Tutuila Island



All but a handful of American Samoans live on Tutuila, the largest island. The capital, Pago Pago (pronounced pango pango), is industrial and polluted, but it has perhaps the most dramatic natural harbor in the South Pacific. It's a thrill to pull in and see Rainmaker Mountain rising behind the city.

The harbor area can be a bit confusing initially: Three villages (Pago Pago, Fagatogo and Utulei) on the western shore of the harbor are collectively referred to as Pago Pago, even though the actual village of Pago Pago is small and has very few tourist attractions. Most of the government and commercial buildings are in Fagatogo.

Attractions in the harbor area include the Jean P. Haydon Museum (exhibits of Samoan artifacts, natural history and old photos), the Fono (legislature) buildings, the courthouse and the Malee-O-Le-Talu village green. Have lunch in Sadie's Restaurant and Bar: The building used to be a hotel, and Somerset Maugham stayed there in 1916 while he wrote the short story Rain.

Several scenic attractions outside the harbor area are worth visiting, if you have the time: Blunt's Point—visible from the Rainmaker Hotel, it was a gun emplacement during World War II; Fagasa Pass (migrating dolphins pass through the waters there several times a year); Vaitogi Village (home of a local legend about a shark and a turtle—ask any child to tell you about it); Aoloau Fou Village (where you can see how local plants are used for building and for making utensils, medicines, etc.);and Poloa Pass (good surfing). The island has a number of scenic waterfalls, but Virgin Falls and Leone Falls are the most spectacular.

Vatia, a village that's part of American Samoa National Park, is about a 30-minute drive on the opposite side of Mount Alava from Pago Pago. It has a beautiful setting along a wide bay, but always ask the High Talking Chief for permission to use his beach before plunging in.

Aunu'u, a small island about 1 mi/2 km off the east end of Tutuila, is best known for its quicksand, taro swamps and shallow Red Lake. Speedboats from Auasi, on Tutuila's southeastern coast, zip over to Aunu'u for a few dollars. Residents don't mind tourists arriving for a brief visit, as long as they don't visit on Sunday. There are no accommodations on Aunu'u. 70 mi/110 km west of Ofu.

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