Samoa’s checklist is wet and not for the faint hearted. Head to the Piula Cave Pool, a popular freshwater spot that pops up at the end of a claustrophobically narrow underwater tunnel. Swim at To Sua Ocean Trench where a slippery, 30-foot-tall, wooden ladder descends sharply into the gurgling seawater below. Then boat to Paia village on Savaii Islands and pick up a mandatory guide for a tour of Paia Dwarfs Cave, where legend has it that the underground labyrinth is home to an undiscovered race. Never has there been a better time to visit Samoa. On Jan. 1, the islanders will celebrate their 50th anniversary of independence from New Zealand. Bring in the New Year at Aggie Grey’s Hotel & Bungalows, a 78-year-old establishment, named after the charming belle of Apia, with Samoa’s local beer, Vailima. The hotel was a favorite among American servicemen during World War II and, later, with Hollywood heavyweights Marlon Brando and William Holden. Water buffs: snorkel the Palolo Deep Marine Reserve just a few minutes walk from the hotel. $187 per night.
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