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Vailima, Samoa: Robert Louis Stevenson's Final Home and Resting Place

Updated on April 26, 2013
Robert Louis Stevenson portrait that hangs in his Samoan home of Vailima
Robert Louis Stevenson portrait that hangs in his Samoan home of Vailima | Source


Robert Louis Stevenson was an author born in Scotland in 1850. Stevenson is famous for writing such adventure stories as, "Treasure Island," "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" and "Kidnapped" he also wrote, "A Child's Garden of Verses" for children. For most of his forty four years, he was frail and sickly, and searched for the best climate for his health. Unfortunately, that climate was not to be found in his native damp and wet Scotland. He lived for a time in different parts of America, including New York state and California. During a trip to Hawaii, he heard wonderful stories about the area of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific. A visit there with his family proved the stories to be true. And he found a wonderful camaraderie with the native Samoan people who likewise adored him. The natives nicknamed Stevenson "Tusitala" which means "teller of tales" in the Samoan language. He settled in an area three miles south of the city of Apia. He built a mansion on this property, and named it, "Vailima" which means, " five waters." This name was chosen due to the five streams which crossed Stevenson's property. Stevenson spent the last years of his life at Vailima and enjoyed his best health as an adult there, and was quite productive as a writer while living there with his wife, step daughter, and mother. He died on the porch of Vailima after suffering what is now believed to be a brain hemorrhage at the young age of 44.

Recently I was fortunate enough to visit this beautiful home and the gardens surrounding it. Tourists are asked to remove their shoes before entering so as not to damage the beautiful wooden floors and grass mats.The mansion consists of five bedrooms, a large combination great room and dining room, a kitchen and an infirmary, which seems quite an odd room to be added to a mansion. Tour guides in native Samoan dress are quite well informed about this home. They entertain guests with tales of Stevenson and his family. One of the tales I found most interesting was that Stevenson and his wife Fanny did not sleep in the same bedroom. Instead he had a bedroom that included his writing desk so he could get up and write at all hours of the day or night. His bed was placed against a wall, that had an open window into another bedroom, where his wife Fanny slept, with her bed against the same wall, under said window. That way they could talk to each other easily if they both happened to be in bed at the same time, but he wouldn't wake her when he arose to write when the urge hit him. The native Samoan tour guides were all quite respectful of Stevenson and his home. The home is filled with many of his portraits, as well as pictures of him posing with native Samoans on his front porch.

At the end of the tour, visitors are free to visit the small gift shop in the front of the home, or go around to the side of the home where they are given refreshments of coconut chunks and whole coconuts with straws inserted in them with which to drink the coconut milk inside. While enjoying these refreshments, visitors to Vailima are treated to dances performed by a troupe of native Samoan dancers. The show lasts approximately thirty minutes and is quite enlightening to those interested in Samoan customs. If tourists happen to be in the city of Apia, Samoa, a trip to Vailima is definitely worth the price of six U.S. dollars for adults and five U.S. dollars for children. And if one is quite energetic and not too hot during their visit, a brisk thirty minute walk will reveal Stevenson's tomb at the top of a hill overlooking Vailima.

Vailima, Robert Louis Stevenson's final home
Vailima, Robert Louis Stevenson's final home | Source
Gardens at Vailima
Gardens at Vailima | Source
The only fireplace on Samoa at the time Robert Louis Stevenson's home was built.
The only fireplace on Samoa at the time Robert Louis Stevenson's home was built. | Source
Bedroom in Vailima with a tour guide in native Samoan dress.
Bedroom in Vailima with a tour guide in native Samoan dress. | Source
A bedroom in Vailima.
A bedroom in Vailima. | Source
The "infirmary" for sick household members at Vailima.
The "infirmary" for sick household members at Vailima. | Source
Tour guide in a bedroom of Vailima
Tour guide in a bedroom of Vailima | Source
Tour guide at Vailima speaking in the great room. Notice the beautiful natural grass mats on the floors.
Tour guide at Vailima speaking in the great room. Notice the beautiful natural grass mats on the floors. | Source
Gorgeous wooden table in the Vailima dining room.
Gorgeous wooden table in the Vailima dining room. | Source
Refreshments at the end of the tour were bites of coconut and a drink of coconut milk.
Refreshments at the end of the tour were bites of coconut and a drink of coconut milk. | Source
Entertainment at the Vailima tour is provided by native Samoan dancers.
Entertainment at the Vailima tour is provided by native Samoan dancers. | Source
The beautiful porch outside of Vailima
The beautiful porch outside of Vailima | Source

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    • LCDWriter profile image

      L C David 4 years ago from Florida

      I want to go here! How interesting. I had no idea this existed. Treasure Island is an annual favorite at our house. My boys love it! Thanks for this piece of history that I didn't know about!

    • jlpark profile image

      Jacqui 4 years ago from New Zealand

      I've been here, and thankfully, being where it is, I don't think it was damaged in the tsunami.

      It is an interesting tour, and hot climb up the road to get to it - TAKE A TAXI. We made the mistake of walking up to it, and getting a taxi back.

      Thank you for sharing this - brought back fond memories of Apia, and Samoa.

    • wetnosedogs profile image

      wetnosedogs 4 years ago from Alabama

      Very beautiful writing on a talented writer. So glad you included those wonderful pictures.

      Did you try the coconut milk? Is it good? I'd have to squirt in some chocolate syrup.

      If I ever get to traveling, I would love to see this.

    • profile image

      Vickiw 4 years ago

      Karen, this was a really interesting tour, made even more so by your photos. I had no idea that Robert Louis Stevenson spent his days on that beautiful island. Thanks for the tour!

    • Karen Hellier profile image
      Author

      Karen Hellier 4 years ago from Georgia

      Vickiw,

      I never knew that about him either till I went on the tour. It was so hot there...we went in October. I was actually wondering if it wasn't the heat that had something to do with his death. Upon reading more about it, I realized he had been in poor health UNTIL he went there. You're welcome for the tour.

    • Karen Hellier profile image
      Author

      Karen Hellier 4 years ago from Georgia

      wetnosedogs,

      Oh, thank you so much for the writing compliment. It means a lot coming from you, my hub challenge friend. Yes, I tried the coconut milk but neither my husband or I liked it. It might taste better if it was cold, but it was served from freshly picked coconuts so it was warm. Yuck!

    • Karen Hellier profile image
      Author

      Karen Hellier 4 years ago from Georgia

      jlpark,

      Good idea on the taxi. It was so hot when we were there we opted not to take the walk to see the tomb. But a taxi is a good idea. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Karen Hellier profile image
      Author

      Karen Hellier 4 years ago from Georgia

      LCDWriter,

      Well, if you ever go to this island, you and your boys should take this tour. The home is beautiful and the dancers were great. Very festive.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Seems like he had a wonderful home life and his writings may have been influenced by the beauty of his surroundings. I would have enjoyed the coconut milk treat. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • Karen Hellier profile image
      Author

      Karen Hellier 4 years ago from Georgia

      teaches12345,

      While the coconut milk drink was quite interesting and festive, it wasn't very good! Should have been served cold to get the maximum taste! He did have a beautiful home and it seems as though the last few years of his life were full of happiness.

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