The Independent State of Samoa (formerly known as Western Samoa) is located south of the equator, in the Polynesian region of the Pacific Ocean, about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. The Polynesian group of islands known as Samoa consists of two main islands Upolu and Savai'i and seven smaller islets.
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.