National Park of American Samoa
National Park of American Samoa is in the U.S. Territory of American Samoa. The Samoan village leaders and the U.S. Congress have set aside the finest samples of the islands' land and seascapes as a national park.
The national park preserves and protects paleotropical rainforest, fruit bats, coral reefs, and the Samoan culture. The national park is on three separate islands--Tutuila, Ta'u, and Ofu. Lata Mountain on Ta’u excels in its wild and remote forests, free-flowing streams, and rugged coastline. Ofu has the most accessible coral reefs and miles of breathtakingly beautiful beaches. Tutuila has road accessible rainforests, native wildlife, and scenic coastline. It is the only U.S. national park south of the Equator.
All the three islands are extinct volcanoes heavily eroded to rugged peaks. They were formed as the Pacific Plate moved across a stationary "hot spot" where eruptions from the Earth's mantle pierced the lithosphere forming a line of volcanic islands.
The national park was established by Congress in Public Law 100-571 on October 31, 1988. Public Law 107-336 added the lands on the island of Ofu.
The Samoan Archipelago is a typical Pacific Ocean volcanic island arc. As the Pacific Plate moves across a stationary hot spot (a place where molten rock from the Earth's mantle pierces the lithosphere plate) it forms a line of volcanoes, some of which reach the ocean surface to form a string of islands.
The National Park of American Samoa adds a unique scenic and ecological dimension to the U.S. National Park System.
Fringing coral reefs on the islands of Ofu and Ta'u are outstanding marine environments. Their character is crystal clear, warm waters and a bewildering tropical sea biodiversity. Over 950 species of fish and 250 species of coral live in the reefs surrounding the islands.
Though the rainforests have long been occupied by humans (the To'aga archaeological sequence on the Ofu section of the park documents 3,000 years of human occupation) the native tropical rainforest is the finest left in the U.S. possessions. With its mid-ocean, Southern hemisphere location the park offers a unique opportunity to sample the renown beauty of the South Pacific.
Flora and fauna
The animal life of National Park of American Samoa is unique among the U.S. national parks. Key animal forms (from the fruit bats in the mountains to the massive coral reefs along the shorelines) shape all natural ecosystems here. Fruit bats are important terrestrial pollinators. The coral fringing reefs of the park shelter the greatest marine biodiversity in the United States.
Plant communities of the park, from the mountaintops down to the ocean, are largely tropical rainforest. Unlike the temperate forests of North America dominated by one, or only a few tree species, tropical rainforests have high species diversity.
American Samoa, as a geologically young ocean island, lacks any earlier land connection to continental land masses. Because its native species got here by chance its species diversity is not as rich as Southeast Asia, the source of the islands' plant dispersals.
American Samoa is in the South Pacific Ocean, between the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn. A tropical climate prevails. Temperatures are warm or hot year-round (high 70's to low 90's F) with high humidity. Rain showers are frequent and may last only for a few minutes, or last all day. The average annual rainfall in the drier portions of the island is 90 inches up to 300 inches in the mountains. Tropical storms are more prevalent during the rainy season (November to May).
Since the park is in a remote part of the South Pacific and has limited access opportunities. Unless you live in American Samoa, more than casual planning is required to visit the park. The only airport is Pago Pago International Airport on Tutuila. Currently two flights a week round trip serve here from Honolulu by Hawaiian Airlines. The International Airport at Upolo in nearby (Western) Samoa is served by several flights weekly from Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. Connecting flights serve Tutuila from Upolo by twin-otter aircraft nearly daily.
Irregularly scheduled flights (small planes) serve the park area in Ta’u.
Ofu Island is difficult to travel to. Visitors travel by small plane from Tutuila to Ta'u. Then hire a local fisherman and boat to travel to Ofu.
The park is open year-round. The visitor center in Pago Pago is open 8:00 am to 4:30 pm--closed weekends and federal holidays.
There are no fees. Reservations are not required.
Several car rental facilities are available at or near the Tutuila airport. On Tutuila taxis are available at the airport, and near the market in Fagatogo. The island of Tutuila has good public transportation (frequent, but unscheduled) via “aiga” or “family” buses. For 50 cents to two dollars you can be taken around Pago Pago Harbor, and to the more remote parts of the island. Buses originate and terminate at the market in Fagatogo, the village next to Pago Pago. The roads are generally too narrow and the traffic to busy for bicycles.
Two easy access points exist. 1) Drive from Pago Pago Village towards Fagasa on the paved road to the top of the ridge (Fagasa Pass), where a small parking area and national park sign mark the trail head for a trail that goes along the ridge above Pago Pago to Mount Alava. 2) The eastern side of the park can be reached by crossing over the ridge above the north side of Pago Pago Harbor from the village of Aua over to Afono. From Afono, continue along the paved road towards the west, entering the park boundary on the ridge above Afono Bay. The road continues on through the park to the village of Vatia. Beyond the school at the far western end of Vatia is a national park sign marking a trail out towards Pola Island.
Cocoa Rice, pankeke, pisupo
There is no lodging within the park.
The Home Stay program provides an opportunity for visitors to become acquainted with Samoan people and culture in a village setting. Residents of villages associated with the National Park offer accommodations and the opportunity to learn local customs, crafts and the south Pacific lifestyle. Imagine staying in a village with the sights and sounds of the rainforest around you. Sleep in a Samoan house (fale), live with a Samoan family and start the day participating with village activities. Some may be familiar. Others, like cutting the Pandanus (laufala) tree leaves and drying them to weave mats, may not. Add to your weaving knowledge by learning simple methods, like weaving fans from palm leaves.
Camping is prohibited here
The park's remote location, its lack of search and rescue capability, and the distance from expert medical care require extra precautions: