Ultimate travel guide to American Samoa : More than NFL players and war dances
American Samoa is some of the most remote places you can still technically be in the United States. In fact, it is the only real estate we own that is south of the equator. Yes, a lot of NFL players with funny last names do come from here. Someone from American Samoa is 57 times more likely to make it to the professional football level than from any other community in the country.
If you are coming this way, you will probably be coming to Tutuila which is where Pago Pago is and about 80% of civilization. There is no much to speak of on the other islands. What is there is about 60,000 people that no one, including Congress, knows what to do with.
The good news for Americans is that you do not need a passport to travel to the island and you can stay as long as you wish. Technically, you would move there, work there and even vote there. Americans have all the rights as they would at home beside land ownership.
It is also useful to note that greenbacks (US Dollars) are the currency of choice in American Samoa. In some places, they will accept Samoan Tala but this is rare. All the banks will change out foreign currency if you need it done.
Getting to American Samoa
The most important thing people would need to know is how to get to American Samoa. There is currently not many options out there. In fact, there is only really three ways to get to the islands: airplanes, cruise ship, and private yachts.
If you are flying to Pago Pago (PPG) at Tafuna International Airport, you will need to come from either Hawaii or the neighboring Samoa.
|Hawaii||Hawaiian Airlines||Mon, Thurs||9:30pm||11:30pm|
|Apia||Samoa Airways||5X Daily||8:30am-4:45pm||8:30am-4:45pm|
|Apia||Talofa Airways||4x Daily||9:45am-3:55pm||8:20am-4:15pm|
As you can see, if you are coming from the United States, you have to use Hawaiian Airlines that only comes to the island twice a week. The other important thing to know is that Hawaiian Airlines is seriously overpriced. It is cheaper to fly to New York City than American Samoa from Honolulu.
A second option for people carrying a US Passport could be to fly to Samoa via Fiji and make a short trip across using one of the other airlines. However, any savings you would have would probably be used for the extra flight across.
There are cruise ships that come into downtown Pago Pago every few weeks. Holland America and Princess Cruises are the two main companies that have ships coming to the islands. They normally arrive from French Polynesia and leave for Samoa in the afternoon. However, you could take the cruise all the way from Los Angeles to Pago Pago if you wish!
The third way is the private yachts that come into the island. These guys come and they just chill because they can live on their boats for as long as they want. The only thing that is important to know is they can only get the necessary clearance to drop anchor during regular business hours.
Hotels in American Samoa
Let’s get the harsh truth out there: there are no beach fales and there are no cheap places to stay on island. Everything is priced based on government allowances and there is not really a backpacker market to speak of. This is slowly changing but it is far from being addressed.
The closest to a beach fale is currently Tisa’s barefoot bar in Alega. It is on the eastern side of the island and it is right on the beach. They have a special for two nights with meals included for $294.
There is also some beach fales that have been recently built in Amouli village as well. It is a little past Tisa’s Barefoot Bar in two village down the road.
As far as proper hotels, there are a few options out there but the three main ones that people use are Sadie Thompson Inn, Sadie’s by the Sea and Tradewinds Hotel. A few others do exist but information can be hard to come by.
Some people have been successful at trying to couch surf but it is not something that I have tried so I can’t comment on that.
One option that you might consider is a hotel and bar in Pago Pago but to be honest, it looks more like a brothel than a hotel. It is called Evalani’s. It is not very nice at all but you can get pretty decent tacos there for a dollar a piece!
Restaurants in American Samoa
If you are looking for food, there is no shortage of cheap options. The people of American Samoa are obsessed with eating. It has been said that they do not eat to live but they live to eat. In fact, the island has been noted by WHO as the most obese community in the world.
Starting out with names that we all know. There is a couple McDonalds, a Pizza Hut, a KFC, and a Carls Jr on island. I would say the most popular on them is the Carls Jr but the McDonalds was at one point the #1 gross revenue of all McDonalds globally.
One of the great things about American Samoa is all the little hole in the wall places you can get local food. Pretty much every covinence store has some type of hot food for sell. There is also little food stalls outside the tuna canneries.
However, probably the best place to get some good local food is the Fagatogo Market just next to McDonalds. About 10 years ago, the federal government funded the building a new market and it is the place to get fresh fruit, vegetables and some hot food too. It was going to be the center of culture for American Samoa (that never happened) but it is a decent place to eat on the cheap.
If for some reason there is nothing there, head over to the Tedi Of Samoa (aka Fagatogo Square) and you can find a few places to eat. There is a small Filipino restaurant there as well as Matai Restaurant.
The western side of the main island is much more developed that the eastern side. It has several things to do such as golf at the Iliili Golf Course, Turtle and Shark in Vaitogi, John Williams Church in Leone, and there is of course the Palagi beach in Amanave.
The main road in American Samoa connects to the airport at Nuuli and you can drive all the way out to Maloata which is a total of 13 miles from the airport. If you do not have a car, there is bus that run out there a few times a day.
Leone is one of the bigger villages in the US territory and it has quite a bit of interesting things to look at. Back in 2009, it was destroyed by a natural disaster and it is still fresh in people’s minds. There is a memorial to that that is very well kept. The village also has some great beaches as well. However, they are normally off limits on Sundays.
They have what is called Leone Pala Special Management Area which is an area that is protected for marine research. It is worth the stop and learn about what is happening under the water and what the US Government is doing about it.
On you way back into town, a stop at the Pritchard’s Bakery is a smart move and they have some cheap prices on breads!
While it is just one of several village that make up the downtown area, the whole group is referred to as Pago Pago. For the sake of this article, we will consider anything between LBJ Medical Center and the Starkist factory to be part of this area.
One of the most interesting things for me is the Blunts Point Battery in Utulei. This is an old battery point for defense against the Japanese during World War II. The weapons are surprising in pretty good shape still to this day.
Between Utelei and Pago Pago is where the “downtown” of the community is. It is here that all the government, business, and commerce is established. It is also the center point of the Pago Pago bay that has seen better days. If you have traveling internationally, it is nice to know it does have a US Post Office there.
The Jean P. Haydon Museum in the old Naval base building can be pretty interesting to know the history and culture of the people of American Samoa before and after being American Nationals.
If you do need to go anywhere on island, most of the buses meet at the Fagatogo Market which is just before McDonalds. It is hard to miss. The market is also a great place to look for lava lavas, something is very useful in these parts of the world.
The main draw for the eastern district is going to be the American Samoa National Park that covers several villages. It is very well taken care of and it of interest to most people visiting the island. There is a trail up to Mount Alava that you can walk pretty easily.
Going east past Starkist, you will come on several villages that have great beaches include Tisa’s Barefoot Bar and what they call Two Dollar beach. If you see a spot you like, just seek out the village leaders (called Matai) and ask if you can spend a few hours there.
When you get to Fagaitua, there is a road going up the hill that comes out on the other side at a few villages. One of them is Sailele that is basically the backside of the island. Because it is somewhat hard to go to, there is little traffic and that means you have mostly a deserted beach (besides the villagers).
Going out Utumea, you can get a boat over to the little island that Junior Seau was born on called Aunu’u. It is a beautiful island that is great to spend a day at but make sure you head back to Pago Pago by around four in the afternoon.
The end of the road for the Eastern side is Tula where the government has a research center for weather. This is where you can get some food in you need it from the store and there is where most of the bus operators start the trip back to Fagatogo Market.
Manua Island Groups
There is a few outer islands that are amazing if you can get to them. Ofu and Olosega are the two most populated islands in that group that is connected by a bridge. They are quite small but have some of the best beaches in the world. It is also here you will find the airport that is unlike anything you would expect to see in the most developed country in the world.
The other island is called Ta‘ū. It has about a thousand people living on the island and it is the most developed of the three. Large parts of the island have been declared part of the National Park of American Samoa because of the virgin rainforest. This is probably the best rain forest in the United States.
The last island is one that is next to impossible to get to and its’ population is less than 40 people. It is known as Swains Island. It was privately owned for many generations and there is a debate if it should be part of the United States or New Zealand. For travelers, it only matters to know its’ existence because it is insanely hard to visit.
If you do want to visit the Manua, the best option is to pray the airplane is going for its’ weekly trip. If not, there might be a government boat taken people (and food) out but that is not for sure, either. Everything can be ended with a question mark in American Samoa.