OUR thoughts on AMERICAN SAMOA
With its strong Samoan culture and the combined modernity of its US sovereignty American Samoa really presents something quite unique. What you will discover is a holiday destination with affordable accommodation and services, an eco tourism paradise and some of the friendliest people in the Pacific.
These islands are in the initial stages of tourism development so visitors can experience its rare unspoiled beauty and character. Their lush tropical rainforests are vast, and offer challenging hiking trails with breath taking views to the surrounding waters. The abundant sea life and coral reefs will impress, whilst the whale watching from August through November is almost a given. They say the deep sea game fishing is to die for, whilst the history buff will be able to pick up guides from the Historic Preservation Office and take in the US Naval history in the Territory. You will also be surprised at the range of American products you can purchase at very reasonable prices at the stores dotted around Pago, such as Cost U Less, Forsgren and Ace Hardware.
American Samoa has been a territory of the US since 1900. It proved strategically valuable during the War Years when a training and staging area was set up for the US Marine Corps in the deep water Port of Pago Pago, exposing the local people to the American way of life. The Marines left the island territory in 1945 to resume its peaceful lifestyle. American Samoans are known as ‘Nationals’ and have every entitlement that mainland Americans enjoy with the only exception being they are unable to vote for the President. They are free to travel, live and work in the US and you will hear many times in a day their experiences of being “on island” and “off island”. American Samoa has a self- governing political system divided into three branches, led by The Governor and Lieutenant Governor.
There are five main islands in the group, with the capital Pago Pago being on the island of Tutuila. Pago Pago has stunning views across the magnificent deep water harbour to the majestic Rainmaker Mountain. There are several flights per day from Samoa. Inter Island Airways depart from Faleolo Airport and Polynesian Airlines from Fagali’i Airport. It is just a short 30 minute hop across to Pago and you will be going back a whole 24 hours just 15 minutes into the flight as you cross the International Dateline.
There are many options for getting around the main island of Tutuila. The local buses (known as ‘aiga’) are found throughout the island and you can simply wave them down. They all end up at the bus depot in town, right next door to the market place. Services are reduced on Saturdays and as Sunday is a day of worship and family then the buses and very few and far between. There are a number of taxi companies however they are not metered so you are advised to ask the fare before setting off. For ease of getting around we do recommend taking a rental car, and the majority of hotels have their own available for hire. Driving is on the other side of the road (the right), however the speed limit is just 25km per hour, so it is easy to keep in mind the old adage, “keep your steering wheel in the middle of the road”.
It’s going to be a hard decision to decide how long you should stay in American Samoa. This is not a resort style destination, but more a ‘get out there and explore’ experience, although there is absolutely no reason why you can’t take your book and lie by the pool. There are so many landmarks and sites to see and a program has been established to encourage and support voluntary conservation of sites that show the islands geological and biological history, such as the quick sands on Aunu’u Island, the island being a volcanic crater and just a one mile ferry trip off the eastern coastal road. American Samoa has one of 67 US National Parks spread over three islands, so if you want to visit a world-class national park before everyone else done then now is the time. It is the only National Park in the Southern Hemisphere. What the park lacks in facilities it makes up in South Pacific beauty, with some of the world’s most scenic beaches. With a bit of adventurer spirit you can find secluded villages, unusual plants and animals, coral sand beaches and highly scenic seashores. It is advisable to visit the Visitor Centre in Pago Pago before you head off where the Park Rangers will help you plan your visit. Trails vary in length and some are more challenging than others. Don’t forget to pick up your National Park Passport from the visitor centre!
Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary (one of only 13 US National Marine Sanctuary’s) nestles in an eroded volcanic crater on Tutuila Island. Turtles, whales and giant clam all find refuge in this protected area. There are three points of access to the Sanctuary and some of this must be covered on foot over custom owned land.
Dining out is alive and well and whether its traditional Samoan food, Chinese or an old fashioned diner for some home style cooking, then it is all here, not to mention the American fast food chains!
So… we can’t cover all there is to do but hope this gives you a general idea. We can arrange tours for you, whether it be a round island tour or a hike along an ancient fishing trail to a secluded beach. DON’T FORGET THE WHALE WATCHING August through November, where humpbacks come to breed in the Larsen Bay area. If that’s not your thing then enjoy 18 holes of golf at the Ili’ili Golf Course for just US$5.00!
American Dollars (USD)
Visa and Mastercard are the main credit cards accepted
Banks are open Monday to Friday, however it is recommended to purchase USD before you arrive as queues are long. There are ATMS around the island.
Electricity: 110volts using American power points
Flying time: approx. 4 hours from Auckland, New Zealand to Apia in Samoa before a 30minute connecting flight to Pago Pago in American Samoa.
Local Time: 11 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
Dry season runs April through November and the wet more humid season from December to March. Daily temperatures average 27 degrees celcius.
* Valid passport for at least 6 months beyond the intended period of stay (NZ passport holders).
* A valid return or onward air ticket and sufficient funds.
* ENTRY VISA: New Zealand, Australia and UK passport holders receive a free of charge 30 day visa on arrival whilst other nationalities must apply prior to arrival for which a US$40 fee is charged
BlueSky or ASTCA (no agreements in place for roaming with Vodafone or Telecom)