This paper considers the practicalities of conducting field-based research aimed at understanding Samoans’ perceptions of the relevance and acceptability of the country’s ‘Coastal Infrastructural Management Strategy (CIMS) and Plans’. Government officers, consultants and other key informants were interviewed, and field research was undertaken among five village communities in Samoa during 2008 and 2009. The paper discusses the methodologies used in the study, which were designed to meet the ethical requirements of both Samoan society and the University of Otago Human Ethics Committee. A largely qualitative and interpretive research design was used. The predominantly oral nature of communication in Samoan society necessitated the use of semi-structured interviewing as the main method of data collection. The use of the Samoan language, as well as attention to cultural protocols were significant in the process of collecting data, whilst information analysis and interpretation in part adopted methods used elsewhere. The analysis of data including comments and stories told by research participants together with photographs of selected sites enabled the construction of a culturally situated analysis of coastal governance in Samoa.