Those who travel to American Samoa will discover another Pacific Island lost paradise. On the programme: a swim in the lagoons, fishing and diving by the stunning coral reefs. The only original point is that this five island and two atoll archipelago has belonged to the United States since 1899, so the American culture is indeed quite present, as cliché as can be. Do not mistake the islands with Western Samoa, an independent neighbouring territory, fifteen times larger.
American Samoa, for a long time, had the reputation to be an expensive holiday destination, reserved to a handful of well-off tourists. Things have changed nowadays, especially thanks to the now cheaper flights. It all depends, as well, on your living standards once there. If you choose to follow the local way of life, by staying in small boarding houses, eating in cheap eating houses and from market stands, using public buses and boats, your daily budget should not exceed £16. However, if you opt for the "Hollywoodian" big style exotic way of life under coconut trees, for the azure cocktails by the side of the swimming pool of a luxurious hotel drowned in tropical greenery and bordered by a private lagoon, for lobsters and champagne served by a white-gloved waiter, and for the chartered yacht to go diving on an atoll, the chances are your budget will quickly explode...
+A true tropical Eden, nature as beautiful as on the first day, a loveable population: Samoa Islands have been feeding the dreams of romantic souls for two centuries.
+A very epicurean life style, enjoying sunshine and fresh breeze in a very relaxed frame of mind, indifferent to the outer world.
+Exceptional under-water depths, some of the planet's most beautiful.
+A favourable season, well-timed as far as summer holidays are concerned.
+Now cheaper flights to Oceania.
-The horizon is limited to "sea and sun", a lazy kind of tourism which may rapidly get you weary and languid.
-A very high cost of living, due to the need to import most consumption goods.
-A long flight, a tiring journey, jet lag and climate.
Sadly, the occupation of the archipelago by the Americans has reduced the traditional culture to nearly nothing, now often summed up as singing and dancing show at the hotels - the "fia-fia" and "sa-sa", where smiley locals sway their hips to flowery-shirted tourists. The Evangelist pastors' preaching must have been strongly imprinted on the Samoans' souls, who never fail to go to Sunday morning mass. Yet, one aspect has remained intact in the villages from the old society - the social mutual help and sharing within the aiga, or family in its broader sense, under a chief's rule, or matai, to whom everybody owes respect. Body tattoos, token of a rite for going into adulthood, are very often seen on the young.
Restaurants offer a great variety of cuisines - American, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Polynesian. You will also find plenty of fast-food and drive-in restaurants. Most traditional local dishes are made with taro, coconut, pork and chicken, fresh fruit and fish of course. The national drink is kava, an indescribable and perfectly bland liquor, once reserved to sacred rituals.
Things to take home: local handicraft (sarongs, embroidery, wickerwork, pottery, carved wood objects), mother-of-pearl jewels, perals, sea shells, spices, folk music recordings. People do not usually haggle. Shops are usually open from 9am to 5pm, from Monday to Friday and from 9am to 12pm on Saturdays.