National Park of American Samoa: The Complete Guide

National Park of American Samoa, Tutuila Island, American Samoa, South Pacific, Pacific
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National Park of American Samoa

Address
American Samoa
Phone +1 684-633-7082

The remoteness of national parks is one of their biggest draws, but the National Park of American Samoa takes the cake for the most far-flung destination. It's the only national park in the Southern hemisphere, and is more than 2,500 miles away from Hawaii and nearly 5,000 miles away from the mainland of the U.S. Spread across three different volcanic islands, you won't find the typical national park facilities here. This is a park for true adventurers who want to explore the rugged cliffs, glistening beaches, and coral reefs, most of which are completely undeveloped.

With the islands located just south of the equator, you can visit them at any time of year for warm weather. The days are hot year-round and rain is common, although the wettest season lasts from October to May. For slightly cooler and drier weather, plan your visit for June to September.

Things to Do

The best outdoor activities at this park include nature study of tropical wildlife and coral reef marine habitats, and enjoying the many outstanding islands and sea landscapes.

You'll find unbelievable beaches all over American Samoa. The island of Ofu in particular has extensive stretches of pristine shoreline and are the most scenic seascapes in the area. Ofu also has excellent coral reefs and offers the best snorkeling waters in the territory, but they aren't easy to reach and there are no dive centers on the island, so you'll need to bring your own gear.

The park offers a rich birdlife, including sea birds (terns, boobies, frigatebirds, petrels, and shearwaters), migrant shorebirds (even bristle-thighed curlews from Alaska), and many birds that live in native rainforests. The forest birds include honeyeaters, tropical doves, and pigeons. Specialties include the easily seen cardinal and wattled honeyeaters, along with the Samoan starling. Pacific pigeons, ground doves, and two species of fruit doves can also be located in the park.

Best Hikes & Trails

Hiking through American Samoa can bring you through tropical forests or to the summits of volcanic mountains. Any trek through this park is sure to be breathtaking and unlike any other national park in the country, but there are also unique challenges to consider. Some trails pass through private property and while locals are likely to give you permission to pass through, it's considered culturally respectful to ask for permission anyway. Others are closed on Sundays. You can find important details about each individual trail on the national park map.

The vast majority of visitors stay on Tutuila Island, which is also where you'll find the most trails. There are a couple of trails on the islands of Ofu and Ta'ū, but make sure you're prepared to head out with little assistance.

  • Pola Island Trail: This easy trail on Tutuila Island is short—not even a half-mile—and begins near the village of Vatia. It ends at a rocky beach with sweeping views of the ocean and nearby Pola Island.
  • Tuafanua Trail: This trail is 2.2 miles roundtrip but it has several switchbacks and a steep descent on a ladder with a rope. It also begins in the village of Vatia and arrives at a hidden coastline after passing through lush rainforests.
  • Mount 'Alava Trail: One of the most challenging trails in this park, this 7-mile roundtrip trek reaches the summit of Mount 'Alava. You'll see fruit bats, banana and coconut plantations, and panoramic views of the entire island.

Where to Homestay

Land rights are essential in Samoan culture, and this national park is unique in that the locals lease their private land to the U.S., but the government doesn't own it. That's why there are no lodges or camping allowed inside the park boundaries. However, Samoans are also known for their hospitality and frequently open up their homes to visitors. You can find homestays on all of the islands in American Samoa.

A homestay isn't just about having a bed to sleep in, but it's truly the best way to immerse yourself in the Samoan way of life. A traditional home is called a fale, and you'll learn all about local customs and cuisine. The National Park Service organizes homestays throughout the islands.

Where to Stay Nearby

If you're looking for a hotel-type lodging, there are only a few options on the main island of Tutuila and even fewer on the other islands. Airbnb options are available, however, and worth checking out.

  • Tradewinds Hotel: Located near the Pago Pago International Airport on the main island of Tutuila, this is one of the primary hotels in American Samoa. It's conveniently located in the capital city and offers all of the standard amenities like a pool, internet cafe, restaurant, bar, and recreation area.
  • Vaoto Lodge: This is one of the only hotel options on the island of Ofu, and it's just 10 minutes away by foot from the national park. Getting to Ofu takes some planning, but the Vaoto Lodge is located right next to the small airport.

How to Get There

Getting to this remote park isn't easy, but the landscapes and experience are well worth the journey. The national park is spread across three islands: Tutuila, Ofu, and Ta'ū. Tutuila is the main island of American Samoa and where all visitors coming from abroad will start, while Ofu and Ta'ū—which are collectively referred to as Mau'a—require an additional flight or boat ride.

  • Tutuila: Pago Pago International Airport is where all flights arrive and visitors coming from the U.S. will have to connect at Honolulu Airport. The International Airport at Upolo in nearby (Western) Samoa—which is its own country—also has several flights weekly from Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. Connecting flights serve Tutuila from Upolo by small aircraft nearly daily. Buses can bring you to parts of the national park, but renting a car is the easiest way to move around.
  • Ofu and Ta'ū: Ofu and Ta'ū each has a small airport with flights from Tutuila, although flights don't depart daily so make sure you know the schedule before you get there. There is also a boat that makes the journey, although the ocean is rough and the boat ride takes about five hours. Once you're there, you can reach the national park by bicycle from most parts of the island or hitching a ride.

Accessibility

The national park has very little development and virtually all of the trails are steep, rugged, and unpaved. There is one scenic overlook that's accessible with assistance at the Lower Sauma Ridge on the main island of Tutuila, but visitors with mobility challenges may have difficulty reaching other parts of the park.

Tips for Your Visit

  • Even though American Samoa is a U.S. territory, flights from the U.S. are still considered international and passengers need to bring their passports with them. However, American tourists don't need a visa to enter American Samoa.
  • The national park doesn't charge any entrance fee and it's free to visit.
  • Sunday is considered a day of rest for Samoans. Not only are stores closed and public transportation not available, but even activities like swimming should be avoided.
  • If you want to take photos of someone, cross through their land, or use a village beach, always ask permission first even if you don't feel like you're being obtrusive.
  • Revealing swimwear such as bikinis for women or speedos for men are considered inappropriate, so cover up when you're at the beach.
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National Park of American Samoa: The Complete Guide