cabin at the Living Historical Farm
Last Week's Getaway:
Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial

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park ranger with group of students
Ranger Pua Tuaua assists Samoan students during a field trip activity. (NPS/Michael Larson)

beach and hillside of Ta'u
Ta'u offers hikes along pristine beaches and dramatic views of sea cliffs rising 3,000-feet. (NPS/Michael Larson)

dusky clownfish in choral reef
Snorkeling is the best way to enjoy these dusky clownfish and more than 900 other species of fish that live in the park's coral reefs. (NPS photo) homepage photo: A humpback whale, one of many species that call the lands and waters of the park home. (NPS photo)

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National Park of American Samoa
American Samoa

Welcome to the heart of the South Pacific and the National Park of American Samoa, a world of sights, sounds, and experiences found in no other national park. About 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii, this is one of the most remote national parks in the United States. The park preserves the only mixed-species paleotropical rainforest in the United States, habitat of flying foxes (fruit bats), as well as coral reefs. In keeping with the meaning of the word Samoa – “sacred earth” – the park helps protect fa'asamoa, the customs, beliefs, and traditions of the 3,000-year-old Samoan culture.

Visitors to the National Park of American Samoa will find lands and waters that are largely undeveloped. Even the usual facilities found in most national parks are absent. But with a bit of the explorer's spirit, you'll discover secluded villages, rare plants and animals, coral sand beaches, and vistas of land and sea.

The 13,500-acre park includes sections on three islands – Tutuila (pronounced too-too-EE-lah), Ta'u (tah-oo), and Ofu (oh-foo). Almost all the land of these volcanic islands – from the mountaintops to the coast – is rainforest, with about 4,000 acres of the park underwater.

The park encompasses the north-central part of the main island of Tutuila, from the steep ridgeline above Pago Pago (pahng-oh pahng-oh) Harbor to the north coast. For a sweeping view of the harbor and Rainmaker Mountain, hike to the top of the 1,610-foot Mount 'Alava. Catch another panoramic view of the harbor along the road from Pago Pago through Afono Pass. This road continues, going down the other side of the pass, through the village of Afono, and around the headlands of northern Tutuila to the village of Vatia. From here you can view Pola Island, a tiny, uninhabited island just offshore, whose sheer cliffs rise more than 400 feet abruptly out of the ocean. The craggy rocks are home to numerous seabirds, including frigatebirds, boobies, white (fairy) terns, tropicbirds, and noddy terns.

Along the road to Vatia is the Amalau Valley, home to many forest birds and to Samoa's two species of flying fox. One species has the unusual habit of flying around during the day, so you are likely to see this bat in early morning or late afternoon. Look for its three-foot wingspan.

Sixty miles east of Tutuila – a 30-minute flight – are the Manu'a Islands: Ta'u, Ofu, and Olosega (oh-low-seng-ah). The island of Ta'u, according to Samoan tradition, is the birthplace of all Polynesia. It is believed that ancient people voyaged by sea from the island’s sacred site of Saua to settle all of the Polynesian islands. If you head south from Saua and around Si'u Point, you'll see the dramatic southern coast of Ta'u, where waves crash against the rocky shore and some of the tallest sea cliffs in the world stair-step to the 3,000-foot summit of Lata Mountain.

On the island of Ofu, coconut palms sway in the warm ocean breeze along a secluded beach. You'll enjoy views of the distant mountains of Olosega, as well as some of the best snorkeling waters in the park. The section of the park offshore from Ofu is an ideal place to observe hundreds of species of fish, corals, and other marine life.

When you visit this or any national park, remember that you are entering a sanctuary of natural and cultural environments, preserved so that you and future visitors may enjoy them.

By the Interpretation and Education Staff, National Park of American Samoa