(CNN) Beaches, rainforests, waterfalls, vibrant coral reefs, inactive volcanoes (the last eruption was an underwater one in 1973). When it comes to the ideal South Pacific island, the Independent State of Samoa pretty much has what we’re all looking for. Samoa is also one of the larger island nations in the South Pacific — you can fit all of the Cook Islands onto either Upolu or Savai’i, the two largest Samoa islands.
The advantage? A trip to Samoa remains uncrowded even when hotel properties are full. The state was formerly known as Western Samoa, to differentiate it from American Samoa, the U.S. territory 40 miles to the east. Now the 195,000 or so people who live here — about 93% are ethnic Samoans — just call the place Samoa. Sounds good and always looks spectacular. But apart from the scenery, this country offers more than just the sum of its beautiful parts.