10 Days In American Samoa

August 9, 2016

10 Days In American Samoa sample itinerary - Ofu Beach Panoramic View

Putting the ‘R’ in remote, a visit to the tropical US territory of American Samoa is a fascinating experience. With a unique blend of modern American influence and a traditional ‘island life’ mentality of Samoans, American Samoa runs at its own pace. From hiking the giant peaks of Tutuila Island to touching down on one of the prettiest tropical beaches in the world in Ofu Island, a visit to American Samoa is a coveted achievement unlocked. I visited both Tutuila and Ofu on a short hop from neighboring Samoa while backpacking across the South Pacific islands. This 10 days in American Samoa sample itinerary is based on my experience, sharing with you my little secret of the paradise I found.

What’s Included In This 10 Days In American Samoa Itinerary?

Visiting other South Pacific destinations? Get expert advice on how to island hop in the South Pacific and check out these travel guides to French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Samoa and Vanuatu

10 DAYS IN AMERICAN SAMOA - PINTEREST
Hammock on Ofu Tropical Beach

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Why Should You Visit American Samoa?

American Samoa is definitely not a top tourist destination, but that’s what makes it all that more interesting. Aside from a cruise ship or two, the islands don’t get that many visitors so you’ll definitely feel special around here. The main island of Tutuila is a beautifully sculpted piece of work, with lush jagged peaks towering over a narrow coastline. The Manu’a Islands of Ofu and Olosega are just a 30 minute flight from already remote Pago Pago, but out here you’ll sometimes have the island all to yourself. Thanks to incredible work by the folks at the National Park of American Samoa the territory’s pristine tropical nature is absolutely accessible, a rarity on other South Pacific islands. Come here if you are curious, come here for the nature and definitely make sure you also make it to the paradise of Ofu!

Pago Pago American Samoa aerial view

Facts & Brief History

Americans Samoa is the only US territory south of the equator, established in 1900 when Samoan chiefs in the main island of Tutuila ceded their land to be managed by the US with the smaller outer island later joining. Its origins are similar to that of neighboring Samoa, colonized thousands of years ago in an impressive wave of Polynesian migration that little is known about to this day.

American Samoa election

By the second half of the 19th century, the world’s superpowers were fighting for influence over the South Pacific Islands. After a naval standoff in the Apia harbor in 1889, Germany was awarded with ‘Western’ Samoa and the US with ‘American’ Samoa. The US was especially interested in the deep Pago Pago harbor, where coal was stored and where entire fleets could safely anchor. The harbor fills a caldera formed by a collapsed volcano. Pago Pago’s strategic importance grew during WWII, with a fear of a Japanese invasion en route to Australia. Fortifications were erected, but other than a small incident, nothing serious really happened.

American Samoans are not US citizens, but they are free to enter and work in the US as they wish. In fact, many American Samoans join the military as a means to get off the small and often congested Tutuila Island. While only 163 km’s separate the ‘two Samoas’, American Samoa is strikingly different – with the absence of the traditional and ubiquitous Samoan fale, the proliferation of air conditioning, fast food, large pickup trucks, social security, food stamps and football instead of rugby. Unfortunately, car ownership, the lack of physical exercise needed for survival (hunting, fishing, etc.) and a poor diet (spam, turkey tail, junk food) have all contributed to American Samoans being among the heaviest folks in the world. It’s a shame that the territory’s beautiful nature can hardly be enjoyed by some of its residents. Despite some of these ‘American influences’, American Samoans value traditional customs of family life and church – much like their brothers and sisters out west.

Pago Pago American Samoa children playing football

These days, American Samoans living in the territory are primarily employed in government jobs, small private sector jobs and work in the tuna cannery. In an effort to boost the local economy and create jobs, tuna that is packaged in Pago Pago may enter the US mainland quota and tariff free, so check your Starkist – maybe it was canned right here!  

Shipwreck of the coast of Pago Pago American Samoa

In 2009, an 8.1 earthquake caused a massive tsunami which struck American Samoa. Waves up to 6 meters reached over 1.5 km’s inland, causing extensive damage, pollution in the harbor and claiming the lives of 22 people.

American Samoa Travel Tips:

  • Lonely Planet Rarotonga, Samoa and Tonga Travel GuideDon’t forget to bring with you the Lonely Planet guide to American Samoa, only on $14 Amazon! Together with this practical itinerary, it’ll be your best friend in this remote and beautiful part of the world.
  • The best time to visit American Samoa is between April/May to October. These months are known as the ‘dry season’, where there is less rain, more sunshine and no risk of cyclones. Keep in mind that even the dry season sees wet and cloudy weather, especially in Tutuila. You can’t have all this green without the rain. I visited American Samoa during the end of October / start of November and while weather in Ofu was perfect, I only enjoyed brief moments of sunshine on Tutuila.
  • Wondering what to pack? Have a look at the X Days In Y Packing List for advice on the right travel gear for the South Pacific.
  • If you’re planning to visit during the Christmas holiday, book well in advance as flights quickly fill up with Samoans expats returning for a family visit.
  • American Samoa is reached via direct flights from Hawaii (5.5 hours) and Samoa (40 mins). Flights from Samoa are frequent and very inexpensive. There is a passenger ferry between Apia and Pago Pago for those who have the time. If you are flying from Samoa, it’ll be on a tiny plane prone to weight restrictions so make sure your bag makes it on board!
  • All visitors must be able to show a return ticket upon entering American Samoa. Aside from US citizens, check VisaHQ to see if you need to apply for a visa to American Samoa ahead of time.
  • The US Dollar is the official currency and English is spoken by everybody.
  • How much does it cost to spend 10 days in American Samoa? Here’s a cost breakdown of my 10 day visit to American Samoa. On the ground, expect prices to be slightly higher compared with the mainland, except the standards are not on par and budget options are few and far in between.
  • Internet access is readily available in American Samoa and free wifi is common in hotels and restaurants (but not at the airport). Visit the Blue Sky website for info on internet hotspots and prepaid mobile SIM cards.
  • Though a US territory, the traditional and easy going Samoan way of life dictates things around here. So leave plenty of extra time for getting around, don’t ever get upset (you’re in paradise after all) and don’t bargain as it’s against Samoan culture. Read more about Fa’a Samoa (The Samoan Way) and village protocol in the Samoa Travel Guide.
  • If you haven’t already done so, watch the incredible documentary film Next Goal Wins. Aside from its interesting plot, you’ll discover the natural beauty of Tutuila Island and get a beginner’s understanding of the unique Samoan culture.
  • If you’re planning to hike, pack: water resistant hiking shoes, quick drying long pants, lite rain jacket and a day pack. If you’re planning to hit the water, bring your own mask & snorkel and wear reef shoes.
  • Especially on a visit like this, make sure you have sufficient travel insurance. World Nomads offer excellent coverage and value for money.

10 Days In American Samoa Map

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10 Days In American Samoa Itinerary Map

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4 comments

  1. Hi there! Ofu beach is my bucket list trip .. I want to learn more on ho to reach this destination – I realize flights can only be booked within the month, but where can you book from? Australia? Would love more detailed information on the trip if possible .. incredible pictures, thanks so much for this piece.

    1. Hi Jennifer!
      Ofu is definitely one of the world’s hidden gems, and if tropical islands are your things – you’ll love it. There’s practical info about Ofu on this page: http://xdaysiny.com/10-days-in-american-samoa-itinerary-guide/3/ along with plenty of photos. This post will also be of use – a personal account of my visit to American Samoa and Ofu: http://xdaysiny.com/ofu-beach-american-samoa/

      In a nutshell, you’ll first have to reach Pago Pago and then catch a direct flight to Ofu or a flight to Ta’u and then a boat to Ofu. You can get to Pago Pago from either Hawaii or Samoa.

      Hope this helps!

  2. Hi!
    First of all thanks a lot for your different posts, those are very helpful when planning a trip!

    I plan visiting the Western Samoas with my girlfriend in July (about 17 days) and we are considering also visiting Manu’a as it seems to be the most beautiful place on Earth. I have got a few questions :

    – How long do you think is worth staying on Manu’a? The island seems beautiful, but and the same time, it seems two days are enough to discover it. I actually ask this question because Manu’a would be “only” a part of the trip and so we’d like to keep enough time to also visit properly the Western Samoas. On the other hand we don’t want to rush our visit of Manu’a (as it seems to be the most beautiful place on Earth it would be stupid to come there for two rainy days…).

    – As it would be part of a longer trip, I need to organize the different flight connections and so I’d like to know how reliable the departure times of the planes are. I read your post regarding the couple needing to wait one day or two to reach Manu’a… Also are the planes flying by all weathers or does it often happen that the flights are being canceled?

    – I read the dengue thing can be a problem in the Samoas in general. Did you ever encounter any problems with the mosquitoes?

    – And last question (regarding more the Western Samoas actually) : How is the safety in general (sleeping in a non-locked Fale on the beach)?

    Thanks a lot for your advices and best regards from Switzerland!
    Lionel

    1. Hi Lionel

      Greetings from Huahine Island in French Polynesia!

      – The minimum stay on Ofu would have to be at least three to four nights. This will give you one day to do nothing on the beach, hike Tumu Mountain and visit Oge Beach (where the scary eels were). This would be mean you would have to fly one segment in or out of Ta’u and take a boat (which your hosts can arrange). The only thing is that as of now, you cannot prebook Manua flights over a months in advance. Polynesian Airlines gets their FAA waiver on a monthly basis (for ex: today – April 20, they received the May waiver). Since flights between the Samoas are easy to book, you can just play it by ear and book your visit to Ofu while you’re in Samoa (this is what I did). Just make a reservation with Vaoto Lodge to keep the space for you and this will be pending Polynesian Airlines getting their waiver (Deb from Vaoto Lodge should be ok with this arrangement).

      – if you’re visiting Samoa during the dry season, you should not have a problem. Polynesia Airlines will not compensate nor will they find accommodations for you if flights are canceled due to weather. If you’re visiting during the wet season, this could be an issue. I went in November, which is the start of the wet season. I took a chance and it all worked out fine. However, Dec-Mar are very wet and cyclone-prone months in the Samoas. If you arrive at the counter 2 hours before the flight, you should not experience being debooked.

      – dengue is a real issue in Samoa but only during the wet season. If visiting during this time, be sure to have good mosquito repellent and you should be fine.

      – in general, Samoa is very safe. Parts of Savaii are a bit sketchy but other than that, no real issues. If staying at an open fale, just have a metal wire and a lock to make sure nobody can open your backpack or take it out of the hut. This is what I did and I had no issues. I did hear of a few travelers getting stuff taken away but this was very rare. The fales are owned and operated by families and there’s always someone there to watch. Have a look at this page for good gear to take with you: http://xdaysiny.com/packing-list/

      have fun, safe travels and enjoy the magical ride

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