Samoa and Hawaii are two beautiful tropical destinations with volcanic mountains, rich cultural heritages, and serene beaches. 

Hawaii and Samoa are both located in the Central South Pacific Ocean. Hawaii is a northern American state with 137 islands, whereas Samoa is a small country with nine islands that are considered the southernmost territory of the United States. 

I’ve visited both the Big Island of Hawaii and Upolo, Samoa. Each place had stunning natural attractions, delicious cuisine, and incredibly friendly people. 

So, which is the best place for a vacation? In this guide, I’ll cover the key differences between Samoa and Hawaii. 

This guide will help you understand the key attributes of Samoa and Hawaii to help you plan out your next vacation! 

samoa vs hawaii
Image by: Karsten Winegeart | Ethan Elisara

Samoa At A Glance

Nestled halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii, Samoa is an island country with nine total islands. Four of the islands are inhabited, and the two most common islands for tourists to visit are Upolu and Savai’i.

Samoa’s landscape consists of volcanic mountains, lush rainforests, waterfalls, cloud forests, and rocky mountains. I visited the island of Upolo and was impressed with the natural beauty and friendliness of the locals.

The locals speak English and Samoan, where “Malo” or “Talofa” means hello, and you can expect to be greeted by smiles as you visit. 

The island is surrounded by rainforests and the beaches have crystal-clear turquoise waters. From black sand to powdery white sand beaches, Samoa has plenty of stunning beaches. We stayed at the Taufau Beach Fales on Lalomanu Beach, so we had access to one of the most beautiful beaches during our time in Samoa. 

American samoa
Image by: David Mark

Samoa is home to numerous fascinating natural attractions, including blowholes, waterfalls, cave pools, and more. The Alofaaga blowholes, Fuipisia waterfall, To Sua ocean trench, Piula cave pool, and Papaseea sliding rocks are all worth a visit. 

In addition, the island of Savai’i is home to some of the most abundant coral reefs. Getting to Savai’i from Upolo is relatively easy, with ferries being available. The ferries cost $12 tala, and the ferry trip from Upolo to Savai’i takes around 60-90 minutes. 

Experiencing the culture in Samoa was one of the highlights of our trip. Similar to Hawaii, Samoan culture has deep Polynesian roots, and the majority of the population lives in remote villages.

We visited the Apia Cultural Center, which is a free cultural show held every Wednesday. The show features traditional dancing, craftsmen making local goods, and other aspects of Samoan culture. You may even get to watch a local receive a tatau, which are traditional tattoos that are a mark of pride for Samoans. 

Samoa sancing
Image by: Oliver Li

If you’re looking to try Samoan cuisine, the local markets are a great place to pick up food. Some traditional dishes you won’t want to miss out on are palusami (taro leaves wrapped in coconut cream), sapasui (Samoan-style chop suey), and oka (marinated raw fish). However, you’ll find roadside BBQs and Chinese food throughout Apia as well. 

The nightlife in Samoa is laid-back and you can attend a fire dancing show, or simply relax on the beach to enjoy the sunset at night. 

All in all, Samoa is an incredible place to visit if you’re looking to immerse yourself in Samoan culture, try delicious local cuisine, and explore magnificent natural attractions. 

Things To Do In Samoa

Samoa has the perfect blend of natural attractions and cultural experiences. 

Throughout Samoa, there are national parks, serene beaches, scenic hiking trails with waterfalls, farmers markets, and an abundance of natural attractions. 

A place you won’t want to miss while visiting is the To Sua Ocean Trench, which is a natural swimming pool that’s 30 meters deep and surrounded by lush rainforests. This unique trench was formed due to a past volcano eruption, and it has crystal-clear waters making it perfect to swim in. 

cave pool samoa
Image by: Ethan Elisara

Samoa has a variety of powdery white sand beaches surrounded by lush green rainforests or volcanic rocks. Lalomanu Beach is a pristine white sand beach located on Upolo Island that has open beach fales that allow you to relax right by the sea. 

If you’re looking to snorkel, the Palolo Deep Marine Reserve is filled with tropical fish, octopus, and vibrant coral. The Savaia Giant Clam Sanctuary in Upolo is another great spot for snorkeling, where you’ll see hundreds of small clams forming patterns on the ocean floor. 

Beyond natural attractions, experiencing the culture at the Apia Cultural Center is one of the best things to do while in Samoa. Admission to the cultural show is free, and you’ll be able to try local cuisine. You can also attend a fiafia night in Samoa, a nighttime celebration that features fire dancing, singing, and a buffet with local cuisine. 

Here are some of the most popular tourist activities in Samoa. 

  • To Sua Ocean Trench
  • Lalomanu Beach
  • Giant Clam Sanctuary
  • Robert Louis Stevenson Museum
  • Piula Cave Pool
  • O Le Pupu-Pue National Park
  • Togitogiga Waterfall
  • Fiafia Night (traditional cultural show)

Hawaii At A Glance

Located in the Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is a popular tropical destination known for its beautiful landscape and volcanic islands. 

Unlike Samoa, Hawaii is a state in northern America rather than a country.

Hawaii has 137 islands, with the Big Island, Kaua’i, Honolulu, Oahu, and Maui being some of the most popular islands. The Big Island makes up 63% of Hawaii’s total landmass and is the largest island in the United States.

hawaiian rainforest
Image by: Nathan Ziemanski

I have visited the Big Island multiple times, and I am always amazed at its natural beauty. 

These are some of the most frequently visited islands in Hawaii.

  • Big Island – home to Mauna Loa, the largest volcano in the world!
  • Kaua’i –  home to the Waimea canyon, which is considered “The Grand Cayon of the Pacific!
  • Honolulu – home to the Iolani Palace, the only royal palace in the United States!
  • Oahu – home to Pearl Harbor and Waikiki Beach
  • Maui – the second-largest island in Hawaii
  • Lanai – Hawaii’s most secluded island

The islands of Hawaii have a diverse landscape, with forests, volcanoes, steep coastal cliffs, deserts, and tropical beaches. 

Both Hawaii and Samoa have festive nightlife where you can watch fire dancing shows in Samoa, or attend a luau in Hawaii. However, Hawaii has a much wider array of activities that cater to tourists than Samoa.  

If you’re unsure of which Hawaiian island to visit, I highly recommend the Big Island. The Big Island is home to the largest volcano in the world and has endless activities for tourists. From snorkeling excursions to coffee tours, you won’t struggle finding fun activities to do.

The Kona side of the island is where the majority of tourist activities are located. Kona has luxurious resorts, cloud forests, coffee plantations, botanical gardens, and some of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii. 

I stayed at the Hilton Waikoloa Village in Kona during my last trip. The Hilton Waikoloa Village is one of the most popular resorts on Kona, and I’ve stayed there twice now on family vacations.

It has pools, waterslides, restaurants, bars, and a large lagoon filled with tropical fish, where you can snorkel right on the property. The Big Island also has budget-friendly accommodations, with Airbnb and Vrbo rentals, cheap hotels, and even camp sites.

To save money on our trip, we camped on Spencer Beach for one night.

This is a kid-friendly beach park with picnic areas, barbecues, and great hiking trails that lead up to Mau’umae Bay. The permit to camp overnight is only $30 for up to 10 people, and there is free parking at Spencer Beach Park.

Spencer Beach Park, Waimea HI
Spencer Beach Park, Waimea HI

Besides Kona, the Big Island has the charming small town of Hilo, just 2 hours outside of Kona. Located on the northeast side of the Big Island, Hilo has lush rainforests, waterfalls, botanical gardens, a zoo, and much more.

Hilo is the closest city to the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, which is a must visit destination on the Big Island.

Whether you’re looking to hike through active volcanoes, snorkel in large coral reefs, or tour a coffee farm, Hawaii has something for everyone.

Similar to Samoa, the people in Hawaii are very hospitable. Locals embrace the “Aloha spirit”, which is to be kind, and appreciative, and pay homage to nature. 

Things To Do In Hawaii

Regardless of which island you stay at in Hawaii, there are plenty of amazing things to do. Throughout the Big Island, there are national parks, farmers markets, botanical gardens, hot springs, zoos, rainforests, camping beaches, and more.  

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, Hilo HI
Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, Hilo HI

Some of the most notable attractions in the Big Island are the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Kealakekua Bay, and the Mauna Kea Summit.

The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a 523-square-mile national park of active volcanoes with craters, caves, petroglyphs, and other remarkable sites. Admission to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is $30, while the rest of the attractions are completely free.

If you want to visit the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, it is a 2-2.5 hour drive from Kona, or a 50 minute drive from Hilo.

If you love an adventure, the Big Island’s the island for you. The Big Island has the large Volcanoes national park, a variety of farm tours (coffee, vanilla, chocolate, honey), and some of the best snorkeling opportunities in Hawaii

On the other hand, if you love history, Honolulu is the island for you. There are museums, shopping centers, and historical landmarks like the Pearl Harbor Museum and the USS Arizona Memorial. 

If you enjoy an adventure, Kauai is home to magnificent natural attractions like the Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park. 

And if you’re looking to immerse yourself in culture, Oahu is home to the Polynesian cultural center. You can attend a luau, try authentic Polynesian cuisine, and go on a free canoe ride through a lagoon!

Hawaii and Samoa both offer plenty of natural beauty, but Hawaii’s islands have more activities that cater to tourists overall. 

These are some of the most popular tourist attractions in Hawaii

  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island
  • Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial, Oahu
  • Waikiki Beach, Oahu
  • Mauna Kea Summit, Big Island
  • Waimea Canyon, Kauai
  • Iolani Palace, Honolulu
  • Polynesian Cultural Center, Oahu
  • Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park, Kauai
  • Haleakala National Park, Maui

Which is better for a vacation?

Samoa and Hawaii both have beautiful volcanic islands, picturesque beaches, friendly locals, and delectable cuisine. 

Samoa is the destination for you if you want to be immersed in Samoan culture, swim in cave pools, or simply relax in an open-air hut on the beach. 

Hawaii is the ideal destination for you if want to explore volcanoes, attend a luau, and go on adventurous excursions.

Generally speaking, Hawaii has more to offer tourists in terms of activities. That said, Samoa is less crowded, incredibly clean, and has some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

Regardless of which place you choose to visit, you’ll be left with unforgettable memories. 

Samoa vs Hawaii: A Complete Overview

Here is how Samoa and Hawaii compare to each other in terms of location, climate, languages, cuisine, beaches, culture, nightlife, cost, currency, and safety. 

Location and Size

Both Hawaii and Samoa are located in the central Pacific Ocean. Hawaii is located southwest to the continental US, and Samoa is located halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. 

Hawaii is significantly larger than Samoa. Hawaii is roughly 10,931 square miles and has 137 islands, whereas Samoa is 1,093 square miles, and only has 9 islands.  

Weather

Both Samoa and Hawaii have warm and humid weather year-round, with a distinctive wet and dry season. The average temperature in both Samoa and Hawaii ranges from the high 70s to the low 90s, on average.

The rainy season falls in Samoa falls between October and March, whereas the rainy season in Hawaii is from November to March. 

Languages

The official languages in Samoa are Samoan and English, and the official languages of Hawaii are Hawaiian and English.

Both Samoan and Hawaiian languages have polynesian roots and they’re deeply connected to the cultural heritage of each island. In Samoan, hello is “Malo” or “Tafado”, whereas “Aloha” in Hawaiian means hello and goodbye. 

Cuisine

Samoan and Hawaiian cuisine is similar in terms of ingredients, cooking style, and Polynesian influence. Staples include fresh fish, coconut, and taro are staples in both Samoan and Hawaiian cuisine. In addition, barbecue is very popular amongst Samoans and Hawaiians. 

Some traditional dishes you won’t want to miss out on when visiting Samoa are palusami (young taro leaves cooked in coconut cream),and oka (raw fish marinated in lime juice and coconut cream). For dessert, make sure to try out panipopo, a sweet bun covered in sticky coconut cream sauce. 

Hawaiian cuisine is slightly different because it incorporates influences from various cultural backgrounds, including Polynesian, Asian, and American food. Some of the most popular dishes include kalua pig (slow-roasted pig), poke (marinated raw fish salad), spam musubi, and Hawaiin shaved ice. 

Here are some popular dishes in Samoa.

  • Palusami: Young taro leaves baked in coconut cream
  • Oka: A raw fish salad marinated with coconut milk and lime juice
  • Koko Alaisa: A chocolate rice pudding
  • Supo Esi: A comforting pumpkin and coconut cream soup
  • Keke Saiga: Fluffy Samoan donuts
  • Fa’apa: Sweet fluffy coconut bread

Here are some of the most popular dishes you’ll find in Hawaii. 

  • Poke: Refreshing raw fish salad
  • Poi: Fermented mashed taro root
  • Loco Moco: A hamburger patty topped with a fried egg and gravy served over rice
  • Kalua Pork: Slow-roasted pork 
  • Spam musubi: grilled Spam sandwiched between a block of rice

Beaches

Samoa and Hawaii have stunning tropical beaches. Samoa has powdery white sand beaches with crystal-clear turquoise waters such as Lalomanu beach. The beaches in Samoa are ideal for swimming, snorkelling, or simply relaxing. 

If you’re looking for a blend of nightlife, shopping, and beaches, Hawaii has more options overall. For example, Waikiki beach in Oahu is surrounded by luxurious resorts, historical landmarks, and nearby shopping centers. 

Additionally, all of the islands in Hawaii have beaches that are ideal for surfing, watersports, and camping. In Samoa, you can relax at a beach fale, which are traditional open-air huts that shade you from the sun.

Kahalu'u Beach Park, Kona, Big Island HI
Kahalu’u Beach Park, Kona, Big Island Hawaii

Here are some of Hawaii’s most beautiful beaches. 

  • Waikiki Beach (Oahu)
  • Ka’anapali Beach (Maui)
  • Hanalei Bay Beach (Kauai)
  • Hapuna Beach (Big Island)
  • Poipu Beach (Koloa)
  • Lanikai Beach (Oahu)

These are some of Samoa’s most beautiful beaches. 

  • Lalomanu Beach
  • Tafa Tafa Beach
  • Apia Beach
  • Lefaga Beach
  • Salamumu Beach
  • Vaiala Beach

Culture

Samoan culture is based on a governance system of “fa’amatai” which emphasizes selflessness and strong connections to family.

Hawaiian culture values the spirit of “Aloha” which emphasizes kindness, appreciating nature, and having mutual respect for others.

Locals in Samoa and Hawaii are very friendly, and it’s common in each place to treat guests like family. 

Nightlife

The nightlife in Samoa and Hawaii is festive. Samoa is known for its “fiafia” nights which are nighttime celebrations that feature fire dancing, traditional Polynesian dances, and delicious local cuisine.

Hawaii is known for its luaus which are large feasts that feature fire shows, hula dancers, and traditional Hawaiian cuisine. 

fire dancing samoa
Image by: Alex Perez

Also, there are nightclubs in both Hawaii and Samoa if you’re looking to party. Waikiki Beach in Honolulu is surrounded by lively nightclubs and beachside bars. The Big Island has many bars and lively nightclubs in Kona. 

In the capital city of Samoa, Apia, there are energetic nightclubs and bars such as Club X, Ace of Clubs, Te Namo Bar, Cocktails on the Rocks, and Sheeshas Boutique Bar. 

Cost 

Samoa is generally cheaper than Hawaii for a vacation, in terms of hotels, tourist activities, transportation, and food. However, you can manage to vacation on a budget in Hawaii by being flexible on your time and location.

The cheapest island to visit in Hawaii is Oahu, and the cheapest times to visit are from January through March. 

Currency

In Hawaii, the currency used is the United States Dollar (USD), whereas the currency in Samoan is the Tala. The conversion rate is: 1 Samoa Tala = 0.3678 US Dollar. Make sure to exchange your dollars to Talas at a bank before arriving in Samoa. 

Safety

Hawaii is generally very safe for travelers, and has one of the lowest crime rates out of all the states in the USA.

Samoa is also considered safe for travelers according to the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Advisory.

FAQ: Samoa vs Hawaii

When’s the best time to visit Samoa and Hawaii?

The best time to visit Samoa is between April and October when the weather is ideal. The best time to visit Hawaii, on the other hand, is April, May, September, and October. This is when the crowds are low, and you can find the best deals on flights and hotels. 

Is Samoa a part of Hawaii?

No, Samoa is not a part of Hawaii. Samoa is its own country with its own government that lies halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. On the other hand, Hawaii is one of the 50 states in the USA, rather than a country.

How far is Samoa from Hawaii?

Samoa is approximately 2,583.47 miles southwest of Hawaii. 

How do you get from Samoa to Hawaii?

You can get from Samoa to Hawaii by flying out of the Faleolo International Airport.

The airport is located in the capital city of Apia in Upolo, Samoa, and it has direct flights to Honolulu, the Big Island, and Maui. 

Can you fly from Samoa to Hawaii?

Yes, you can fly from Samoa to Hawaii. There are direct flights available from Apia to Honolulu, Maui, and the Big Island. 

What airlines fly to American Samoa?

The airlines that fly to American Samoa include Hawaiian airlines, Air New Zealand, Fiji Airways, and Virgin Australia. 

What Hawaii island do you fly out to get to Samoa?

The Hawaiian islands you can fly out to get to Samoa include Honolulu, the Big Island (Hilo and Kona), and Maui (Kapalua and Kahului). 

How long is the flight from Hawaii to American Samoa?

The flight duration from Hawaii to American Samoa is approximately 5 hours and 3 minutes. However, the flight duration will vary depending on which Hawaiian island you depart from.

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