Samoa has some of the most beautiful and enticing islandscapes in the South Pacific. It's an opinion few travellers will disagree with once they've spent a few weeks rattling up steep rocky trails to stare into the overgrown maws of extinct craters, swished their way through the lush undergrowth of sprawling plantations to clamber into eerie lava tubes, and strapped on a mask before coming face to face with multicoloured coral and other marine life in the shallow waters of deliriously lovely lagoons. Some of the beaches are so stunning that you'll just want to fall over and pretend you're a piece of driftwood, and hidden within isolated valleys in the hinterlands are paradisal waterfalls that plunge into idyllic swimming holes. Add the rainforests and rugged sea cliffs of 'Upolu, and the lava flows of Savai'I into the mix, and you can begin to appreciate the enigmatic physical nature of these islands.
The inhabitants of Samoa have taken a few cues from their languid tropical home. Samoans are never in much of a hurry to do anything, a trait which tends to incite culture shock and a mild, temporary panic in visitors who have arrived from schedule-centric, clock-watching societies. And Samoans' moods can sometimes change as quickly as the tropical weather, with bright outlooks giving way to stormy fronts before inevitably clearing up again. But most conspicuously, they are also famously hospitable: Samoans are rarely short of a toothy grin, a flap of the hand or a friendly comment where outsiders are concerned.
So don't underestimate how much time you'll want to spend tramping into Samoa's wild interior, bobbing around its lagoons or lying on one of its sun-baked beaches. Follow the lead of Samoa's generous spirit and just spoil yourself.
Samoa & Tonga: travel books to read before you go
This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Samoa & Tonga guide provides a selection of travel literature to get you in the mood for your trip...
Need to know
Samoa tsunami update
At 6.48 am on the 29th of September, Samoa was struck by an earthquake measuring 8.3 on the Richter scale, centred off 'Upolu's south coast...