Pago Pago is a very small town, so everything is close by. For the closest possible shopping option, look for the many stalls selling souvenirs on the quayside.
The Jean P. Haydon Museum
(tel. 633-4347) in the center of Pago Pago is housed in an old iron-roofed building that was once the U.S. Navy's commissary. It features artifacts and objects linked to Samoan history, sea life, canoes, kava making, and traditional tools and handicrafts, including the finely woven mats that have such great value in Samoa and Tonga. The museum is open Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., except on holidays; admission is free.
Just offshore of the village of Vatia is Pola Island
, a tiny uninhabited island with magnificent sheer cliffs and a huge seabird population. The island is part of the National Park of American Samoa, and the U.S. government leases the land from nine villages that lie within the park. The villagers retain ownership of the land, as well as the right to use it for farming and fishing, but at the same time, the area is preserved as a national treasure. Activities on offer include hiking and bird watching. The park is visible from the north side of Tutuila island (you can get there by rental car or local bus) or you can take a boat tour to the island through North Shore Tours
American Samoa may be a burgeoning region for hiking, but the steep mountains and lack of established trails mean that only experienced hikers need apply at the moment. For great views of Pago Pago and the rugged northwest coast, take the well-worn track up Mt. Alava. The three-mile (5 km) climb should take about five hours -- be sure to bring plenty of water. For guided hikes and tours contact the Office of Tourism (684-699-9411) or stop by the National Park Visitors Center in the Pago Plaza Shopping Center.
b>Local Tours: Active travelers may prefer one of several tours offered by local operators. North Shore Tours
(tel. 258-3527) offers a four-hour tour that includes hiking on the shoreline, watching tidal pools and blowholes, and pole fishing, that will set you back $25. The same operator offers reef walking tours that take in a bat cave plus beaches with great views ($35). You can also go swimming, snorkeling and kayaking -- followed by Samoan style lunch -- on Tisa's Barefoot Beach Eco Tour
With a population of just 9,000, Pago Pago is a compact place, and you can walk the length of the town as it follows the seafront for a bit more than a mile. The town is surrounded by steep hills just a few hundred yards from the waters' edge, so the inland area gets narrower the farther you go from shore.
For those who'd rather not walk, local buses, which are built on large pickup trucks, will take you from the town center to anywhere you want to go for $1. Especially short trips cost only 50 cents.
To explore the island on your own, consider renting a car. Avis
(tel 684-699-2746) is the only international chain. Friendly Car Rental
(tel 684-699-7186; open Monday - Friday 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.) offers a variety of cars from sedans to 15-passenger vans and SUVs. Sadie's Rental Cars
is open 24/7 (tel 633-5981).
Most of the restaurants in Pago Pago are American in style -- after all, you are technically in the United States -- with a decent dose of local color in decor and menu. The town does not have many restaurants, but of the few choices available, most open for breakfast around 7 a.m. and close after lunch at about 2:30 p.m. One notable exception is the Don't Drink the Water Café on Pago Plaza, which remains open until 12:30 a.m. on Saturdays (and don't be alarmed by the name -- you can safely drink any beverage served in this eatery).
One of the best places in town is the Sadie Thomson Inn (633-5981), on the main street by the waterfront. Located in a green building some half a mile from the quay (turn right at the dock gate), it offers a lively bar and a restaurant. The bar meals change daily, but you always have a choice of four mains, two of which are fish. The restaurant offers an a la carte menu for lunch (served 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.). The ham and veggie soup ($6) is pleasantly full of carrots, peas, onions and cabbage. Aki Mignon ($16) -- essentially tuna with fried bacon -- is served with fried rice, sprouts and a sauce. Medium rare, it was excellent -- not surprising, given that the fishing boats dock just across the road. The service was quick and friendly, and the place itself was clean and pleasant in modern, simple style.
Where You're Docked
Cruise ships dock right in the center of the town, next to a busy container dock.
Watch Out For
It rains an awful lot here, so bear this in mind when venturing ashore. Although it's a warm rain, a true downpour may soak you with little advance warning. Also, due to the strong role of religion in the community, women are advised not to wear shorts when visiting the countryside.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The U.S. dollar. The nearest ATM is at the ANZ American Samoa Bank at Pago Plaza in the town center.
English. Locals also speak Samoan, which is a Polynesian language
Local handicrafts and textiles, such as wood carvings or handbags made by weaving together leaves of the Pandanus plant.