There's truly nowhere quite like Samoa. From the moment you arrive on this idyllic nation's shores, you will be greeted by smiles and the lively 'Talofa' of locals, who are ready to treat you like a treasured friend.
The colourful culture and welcoming attitude is not all you'll find here - Samoa is packed with natural delights like glistening turquoise lagoons, towering volcanic landscapes, blissful beaches and banyan groves, all of which offer once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for adventure or relaxation - whichever holiday type suits you.
There are ten islands that make up Samoa, with Upolu (home to Apia, the nation's capital) and Savai'i as the main two. Each island has its own unique flavour and feel - though all are equally delectable.
Unlike some other crowded Pacific destinations, Samoa very much retains its untouched, pastoral atmosphere - which Samoan secret will you uncover?
A CULTURE OF COLOUR AND SMILES
Visitors to Samoa quickly get used to laughter and grins, thanks to the extremely social culture. Family, friendships and community spirit are the top priority - something reflected in the communal structure of the villages (nu'u).
Churches, houses (fales) and other buildings are brimming with life and an unrivalled togetherness.
The island's abundance of colour is sure to leave an impression. Locals don lavalavas and formal dresses, decorate their homes, buses, fences and even rocks with bold tones.
Another special and important part of Fa'a Samoa - 'the Samoan way' - are the traditions. Check out the song and dance such as the siva afi and taualuga at a unique cultural show for visitors.
You'll leave enchanted by the skill, grace and passion evident in the various dances, ranging from slow and captivating to thrilling and fast.
The fabulous flavour of Samoa is most apparent in its cuisine. Food is all a part of coming together, so you may find yourself invited to a mouth-watering traditional feast called an 'umu'.
Translated to 'earth oven', this ritual gives you an idea of how fresh and homemade the food is - it's cooked outside with hot rocks!
Of course, seafood is a speciality. During the day you might see men out on the rocks catching yellow fin tuna, octopus, lobster and more. Raw fish with coconut cream, bananas and juicy tropical fruits from island plantations round off a perfect meal - but not without an ice cold local Vailima beer!
There's a different type of accommodation to suit every need in Samoa. For one, it's the only place in the Pacific where you can really live like a local in a beach fale amid some million dollar scenery.
That means you get to sleep right on the beach under a thatched roof on wooden posts, and let the gentle lapping of waves lull you to sleep.
Samoa also has multiple luxurious lodgings if you prefer a beachside resort complete with air con. In 2014 there will be a number of new resorts opening for business across Upolu, including the stunning new five star establishment Return To Paradise Resort and Spa.
Nestled in the most spectacular beach in the South Pacific and with Master Chef Simon Gault designing the delectable menu, this resort is definitely worth the wait.
INSPIRING ACTIVITIES AND EXPERIENCES
All year round the breeze and ocean are delightfully warm, so you can always soak up the sun on the beach. Head to Satoalepai Village on Savai'i to swim with sea turtles, or set off to Aganoa Beach on the west coast for some of the most epic breaks in the Pacific.
Hiring snorkel gear is a must - beneath the water's surface at almost every beach across the archipelago there's a glittering rainbow of tropical fish to admire.
When you've had enough of the sand and surf, head out for a walk through the rainforest and discover some awe-inspiring caves, pools and waterfalls. You can even hire a car or bike to take in more of the scenery - and find more photo opportunities.
The adventure doesn't stop with Samoa's natural attractions. Come in September and take part in parades and cultural showcasing for the Teuila Festival, the annual celebration of Samoan culture including the crowning of Miss Samoa.
The Alo Paopao Festival, which takes place at the same time, celebrates outrigging and the culture's boating history. Party on a boat, on the beach and on the pub crawl bus as you enjoy the sweet island beats of international and local entertainers.
Spotlight: TATTOO - The Samoan tatau (tattoo) is very unique, with the traditional method of application still intact in order to keep its integrity and traditions alive.
The traditional men's tatau is the Pe'a and the traditional woman's is the malu. The patterns and structure of the Pe'a goes beyond aesthetics - it's a sign of bravery and more importantly a sign of service.
Samoan sleeves and arm band tattoos have really taken off in New Zealand and worldwide, with Samoans displaying pride in their nation as well as sports stars like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Sonny Bill Williams leading the charge.
The intricate cultural motifs typically replicate the family, journey, culture and ancestors of the person being tattooed - works of art that are unique to each individual.
WHEN TO GO
The most comfortable time to travel is May-Oct, during the dry season. This is also the period when major Samoan festivals are held. In Sep there is the Teuila Festival - a week of dance, parades, sporting matches and parties. If you plan your visit around this you'll need to book early.
Book at least 2 months out from your date of travel to avoid disappointment. Note that a large number of Samoans jet in from NZ during the Dec-Jan holiday period, so get in early.
A 3.5 hour flight from Auckland flying Air New Zealand to Apia non-stop five times a week and Virgin Australia also five times a week.
International flights arrive at Faleolo International Airport, 15km west of Apia.
To find out more call 0800 838 747, visit houseoftravel.co.nz or come instore!
Source - www.stuff.co.nz (Inspire Magazine - Content provided by House of Travel)