National Park of American Samoa: A user's guide
Snorkel through 2,550 acres of coral reefs alongside nearly 1,000 different kinds of fish, including barracuda, saddled butterflyfish, orange-fin anemonefish and the South Seas devil.
Mon, Jul 09 2012 at 3:33 PM
Pola Islands off of the coast of Tutulia. (Photo: Tavita Togia, National Park Service / Wikimedia Commons)
The National Park of American Samoa isn’t the sort of place you visit on your way to some other destination. You have to really want to be here. It’s a 5.5-hour flight from Honolulu to Pago Pago on the island of Tutulia — and that gets you within driving distance of just one of three units of the park. The other sections of the park are 60 miles east on Ta'u, the easternmost island, and Ofu Island.
But once you’re there, expect to have the beaches, rain forests and coral reefs pretty much to yourself in a national park that gets fewer than 10,000 visitors a year.
The National Park of American Samoa was established in 1988.
Things to do:
The park has 25 miles of trail, but many trails are lightly traveled and not maintained. The most developed hiking trail is found on Tutulia, a short drive from Pago Pago. The trail links Fagasa Pass to Vatia Village, a short drive west of Pago Pago. Most people start at either end and hike to the 1,610-foot summit of Mount Alava and then turn around. The trek from Fagasa Pass to the summit and back is 7.4 miles. The trip from Vatia to Mount Alava is a bit shorter, but steep. The path has several ladders installed along the way.
Snorkeling is probably the best way to while away the days. The coral reefs of Ofu offer the best snorkeling in the park. The park preserves 2,550 acres of coral reefs made up of about 250 coral species and home to nearly 1,000 different kinds of fish, including barracuda, saddled butterflyfish, orange-fin anemonefish and the South Seas devil.
Why you’ll want to come back:
You may make lifelong friends through the Home Stay program in which visitors stay with a Samoan family in their home and participate in activities of daily life such as weaving, tending mango and papaya trees or fishing. The cost varies with the type of accommodation and activities.
Just remember it is considered impolite to stretch out your legs uncovered.
Flora and fauna:
Warm tropical seas, coral reefs, beaches and rain forests harbor a mix of plants and animals unlike that found at any mainland national park. The only native land mammals are the Samoan fruit bat, the white-napped fruit bat and the sheath-tailed bat.
Birds you may see include sea birds such as terns, boobies and frigate birds.
Just the facts:
Website: National Park of American Samoa
Park size: 13,500 acres, 9,500 land / 4,000 ocean
2011 visitation: 8,716
Funky fact: American Samoa, comprised of consists of five volcanic islands and two coral atolls, is the only U.S. territory south of the equator.
This is part of Explore America's Parks, a series of user's guides to national, state and local park systems across the United States. We'll be adding new parks all summer, so check back for more.
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