Boasting the title of the only United States National Park in the southern hemisphere, the National Park of American Samoa is one that every travel junkie should have on their bucket list! We’re lucky to have this park in our backyard, and take advantage of these beautiful South Pacific trails weekly. The trails vary from long and steep, to short and sweet, and offer history lessons, great views, and beautiful island rain forest.
The National Park of American Samoa
The National Park of American Samoa includes land on the main island of Tutuila, as well as the outer Manu’a Islands (Ofu and Ta’u). The park was established in 1988 by a group of concerned citizens interested in protecting native Fruit Bats. It has since extended its protection to include both tropical rain forests and multiple marine preserves that protect fragile coral reef.
The park service runs a visitor center in downtown Pago Pago (Tutuila Island), open Monday through Friday. Full of exhibits about American Samoa and it’s unique culture, the center is a great introduction to island experiences. Trails are open 7 days a week, and do not charge a use fee.
American Samoa Travel Logistics
Sitting far from the US Mainland in the South Pacific, American Samoa is more difficult to access than most of the other US National Parks. There is no one best time to visit American Samoa, but keep in mind that while infrequent, typhoons can make an arrival between November and March.
Flights to American Samoa
Hawaiian Airlines offers direct service from Honolulu to Pago Pago (American Samoa). The international airport in Apia, Samoa has service from Honolulu, Fiji, Tonga, Australia, and New Zealand. Travel between both Samoas is quick and easy, so consider planing your American Samoa vacation to combine a visit to both Samoas.
American Samoa Accommodation
Hotels and American Samoa resorts are not abundant on Tutuila. Nightly rates start at $150/night. Popular hotels include Tradewind’s Hotel, Sadie’s by the Sea, Moana O Sina Lodge, and Tisa’s Barefoot Bar. For a full listing of American Samoa accommodation, head to the American Samoa Tourism page.
The Trails of American Samoa’s National Park
The park is home to four trails that it maintains across Tutuila Island. Due to the Samoan land owning rights, the land of the National Park of American Samoa is leased to the US government. It’s a historical tradition that prevents American Samoa from becoming too touristy, and keeps the land in the hands of Samoans.
All of these trails have been hiked by our family of four, including 7 year old Tora. While some are not easy, the trails are within reach for the adventurous family. Take a look at our mileage and elevation maps to make sure the fit is right for you. Hiking time is listed for our trips which includes time to stop at the top, beach, etc. for pictures and explorations.
Weather in American Samoa likes to change quickly, so be prepared for both sun and rain, in addition to hot and humid. Mosquitoes are always present, so pack your preferred bug repellent plus plenty of drinking water. Lastly, keep the trails beautiful and always pack in what you pack out.
Mt Alava Trail
- Length: 7.5 miles
- Elevation Gained: 2100 feet
- Difficulty: Challenging
- Hiking Time: 3.5 hours
- Trail Access: The trailhead is located at Fagasa Pass, 1.2 miles from Route 001 in Pago Pago.**
The longest of the park trails, this wide trail climbs the ridge line to the summit of Mt. Alava, Tutuila’s second highest peak.
The total mileage is from the parking lot to the summit, and returning on the same trail. If the entire trail is too long or the uphill too steep, keep in mind the views are stunning along the way. Customize the length for your family.
Native birds and fruit bats are common along the trail, and we usually see juvenile coconut crabs crawling through the grass. The bird songs and wind through the trees is the perfect hiking music.
Once you are at the summit, climb the metal stairs to get the full view of Pago Pago Harbor. On a clear day, you can even see independent Samoa off in the distance.
Blunts Point/World War II Heritage Trail
- Length: 3.8 miles (round trip using street walking to connect ends of the trail)
- Elevation Gained: 1125 feet
- Difficulty: Challenging
- Hiking Time: 2.25 hours
- Trail Access: Located between Faga’alu and Utulei on the coast road. Look for the sign next to the IBM Laundromat marking the path to this site. Park at the public parking lot on the harbor side, 100 yards from the trailhead. When the trail reaches the water tank, continue past it on the left.**
Want to get some good exercise, great views, and a side of history? If so, these trails are for you! The Blunts Point trail and World War II Heritage trail will connect seamlessly to create a longer trail along the ridge line above Utulei.
Hike past World War II gun batteries and read about the tramway that used to run to the summit of Mt. Alava.
Sections of this trail are fairly steep, with ropes in places to help climb up or down.
Walk about 0.5 mile along the main coast road to connect both ends of the trail for a round trip loop.
Lower Sauma Ridge Trail
- Length: 0.8 miles round trip
- Elevation Gained: 275 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Hiking Time: 20 minutes one way
- Trail Access: From Pago Pago, drive toward Aua on Route 001. Turn left after the Starkist Cannery onto Route 006. Follow through Afono and towards Vatia village. Look for a pull off with interpretive signs on your right.**
The short hike through the forest opens up to a steep, windswept ridge leading down to the ocean. This final section of trail should be hiked with caution, and be sure to assist kids.
Look for interpretive signs along the way pointing out an ancient star mound. Star mounds were used by Samoan chiefs in a game netting native pigeons.
For the more adventurous, access to Vatia Tide Pools is at the end of the trail. Take extreme caution at the tide pools, and check with locals regarding safe access to the pools. Pools should only be accessed at very low tide and when swells are low.
- Length: 2.0 miles
- Elevation Gained: 525 feet
- Difficulty: Challenging
- Hiking Time: 1.5 hours
- Trail Access: The trailhead can be found just before the Vatia School (Mount ‘Alava Elementary). Closed on Sundays.** See trailhead photos below.
Trail access is easy to miss driving out, with the sign more visible when you return. If you miss the trailhead, you will run into the short Pola Island Trail (see below).
The first half of the trail warms up with gentle switchbacks leading up to the ridge. Descend down to the coastline along a series of ladders with ropes as aids. If anyone in your family has a fear of heights, this section of the trail is likely not for them!
The rocky shore line below is not for swimming due to the current and wave action. Instead find excellent views of Pola Island, a gorgeous rocky shore line, and the most hermit crabs we’ve ever seen!
Hiking time includes our 20 minutes of exploration down at the beach.
Pola Island Trail
- Length: 0.1-0.4 miles (see note below about mileage)
- Elevation Gained: 0 feet
- Difficulty: Easy
- Hiking Time: 10 minutes
- Trail Access: Due to unfriendly dogs, please drive past the last house at the end of the paved road in Vatia Village. This rough section of road will lead you to three exhibits and the trailhead.**
This extremely short, flat trail brings you out a stunning rocky shore line with up close views of Pola Island. We spent far more time taking pictures than we did hiking!
When accessing the trail, we found numerous places to pull over along the rough road instead of driving all the way in. We parked when we were safely past house/dogs and had a 0.2 mile (0.4 mile roundtrip) flat hike to the coast and back. If you drive to the interpretive signs, the trail to the coast and back is just 0.1 mile round trip.
Breaker’s Point Trail
Despite being listed on the National Park website, the Breaker’s Point trail is now closed.
Traveling to American Samoa Soon?
We hope this article inspires you to plan a visit to the beautiful South Pacific! Let us know when you’re planning to come, or have any questions about travel to American Samoa!