Apia is situated on a natural harbour at the mouth of the Vaisigano River. It is on a narrow coastal plain with Mount Vaea (elevation 472 metres (1,549 ft)), the burial place of writer Robert Louis Stevenson, directly to its south. Two main ridges run south on either side of the Vaisigano River, with roads on each. The more western of these is Cross Island Road, one of the few roads cutting north to south across the middle of the island to the south coast of Upolu.
Apia was originally a small village (the 1800 population was 304), from which the country's capital took its name. Apia village still exists within the larger modern capital of Apia which has grown into a sprawling urban area with many villages. Like every other settlement in the country, Apia village has its own matai chiefly leaders and fa'alupega (genealogy and customary greetings) according to fa'a Samoa.
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