The beautiful island plantation home was originally built by the famous author Robert Louis Stevenson. –The RLS Museum Preservation Foundation pamphlet

By Roger Childs

From Scotland to the South Seas

The famous Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson was the author of many book and essays such as Kidnapped, Treasure Island, The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes and A Child’s Garden of Verse.

 He was born in Edinburgh in 1850 but lived the last few years of his life at Vailima, inland from Apia. He had had major respiratory illness in his younger days and the family hoped that the tropical climate of Samoa would help his health. He arrived in Apia with his mother in 1890 and was known locally as Tusitala: “Teller of Tales”.

He lived in his home at Vailima until his death from a stroke in 1894 and was buried on the top of Mount Vaea 472 metres above the city of Apia.

A must for tourists

The museum at Vailima and the expansive gardens around Stevenson’s old home are popular attractions with visitors, and the energetic can take the well-formed path up Mt Vaea to see his grave at the top and get a wonderful view of Apia and the coastline.

Vailima is located off Cross Island Road above Apia in an area where there is high quality housing and embassies such as that of the United States. 

The lengthy tree-lined road into the grounds of Stevenson’s home opens out onto extensive lawns, a botanical garden, bush areas, and the large homestead where the great man lived with his wife, step-son and mother. 

The bedrooms and other living areas like the Library, the Smoking (Tapa) Room, and the Great Hall have been loving restored. The Library and Tapa Room are well stocked with Stevenson’s various literary works, and photographs from his time in Samoa. There is also a Grand Staircase and extensive verandas. After Stevenson’s death the Vailima building served as the official location for various administrations in Western Samoa.

Cashing in on the Stevenson heritage

The estate has a large restaurant for the visitor trade and this is also used for wedding receptions. The Tanoa Tusitala resort is one of the best on the Apia waterfront west of the city centre and this will feature in a separate article. 

Vailima is also the name of a low alcohol beer which is readily available and very palatable.

Vailima bush walk.