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When you start telling people you’re taking a cruise to American Samoa while on a New Zealand cruise, they might not understand what this really means. After all, American Samoa is one of the most underrated yet beautiful parts of Polynesia. It’s a hidden gem that doesn’t immediately spring to mind when there’s Tahiti or Moorea to consider first. However, cruises to Pago Pago, the capital located on the island of American Samoa, offer up a unique experience of near seclusion and relaxation.
Of course, American Samoa’s network of islands makes for adventurous exploration, whether you want to spend your entire time here swimming, paddling, and snorkeling, or seeing the incredible wildlife and coral reef ecosystem up close and personal. Learn about the legends of Pago Pago while you’re here and try traditional Samoan dishes like fa’apapa or sweet banana fritters called panikeke. No matter what, your time in Pago Pago will be a delightful break from high rises, resorts, and hurrying.
A cruise to American Samoa isn’t complete without a nuanced understanding of the landscape of American Samoa. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy a trip to the National Park of American Samoa, which expertly preserves the island’s coral reefs, rainforest, and cultural experiences for all to enjoy.
Legend has it that the dramatic Fatu ma Futi islands were formed when two lovers were trying to get to Tutuila. When their kayak sank, the two lovers were turned into the stone, tree-topped island that stand there today. Swim between the two rocky surfaces and take in the romance of the legend.
Though it may be a tiny marine sanctuary compared to those in other parts of the world, the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa is nonetheless a critical piece of conservation on the archipelago. The sanctuary is made up of six areas comprising almost 14,000 square miles of protected coral reef. Swimming and exploring the reefs are welcome and encouraged to understand the critical importance of the ecosystem.
An afternoon hike on Mount Alava offers visitors a chance to get active and soak in the beautiful landscape along the way. Take a glittering photo of the Pago Pago harbor from the summit.
Animal lovers will be impressed by the sheer diversity of the animal life in Pago Pago and the surrounding areas. When you swim or snorkel the waters in this part of American Samoa, you’ll likely spot sea turtles, sharks, and other wildlife along the way. Fruit bat sightings are also common on the island of Tutuila.
Pack a picnic and go swimming or snorkeling in the clear waters of the secluded and quiet Two Dollar Beach. Though there are no bars or restaurants around, you can bring your own goodies and make a day trip of it.
You have to try traditional dishes while on a cruise to American Samoa, where coconut and bananas are frequently integrated into the cooking. Try palusami, which is solid coconut milk baked and wrapped in taro leaves, or fa’apapa, which is a sweet coconut bread typically served at breakfast. Another popular breakfast item is the homemade roll called pani popo, which is best served right from the oven. One of the favorite street foods here is panikeke, a sweet and satisfying banana fritter.
Pago Pago is made up of several villages, but the population totals less than 4,000 people according to the 2010 census. Though these parts have long been inhabited, the naval base built in the 1900s stimulated the area’s canned tuna industry. Ever since, Pago Pago has become a bustling harbor town. The town didn’t have an airport until 1964, which caused an increase in travelers to the island. A tsunami devastated parts of the archipelago in 2009, and today locals have worked tirelessly to bring Pago Pago back to full recovery. The culture of American Samoa is heavily influenced by native Samoan traditions. Be aware that most businesses are closed on Sundays.
The town of Pago Pago is within walking distance of the port when you arrive on a cruise to American Samoa. The port itself isn’t very equipped for cruise traffic as it is primarily a commercial fishing and cannery port. You’ll be able to find souvenir shops and local vendors selling goods along the harbor here while you walk into town.
When stopped in on cruises to Pago Pago, you’ll be able to grab a taxi from the port pretty easily, though they can be expensive. Many of the attractions on the island of Tutuila are within walking distance of one another. You can rent a car in Tutuila to make getting around easier.
Head to Pago Plaza or Fagataogo Square Shopping Center for most of your shopping needs, whether for necessities or souvenirs to bring home, including the traditional style of Samoan dress. Local Samoans also tend to sell handmade goods at stalls along the harbor.
The U.S. dollar is used as the primary currency in Pago Pago and the rest of American Samoa. There are ATMs in Tutuila if you want to withdraw a little cash. Credit cards are sometimes accepted, but it’s best practice not to rely on them too much. Keep cash to pay local vendors at the markets or small restaurants. Tipping isn’t a huge practice in American Samoa.