Location: Territory of American Samoa in the United States.
Park Tally: 59/59 (our final park!)
Orientation: The National Park of American Samoa is located in the Pacific Ocean, 2,600 miles southwest of Hawai’i. It is one of the most remote national park’s in the United States, bursting with beautiful beaches, rare plants and animals, extraordinary coral reefs, and a rich culture. American Samoa has a remarkable volcanic history, having rose up from the ocean dating back some 1.4 million years ago.
The park is spread out over 3 islands – Tutuila, Ta’ū and Ofu. The island of Tutuila is the easiest to visit via a regular jet plane and car rental, and the island we opted to explore. Ta’ū can be reached by small airplane, and Ofu can be visited via a small fisherman’s boat (from Ta’ū island). Ta’ū and Ofu look absolutely incredible, though sadly we couldn’t make the single weekly flight work for our schedule (next visit!)
If you’re planning to visit American Samoa, keep in mind that tourist infrastructure is still being developed. There are relatively few hotels and restaurants geared for tourism, despite the locals being very welcoming. The National Park Service also help run local homestays for visitors that are interested in immersing themselves in the Samoan culture.
Most iconic view: One of the popular views in the National Park of American Samoa is overlooking Pago Pago Harbor from Afono Pass. This lookout is a short drive from Pago Pago and just inside the National Park entrance, on the way to Vatia. We were blown away but the lush greenery and blue waters of Tutuila, which is even more accentuated from the lookout.
Accessible activity: Vatia Bay is a beautiful part of the National Park of American Samoa, on the island of Tutuila. Visitors can access Vatia Bay by car and we would recommend the drive down to the Pola Island trailhead. The National Park Service suggests that you drive past the last house at the end of the paved road in Vatia Village (due to unfriendly dogs). From the trailhead it was a short 0.1-mile walk that leads to a beautiful beach and view – 100% worth the visit!
For the adventurous: The Mount Alava Trail is a must-do for any adventure junkies out there! This 7-mile roundtrip hike traverses a mountain ridge, through lush rainforest and ends with panoramic views of Tutuila. Be sure to take ample water – we got caught out with only one water bottle each and the humidity had us wishing for way more!
Best photo opportunities: Sadly, we didn’t make it to the island of Ofu, but we hear it’s the most photogenic location in the National Park of American Samoa. On the island of Tutuila, we can recommend the view from Mount Alava, Vatia Bay, Afono Pass, and Afono Bay for photography.
- The National Park of American Samoa was established in 1988. Instead of purchasing the land, the National Park Service entered into a lease agreement for 50 years with the Samoans.
- The park consists of 4,500 acres of ocean and coral reefs, and 9,000 acres of land including rainforests, distributed across the Islands of Ofu, Tutuila, and Ta’ū.
- The National Park of American Samoa is the only United States national park located south of the equator.
- The word ‘Samoa’ means ‘sacred earth’ when translated to English.
- Because of its located, the National Park of American Samoa is often the last park that visitors explore, if they are on a quest to see all 59 parks. The rangers even offer a special certificate and ceremony for those who visit all 59 – it was quite the treat!
- In 2016 the National Park of American Samoa had 28,892 visitors according to the National Park Service. We witnessed a large proportion of visitors arriving via cruise ship to the island of Tutuila.