We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

American Samoa Trip Report

Clemson, South...
Level Contributor
234 posts
329 reviews
Save Topic
American Samoa Trip Report

My wife and I visited American Samoa to hike in the National Park there in mid March after visiting Maui and hiking in Haleakala NP there. Below is a report on the part of the trip to American Samoa. Hopefully the report will have a bit of information that may be useful to somebody.

Thursday, 3/15/2012 – Up around 6:30 for our departure from Kahului, Maui, to Pago Pago later that afternoon. We left at 2:00 PM and connected in Honolulu for the flight to Pago Pago, American Samoa, arriving there around 9:30 PM. Arrival was hectic to say the least. I think half the American Samoa population goes to the airport when the twice a week flights from Honolulu arrive. The airport is small even though it is an “international” airport. We flew in on a Boeing 767, a pretty large wide body plane, yet deplaned down a very high metal stairway into the heat and humidity that smacked you right in the face as you exited the airplane, even that late at night. No jetways here. I believe the only air-conditioned area in the airport is the daparture lounge, so, arriving, you suffer in the heat. Almost didn't get a ride to our hotel, Sadie's by the Sea, since the front office had told the shuttle driver that there was no one for him to pick up on this flight. Fortunately, he checked anyway and found us, very happy to see him after waiting about 30 minutes. Got to Sadie's and the office was closed but a security guy got us into our room, and we were in bed by 11:00 PM.

Friday, 3/16/2012 – Up fairly early on our first full day on Tutuila, only to find it pouring rain. Went to the hotel office where I picked up our rental car. Sadie's rents cars too. Then to the Goat Island Restaurant at the hotel for breakfast and watched the rain come down. We drove to the National Park visitors center where we talked to the ranger about hikes. The park service had just moved to a new visitors center and was still in the process of setting things up. We had planned to hike the Mt. Alava trail in the National Park this day, but the rain showed no signs of letting up so put that off until the next day hoping for better weather. As we left the visitors center, the rain did slow a bit so we drove around to the trail head for a short half-mile hike on the Lower Sauma Ridge trail. We carried umbrellas and only got sprinkled on a couple of times. Good views of the northeast coast line and Pola Island, a skinny bit of land just off the end of the northern most tip of the main island of Tutuila. Pola Island is a protected nesting site for seabirds. Saw lots of whitetailed Tropic birds with their long tails as well as fruit bats, called flying foxes, the only native mammals found in American Samoa. Unfortunately, they are certainly not the only mammals there now. There are tons of dogs, roaming around all over the island. Most appear to be uncared for and in bad shape. Obviously no effective spay/neuter program in place here. This, for my animal loving wife (and me too), was probably the biggest downer of the trip.

After this short hike, we drove on through the village of Vatia to the end of the road and a short trail called the Pola Island Trail. This trail led to that northern most tip of the island with views of the rocky beach and a peek around the corner to Pola Island. Walked back to the car and drove back to the hotel.

After checking e-mail using the surprisingly good WiFi signal, we went to The Sadie Thompson Inn for dinner. Sadie Thompson is a character in a Somerset Maughm short story called “Rain,” set in American Samoa. Whether she was a real person or not is a matter of conjecture but the hotel's website includes a telling of the legend of Sadie Thompson and, if you are interested, you can read it at the end of this blog entry. I had an excellent seared ahi tuna steak, and Anne had an ahi tuna salad. Tuna is big in American Samoa. The Starkist Tuna cannery, with a big statue of Charlie the Tuna outside it, is the largest employer on the island. The Inn also has rooms on the second floor and is the sister property of Sadie's by the Sea. It is probably the nicest restaurant on the island, at least from what we saw. It is air conditioned, many places are not, with a more upscale menu than some other spots. The Goat

Island Cafe at Sadie's by the Sea has very good food but is open air, and that can be uncomfortable if you aren't used to heat and high humidity. Back to the room for a relatively early night.

Saturday, 3/17/2012 – Awoke to the pleasant surprise of sunshine and scattered clouds this AM after pretty much constant rain and drizzle yesterday. Had a call last evening from the front desk saying that our breakfast would be on the house due to the mixup about our pickup at the airport when we arrived, so that was a nice gesture. Yesterday I had Samoan bangers (sausages) with scrambled eggs and potatoes which were very good (not quite the same as Bangers and Mash at the Irish Pub in Hendersonville but good). This AM decided on a seafood omelet and rice. Rice was plain, but there was a buttery sauce around the omelet which, when mixed in with the rice, was surprisingly good. Anne had an egg and toast yesterday and splurged this morning with french toast. All very good but weather was already hot and humid even at the early 8:00 AM hour. At least it wasn't raining.

Drove to the Mt. Alava trailhead at Fagasa Pass which is the high point on the road that crosses the middle of the island. Hiked the 3.5 mile trail, mostly up, to the summit of Mt Alava, elevation 1,610 feet, some 1,000 feet above the trail head at the pass. Mt. Alava is the highest point in the park and the third highest on the island. The highest is Matafao Peak, just west of Fagasa Pass, at 2142 feet. Looming over the western entrance to Pago Pago harbor is the second highest point, Pioa Mountain, also called Rainmaker Mountain, at 1718 feet. The Mt. Alava trail actually goes up and down a good bit, so while you gain 1,000 feet overall, you probably lose and regain another 500 to 600 feet on the way to the top, so it is a bit more strenuous than just a 1,000 foot elevation gain. The weather was hot and humid, and the trail was very wet from the previous days rain so, even with no rain, we got pretty hot, sweaty, and muddy by the time we finished the hike. The trail is a beautiful trek through the rainforest, passing through an abandoned banana and coconut plantation, with peek-a-boo views of the central part of Tutuila island's coast on the northeast and Pago Pago harbor to the south. Saw several flying fruit bats, tropic birds, and lots and lots of the white-rumped swifts (never did see a white rump on one though) zooming around and over the trail, eating mosquitoes (thankfully) and other flying insects. The summit has several TV and radio towers as well as the remains of an old platform for a cable car that ran from Pago Pago harbour to the summit. It was damaged and not restored in the mid 1990's when two airplanes flew into the cables and crashed, killing the pilots. About ¼ mile beyond the TV towers is a Fale built by the NP service with a hiker's log and a good spot to rest and enjoy the views. We did not tarry since, even though the weather had been good, it looked like a rain cloud was moving in. It never did rain but did cloud up a bit before clearing again. With the several ups and downs along the way, the 3.5 mile hike back down to the pass is not particularly easy but not as bad as the climb up. After returning to the car and cleaning up a bit, we drove back through Pago Pago to Blunts Point and the site of a WWII gun emplacement that guarded the harbour entrance from the south. There is another on the northeast side of the harbour called Breaker's Point, but we did not get to it. The trail to the gun emplacement at Blunts Point is a fairly easy 0.6 miles up and back. It is easy to see why the spot was picked as it commands the entrance to the harbor from the southwest with good views of the coast line and across the entrance to the east and Rainmaker Mountain. Drove back to the hotel for an e-mail fix, then to dinner at an air-conditioned bar & grill near the airport called Toa's. Just had sandwiches, but they were very good.

Sunday, 3/18/2012 – Our last day in American Samoa and again good weather (that means no rain). The island really does observe Sunday as a day of rest and time to go to church. I believe everyone attends church on Sunday at some point, even those who have to work at restaurants and hotels. The island has two McDonald's, one near the airport and one not far from Sadies, so that was breakfast for me. Anne wanted a parfait, but the person taking the order had no clue what I was asking for so Anne got nothing from Micky D's. I got an Egg McMufffin of some sort. Fortunately, Sadies was pretty much open and later that morning, we were able to rent a Kayak and paddle around Pago Pago harbor for a bit. That was the first time we had been kayaking, and I think I prefer a canoe. The position required in a kayak with legs extended and no back support was pretty uncomfortable after a short while. I ended up dangling my legs off the sides in the water most of the time. Also took a while to get used to the kayak paddles where the left blade of the paddle is oriented about 30 to 40 degrees off from the right blade. Once you are used to that kind of paddle, it works pretty well – but I think I still prefer the standard canoe paddle. The harbor itself is a natural deep water harbor and because of this, it was an important US Naval base in WWII, and there was a Naval station on the island until 1951. However the sides of the bay are pretty shallow, and we actually grounded the kayak in the shallow coral reef near shore a few times. Stayed out for a little over an hour in the kayak before arms and backs required long term rest, so we returned to the hotel, ate lunch consisting of splitting half of Anne's tuna melt sandwich from the previous evening. Very good. Then got in the car and drove all the way from Sadie's along the coastal highway #001 to the eastern end of the island and the village of Onenoa on the northeastern coast. Passed through about seven small named villages between Pago Pago and the end of the road and really got a flavor of village architecture and the coastal scenery. In most villages, people were either in, leaving from, or going to church. Each village had one or more open-air Fales or communal buildings used by families for gatherings of one kind or another. Passed the remains of an old shipwreck along the rocky coast at the end of the island. Had some good views of the small island of Aunu'u just off the eastern tip of Tutuila. It is the smallest inhabited island in American Samoa.

After completing our drive, we returned to the room and packed up for the last time for our return trip home. This return trip had a somewhat long and complicated itinerary consisting of a red eye flight from Pago Pago leaving at 11:30PM and arriving in Honolulu at 5:40 AM on Monday, then another red eye leaving Honolulu at 4:50 PM and arriving in Atlanta at 7:20 AM on Tuesday, then on to GSP by 10:20 AM. More about that trip later. After packing, I turned in the car, and we checked out of the hotel around 6:00 PM. The hotel shuttle to the airport didn't leave until 8:00 PM ,so we had time to eat dinner at Sadies Goat Island Cafe.

At the airport, preparing for departure was slightly more organized than the our arrival when we were trying to figure out how to get to the hotel amid the mob of Samoans greeting other arriving Samoans. Checked our bags and waited until around 9:00 when they opened the departure lounge, the only air-conditioned section of the terminal that we saw. Entering the departure area ,we passed through security and then waited for the plane to arrive. The Hawaiian Air flight goes from Honolulu to Pago Pago twice a week on Thursday and Sunday, returning after a turn around time of about an hour, for a five and a half hour overnight flight back to Honolulu. We left at 11:20 PM, arriving Honolulu around 5:40 AM on Monday. Since we had a long layover we caught a city bus to Hilo Hatties for last minute gifts then on to Waikiki Beach to walk around before returning to the airport for our second red-eye flight home.

NPH

Edited: 28 April 2012, 20:17
Pago Pago, American...
Level Contributor
57 posts
2 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: American Samoa Trip Report

Thanks for coming. Enjoyed reading your take on the place. Why didn't you take the rainforest trail down to Vatia? It's fabulous! I'm including a link to my blog where can relive and share your experience. http://amsamoa-busycorner.blogspot.com/

From Pago, John wasko

Murchison, New...
Level Contributor
14 posts
54 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: American Samoa Trip Report

Thanks for posting.

WE are in the throws of planning a trip to (Western) Samoa for Late July/Early August and contemplating a few days in the American version too! And being hikers and nature lovers I was interested in your report. WE would plant to do the Mt Alava Trail and the northern coast of the NP as well. Hoping for forest birds, butterflies and reptiles, and local foods and markets. Have lived in New Zealand for 38 years and this would be our first trip to the "islands".

Hoping it is not too hot and humid at this time of the year but a lot warmer than NZ is currently!

Roger

Pago Pago, American...
Level Contributor
57 posts
2 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: American Samoa Trip Report

get in touch before you arrive. American Samoa is beautiful. Lonely Planet calls Tutuila, "Samoa's prettier sister". JW

Murchison, New...
Level Contributor
14 posts
54 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: American Samoa Trip Report

We will indeed. Have been looking at some of your youtube clips and appreciate the hiking opportunities, rain forests and bird life. These would be the reasons for coming and I imagine you can give us some good suggestions.

Cheers

Roger

Cleveland, Ohio
Level Contributor
22 posts
12 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: American Samoa Trip Report

Great post! Exactly the information we were looking for. We have 2 weeks in Hawaii in May 2013, and it was only natural to take a side trip to American Samoa during this time. We fly in on a Thurs and out on Monday which are the 2 days flights are available this May (Sun and Mon seem to change at times).

It's good to read about the places to eat you found, and also about your arrival experience. It sounds like the airport in St. Thomas, only with more people :).

Questions: How big is the main island? Specifically, is is best to have a car the entire time, or might parts be easily accessible without one, renting a car for only a day or 2? Is a 4WD SUV advantageous? Are alternatives like bikes or scooters available and feasible? We'll probably just get a car for the entire time ... but I thought I'd ask.

Our main mission is to visit the National Park as we're trying to get to all of them over time. We hike quite a bit and the kayaking sounds interesting, too!

Thanks again for the detailed report!

Edited: 20 January 2013, 17:50
Pago Pago, American...
Level Contributor
57 posts
2 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: American Samoa Trip Report

get in touch when you arrive. Eager to help you enjoy our beautiful island. JW in Pago

Clemson, South...
Level Contributor
234 posts
329 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: American Samoa Trip Report

For bhnc140 - We apparently share a goal of visiting (hiking in) all the National Parks someday. So far we have done 50 of the now 59. Just did the Virgin Islands NP and can tell you that the airport at St. Thomas is a cut above that in American Samoa. But both are small by most standards but St. Thomas seems a bit more organized, has more shopping, more areas air conditioned, etc. As to your question re: car rental - I would highly recommend it. If you are staying at Sadies by the Sea, they rent cars at a pretty reasonable rate and we saw no place where a 4 wheel drive or SUV would be needed. But the island is fairly large - too large to walk to most places, though you can walk from Sadies to the central part of town and the Sadie Thompson Inn without too much trouble. Not sure about scooters or bikes. Highly recommend Sadies. As long as you make sure they know you are coming. They really bent over backwards to accomodate us in evey respect. The hike to Mt. Alava is probably the best we did though the shorter ones were enjoyable as well. Apparently the NP on the Island of Ofu has the best beaches but a visit there would probably require a longer stay.

Will you do the Hawaii parks on this trip as well?

Have a great trip- know you will enjoy it.

NPH

Edited: 21 January 2013, 00:42
Cleveland, Ohio
Level Contributor
22 posts
12 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: American Samoa Trip Report

Yes, it looks like we have the same checklist, only you're much further ahead than we are. We have 20+ parks marked off with at least 3 scheduled this year. I plan on getting a bit more aggressive with the list next year, but non-park areas (like Europe and Machu Picchu) are calling, too!

My wfie and I have a visit to Volcano NP planned during our Hawaii stay. She wanted to spend some time in Honolulu, and with the side trip to Samoa, we would have been forcing things to visit the other park. So, we've committed instead to another visit in the near future. We'll do Maui and one of the other islands then.

Not sure if they'll let me paste a link here, but we have our checklist online at http://www.mr2ice.com/parks.html This list has not been updated to include Pinnacles yet, but it should be fairly current. I had a trip back to Alaska marked for spring 2014, but removed it until we decide on that or Europe. So many places to see!

Thanks for the feedback on the car. Avis charges 100 less for a non-SUV, but I have emailed Saddies (I had forgotten, but we DID book a room there) and will call if they don't reply this week.

We were in St John just last spring, and thought the beaches were beautiful. Looking forward to the same from Hawaii and American Samoa!

Am also planning to try and get to one of the more difficult islands in AS. We'll see how well this works.

Thanks again!

Edited: 29 January 2013, 03:59
Clemson, South...
Level Contributor
234 posts
329 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: American Samoa Trip Report

We may be farther along in the number of parks visited but you probably have more time left than do we. Would like to ask you about a couple of parks that you have been to that we have not, but won't do it on this forum for AS. I'll send a separate private message on TA about that.

I did want to mention the one place on AS that a 4 wheel drive might have been nice to have. On our first day there, when it was raining off and on and we did several short hikes, one that we did was the Polo Island trail that begins at the end of the road beyond the village of Vatia on the northern coast. The road there turns into a forest track that has some areas where it would be advantageous to have a fairly high clearance vehicle. However, you can park before the road gets that bad and just hike a bit further (it's a prettty short trail anyway). We did it with the Toyota Yaris we rented form Sadies, so it's doable.

Also you mention trying to get to other islands there. Wish we had gotten to Ofu since it is supposed to have such great beaches. Would love to hear whether you were able to get there or to other islands and how they were.

Will message you about the other things later.

NPH

Cleveland, Ohio
Level Contributor
22 posts
12 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: American Samoa Trip Report

Again, thanks for the reply and for the public record, we have exchanged some info privately.

We are in our mid-fifties, so yes, I figure we have time do finish the list. As in my PM, we're not sure how to do the 2 Alaska Artic Circle parks (no roads, no accomodations), but that's for us to figure out.

But we're also doing "cities" (w/no checklist) and baseball games in major league stadiums. A much smaller endeavor; parks are "the list" for us.

I did want to ask about AS, as the wife is getting a little concerned now. We're reading in some tour guides about obeying the local customs and "not screwing up". Did you have any trouble? I mean, we're friendly, polite people, but do we have to be ultra careful? AND, what about the stuff about not being able to do anything on Sunday. That's one of our limited days! Were you there on a Sunday, and what was your experience, please? I assume we can still drive around and visit inside the park, yes?

Thanks again!

Nick

Edited: 01 February 2013, 01:26
Get answers to your questions about American Samoa