The island nation of Samoa

If they had a contest for friendliest folks on earth, the Samoans would be right up in the lead, smiling broadly.

If you were to rank the islands of the South Pacific in terms of cost, Samoa would come out near the bottom.

That, my friends, is what I consider to be a winning combination.

Samoa—which all called Western Samoa until 1997—became in 1962 the first South Pacific nation to shake off the shackles of colonial rule (it had been ruled by the Germans since the 1890s—which is why they still brew good beer here, a lager called Vailima—then under New Zealand).

This land of whitewashed colonial building and breezy thatched huts, waterfalls plunging into emerald lagoons and warm sapphire waters lapping at palm-fringed beaches, has enchanted many, most famously Robert Louis Stevenson, who the Samoans called Tusitala, or "Teller of tales."

The Scottish author considered Samoa his own treasured island, and lived out his final five years just outside the main town. His Hurricane-ravaged house has been rebuilt as a museum and shrine; the man himself is buried up on the mountainside.

The South Pacific has the reputation, not entirely undeserved, of being a destination for trust fund babies and independently wealthy only. But Samoa is one of the exception to this rule.

Once you've taken care of your airfare and hotel, you'll find it a bit hard to spend too much money. This is, after all, a place where full meals will run you $1 to $5.

That said, you will find yourself shelling out a buck or two to a local landowner every time you want to do something (hike across their land to see a waterfall, swim on an isolated beach). It's called a "custom fee," and it’s just part of the whole fa'a Samoa way—a laid-back lifestyle that constantly looks out for the good of the aiga (extended family).

Tours Under $995 G Adventures

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in August 2011.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.