: Samoa is one of those rare places that doesn't have an equivalent anywhere else, with native traditions and rituals of its own, like the sacred dance taualuga, performed solo by a chief’s son or daughter, and fire-knife competitions that are more dramatic than anything seen in a Western circus.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
The Best Surf Is Over Reef Breaks: Experienced surfers should bring water shoes, and beginners generally shouldn’t risk it.
Sometimes Life Grinds to a Halt: Markets and natural attractions are closed on Sundays, and roads virtually shut down during a daily prayer ceremony at around dusk (though villages do it at different times).
Ann Abel is a Brooklyn-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Departures.