Ofu Beach, American Samoa
The islands of American Samoa, Tutuila and Manua'a, are in good company in the South Pacific, a region renowned for perfect beaches and dreamy hideaways. While Ofu, Olosega and Ta'u are accessible by airplane, they are remote, unpopulated and quiet. The beach at Ofu stretches for just over miles, but the sheer beauty of this curve of sand and the relative emptiness of its shores make it one of the best beaches in the world. The soft pink sands are ideal for strolling and the protected waters are home to thriving coral reefs and a variety of sea life.
The allure of Ofu stems from its seclusion and desert-island fantasy; however, this is also its fatal flaw. While escapists and adventurous backpackers are drawn to Ofu's simplicity and remoteness, this is not the typical beach vacation and Ofu is not the typical beach town. The price of unspoiled beauty and uncrowded beaches is limited amenities and facilities, and visitors will not find extravagant chaise lounges and cabanas on the beach. Sometimes, even the most practical necessities of drinking water and restrooms are hard to reach. Tourism is limited and there are very few options for travelers looking for accommodations, dining and activities for the family near Ofu Beach.
Best on the Beach
Web site: www.vaotolodge.com
The accommodations are clean and simple, but the location is undeniably heavenly at the Vaoto Lodge on Ofu Beach. With low prices and a friendly atmosphere, the lodge is a great stopping point for travelers whose priorities are a place to eat and rest. The rooms are plain and tidy, and each room has a private bathroom and shower. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served family style and provide plenty of time to get the skinny on the best snorkeling, hiking and exploring from other guests and the owners. Vaoto Lodge does not accept credit cards so be sure to bring cash or traveler's checks.
Coconuts Beach Club Resort
Web site: www.coconutsbeachclub.com
Touted as the best in Western Samoa, this upscale resort has it all - cozy rooms, tasty food, oodles of amenities and tours of Samoa's popular landmarks and hidden beaches. Coconuts offers the ultimate in escapism, which perfectly reflects its owners, Americans who left the rat race and frantic pace of California to settle paradise. Perks include garden, beachside and even overwater bungalows as well as complimentary snorkeling gear and an affordable meal plan.
Best Authentic Samoan Experience
National Park of American Samoa's Home Stay Program
Web site: www.nps.gov
Experience the Samoan lifestyle from the inside with the Home Stay Program sponsored by the National Park Service. Similar to a high school or college student exchange program, guests make themselves comfortable in a Samoan village while staying with a host family. In exchange for living fees to cover accommodation, activities and food, guests have an authentic traveling adventure - one that cannot be re-created in a hotel or local inn.
Food & Drink
The Deluxe Cafe
Where: main road in Nu'Uuli
The closest approximation of the beloved American diner this side of the equator, the Deluxe Cafe serves up breakfast favorites from Tuesday through Sunday. Hungry patrons can start the day off right with pancakes, eggs and a fruit salad highlighting local treats. Not a breakfast fan? Stop by in the afternoon for a sandwich and a bowl of soup in traditional American style.
Tisa's Barefoot Bar
Tisa's Barefoot Bar is popular for a number of reasons. It might be the beachfront real estate at Alega Beach, which provides the perfect place to cool down after a long day of swimming and snorkeling. It might be the outside seating on the breezy deck. Or it might just be because it's the best place in town to drink a locally brewed Valima beer and exchange snorkeling tips with a new friend on a bustling weekend night.
Best Internet Cafe
Don't Drink the Water
Where: Beach Road Tauese, Pago Pago, Tutuila
It is no surprise that the long-reaching World Wide Web has stretched even to the remote and rundown village of Pago Pago. Backpackers hoping to impress their friends and weary travelers wanting to check in with home will be pleased to find Internet access served up alongside food at this cafe in the downtown area.
Protected by the National Park Service, the waters of Ofu Beach are perfect for snorkeling. As underwater enthusiasts float on the water's surface, unique sea creatures move about beneath them, darting between colorful coral structures. Visitors should bring their own snorkeling gear to enjoy the underwater beauty of Ofu as there are no kiosks or tour operators to rent equipment.
Best Day Trip
Oceania Travel and Tours
Travelers choosing to stay in Western Samoa may organize a tour to the main city of Tutuila, Pago Pago. This tour showcases the loveliest aspects of this Samoan city, such as the dramatic mountains, the cheery harbor and the old-time architecture, as well as the less attractive tuna canneries.
Mount Alava, National Park of American Samoa
Web site: www.nps.gov
With about 10,000 acres of land dedicated as parkland, there is certainly something for everyone in American Samoa National Park. One of the prettiest hikes is the ascent to Mount Alava, which leads hikers through the rain forest to the mountain's peak. Once at the top, hikers can take in Pago Pago Harbor and the stretch of islands in American Samoa, making the six-hour round trip well worth the time.
Best Island Hopping
Green Turtle Tours
Web site: www.greenturtletours.com
Green Turtle Tours is designed for backpackers and wanderers who just can't stay in one place. The Samoa Travel Pass combined with the Unlimited Ride Pass allows travelers to access the hop on-hop off bus to remote beach huts spread around the Western Samoa islands of Savai'i and Upolu. However, don't expect fancy accommodations. Green Turtle offers fresh linens, a clean towel and a mosquito net to drape around the bed, mostly in rustic huts and beachside bungalows.
Croatia's main tourist attraction is, and has been, its beaches.