American Samoa National Park | 55/59

TALOFA!

Getting to American Samoa was not super easy for us.  When we showed up to the airport, Hawaiian Airlines surprised us with a “you need to buy a ticket for your baby”.  I was pretty confused because we didn’t see this anywhere online and had been flying with them throughout all the Hawaiian islands without a problem until this point.

The difference is, even though it is a U.S. Territory, they treat the flight to Pago Pago as an International destination.  Which means all children (2 and under) have to pay 10% of a “full fare”.  BUT, don’t expect to pay 10% of what you actually paid for your ticket, because the fare is based on the highest price offered for the ticket.  So even though we got our tickets for 900 bucks round trip, his 10% was figured on 1500.  Then tack on taxes and other miscellaneous fees and the total was 230 some dollars.  Sheesh!  All this time I thought a kid under 2 traveled for free!  Guess not.  So much for our on-island food budget!

We arrived to the Pago Pago airport around midnight; the airport was bumping.  There are only three flights in and out a week to Pago Pago, so its always a party on the departing and the receiving end.  It didn’t take us long to find our ride – our Airbnb hosts offered to pick us up and were there waiting!

Our little island home wasn’t huge, but anything is bigger than the RV!  It was really perfect for our needs – we had a bed, a way to make some quick food, and a bathroom.  What else could we ask for?  We crashed HARD the first night.

Our first day there, we wanted just to get a lay of the land.

We wanted a day to just get to know how everything worked on the island.  We rode the busses around and tried to get the lay of the land.  (P.S. – these family-owned busses are the most amazing things ever!  Maybe it is the fact that a lot of them are built on the same little Toyota chassis that our RV is built on!  Someone should put together a book on the ins and outs of these busses with stories from each of the drivers.  I’d buy it.)

We walked around the boat docks and really just all over the main city center.  It didn’t take long – Pago Pago’s not that big of a city!

We went to the visitor’s center and talked to the ranger about what hikes were open and what we absolutely needed to see while we were on island.

The Ranger was VERY helpful and gave us all kinds of good pointers.  She even called a bus drive to see what time the earliest bus would be leaving to Vatia (the village closest to the trails we wanted to hike).  Aren’t park rangers the best?  We watched the park film, walked around the exhibits, and then went on our way.  Have we mentioned that we LOVE the Park Service??

We got up early to catch the first bus to Vatia.  The bus driver was expecting us and gave us a “tour” of the route along the way.  He pointed out notable landmarks and told us the names of some of the mountains we could see out the window.

We got off the bus before the village and planned to catch the last bus out at 3:30.  We figured we would do an out and back hike and have plenty of time to spare.

This is the quick park sign pic we snapped as the bus waited for us!  I am actually quite impressed with the fact that we managed to get the sign and our faces with the tiny amount of time we had.

We hiked down a shorter trail at first – Lower Sauma Ridge Trail.  From here we could see the famous Pola Island!  It was really quite stunning.

When we set out to American Samoa National Park, one of our goals was to see Coconut Crabs.  We kept our eyes peeled all day, but never came across one!  I’m still a little bit sad about it.  I guess we will just have to be satisfied with YouTube clips of them.

We also had a really cool view into the tide pools below us.  Even from up on the ridge we could see that they were teaming with life.

After our short hike down to the water, we turned around and set our sights on Mt. ‘Alava.  We crossed the highway and headed up and up and up.  We were on what was called the “Mt. ‘Alava Adventure Trail”.  And boy, was it an adventure.  It may have had something to do with us laying around on beaches for two weeks, but we had a hard time getting to the top!  I think it was the extra 9 lbs we have to pack around with Theo.  The first part of the hike was fun.  We saw a few “Flying Foxes” or fruit bats.  Such funny little guys!

The jungle floor was thick and mossy. It was a little tricky to hike on, but really cool at the same time.

I feel like we have talked about this a little already, but we love traveling with Theo! We feel like people are so much nicer to us because of the baby! Everyone loves babies! One thing that has been an adjustment though are mid-hike feeds and something we like to call “poos with views”. But it’s pretty fun to just bring him into our lives! We love it! Life after baby is great, don’t let people tell you that the party stops when you have kids.

After gaining most of our elevation, we hiked along the knife point of the island.  This was my favorite part of the hike.  At some points, we could see the ocean on both sides!  It was super thick jungle, and then it would open up to the amazing ocean views!

We saw a ton of these little hermit crab guys, but still no giant coconut crabs.  SAD.

Then came the junction.  We realized that to get to the summit, we had to keep going, and not turn back toward Vatia.  There aren’t any milage markers or really any signs for that matter out there, so we didn’t know how far we had gone, and we were worried about catching our 3:30 bus.

We kept going, and figured if we missed the bus, we could ask someone to call a taxi for us.

We topped out about an hour later and we are SO GLAD we did.  The view was amazing!  We could see the whole bay from the top!

The nice part about our decision to keep going, was that instead of climbing down steep ladders, we were able to walk down the nice, wide path.  Even though the jungle was cool, we were getting tired, and a break from the craziness was really nice.

Theo gets the best adventurer award this day for sure.  We asked a lot out of him and he did great.  There were a few breakdowns, where we had to stop, readjust, and have a few pep talks, but all in all, he did SO well.  We are proud of this little hiker!  (He is probably the youngest dude to summit Mt. Alava!  At 2 months old, that’ll be a hard record to beat!)

The next day we rode the bus all along the coast looking for good places to beach it up.  There was some fun snorkeling at Flower Pot Rock, and then a nice place to chill at 2 Dollar Beach (don’t be deceived by the name, the owners actually charge 5 dollars to get in. Ha!)

“Who dressed me in my long sleeve jam jams?!  Don’t you guys know we are going to the beach?!”

One of the coolest parts of visiting American Samoa is definitely the reef. We talked to the park rangers about protecting this tropical world and among many things, they said that one important thing we can do is always wear reef-safe sunscreen.

We choose Sunology to protect our bodies and the environment. Sunology is a long-lasting, nourishing mineral sunscreen that is reef friendly, oxybenzone-free. No parabens or perfumes. SPF 50 and FDA approved. No animal testing. 100% recyclable. These are the things we look for when choosing a product that we can honestly feel good about using for our family. We are so happy knowing that the small, good choices that we make now will have an exponentially positive impact for the future. Let’s protect our skin and those fishies!

The next day we decided to hike out to Fagatele Bay – a marine sanctuary where we were promised some of the best snorkeling and coral reef on the island.

To get to the bay we had to cross onto private land and pay the owners $5 at their gate (this isn’t the house, it’s actually the one after this, but we forgot to take a photo).

The hike out to the bay was SO beautiful! But, unfortunately when we got to the beach, the tide was in and the ocean was unhappy and churning. We tried to swim out and snorkel, but the waves were too big and we were getting tossed around. It was pretty crazy and slightly scary. I didn’t even take any photos because there really wasn’t much to see since the tide was so high and we couldn’t get out to the reef.

So we called it a day and headed back out and still enjoyed the trees, funky flowers, sprouting coconuts, and adorable fruit bats!

We were pretty starving by the time we made it back onto the main road. For a week in Samoa we only ate out 3 times, and mostly ate cheap junk food garbage from the little convenience store across the street from our airbnb haha. We tried a lot of funky snacks from all over the world – mostly imported from Asia. The weirdest one was Cees’ choice – UFOs : unusually flavored objects. Guess what flavor… Burger. Yeah.

But, we were desperate that day after the hike and tried to get some “fast food”, no offense to this place (there were a lot of others just like it) but it was horrifying. There was a lot of questionable, unrecognizable food items sitting out on platters for who knows how long and you pick it out and take it to go. We couldn’t muster up the courage to eat anything this time. American Samoa is definitely going down in the books for us as a place to visit for the views and good vibes, and not necessarily for the food.

This little store is the sister to the one right across the street from where we were staying – Samoa Tasty part 1 haha.

Our last day on the island we took a local bus all the way to Tula village on the eastern side of the island to take a boat out to Aunu’u island.

The boat ride to Aunu’u only cost a few dollars per person and took about 15-20 mintues. There was another family on the boat with us and they had two little kids and a 2 week-old newborn with them!

The water there was some of the bluest, clearest, cleanest water we have ever seen. We wanted to jump straight off the boat it was so enticing!

Once we got to the beach, we were the only ones there, except for a 12 year-old local boy who hung out with us the entire time and barely spoke a single word haha. He was super cute.

Cees snorked and Theo and I took naps.

Don’t worry – Theo was protected from the sun the whole time. We lathered him up with Sunology for kids and he didn’t get burned once! No rash, no teary eyes, no sketchy chemicals! We also had fun doing some finger painting. At one point he had a pineapple, a sun, and a mustache haha.

We loved this quiet, dreamy beach and wished that we could have stayed forever. Sadly, it was our last day, but definitely the best beach day.

This is what a typical village looks like. There is one main road and the villages are strung together across the island. On our ride back to Leone village we saw the tuna factory, actually we smelled it first. It is open around the clock and provides most of the jobs on the island.

For our last meal we decided to splurge a little and eat out at Sadie’s. Finally, I got the local food I was craving! I had Samoan Oka which is raw fish marinated in coconut milk and lime. They put warm plantain chips on the side and I was in heaven. It was SO good. I could have eaten it everyday. Cees had a burger haha – super authentic. Not.

Here is a little gallery of all the different homemade buses that we saw on the island. We loved all of them! We loved the paint jobs, the wooden interiors, and the island music – especially when they played Moana remixes haha – too good. I wish we could ride in style like this all the time.

We loved our time with the Samoan people and their beautiful island.  We had a great time experiencing the new place, meeting great people, and having our “first adventure” with our own little guy.  We will remember this place forever!

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