Pago Pago, American Samoa cruises

It may be American in certain ways, but the scenery on the Samoan island of Tutuila is undeniably South Seas. It’s a vision of golden beaches, hills carpeted in lush jungle and traditional villages.

Although there are modern shopping malls close to Pago Pago, which is pronounced ‘pango pango,’ you’ll soon discover the fa’a Samoa, the traditional island way of life. English is widely spoken, mostly with an American twang, but you’ll still hear the sing-song Samoan language across Tutuila.

There may be a chance to be greeted with an ava ceremony. In this prized ancient ritual to welcome important guests, a drink made from the dried roots of a local plant is offered to those present, one by one and in a certain hierarchical order. Depending on the excursions available, you might attend a traditional umu cooking demonstration. In this local interpretation of a barbecue, the cooks spread out a pile of heated volcanic rocks, then place food such as breadfruit and fish are placed on the top to bake, all covered with banana leaves.

You might witness displays of Samoan dancing too, and hear some of the local myths and legends. One relates to the incredibly scenic Turtle and Shark Point. It is told that an old blind woman and her granddaughter once jumped off the cliffs here near Vaitogi and, on impact with the waves below were transformed into a shark and a turtle. The villagers will tell you that, by chanting their names, the two will both appear even now.

Learn a little more about Samoan culture at the compact Jean P. Haydon Museum in the capital, with exhibits such as war canoes, exhibits about tattooing and local crafts, and, unexpectedly, rock from the moon brought as a gift by President Nixon. There’s also a smattering of colonial buildings around town, including the Courthouse of American Samoa, completed in 1904.

In truth, though, you’ll almost certainly want to admire the natural delights of the island. It starts before you’ve even set foot on Tutuilan soil, as you sail into the embrace of Pago Pago’s harbour, guarded by Mount Pioa. Most call it the Rainmaker. After all, the 1,700-foot peak seems to snag the clouds and is a major reason behind the bay’s incredibly high annual rainfall that contributes to its emerald beauty.

You might call at Leone, whose white sand beach welcomed the first missionaries here in 1830; their legacy is felt across this religious island. We challenge you not to take a picture of Flower Pot Rock, the steep rocky offshore islet with a densely wooded top, or the Cockscomb. They’re part of a vista of coves and cliffs, valleys and villages scattered so beautifully across this wonderful South Seas island.