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National Park of American Samoa is what island dreams are made of

by Staff

Looking at a map, it’s easy to understand why the National Park of American Samoa gets relatively few visitors, but seeing images, it no longer makes sense. 

How could this breathtaking place not top more bucket lists? 

With 12,134 visitors, the National Park of American Samoa was the second-least visited national park last year. Only the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska saw fewer visitors. 

Yes, the South Pacific park is far, but it is beautiful and steeped in cultural history. 

Here’s what travelers should know about the National Park of American Samoa, the latest national park in USA TODAY’s yearlong series.

What makes the American Samoa national park special?

The National Park Service describes the National Park of American Samoa as “a world of sights, sounds, and experiences that you will find in no other national park in the United States.”

Situated roughly 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii, it is the only national park south of the Equator.

It was established in 1988 to protect not only the area’s natural resources but also its cultural heritage.

The park’s website says the Samoan culture is the oldest in Polynesia, and nearly everyone in American Samoa is Indigenous Samoan of Polynesian ancestry. 

“More than any other U.S. or Polynesians people, Samoans are tradition-oriented and closely follow social customs and hierarchies from long before the arrival of the first Europeans,” according to the website. “This Samoan way – or fa’asamoa – is still deeply ingrained in American Samoa culture.”

What should travelers know about National Park of American Samoa?

In addition to safety tips, like watching for falling coconuts around beaches and not touching coral because cuts from coral take a long time to heal, the park’s website shares various cultural customs tied to the Samoan way.

For instance, “Always ask villagers for permission before taking photographs, using the beach, or engaging in other activities, however unobtrusive your actions may seem. Permission will almost certainly be granted.” 

Also, “Each evening around dusk, villagers observe a time for prayers called . If you are entering a village during , stop and wait quietly until ends. You may even be invited to join in a family prayer. 

To learn more about fa’asamoa, visit the park’s website.

How do you get to the American Samoa National Park?

There are two main ways to get to the park: by air or sea, with some sort of ground transportation involved in both cases. 

The closest airport is Pago Pago International Airport on Tutuila Island.

Only one major carrier serves American Samoa, Hawaiian Airlines, which offers flights to and from Honolulu. Small planes provide daily service from neighboring Samoa.

Several cruise lines, like Celebrity and Princess Cruises, also stop in Pago Pago. 

From Pago Pago, guests can rent cars or take taxis to the park. Local buses, known as aiga, are also available but don’t run on schedules or on Sundays. According to the park’s website, “You can wave buses to stop or be dropped off anywhere they can safely pull off of the road.”

How much does it cost to go to the national park in American Samoa?

There are no entry fees for the park, but visiting is expensive due to the cost of travel to American Samoa.

Round trips from Honolulu cost about $1,000. Then there’s the cost of getting to Honolulu.

Who owns the national park in American Samoa?

The National Park Service manages the park, but the park sits “entirely on lands still owned by several rural Samoan villages,” according to its website. This is why respecting cultural customs is especially important for visitors. 

According to the park, a 50-year lease was signed with eight villages in 1993 and expanded to two more villages in 2002, with congressional approval.

How big is the National Park of American Samoa?

National Park of American Samoa spans 13,500 acres across three islands: Tutuila, Ta’ū, and Ofu. 

“Almost all of the land area of these volcanic islands – from the mountaintops to the coast – is tropical rainforest,” according to the park’s website. About 4,000 acres of the national park is underwater, offshore from all three islands.”

How many national parks does American Samoa have?

National Park of American Samoa is the only national park in American Samoa.

Is American Samoa part of the USA?

American Samoa is a U.S. territory like Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Can anyone visit American Samoa?

“All visitors to American Samoa require a passport valid for six months or more, a return ticket, or onward ticket and enough funds to support your stay,” according to the park’s website.

The Department of Interior says a certified birth certificate demonstrating U.S. nationality is also accepted.

Visas are not required for U.S. citizens and U.S. nationals.

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