By being both Christian and conservative, Samoa and nearby American Samoa have maintained their traditional Polynesian cultures to a remarkable degree. I like this trip because it lets me examine the old way of life while still enjoying great beaches, reefs, and tropical scenery.

Day 1: Arrival & Recovery on Upolu

Whether you stay in town or at a beachside resort, devote your first day to seeing Apia, the picturesque waterfront capital of independent Samoa. Stroll the promenade along the harbor and visit the nearby Robert Louis Stevenson Museum & Grave, where the great writer is buried on Mount Vaea overlooking Apia. Don't miss a fiafia feast and show, especially at one of Aggie Grey's resorts.

Day 2: An Excursion to Lalomanu Beach

Few South Pacific beaches combine great sand, a colorful lagoon, and a dramatic backdrop as does the one at Lalomanu village, on the eastern end of Upolu, Samoa's main island. The drive there takes 2 hours, so leave early to enjoy a full day at the beach. You can also overnight beside the lagoon in a beach fale.

Day 3: Return to Paradise Beach

In case you didn't get an eyeful at Lalomanu Beach, spend this day between the black rocks protruding at Return to Paradise Beach, on Upolu's southwestern coast, where Gary Cooper starred in the 1950s movie Return to Paradise.

Days 4-5: Savai'i

Spend 1 of your 2 days on Samoa's undeveloped and fascinating "Big Island" exploring the Virgin's Grave and other sites on the Savai'i lava fields with Warren Jopling of Safua Tours. Plan to stay in or near the north shore village of Manase, perhaps at the Le Lagoto Resort or in an open-air beach fale beside Manase's magnificent white sands.

Days 6-7: A Slice of America in Pago Pago

Three good hotels now make this beautiful if somewhat commercialized American outpost worth a visit. Spend 1 day touring Tutuila's south shore, especially from the fabled harbor at Pago Pago to the island's eastern end. The winding road passes one gorgeous bay after another. After overnighting at Sadie's by the Sea, devote your second day to hiking the National Park of American Samoa.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.