These last two years have taken me to some of the most beautiful and diverse areas of the United States, but nothing quite prepared me for my trip to the remote US territory of American Samoa.
Arriving after a long day of travel in the territorial capital of Pago Pago (pronounced “Pango Pango”), I was immediately struck by the uniqueness of this place: from the moment we landed, the primary language was switched from English to Samoan and surrounding the airport were no less than two hundred native Samoans, all waiting to welcome their visiting relatives back home.
Once outside of the city limits, I observed one of the other key cultural trademarks of the territory: while modern conveniences like smartphones, cable, and high-speed internet all clearly exist in American Samoa, the day to day routine of most families follows a very slow, simple, and peaceful pace. Most days are spent sitting in the ocean or on the beach, the speed limit on the main “highway” tops out at 25 miles per hour, and signature US island amenities like resorts, fancy restaurants, and speedboats are virtually non-existent.
Entering the National Park itself is also a bit of a strange adventure, as the Park boundaries are basically gerrymandered around large swaths of Private land. While hiking and driving through the beautifully vibrant rainforest that the Park protects, I would occasionally pass a private home or yard, and was even told by locals that certain trails require paying a fee to local landowners to pass through.
Overall, while American Samoa is an incredibly beautiful place and is by no means third-world, those who are interested in visiting should be aware that this is not Hawaii: as mentioned before there are no resorts, restaurants options are limited, and local mosquitoes can potentially carry diseases like Dengue Fever and Zika. That said, if you’re willing to rough it a bit and step outside your comfort zone, you’ll find a peaceful island, full of incredibly friendly people who are always willing to help a stray traveler.
Here are my photos from this gorgeous region:
Additional Info: American Samoa exists presently as an unincorporated US Territory with a unique political status: unlike residents of other US territories like Guam and Puerto Rico, American Samoans are not full US Citizens and are instead controversially, “US Nationals.” (For those interested in learning more about this, John Oliver covered this in an excellent segment found here: https://youtu.be/CesHr99ezWE?t=7m26s)
Categories: US National Parks