Summary: Combining nice views over Apia with some local history, the tomb of Robert Louis Stevenson on Mt Vaea can be reached by both the Long Trail and the Short Trail - or combine both for a loop walk.

This is my first hike on an 8-day trip around Samoa: the trail to the summit of Mt Vaea and the tomb of famous Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson (and his wife Fanny) is probably the most popular one on the island. The trail starts at Vailima Botanical Garden on the outskirts of Apia, and starts as a paved trail through the well-maintained gardens – it’s the first national reserve in Samoa to be wheelchair accessible. Previously the estate of Robert Louis Stevenson, the botanical garden i the first nature reserve in Samoa and protects a variety of native, introduced and naturalized species that are representative of the flora of the Samoan archipelago and the Pacific basin.

The paved trail turns into a well-maintained hiking trail as it enters the forest.

A short distance along the trail is a signposted pool, with a track that goes down to the partly-natural, and partly-artificial swimming hole. The water is quite muddy and the pool not so inviting, probably because lots of people havev been swimming – I’ve seen photos with the water is crystal clear. (Bring swimmers as you’ll probably appreciate a swim after the steep walk.)

The track crosses the river above the pool, and reaches a junction: right for the “Long Trail” (2.2km one-way to the summit) and left for the “Short Trail” (0.7km).

I take the longer trail up, which ascends constantly but never very steeply through the shaded rainforest. I only encounter a few people – this is the less-popular route.

About half-way along the trail is a lookout and small clearing, where a window through the dense vegetation provides a view over Apia.

The trail plunges back into the forest again, as it continues climbing Mt Vaea towards the tomb of Robert Louis Stevenson.

The tomb itself is technically not at the top of Mt Vaea, but a clearing just below the summit. Robert Louis Stevenson settled in Samoa in 1890, finding the humidity of the tropical location gave him relief from his tuberculosis. He became a trusted friend and political advisor to the Samoans, and wrote several more books from his mansion at Vailima (now the botanical gardens) before passing away in December 1894. Both Samoans and European officials carried Stevenson’s body up to the tomb on Mt Vaea, which has his poem Requiem inscribed on one side.

028A0021 LR A steep climb up Mt Vaea to the tomb of Robert Louis Stevenson

“Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will

This be the verse you grave for me,
Here he lies where he longed to be
Home is the sailor home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.”

There are some nice views from Mt Vaea – although the dense vegetation blocks some of the vistas. You can see the South Pacific Ocean through the trees, as well as some of the volcanic peaks around Apia.

I take the shorter and steeper track down, encountering many more people than I did on the way up… The track starts with a gentle grade, which doesn’t last long before the first of many steps.

There’s one more “window” from the trail, with similar views as from the top over Apia.

The “Short Trail” then continues to descend steeply, with many more flights of steps before it reaches the junction with the “Long Trail”.

It’s a shame there’s not better views from the top – but it’s a nice hike with a dash of local history.

Getting to Mt Vaea and the tomb of Robert Louis Stevenson

The Vailima Botanical Garden is a 5-10min drive from Apia – head for the Cross Island Road and look for the sign on the right. There’s a parking area, and the trail is well signposted. The museum is closed on Sundays, but you can do the hike on any day (it was fairly busy when I visited on a Sunday afternoon). There’s no fee to do the hike.

For more hikes as well as waterfalls and swimming holes, have a look at my 8 Days in Samoa trip report!

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