Apia, Samoa – small and sleepy capital, perfect for Robert Louis Stevenson 2

Apia, Samoa’s capital, with a population of less than 40,000, is small and sleepy as far as capital cities go.

But small and sleepy, I would argue, is just right for the capital of a paradisiacal tropical island nation.

Waterfront, Apia, Samoa

Apia waterfront, Samoa. Photo credit: Benjamin White

Founding of Apia

From a tiny village of just 300 people in 1800 CE, Apia has steadily inched forward in size and importance.

The city was the capital of German Samoa from 1900 – 1919, and became the capital of Samoa (known as Western Samoa at the time) in 1959.

Immaculate Conception Cathedral

Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Apia, Samoa

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

The first church erected in this waterfront location was completed in 1857.

After being severely damaged in an earthquake in 2009, the Immaculate Conception Cathedral was not just repaired but also significantly redesigned in 2016.

Parliament House

Parliament House, Samoa

Parliament House (still under construction in this photo). Photo credit: Benjamin White

Samoa’s brand new Parliament House was still being built at the time of my visit (October 2018) – hence the unappealing fencing around the base of the building.

Its distinctive, dome-shaped roof honours the architecture of the traditional meeting halls of Samoan culture: i.e. the fale.

The new facility is expected to open in March 2019.

Baha’i House of Worship, Apia

Baha'i Temple, Apia, Samoa

Photo credit: Benjamin White

If you find yourself rather taken by the lotus-flower-shaped Baha’i Houses of Worship and are on a mission to track all eight of them down, then a trip to Apia is essential (the other 7 are located in Kampala, Wilmette, Sydney, Delhi, Panama City, Frankfurt, and Santiago).

Villa Vailima (Robert Louis Stevenson House)

Robert Louis Stevenson House and Museum, Samoa

Photo credit: Benjamin White

Apia’s most famous adopted son is none other than Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson (whose popular works include Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde).

Robert Louis Stevenson House and Museum, Samoa

One of the rooms inside Villa Vailima. Photo credit: Benjamin White

Robert Louis Stevenson suffered poor health throughout his life and, from his 30s onwards, began travelling the world in search of a climate more suitable for his wellbeing than that of Scotland. He ended up settling in Samoa in 1890.

Stevenson purchased an enormous manor house and estate on the outskirts of Apia (once owned by the Governor of German Samoa) and lived there for four years before suddenly dying.

His tomb lies atop nearby Mt Vaea (30 min steep climb from Villa Vailima).

Robert Louis Stevenson Tomb, Samoa

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Tomb. Photo credit: Benjamin White

Is Apia safe?

Yes, Apia is small and quiet and completely safe. Still, it’s always best to follow standard safety precautions, such as avoiding dark alleyways at night.

Is Apia worth a visit?

Yes. The city is clean, leafy, and serene.

It’s a perfect capital for a paradisiacal tropical island nation such as Samoa, and it’s no surprise that it was so highly favoured by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Practical information and how to reach Apia:

Apia is serviced by Faleolo International Airport (40km west of the capital), with regular flights to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and American Samoa. More transport info here.

More on Samoa:

Lalomanu – is it Samoa’s finest beach? is it the beach from Moana?

To Sua Ocean Trench, the Ma Tree, & Sopo’aga Falls

More on the Pacific:

Easter Island:

The Moai Quarry, Easter Island, Chile – 397 moai, a volcano, a mystery, a cataclysm


Keen to see the green flash? Try Tumon Beach

Papua New Guinea:

PoM Nature Park – dorcopsis, bird of paradise, tree kangaroo, and more

Rabaul – Jewel of the South Pacific, buried by volcanic ash

Little Pigeon Island, East New Britain – tiny, uninhabited, sand cay with view of volcanos


Kilili Beach – swim with WWII tanks


Port Vila – Erakor Lagoon + Iririki Island + Mele Cascades = Pacific getaway 

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2 thoughts on “Apia, Samoa – small and sleepy capital, perfect for Robert Louis Stevenson

  • Karen White

    I thought their Parliament House looked a bit like a flying saucer!! It does look like a lovely sleepy capital city. What a lovely visit to Robert Louis Stevenson ‘s house, that also must have been good. I love the look of the Baha’i House, we should visit the one in Sydney