American Samoans might like football and fast food, but that doesn’t mean that their lives are fast-paced.The U.S. influence on these beautiful islands has meant a greater demand for consumer goods and some of the accoutrements of the good life, U.S.-style. But underlying the superficial changes is a solid base of strong Samoan traditions, known as the Fa’a Samoa, or Samoan Way, which they share with their cousins in the nearby independent nation of Samoa. It means that life still moves at a relaxed, leisurely pace. In fact, the Fa’a Samoa is one of the islands’ greatest assets.
Although off the modern tourist track, the islands are astonishingly beautiful, too. The two coral atolls and five volcanic islands that make up American Samoa are lush and green, with sharp peaks rising along the coastline. They’re not our favorite islands in the South Pacific, but they can be a good introduction to the region.
American Samoa lies in the middle of the South Pacific, just east of the International Date Line. To the west is the independent nation of Samoa. The two Samoas share a common culture but are separate states.
The only U.S. territory south of the equator, American Samoa consists of five main islands: Tutuila (the largest and site of the capital, Pago Pago), Ta’u, Ofu, Olosega and Aunu’u. A handful of small, uninhabited islets are also part of the territory. Rain forests cover much of the islands, but there are spectacular beaches and rugged mountains, too.