Apia, town and capital of Samoa (formerly Western Samoa), on the northern shore of Upolu Island in the South Pacific Ocean. The only city in Samoa, Apia is the country’s chief port and economic center; exports include copra (dried coconut meat), bananas, cacao, and coffee. An international airport is located near Apia, at Faleolo.
The island is also linked by boat with Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa. Apia has many historic sites, and visitors to the Samoa Islands often use Apia as their tourism base.
Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson lived his last few years in Apia, and his gravesite and elegant estate of Vailima are notable landmarks. The tourist trade offers some employment, but many local residents earn their livelihood by cultivating cash crops and subsistence crops. An automobile-parts factory is located near the city. The National University of Samoa (1988) and the University of the South Pacific School of Agriculture (1977) have their campuses in Apia.
Settlement in the area around Apia probably dates to about 1000 bc, when Polynesians first settled the lush island. Apia was a small village until European missionaries and traders arrived in the 1830s. It grew quickly as a European-style port for Pacific island trade.
By the late 19th century, three powers—Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States—were jockeying for control of the Samoa Islands. In 1899 the United States and Britain formed an alliance against Germany, and Apia, the site of the German station, was shelled by British and U.S. ships. Treaties signed later that year resulted in Germany’s annexation of the territory then called Western Samoa, and Apia became the capital.
During World War I (1914-1918), New Zealand occupied Western Samoa. After the war New Zealand administered the territory from Apia, first under a League of Nations mandate (issued in 1920) and then as the administering power of the United Nations Trust Territory of Western Samoa (established in 1946). Apia continued to be the capital after Samoa achieved full independence in 1962.