Beautiful Is Back: Samoa Welcomes Tourists Again
On August 1, 2022, the Independent State of Samoa fully reopened its borders to international travelers. Samoa was one of the first countries to close due to the Covid pandemic, with no tourists able to visit its spectacular tropical islands for 865 days. Fully vaccinated travelers are again welcome, so long as they test negative for Covid.
The islands of Samoa
Known as Western Samoa until 1997, this Polynesian country of 195,000 citizens has 12 islands, only four of which are inhabited. The South Pacific archipelago is characterized by clear waters, white sand beaches, and lush mountainous rainforests with waterfalls.
Travelers arrive on the 46-mile long island of Upolu, which is also home to Samoa’s capital city, Apia. Most stay on Upolu, perhaps taking a day trip to one of the other Samoan islands. Samoa is popular for its beaches, scuba diving and snorkeling, and for hiking to waterfalls, lava fields and blow holes. A spectacular site is To-Sua Ocean Trench, a large waterhole accessible only via a steep ladder or by scuba diving from the open ocean through a lava tube cave.
Other unusual Samoan sites include the crater of an extinct volcano where wild goldfish swim. During the 19th century, a German settler reportedly released a goldfish here (against the law which banned releasing exotic species to the islands) and that fish’s great, great grand fish still swim here today. Easier to spot are flying fox bats and Samoa’s 19 endemic bird species, as well as the islands’ 900 fish species and 200 types of coral. Keep your eyes peeled for sea turtles, whales and dolphins too.
Samoa also has more than 30 world-class surf breaks; southern shores tend to be surfable year round while northern ones are best during the summer months (meaning the northern hemisphere’s winter).
The people of Samoa
Samoan culture dates back at least 3000 years with the first peoples arriving around 1000 BCE in ocean canoes. Samoa became independent (from New Zealand, which took the islands from Germany during World War I) on January 1, 1962.
Living Fa’a Samoa — the Samoan way — is important, with communal values superseding individual ones. Stories are often told through dance, music, art, and Tatau (tattoos). Tradition, religion and modesty are highly respected.
Travelers are often keen to learn more about Samoan culture. To start, most hotels offer a FiaFia night, with traditional dances (including the fire knife dance) and sometimes serve foods cooked in a traditional umu, or earth oven.
Samoa entry requirements
For now, travelers need a certificate showing that they’re fully vaccinated (meaning two doses of most vaccines) as well as paper certification of a negative Covid test. PCR tests, need to be taken within 48 hours of departure and a supervised rapid antigen test needs to be within 24 hours of departure. Details are on Samoa’s Travel Advice website.
Passengers are required to wear masks (note that N/KN-95 respirators are more effective than surgical or fabric masks at preventing infection). Upon arrival in Samoa, travelers will receive another Covid test plus need to book an appointment for a supervised antigen test on day five of their stay and report the results to the Ministry of Health.
It’s expected that these requirements will ease further. Of the population of 195,000, 98% are fully vaccinated.
Getting to Samoa
You can fly direct to Samoa from Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and from American Samoa.