Last updated on December 12, 2023 by Wandering our World
If you’re dreaming of a paradise island getaway, with lush greenery, exotic wildlife, breathtaking beaches, and adventurous activities, Hawaii and Samoa have to be two of the top destinations on your mind. They’re both well-known for their spectacular scenery, friendly locals, and wonderful cuisine. But which one is best?
Well, that’s not an easy question to answer! Both of these destinations have so much going for them, and if you’re able, it’s best to see them both. But, with over 2,500 miles separating Samoa and Hawaii, it’s not like you can simply hop from one to the other with ease. You’ll probably have to pick just one, and the best option will depend on your tastes and expectations.
On the one hand, there’s Hawaii. The “Aloha State” is often regarded as one of the world’s most desirable vacation destinations, famed for its distinctive culture, dramatic scenery, and exceptional beaches. Then, there’s Samoa, offering a diverse spectrum of landscapes, extraordinary wildlife, and intriguing museums for visitors to explore and learn from.
They may have much in common, but Hawaii and Samoa also have a couple of key differences that set them apart from one another. And, in this detailed comparison guide, we’ll dig into those differences, exploring the best reasons to visit Hawaii and Samoa, respectively, and helping you decide on the ideal destination for your next adventure.
- A Quick Overview Of Hawaii vs Samoa
- Which Has The Best Weather?
- Which Is Best For Activities?
- Which Is Best For Beaches?
- Which Is Best For Nightlife?
- Which Is Best For Shopping?
- Which Is Best For Food?
- Which Is Best For Families?
- Which Is Best For Couples?
- Which Is Best For Backpackers?
- Which Is Cheapest?
- Where To Stay According To Your Budget
- Hawaii vs Samoa: Which Is Better?
A Quick Overview Of Hawaii vs Samoa
Hawaii: A Quick Overview
Hawaii is a U.S. state. It’s the only state outside of the North American continent, located approximately 2,000 miles from the mainland. It’s also the only state to be based across an archipelago, and it has its own distinctive culture and customs that make it quite different to the rest of the U.S. Around 1.4 million people live here, with many residing in the capital, Honolulu.
137 islands make up the Hawaiian archipelago, but most visitors to this part of the world will focus on the so-called “main islands” of O’ahu – which is where the vast majority of Hawaii’s population lives – Hawai’i, Maui, and Kaua’i. These islands are renowned for their towering volcanic peaks, dramatic coastal cliffs, dense jungles, and sandy shores.
Historically, people have been living in Hawaii for more than a thousand years, but everything changed in the 18th century, when European and American explorers arrived on the scene. In the years after that, the indigenous population declined enormously due to illnesses brought to the islands by overseas settlers. It later became a U.S. territory, and then a state in 1959.
Hawaii may not be the independent kingdom it once was, but it has still preserved much of its original culture, with unique traditions and plenty of Polynesian customs. It’s also famed as one of the most idyllic places to visit on vacation, offering everything that so many travelers crave, from fabulous food and luxury resorts to gorgeous beaches and exciting activities.
Samoa: A Quick Overview
Samoa, or the Independent State of Samoa, to give it its full title, is an island nation in the Polynesian region of Oceania. It extends across 1,093 square miles in total, which is notably less than Hawaii’s 1,500 miles, and also has a much smaller population of around 218,000 people.
Several islands make up the nation of Samoa. There are two main islands, known as Savai’i and Upolu, as well as two smaller islands called Manono and Apolima. There’s also a series of smaller, uninhabited islands. The country’s capital city is Apia, which is located on Upolu – despite not being as big as Savai’i, Upolu houses close to 3/4 of the country’s population.
The history of Samoa goes back thousands of years, with records indicating that the Neolithic Lapita people settled the islands around 3,500 years ago. They developed their own distinctive language and culture. And, like Hawaii, the area was visited by Europeans in the 18th century, which led to some big changes.
Germany, the U.S. and the U.K. all vied for control of the islands for several decades. New Zealand then ruled over them for a time, before Samoan independence in 1962. Nowadays, Samoa is a small but proud nation with a strong cultural identity and a growing economy built mostly around agriculture It doesn’t attract the same crowds as Hawaii, giving it more of an “off-the-beaten-path” feel for tourists.
Which Has The Best Weather?
Hawaii and Samoa are both known for having idyllic weather conditions, with high temperatures and lots of sunshine – perfect for all those days basking on the beach, swimming in the ocean, or exploring the islands’ lush scenery. But, there is a slight difference in climate conditions across these two destinations.
Samoa is the hotter of the two, with consistently high temperatures, even in winter. However, it also has a distinct wet season, with large amounts of rain falling between November and April. In contrast, Hawaii may be slightly cooler at certain times of year, and a little windier, too, but it doesn’t get anywhere near as much rain.
Overall, Hawaii’s weather is generally more comfortable, with refreshing breezes and warm, dry days all year long.
Some people head to Samoa and Hawaii purely to relax, spending most or all of their time sunbathing on the beach or chilling beside the pool at their hotel. However, many others flock to these destinations in search of excitement and adventure, and both of them have long lists of interesting activities to enjoy. Here’s a brief breakdown of the best things to do in both locations.
Hawaii: The Activities
If you’re heading to Hawaii, it’s likely that you’ll start your visit in the state’s capital of Honolulu. That’s the perfect place to get a taste of Hawaii’s famous “Aloha Culture,” with its friendly locals, delicious food, and exciting cultural sites. In fact, there’s more than enough here to occupy you for several days, like the gorgeous Iolani Palace or the historic Pearl Harbor Memorial.
Of course, many people also pick Hawaii as their vacation destination to enjoy the islands’ wonderful natural spaces and scenery. There are numerous national parks to explore, for example, like Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which covers more than 340,000 of land, including active volcanoes, labyrinthine lava tubes, and exciting hiking trails.
Or, you might prefer to set out on the water and take in the majesty of Hawaii by sea. It’s easy to find guided fishing trips and boat tours around the islands, as well as island-hopping expeditions. There are also world-class snorkeling and scuba diving hotspots in Hawaii, with sea turtles, manta rays, and colorful, tropical fish waiting to meet you beneath the waves.
There are many more ways to enjoy Hawaii, making this a fantastic destination for all sorts of travelers. You could plan a road trip along the famous Hana Highway, for example, enjoy the adrenaline rush of a zipline tour, hike to secret waterfalls, or visit charming picturesque towns, like Haleiwa, with its world-class surfing, or Hawi, with its art galleries and indie boutiques.
Samoa: The Activities
Similarly to Hawaii, Samoa is famed for its many natural attractions and outdoor activities. A lot of visitors to this island nation won’t want to leave without checking out the famed Saleaula Lava Fields, for example. This is the site of a major eruption in the early 20th century which buried five separate villages under lava – it’s an amazing monument to the power of nature.
Other beautiful natural hotspots to check out around Samoa include the beloved waterfalls of Fuipisia and Sopo’aga. Located quite close to each other, these two waterfalls are perfect for romantic afternoons or memorable moments as a family – don’t forget to snap some photos to share with loved ones back home.
Like Hawaii, Samoa is also an excellent spot for water-based activities. Travelers can snorkel around the Giant Clam Sanctuary, for example, swim at the Togitogiga waterfall, or dive down into the To-Sua ocean trench. Or, if you prefer to keep your feet on dry land, try a hike along the Lava Field Coastal Walkway.
Want to sample some Samoan culture or learn about the country’s past? If so, head to Apia. There, you can visit the Samoa Cultural Village to learn about island customs, attend a traditional “fiafia” feast and dancing night, or tour the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum, dedicated to the famed Scottish writer who spent several years in Samoa before his death.
Overall, there’s much to do in both Hawaii and Samoa. Both islands are perfect for natural activities, like hiking and wilderness exploration, but Hawaii offers much engaging urban activities, as Honolulu is much bigger and more exciting than any of the Samoan cities.
Which Is Best For Beaches?
Beaches are one of the main reasons why so many people head to amazing island locations like Hawaii and Samoa. And both of these destinations can boast of being home to some of the world’s prettiest stretches of sand. But which one is better for sunbathing, swimming, and soaking up the seaside scenery?
Well, let’s start with Hawaii. The Aloha State is home to a really diverse range of beaches, with different sizes, vibes, and even sand colors. There are black-sand beaches here, like Punalu’u Beach, for example, as well as white sands, like those of Hapuna Beach, on the Big Island, which is one of the best places to enjoy water activities like kayaking and surfing.
Hawaii is also home to Waikiki Beach, one of the most-photographed beaches on the planet and the kind of place that has to be seen to be believed, with its distinctive beauty outshining most other sandy spots in the world. Then, there’s Waimea Bay, a surfer’s paradise, or Polihua, which is perfect for wildlife-spotting.
Samoa, too, has some truly astounding beaches for visitors to enjoy, mostly with sugary white sands, crystal clear waters, and quiet, peaceful vibes. Lalomanu Beach is the best-known of all, with the most majestic views at any time of day. It’s more than good enough to rival Waikiki, with neighboring Saleapaga Beach also providing pristine sands and sublime scenery.
Falealupo Beach is another Samoan gem, with amazing snorkeling, while Vavau Beach is a prime example of Samoa’s many secluded, romantic beaches, where visitors can feel miles away from the hustle and bustle of busier touristic hotspots. There are also some good wildlife beaches here, like Manase, where you’ve always got a chance of spotting sea turtles.
Overall, both of these destinations rank highly when it comes to beach quality and variety. Ultimately, the best one for you will depend on your preferences. Hawaii has more diversity, as well as busier, bigger beaches in general. Meanwhile, Samoa is more appealing to those who like quieter and calmer stretches of sand.
Which Is Best For Nightlife?
If you like to stay out late and have some fun in the evenings, rather than just rushing back to your hotel, you’ll also want to know about the nightlife scenes in Samoa and Hawaii. So, which f these two island destinations is livelier once the sun has set?
Well, in Hawaii, Honolulu is the main party hub. This city feels really exciting and dynamic in the evenings, with all sorts of fun places to dance, drink, and have fun. There are classy rooftop lounges, wild open-air beach bars, thrilling nightclubs with live DJ performances, and more, with a particularly impressive strip of bars and clubs along the Waikiki Beach area.
In contrast, Samoa’s nightlife scene is notably more subdued. There are still some excellent nightclubs and traditional beach bars here, especially in and around Apia, but they’re far less numerous than those of Hawaii. With fewer options to pick from and fewer people in general, nightlife-lovers may be a bit disappointed in this aspect of Samoa.
Which Is Best For Shopping?
Before heading home, you might like to spend a day browsing the boutiques of your chosen destination, grabbing some souvenirs or traditional gifts to take back with you. But which destination is more alluring for shopaholics?
Well, if you head to Hawaii, Honolulu is a pretty impressive shopping city. It’s got the biggest mall in the state – the Ala Moana Center – along with other large shopping centers, like the DFS Galleria and the Royal Hawaiian Center. Each of these malls has dozens of stores selling everything from attire and decor to books, antiques, toys, and more.
Over in Samoa, the focus is much more on markets, rather than grand malls. Visitors can find an array of craft markets, flea markets, and fresh produce markets selling all sorts of goodies. The Fugalei Market and Savalalo Flea Market are super places to browse, offering accessories, clothes, handmade crafts, and unique gifts you won’t find anywhere else.
Overall, both destinations are decent for shopping, but there are many more stores and malls to explore over on Hawaii than Samoa.
Which Is Best For Food?
Food is another of the many highlights of visiting places like Hawaii and Samoa. Surrounded by water, they’re both brilliant places for seafood, and both also have their own distinctive dishes, made with locally-grown ingredients. You’ll eat well, no matter which one you choose, but you might have a slight preference for one over the other.
In Hawaii, you’ll find a delightful mix of culinary influences from America, Asia, and Polynesia. The Aloha State’s seafood is legendary, with countless flavorful fish dishes to try. The state’s Kalua pig roasts are also very tasty, along with its famous poke bowls, typically made with chunks of fresh fish mixed in with other flavorful ingredients and sauces.
Samoa also has some fabulous food, with many tasty meals that are unique to this part of the world, like palusami, made with coconut milk, spices, and taro leaves. There are also some rich dishes made with raw fish here, similar to Hawaii, and many meals are packed full of flavor, crafted with many different herbs and spices.
Overall, both locations have excellent culinary scenes, but you’ll find a wider range of restaurants and more diverse menus in Hawaii.
Which Is Best For Families?
If you’re planning a visit to Hawaii or Samoa with the kids, you’ll need to consider which activities and attractions are more appealing to your family.
Hawaii is a first-class destination for family vacations. It’s got lots of luxurious family resorts with amenities to entertain children and adults alike, and kids are sure to enjoy the intriguing landmarks and cultural activities of Honolulu, in particular. The beaches here are lots of fun for families, too, and there are ziplines, hikes, kayaking, and other tours to fill your days.
Samoa, meanwhile, is especially appealing for active and adventurous families. You and your children can spend time exploring the jungles, diving into cave pools, discovering waterfalls, and snorkeling around the surrounding reefs. The Saleaula Lava Fields and Alofaaga Blowholes are also terrific ways to wow kids of any age.
Overall, both locations work well for family trips, though most families will favor the added dynamism and excitement of Hawaii.
Which Is Best For Couples?
Couples can also have magical experiences in either Samoa or Hawaii, but picking between them can be quite a challenge.
Samoa has the advantage of being quieter, calmer, and arguably more romantic. It’s got that little-known, off-the-beaten-path vibe, perfect for couples that want to avoid the big crowds and noise of busier destinations, like Hawaii. In Samoa, you can easily find your own secluded spot of sand to watch the sun set, side by side with your special someone.
Hawaii may be busier, but it’s still a world-class place for honeymoons and romantic escapes. There are some jaw-dropping beaches here, along with lush scenic spaces to dive into with your partner. Hawaii also boasts of luxurious resorts and a dizzying array of outdoor activities for couples seeking an action-packed adventure.
Overall, both destinations can easily appeal to couples of any age. Those looking for a more secluded, tranquil atmosphere should opt for Samoa. Meanwhile, those who prefer more excitement will have a better time in Hawaii.
Which Is Best For Backpackers?
Hawaii and Samoa can also be decent destinations for backpacking, although you’ll need quite a big budget to visit either one, as they’re both relatively expensive.
Of the two, Samoa is cheapest, which should appeal to the average backpacking enthusiast. It’s also got a good range of affordable accommodation, and public transport here is quite cheap, so you can easily hop from island to island and thoroughly explore the area. Plus, if you’re the kind of backpacker who prefers heading off the beaten path, you’re sure to adore Samoa.
Hawaii is a little pricier, but is arguably more appealing and engaging for most backpackers. There’s a wider range of things to do, with a buzzing nightlife scene, multiple cultural centers, big malls to wander around, more diverse beaches, lots of breathtaking hiking paths to wander along, and so on.
Overall, both places can work for backpackers. They both have super friendly natives to welcome you and show you around, as well as lots of fun things to do and clean hostels to rest your head at night.
Which Is Cheaper?
When picking between two different destinations, it’s always a good idea to look at their average costs. You may find that one location is notably cheaper than the other, and that’s the case with Hawaii and Samoa, too.
Price-wise, Samoa is definitely more affordable than Hawaii. It may cost a little more to get to, due to its remote location, but once you’ve arrived, you’ll find that pretty much everything is cheaper in Samoa, from the food to the accommodation to the touristic activities. Since it’s still such an off-the-beaten-path place, it doesn’t have the same tourist traps as Hawaii.
Budget: At the edge of Waikiki Beach, Queen Kapiolani Hotel exudes tropical elegance. Lush greenery frames majestic Diamond Head views, and the sun-kissed pool beckons beneath swaying palms. With a fusion of modern chic and Hawaiian charm, it’s a haven where beauty intertwines seamlessly with the spirit of Oahu.
Luxury: ESPACIO, the Jewel of Waikiki, is a sanctuary of luxury in Hawaii. Each opulent suite boasts panoramic ocean views, marrying the Pacific’s azure with lavish interiors. Private lanais invite serenity, while the rooftop infinity pool crowns this masterpiece. A symphony of elegance, it’s a celestial retreat for discerning souls.
Budget: The Samoan Outrigger Hotel exudes island charm in Samoa. Surrounded by tropical flora, the tranquil oasis offers traditional fale-inspired architecture. Balmy breezes dance through vibrant gardens, leading to a secluded beach. With a blend of authenticity and comfort, it’s a paradise retreat capturing Samoa’s natural beauty.
Luxury: Tanoa Tusitala Hotel, an epitome of elegance in Samoa. Set amidst lush gardens, the colonial-inspired architecture complements the natural beauty. A serene pool reflects the tropical sky, while spacious rooms offer a fusion of modern luxury and Samoan warmth. It’s a haven where beauty intertwines seamlessly with South Pacific hospitality.
Hawaii vs Samoa: Which Is Better?
So, which destination comes out on top in this clash of the idyllic islands? Well, there really is no wrong answer if you’re hesitating between these two wonderful destinations. They’re both equally beautiful, with mind-blowing scenery, charming locals, super food, and some of the finest beaches known to man.
However, we have to pick a winner, and Hawaii is probably the better choice for the majority of travelers. It’s simply a more exciting place to be for the most part, with Honolulu being a much richer city than Apia. There are also many more things to do around Hawaii, from museums and cultural experiences to black-sand beaches, jungle adventures, and expansive national parks.
With that said, Samoa still has many unique reasons to visit. If you’re looking for a more relaxing break or seeking a pristine island destination that hasn’t yet been touched and changed by the world of tourism, the Samoan islands are certainly worth checking out. Samoa is also quite a bit cheaper than Hawaii, perfect if you’re seeking an island escape on a budget.