Samoa is a country in the central South Pacific Ocean, among the westernmost of the island countries of Polynesia.
Samoa lies approximately 80 miles (130 km) west of American Samoa, 1,800 miles (2,900 km) northeast of New Zealand, and 2,600 miles (4,200 km) southwest of Hawaii.
According to legend, Samoa is known as the “Cradle of Polynesia” because Savai‘i island is said to be Hawaiki, the Polynesian homeland. Samoan culture is undoubtedly central to Polynesian life, and its styles of music, dance, and visual art have gained renown throughout the Pacific islands and the world.
The country’s international image is that of a tropical paradise inhabited by tourist-friendly flower-wreathed peoples. Yet this belies the economic, social, and political challenges of this diverse and evolving Pacific microstate.
Samoa gained its independence from New Zealand in 1962 after more than a century of foreign influence and domination, but it remains a member of the Commonwealth. The country was known as Western Samoa until 1997. Its capital and main commercial centre is Apia, on the island of Upolu.
Samoa, which shares the Samoan archipelago with American Samoa, consists of nine islands west of longitude 171° W—Upolu, Savai‘i, Manono, and Apolima, all of which are inhabited, and the uninhabited islands of Fanuatapu, Namu‘a, Nu‘utele, Nu‘ulua, and Nu‘usafee.
(The six Samoan islands east of the meridian are part of American Samoa.) The total land area is about 2.5 times larger than Hong Kong.