Geography and History of the Island Nation of Samoa

Samoa, True Color Satellite Image
Satellite Image of Samoa.

Planet Observer / UIG / Getty Images

Samoa, officially called the Independent State of Samoa, is an island nation located in Oceania. It is about 2,200 miles (3,540 km) south of Hawaii and its area consists of two main islands, Upolu and Sava'i. In 2011, Samoa moved the International Date Line because it claimed it has more economic ties with Australia and New Zealand (both of which are on the other side of the dateline) than with the United States. On Dec. 29, 2011, at midnight, the date in Samoa changed from Dec. 29 to Dec. 31.

Fast Facts: Samoa

  • Official Name: Independent State of Samoa
  • Capital: Apia
  • Population: 201,316 (2018)
  • Official Language: Samoan (Polynesian)
  • Currency: Tala (SAT)
  • Form of Government: Parliamentary republic
  • Climate: Tropical; rainy season (November to April), dry season (May to October)
  • Total Area: 1,093 square miles (2,831 square kilometers)
  • Highest Point: Mount Silisili at 6,092 feet (1,857 meters)
  • Lowest Point: Pacific Ocean at 0 feet (0 meters)

History of Samoa

Archeological evidence shows that Samoa has been inhabited for over 2,000 years by migrants from Southeast Asia. Europeans did not arrive in the area until the 1700s and by the 1830s, missionaries and traders from England began arriving in large numbers.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Samoan islands were politically divided and in 1904 the easternmost islands became the U.S. territory known as American Samoa. At the same time, the western islands became Western Samoa and they were controlled by Germany until 1914 when that control passed to New Zealand. New Zealand then administered Western Samoa until it gained its independence in 1962. According to the U.S. Department of State, it was the first country in the region to gain independence.

In 1997, Western Samoa's name changed to the Independent State of Samoa. Today, however, the nation is known as Samoa throughout most of the world.

Government of Samoa

Samoa is considered a parliamentary democracy with an executive branch of government made up of a chief of state and a head of government. The country also has a unicameral Legislative Assembly with 47 members who are elected by voters. Samoa's judicial branch consists of a Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court, the District Court, and the Land and Titles Court. Samoa is divided into 11 different districts for local administration.

Economics and Land Use in Samoa

Samoa has a relatively small economy that is dependent on foreign aid and its trade relations with foreign nations. According to the CIA World Factbook, "agriculture employs two-thirds of the labor force." The main agricultural products of Samoa are coconuts, bananas, taro, yams, coffee, and cocoa. Industries in Samoa include food processing, building materials, and auto parts.

Geography and Climate of Samoa

Geographically, Samoa is a group of islands located in the South Pacific Ocean or Oceania between Hawaii and New Zealand and below the equator in the Southern Hemisphere. Its total land area is 1,093 square miles (2,831 sq km) and it consists of two main islands as well as several small islands and uninhabited islets. The main islands of Samoa are Upolu and Sava'i and the highest point in the country, Mount Silisili at 6,092 feet (1,857 m), is located on Sava'i while its capital and largest city, Apia, is located on Upolu. The topography of Samoa consists mainly of coastal plains but the interior of Sava'i and Upolu have rugged volcanic mountains.

The climate of Samoa is tropical and as such it has mild to warm temperatures year-round. Samoa also has a rainy season from November to April and a dry season from May to October. Apia has a January average high temperature of 86 degrees (30˚C) and a July average low temperature of 73.4 degrees (23˚C).


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Briney, Amanda. "Geography and History of the Island Nation of Samoa." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Briney, Amanda. (2021, February 16). Geography and History of the Island Nation of Samoa. Retrieved from Briney, Amanda. "Geography and History of the Island Nation of Samoa." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 30, 2023).