The main island of American Samoa, Tutuila, is shaped like a Chinese dragon, 32 km long and ranges 1-10 km wide. Alone it accounts for 68 percent of American Samoa's surface area and over 95 percent of its population.
Surprisingly, this is one of the most varied and beautiful islands in the South Pacific. Its long mountainous spine twists from east to west with wild coastlines and cliffs on the north side, gentler landscapes and plains on the south.
There are lots of good beaches scattered around, but for a variety of reasons, finding a good place to swim takes some doing. When it's calm, the snorkeling is fine off the empty golden beaches all along the north coast, and the reef-break surfing along the south coast is especially good from December to March.
Fagatogo, the largest town, looks out onto elbowlike Pago Pago Harbor, while government is centered at Utulei, just east of Fagatogo.
Despite the oil slicks, pollution, and noise from canneries, shipping, yachts, and residents, this harbor is dramatically scenic with several fine hikes in the surrounding hills.
Among the seemingly incompatible elements thrown together here are slow-moving Samoan villagers, immigrant cannery workers, taciturn Asian fishermen, carefree yachties, and colorful American expatriates—only tourists are missing.
It's an unusual, unpretentious place to poke around for a few days.
Continue to Utulei »