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American Samoa Travel Guide

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American Samoa

American, or Eastern, Samoa, 4,000 km southwest of Hawaii, is the only U.S. territory south of the equator. Elbow-shaped Pago Pago Harbor (pronounced "Pahngo Pahngo"), made famous in Somerset Maugham's short story Rain, is one of the finest in the South Pacific, a natural hurricane shelter for shipping. It was this feature that attracted American attention in the late 19th century, as Germany built a vast commercial empire based around coconut cultivation on neighboring Upolu.

Until 1951 American Samoa was run as a naval base, but with advances in U.S. military technology it became obsolete, and control was turned over to the civilian colonial administrators. To replace lost income from the base closure, U.S. companies were encouraged to build tuna canneries in the territory. Today traffic constantly winds along Tutuila's narrow south coast highway, and American-style cops patrol in big black-and-white cruisers. Shopping centers and department stores have spread from the head of Pago Pago Harbor out into suburbia beyond the airport.

American Samoa is a fascinating demonstration of the impact of American materialism on a communal island society. Although the Samoans have eagerly accepted the conveniences of modern life, the fa'a Samoa, or Samoan way, remains an important part of their lives. Thus far the Samoans have obtained many benefits from the U.S. connection, without the loss of lands and influx of aliens that have overwhelmed the Hawaiians. While this part of Samoa will always be American, the Samoans are determined to prevent it from going the way of Hawaii.

Fast Facts

Where

American Samoa is just east of independent Samoa and north of Tonga.

When

American Samoa shares an hour with Samoa and Tonga but is a day behind (GMT minus 11 hours).

Why

Dramatic scenery, mix of traditional Samoan culture and American consumerism.

How

Hawaiian Airlines from Honolulu twice a week and commuter flights from Apia.

Who

The 70,000 inhabitants are mostly Samoan with some Tongans and Caucasians.

Highlights

Blunt's Point, Tutuila:
huge naval guns emplaced in 1941

Leone Falls, Tutuila:
freshwater swimming, lush jungle

National Park of American Samoa:
rainforests, mountains, coral reefs

Ofu and Olosega:
outer island jewels joined by a bridge

Rainmaker Mountain, Tutuila:
overlooking majestic Pago Pago Harbor