Surrounded by indigo waters and nestled in the heart of Polynesia, the islands of Samoa are some of the most magical outcrops of land in the world.

Strung across the warm waters of the South Pacific, these 10 islands are home to intense natural beauty, covered by lush emerald jungles and fringed by powder-soft beaches and seas teeming with coral reefs and marine life.

Samoa’s biggest pull, perhaps, is that despite its beauty, the island remains friendly, laid-back. You’ll find no ritzy resorts or flashy eateries, simply rugged sandy coves, hidden natural waterfalls and the friendliest locals in the Pacific.

These locals greet you with a warm embrace of Fa’a Samoa (the Samoan way of life), a friendly and inviting lifestyle rich in Polynesian tradition.

apia, samoa
Samoa’s capital Apia is rich in culture and history

At the heart of Samoa are its two main islands, Upolu – home to over two-thirds of the nation – and Savaii, the largest island in Polynesia and boasting sights like the plunging Afu Aau Falls.

Samoa is also home to a thriving cruise port, located on Upolu Island and a 20-minute walk from the capital of Apia. Most cruisers visiting the island only get a day to explore this stunning island nation, and Apia is the perfect place to start.

What to see in Samoa

When it comes to exploring the island country, cruisers can either book a tour, be shown around by warm and inviting locals or explore the islands at their own pace.

For a taste of Samoa’s rich history and culture, there’s no place like Apia – the nation’s capital city just a five-minute taxi ride, or 20-minute walk, from the cruise terminal.

Start your day by heading to Beach Road’s flea market, perfect for picking up traditional handmade Samoan souvenirs and clothing, or head to the local fish market just behind Beach Road.

Lalomanu Beach
Samoa’s paradise Lalomanu Beach

Another way to truly imbibe Samoa’s culture is by visiting one of its churches, with religion very important to local Samoans.

Apia is home to many wonderful religious buildings which offer free entry, like the Immaculate Conception of Mary Cathedral – with a beautifully detailed timber ceiling.

Introducing you to Fa’a Samoa, travellers can also join in a free local Samoa Cultural Village tour, including workshops on traditional Samoan practises like weaving and woodwork, along with dance, music and partaking in an ‘Ava ceremony. The tour finished with lunch from a traditional hot stone oven.

A 10-minute drive from the cruise terminal, history lovers should head to the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum, a colonial mansion-turned-museum where the famed Scottish author spent his twilight years.

Culture and history aside, Samoa’s biggest pull is its superlative natural beauty. Those wishing to venture further can visit the South Coast of Upolu island, home to two of the most beautiful sites in Polynesia.

big hole
Descend into the To Sua Ocean Trench – a 30m-deep swimming hole

The first is Lalomanu Beach, a waterspouts paradise with warm waters home to 900 species of fish. Travellers can snorkel in the protected marine reserve or hire a shady beach hut for the day to truly relax.

The second is something truly spectacular, and is what locals call ‘the big hole’. One of the most photographed spots in Samoa, the To Sua Ocean Trench is a 30m-deep swimming hole connected to the ocean by an underwater cave.

Descend down its ladder into a watery paradise surrounded by jade gardens, or head to the nearby Sopo’aga or Fuipisia Waterfall for an equally spectacular sight.

Those seeking crystal, shady waterfalls should also travel out to Papapapaitai Falls – a 100m waterfall surrounded by rainforest – and Togitogiga Waterfall, where two small waterfalls create the perfect swimming hole. Each is within an hour’s journey of Apia, ideal for fitting into your day onshore.

With picture-perfect beaches, luscious rainforests, glistening waterfalls and the most humble of locals, Samoa is a nation that will grasp your heart and never let go, and that’s exactly what makes it the perfect 2021 cruise destination.

For more information, or to plan your trip to Samoa, visit the Samoa Tourism Authority.