The old ways have been lovingly preserved on Samoa, the South Seas islands steeped in a relaxed and communal Polynesian lifestyle. Along Upolu's shore sit hundreds of open Samoan fales (houses) -- televisions glowing from beneath tin roofs rather than thatch are the only reminder that a century has passed since Robert Louis Stevenson lived and died here. A visit to Savai'i, Samoa's "Big Island," delivers you to a bygone South Pacific world of enchanting beaches, shimmering waterfalls and lagoons, and coconut plantations climbing volcanic ridges.
Travel outside the capital, Apia, on the island of Upolu; there you'll see a timeless Polynesia, largely unchanged from the days before outsiders arrived. The South Pacific's most stunning beaches line the southwest, punctuated by large boulders to head off the breaking surf. Eastward, the scenery is even more dramatic and rugged. The ancient two-tiered pyramid, Pulemelei Mound, is Polynesia's largest archaeological ruin and so old that it has outlived its legend -- no one is quite sure of its original function.
Eating and Drinking
Like their fellow Polynesians, Samoans have traditionally cooked in a pit of hot stones called umus, where delicacies are steamed for hours. Favorite side dishes then and now include fresh fruit and oka, fish marinated with lime juice and served with vegetables in coconut milk. When the preparation is done, Samoans sit down to feast at a fiafia. A number of resorts host regular fiafias (and accompanying fire dances) with long buffet tables groaning with Samoan and international dishes.
Upolu's hiking trails snake through picture-postcard scenery. A trail in O le Pupu-Pue National Park passes through rainforests to a lava tube known as the Peapea Cave. Some of the best swimming and snorkeling is found on Aleipata and the southwest coast. The reefs off the north shore of Savai'i provide bountiful sea life and prime snorkeling. One explored site for divers is a missionary ship, which sank on the reef in 1881.
Savai'i is a haven of tranquillity -- no visit here seems long enough. Green mountains rise out of the sea and into the clouds across the Apolima Strait, which separates the island from Upolu. Samoan life continues as it always has in the rural villages along the east and south coasts. Savai'i's long white beaches are utter enchantment, particularly on the island's north side around the village of Manase, where you can see some of Samoa's most popular beach fales.