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The Unspoiled Beauty of American Samoa

Pola Island

American Samoa, the only inhabited US territory south of the equator, is given the occasional nod for its love of American football and McDonald’s, but few people realize that these lush tropical islands hold geometrically cut mountains and blue waters that rival the beauty of Tahiti and Hawaii. Samoan culture is so strong here that some claim it’s even more traditional than Independent Samoa next door. If you’re seeking a Polynesia that’s authentic, full of adventure opportunities and nearly devoid of tourists, American Samoa may be just the place.

Although there are regular flights to Pago Pago from Hawaii, few travellers go to American Samoa so there’s relatively little tourism infrastructure and you’ll get little hand-holding when exploring the country. American travellers will need a valid US passport but no visa to enter American Samoa; travellers from other countries will need a visa (1-month visa granted free on arrival to citizens of Australia, New Zealand, and UK; US$40 in advance for all others).

Most of the population and industry (primarily fishing and canneries) are found on the main island of Tutuila, in and around Pago Pago Harbor. The intrepid can follow Margaret Mead’s footsteps to the quiet and remote Manu’a Islands to the east, but transport can be time-consuming and unpredictable.

Water world

Enjoying the seaside in American Samoa goes far beyond beaches, although swaths of radiant white sand aren’t hard to find. Get a feel for the gritty, shipping town of Pago Pago by paddling out in a kayak or hooking up with one of the local outrigger canoeing clubs for harbor-level views of the dramatic bowl of peaks and their reflections off the dark glassy water.

Many of Tutuila’s shorelines are formed by craggy black lava that creates a dramatic color contrast between the blue sea and green jungles. The best place to experience this landscape, as well as get in some good snorkeling, is by walking all or part of the National Marine Sanctuary of Samoa trail …

Read more: Celeste Brash, Lonely Planet


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