I headed to Ofu island in search of the so-called "Best Beach in the South Pacific". That's quite a statement, as the region offers arguably the greatest concentration of world-class beaches, and I had seen some real stunners in my travels around Oceania.
I was not to be disappointed. Ofu Beach was the best I have so far been to in my life!
The Manu'a islands - Ofu, Olusega and Ta'u - make up a US national park. Ofu Beach has EVERYTHING you could wish for in an idyllic seaside setting:
Sunshine - white sand - crystal clear, warm water - long stretches of sand - safe swimming - the best snorkelling I've ever experienced (proper FORESTS of coral!) - quiet (I had the beach to myself) - stunning mountainous jungle backdrop - lots of wildlife in the water and on the sand
Even if you don't get in the water (and you'd be a fool not to!) you can find decent walks and hiking. A paved road loops the island and you can walk all the way to neighbouring Olusega island over the bridge linking the two isles. In the other direction, you can walk to the charming Ofu village, although if you want to swim there, you'll have get permission from the villagers. If you take a walk at dusk, you will see huge flying foxes taking to the skies above you.
At night, whether you're staying there or not, you can go for a drink a Va'oto Lodge and chat to interesting academics and explorers.
There's not much to see and do in Pago. There are some shops selling American clothes, which might be of interest to those coming from independent Samoa, and some market-style food stalls around the bus station.
Also, despite being the capital, there are not many nightlife options. I had a nice Mexican meal and a few drinks and went to find out my Saturday night options but was largely thwarted in my attempts to find a bar.
Pago Pago's only real attraction is its natural setting. The city is built around the natural harbour, which is surrounded by towering volcanic mountains reaching steeply almost straight from the sea floor. I've heard there's some good hiking to be had in these mountains, although I haven't done so myself.
The most photographed place in Pago is the "Flower Pot", a huge coral rock pinnacle that juts suddenly out of the sea and is topped by wild vegetation, which gives it the appearance of its nickname. This can be found on the coast road about 10 minutes' drive heading from the city towards the airport, on a bend in the road opposite the South Pacific Christian Centre school. If you don't have your own car, just hop on a city bus and ask to be dropped at the Flower Pot. You can also get some good swimming and snorkelling around the Flower Pot.
A park preserving the high mountain and more remote beach areas of the American Samoan islands. The park is both on the main island of tutuila ( with Pago Pago airport) on the north shore and beach a rain forest park in the more remote Manu'a islands (Ta'u, Olosega and Ofu)
The high moutain rain forest is not very developed for visitors, but the lower beach sites and nature all around the islands could make a visit worthwhile. Most areas are remote and natural, accommodations and facilities can be difficult. Even the Park Service site has little info. They offer a homestay program to help with accommodations. Not for the day-hiker tourist, this requires detailed planning to mostly take care of yourself and enjoy the difficulties of culture and fa'a samoa (the samoan way).
People are very nice and friendly, but don't expect things to move quickly or to find just what you expected.
The park was created in 1993.
With just a mask and some protective shoes on your feet (maybe a swimsut too) you can walk across the fringing reef and look into the crevices and pools at the coral and reef.
Be careful, step on top of the coral heads and try not to break coral, it takes a long time to grow. Samoa fishermen have steeped on the tops inthe shallows and you will not scratch your feet or break more. Coral cuts can infect easily and you also want to avoid ever encountering fire coral.
Don't stick your hands into holes in the coral. Fish live there and fishermen flush them out that way, but also a moray eel can be there and they bite hard enough to remove a finger.
Look at the hands of local spear fishermen! Most fishermen go at night with flashlights to spear fish and gather lobster. It is fun to watch if you are adventurous and meet some friendly fishermen.
Just over the edge of the reef you can peer into the deep water and watch big fish, even pacific sharks swimming around. It beats any aquarium! The waves tend to break right at the edge of the fringing reef with a thunderous crash, keep your eye on the waves and find a calm spot, often at low tide, to peer into the deeper water.
Always ask permission for swimming and snorkeling, beaches belong to each village and are private.
Swimming and snorkeling for experienced swimmers can be great. The water is cleaer and if you go off the reef or in a protected bay area you can see many tropical sea creatures. Many pacific sharks crusie in the deeper water, spooky but usually harmless.
More hazardous is walking across the coral fringing reef to get to the deep water.
Also, there are many riptides across the coral and it is easy to get swept into an "ava (crevice) and into the deep sea. Don't go alone.
Most beaches are owned by the villages next to them and are private. Always enquire and get permission.
Man-made beaches like at the Rainmaker Hotel have sand and a qiet place to swim.
Because American Samoa has a coral fringing reef, there is not too much sand. It is coarse coral sand tht changes to exposed coral until you reach where the waves break andf it drops off into the pacific ocean.
Some snorkeling information from a tour company:
Samoans take part in most Christian holidays, but they have their own version of Independence Day on April 17, the day they became associated with the United States.
It is a great time to be near Pago Pago or Fagotogo on the malai (open grass park) on Tutuila and see all the village bands, choirs and dances.
If you can afford....go Scuba Diving (but that costs like hell here...)
Otherwise you may still do an excursion to American Samoa which I heard are nice if you like shopping....
As I said before, drive around Upolu island. You will see typic villages with beautiful churches (built by rich sects...) and nice sceneries, including several beaches to relax.
Ottoville Road, PO Box 999, Pago Pago, Tutuila, 96799, American Samoa
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Couples
Tafuna, Pago Pago, 96799, American Samoa
Good for: Families
Main Rd, Pago Pago, Tutuila, 96799, American Samoa
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Business