What Makes Pago Pago A Unique Island Destination

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  • The Best Time To Visit Pago Pago

The Pacific Islands have been a locus of a power struggle between the world powers for centuries. While most of the islands have gained independence, the eastern islands of Samoa remain the territory of the United States. American Samoa is undoubtedly a tropical island paradise, and given its relation to the USA, the islands are relatively accessible and hold a prominent position in the global economy, so much so that Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa, is sometimes referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Pacific.

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  • Place of interest: Pago Pago, American Samoa, USA
  • Population: 3,700
  • Predominant demographic: Polynesian
  • Language: English and Samoan (most of the population is bilingual)
  • Currency: USD


Why Is Pago Pago Special

As the capital city of American Samoa, Pago Pago is arguably the most important hub of cultural, economic, and political engagement in the South Pacific. The city is regularly featured in literature and media, most prominently in the famous short story Rain by Somerset Maugham. Maugham spent almost two months living in Pago Pago, and the experience provided source material for a number of his books and subsequent film adaptations.

The Island is known for its commerce. The famous American brands Starkist and Chicken of the Sea are some of the largest producers of canned tuna in the world and constitute a significant portion of American Samoa’s GDP and workforce. On a good year, the companies export a combined total of half a billion dollars worth of canned tuna to the US mainland alone.

  • Fun Fact: Despite its spelling, ‘Pago Pago’ is actually pronounced ‘Pongo Pongo”.

Culturally and architecturally, Pago Pago has been described as a “thoroughly Americanized city,” with most of the houses resembling those that are found in the suburbs and cities of the mainland. Like any small American town, there is a central park that serves as the cultural and recreational hub for the city.

Pago Pago is in close proximity to some of the most impressive natural landmarks in the Pacific. These include volcanic mountains, rare rainforests, and unique animal habitats. The city’s harbor itself is home to remarkable phenomena by way of whales and coral reefs, in addition to holding the record for receiving the highest annual rainfall of any harbor in the world.

Related: Have These South Pacific Ruins Inspired H.P. Lovecraft?

What To Do In Pago Pago

Nature & Wildlife

Located in and around the city, the National Park of American Samoa is one of the most biodiverse stretches of land in the world. The Park features ancient paleotropical rainforests that are home to rare species of animals like the Flying Megabat, which, like its name suggests, has a wingspan of over three feet. Deep within the forest, other endemic species, like the Pacific Tree Boa, can be found lurking in the dense overhangs.

The National Park also features hundreds of miles of untouched coastline that harbor over 150 species of Indo-Pacific Coral. Pago Pago is famous for its expansive shelves of coral reefs. A popular activity is snorkeling, which allows visitors to see the unique marine life of American Samoa up close.

From many locations in Pago Pago, visitors can do some classic Whale watching. The best months to see whales are September and October.

Rainmaker Mountain

Not far from the National Park of American Samoa is the famous Rainmaker Mountain. What’s special about Rainmaker Mountain, known locally as Mount Pioa, is that it has a direct influence on the weather of the island. The tall, volcanic, rainforest-laden peaks trap passing clouds, leading to an accumulation of atmospheric moisture and a subsequent abundance of rain.

  • Place of Interest: Rainmaker Mountain or Mount Pioa
  • Location: Near Pago Pago, Tutuila Island, American Samoa
  • Elevation: 523 m (1,716 ft)
  • Annual rainfall: 200mm (5m)

Pago Pago Park

Pago Pago Park is the recreational hub of the city. Given its remote location and relative isolation, The Park is surprisingly modern and globalized and includes a football field, a gymnasium, a bowling alley, multiple tennis courts, and even Korean food kiosks.

  • Fun Fact: American Samoa is technically the southernmost state in the USA

Sadie Thompson Inn

The Sadie Thompson Inn is named after the primary character from the Somerset Maugham story Rain. The hotel is the actual location where Maugham stayed for six weeks, along with a missionary couple and a runaway prostitute, Sadie Thompson. The hotel has been featured many times in the film adaptations of the story, and the character has been portrayed by the likes of Gloria Swanson, Joan Crawford, and Rita Hayworth.

The Sadie Thompson Inn is one mile from Rainmaker Mountain. With WiFi, a full-service bar, conference rooms, and a beachfront location, this Inn makes for a perfect remote island getaway destination.

  • Place of interest: Sadie Thompson Inn
  • Address: Along the Main Road in the downtown neighborhood of Fagatogo, Pago Pago
  • Function: Hotel and restaurant
  • Price per night: $$
  • Amenities: Beachfront location, air-conditioned bar with a pool table, Wi-Fi, cellphone rental, private conference rooms.

Related: Palau: What to Know About This Tiny Hidden Gem In The Pacific

How To Visit Pago Pago

Americans, Canadians, Australians, Europeans, and most citizens of the world can enter American Samoa without a visa. It is not considered a port of entry to the United States, so a U.S. visa is not necessarily required. Most visitors can stay for up to 30-days and extend as needed. The only conditions of entry are a valid passport and a forward ticket.

The two primary ways of visiting Pago Pago are by air and sea. Polynesian Airways and Hawaiian Airways hold regular flights to the capital city, usually departing from Apia in the neighboring country of Samoa and Honolulu in Hawaii. Visitors will fly into Pago Pago International Airport, where numerous buses, taxis, and car rental services are available.

For visitors who would prefer to travel by sea, Pago Pago is a regular stop for Norwegian Cruise Lines and Princess Cruises.

The Best Time To Visit Pago Pago

Weather-wise, it does not really matter when tourists visit Pago Pago as it is warm and rainy all year round with little variation throughout the seasons. That said, tourism is heaviest during the months of December and January, which might have a slight inflationary effect on the price of flights, hotels, and tourist amenities.

In order to get the most out of the trip, the best time to visit Pago Pago is in September or October, as the crowding is lighter, and the Humpback Whales can be observed swimming in shallow waters.

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