American Samoa

American Samoa is an unincorporated U.S. territory in the South Pacific consisting of five islands and two atolls at the heart of Polynesia. It occupies the eastern half of the Samoan Islands archipelago and is not to be confused with the island nation of Samoa. American Samoa’s main island and most popular destination is Tutuila, where the capital Pago Pago is located. Other top destinations in American Samoa include the Alega, Fagatogo, Utulei, and the Manu’a group of islands, which is comprised of the islands of T’au, Ofu, and Olosega.

Tourism in the American Samoa is still in its infancy, but each year more and more visitors come to see these “dramatically” beautiful islands. The scenery in the American Samoa, with its white beaches, rocky coastlines, small bays, narrow valleys, coastal plains, tropical rainforests, and volcanic lava tubes, is considered by some to be as gorgeous as that in the Bora Bora or Tahiti. And with the regular infusion of American dollars, the American Samoa is more developed in its infrastructure and modern facilities than many of its South Pacific neighbors, making these islands both visually and physically enjoyable.

American Samoa was first settled around 600 BC by migrants from Indonesia, Tonga, or Fiji. The islands were first discovered by the Europeans in 1722 when it was sighted by the Dutch Explorer Roggeveen. The Germans and the Americans fought over the islands in the late 19th century before a treaty in 1899 gave the western Samoan islands to the Germans and the eastern islands (American Samoa) to the Americans. The islands have been an American territory ever since.

Since WWII, the islands have been self-governing and have developed into a relatively modern economic and political state while retaining its traditional “Samoan Way” of life (or Fa’a Samoa). It is this retention of Fa’a Samoa that sometimes fascinates visitors. Samoan culture and society is based on a chieftain system of hereditary rank. Families hold a common allegiance to the family chief, who regulates all activities. The Fa’a Samoa is very communally and family-oriented. There is no public ownership of land but rather 90% of the lands are controlled by the chief. The Fa’a Samoa also affords minimal privacy; houses have no walls, large families live together, and meals, activities, and celebrations are embraced collectively. Much of Samoan culture is based on religion, handcrafting, music, dance, and tattooing.

American Samoa’s attractions are many. Tourists interested in learning about and seeing some of the marine and wildlife of the islands can visit the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which comprises a coral reef ecosystem within a volcanic crater on the island of Tutuila. The bay is home to numerous animal and plant species and is a refuge for turtles, sharks, crabs, lobsters, octopus, whales, clams, and tropical fishes like the parrot, damselfish, and butterfly. If you visit Vaitogi, you can also go on turtle and shark sighting tours.

The islands with its trails and natural landscapes are also great for hiking and trekking. Tisa’s Alega Waterfalls is a must. You can go with a tour or take the waterfall hike up to Alega village yourself. Tours usually provide food, demonstrations of crafts, and traditional entertainment of Hawaiian style singing and dancing at the village. Hiking can also be done at the National Park of American Samoa, where you’ll be able to hike through tropical rainforests, mountains, passes, sea cliffs, and across shorelines and fringing reefs. Along the way, you’ll be able to discover secluded villages or observe bio-diverse plants and wildlife, including unique birds like the Cardinal Honeyeater or the Fairy Tern.

Other popular tourist activities in American Samoa include sportfishing off the coasts of Tutuila, snorkeling in the Ofu Lagoon or Aunu’u village, kayaking and swimming at the Alega beach, or shopping at Nu’uuli, perhaps the most commercialized area of American Samoa.