American Samoa Travel Guide
Introduction to American Samoa
Located in the South Pacific at 14 degrees South latitude, the territory of American Samoa is the southernmost piece of populated American soil in the world.
Slightly bigger than Washington DC and far from the mainland, it doesn’t attract many visitors – this is their loss and your gain, as you will likely have everything from the southernmost US national park to its quiet beaches largely to yourself.
Currency: US Dollars
Languages: Samoan, English
What To Do in American Samoa
Get up to speed on the history of American Samoa by paying a visit to the Jean P. Haydon Museum. Named after the wife of past governor John M. Haydon, it is dedicated to the history and culture of this remote South Pacific island. Its exhibits include information on past occurrences, how past generations lived off the sea, and how kava is made.
There is also an assortment of local handicrafts on display, and most odd of all, there is a display showing off an American Samoan flag (it travelled to and was flown on the moon) and moon rocks given to the territory of American Samoa by President Nixon in the early 70s.
While much of the 76 square miles which comprise American Samoa is composed of fascinating tropical jungle, those who travel to this island chain often do so to explore the reefs sitting just off its shores.
Learn more about the marine environments surrounding this territory by spending time exploring the Tauese P.F. Sunia Ocean Center. Inside, its displays aim to inform visitors on the importance of coral reefs to the health of our oceans, as well as the threats they face from human activity in the modern era.
Once you have gotten sufficiently educated about the ocean in this corner of the South Pacific, hire a diving outfit and descend beneath the waves within the bounds of the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa.
It protects the only true tropical reefs in the American national park system – thanks to the conservation efforts of rangers and scientists here, you’ll find plenty of intact colourful coral and numerous species of fish that will likely blow away other diving expeditions you have gone on in the past.
Back on land, explore the best natural beauty this island chain has to offer within the National Park of American Samoa. With plenty of hiking, beaches, and diving/snorkelling opportunities, the only national park in America south of the equator will spoil you with a true taste of the tropics, South Pacific style.
Highlights include hiking a trail to the top of Mount Alava, as well as several gun emplacements that date back to the Second World War.
However, neither of these hold a candle to the beaches contained within its territory. Ofu Beach is a stunning sight which will make your journey to American Samoa worth the airfare and the many hours spent in transit.
With over four kilometres of pure white sand lined with drooping palm trees and a reef giving a home to over 300 different kinds of tropical fish, you won’t be in any rush to leave this slice of paradise.
Back on Tutuila, a visit to Two Dollar Beach is recommended for those looking for a place with services, as many beaches around the islands have minimal or nonexistent services available.
The name is a tad outdated, as it used to refer to the admission charge levied by the owners of this prime piece of real estate. These days, you’ll spend $5 USD to gain access to a beach which offers showers, toilets which are sparkling clean, and barbeques you can use to cook meals.
What to Eat in American Samoa
The diet of the average person in American Samoa has drifted towards what is normally eaten on the mainland over time. However, despite this unfortunate trend, the old ways have persisted, thanks to the dedication of others.
Fia Fia is the first American Samoan dish you should seek out during your visit to the islands. A dish consisting of suckling pig, fish, chicken, coconut cream, taro leaves, mango, lime, bananas, coconut, and breadfruit, the diversity of flavours will make this meal a memorable one.
Next, be sure to be on the outlook for some Vaisalo. Excellent for dessert, it is a porridge made with coconut and tapioca. A beloved treat for many who live in American Samoa, it is the perfect way to end a meal here.
If you have a chance to participate in a ceremony with locals during your time in American Samoa, chances are you will be offered Kava at some point during the event. A drink derived from the root of a leafy plant, it has a mild narcotic effect on those who consume it.
It is similar to Khat/Qat, a leaf that is chewed in the Middle East to produce similar results. Feel free to pass on it if you don’t wish to imbibe, but otherwise, it is an experience you are likely to remember fondly.