The national parks are on everyone’s travel list this year. As they should be. Turning 100 years old is a very big deal. It will be almost impossible to find a peaceful spot in the Great Smoky Mountains, the Grand Canyon, or Yellowstone—three of the most popular parks in the country—though. But if you travel south of the equator, you’ll have one of the national parks almost, if not entirely, to yourself.
The National Park of American Samoa spreads over three islands: Tutuila, Ofu-Olosega, and Ta‘ū. Most visitors stick to Tutuila, the main island, after arriving in Pago Pago. Normally, you would, too. But this time, you’re determined to leave the crowds, albeit small ones, behind. You’re heading 70 miles east to remote Manu’a.
Manu’a includes three islands: Ta‘ū, Ofu, and Olosega. Ta‘ū is the largest island in the group. Ofu has an actual town and even a small airport. So you decide to visit Olosega, the smallest and least-visited island. Olosega is Ofu’s twin. The two islands are connected by the narrow Asaga Strait and a single-lane bridge. Artifacts discovered on the island suggest that it’s been inhabited for more than 3,00o years. That’s hard to believe when you arrive.
Less than 500 people live on the green island, and many of the small villages are only accessible by sea. Dramatic peaks, including high Mount Piumafua, were formed by shield volcanoes. Nesting boobies, ground doves, and Samoa flying foxes rule the forests. The beaches are not just empty, but completely deserted, unless you count the giant coconut crabs. While some of the best snorkeling in not just American Samoa, not just the South Pacific, but the entire world is just steps from shore. That’s the national park, of course. Vibrant coral, huge schools of fish, and harmless reef sharks await you. Just you.