Pago Pago - Port Guide
Where is the ship/how to get to the sights?
The weather here year round is hot, humid, and rainy. All in one day. I have been here in the months September, October and December and each time saw hot sun, followed by every increasing cloud, and followed by extremely heavy rainstorms, each time within an hour or two. Temperatures are usually between 25-33 degrees Celsius.
Sights & Sites
- Two Dollar Beach – Actually costing $5, this privately run beach is small but very pretty and one of the few things to do on the island, so is quite popular. There is a bar, a few sun loungers, and you can walk out to the small archipelago that juts out from there, and swim or snorkel in the sea. Beware of quite strong currents and fast incoming tides. Any sort of cocktail is expensive at $12 a pop, which could be a simple rum and coke, no fancy umbrellas and pina coladas in sight. A beer is a better value with the local beer going for $5 USD for 750ml, so if you are a beer fan, that’s the best value. Sodas are $3.
- Tissa’s Barefoot Beach – Located right next to Two Dollar Beach, this beach is similar in appearance, with better Wi-Fi apparently and slightly cheaper drinks. However, beware of them being open only for ‘special brunches’ which cost $75 a piece and you can’t enter or use any of the facilities without partaking. Ask ahead with locals before taking transport if possible.
- Tourist Market – Walk to the right from the port and you’ll almost instantly see the green and white striped green awnings covering the recently founded tourist market. They have some nice locally crafted wooden pieces, jewelry, trinkets and souvenirs, which you can barter for.
- Local Market – Found by locating the large green pointed roof building, the market had fruit, vegetables, and some local clothes for sale. There are sometimes local musicians or dancers here in the morning showing off a little of their culture for the visitors.
- Small local beach – Walk ten minutes to the left of the port as you exit, keeping and eye out for the bats overhead and you’ll find this tiny, but pleasant beach where you will probably see local families splashing around with their children. Small, but nice, and close and free, if you just want to be in the sea, this is the easiest and fastest place to get to it here.
The tourist market, marked by the green and white striped awnings above the stalls in the green open area just to the right of the port, is a good place to start shopping for souvenirs. This is a market, so bartering is expected. There’s also the local fruit and vegetable market further down the road on the right, where as well as produce, they sell some local hand made sarongs, shirts and skirts, as well as trinkets. There are a few small boutique style shops scattered about the town too for some handmade crafts, jewelry and souvenirs. I would recommend starting at either of the markets for their good choice and usually better price points (if you barter).
If you only have two hours
You can see everything in the town of Pago Pago easily in two hours. Things to look out for are the tourist market, the local market, the churches (which if you are there on Sunday are a treat to go in an observe a ceremony if you are there are the right time), take a small swim at the small beach to the left of the ship past Sadie’s by the Sea, and try to get some Wi-Fi in the museum.
What is it known for?
Pago Pago is known for being a US military base and stronghold since the Second World War, and having beautiful soft white sandy beaches and rainforest, which also comes with heavy rainstorms daily.
Food & Drink
Being a small fishing place, seafood is common. Plantains and chicken are other mainstays. Fresh fish is available in almost every food outlet, and chickens from the hills are cooked and available in all small eateries. There is more international fare at Sadie’s by the Sea, and you can get some sushi in town at the small sushi joint above the small mall (pink roof building) by the local market (green pointed roof building).
American Samoa is not the most technologically advanced country I have been to, and accessing Internet here can be quite frustrating. “Free” Wi-Fi with a purchase doesn’t exist, except in the one McDonalds in town, in which the Wi-Fi quality is almost as bad as the food, hindered greatly by the volume of people from the ship that will flock there to try to use it. Even in higher quality establishments, like the hotel, Sadie’s on the Beach (about a ten minute walk to the left on leaving the port), Wi-Fi is not reliable. I purchased a 30-minute Wi-Fi voucher in their reception (for $2 USD, you can also buy a 2-hour voucher for $5 USD) and it wouldn’t open any webpages or websites or anything. After trying for over 20 minutes to get it to work (and there were not many people in the place, so no over-use of the system could be blamed here), I gave up, got a refund and left. After returning to the ship, a guest told me they had managed to get decent Wi-Fi in the Museum right by the ship, which actually was free, and actually did work. Next time I will try there. When I went to the beach with friends, our initial plan was to go to ‘Tissa’s Barefoot Bar’, located right next door to ‘Two Dollar Beach’, they were closed except for those willing to pay $75 for a set menu brunch but I had heard from a friend that she went there last trip and had fast reliable Wi-Fi there (and there wasn’t the obligatory special brunch entry fee then).
The local currency is the US dollar, this being a confederate of the United States since World War Two. You may be able to use AUD or NZD in the tourist market, due to the high number of Australian and New Zealand tourists that holiday here, but USD is the easiest. Exchange currency and take it out if you need to before arriving here if possible, as the town is small and I didn’t find a bank of money exchange place.
Karen’s Top Tip
If you just want to see a small local beach and have a small swim, walk ten minutes to the left of the ship look out for the bats up ahead, and enjoy a dip at the small beach there, then stroll around the town to check out the markets.
If you want a bigger more populated beach and are here on a weekday, take a local bus out early (to the right from the ship around the bay) if it isn’t raining (as it will be at some point), for $2 each way. The buses leave every 20 minutes from the bus depot, right after the local market (green pointed roof building ten minutes walk to the right from the ship). Your choice for beach in this area is really between the ‘Two Dollar Beach’ and ‘Tissa’s Barefoot Beach’ (more on these below in My Experience Here).
My experience here
I have visited Pago Pago three times.
The first time, (November 2015), I was on IPM and only had about an hour to walk around town, in which I walked to the local market (the tourist market didn’t exist then), and had some local food from ‘Sweeties’ tiny local restaurant. I ate chicken and rice with plantins from here, for about $4 and it was very tasty. I ate it sitting on a wall near the joint with a friend and we shared some of our plentiful chicken with a local stray dog with pleading eyes. I worried that I had only began to scratch the surface of the island.
My second visit here was in October 2017, when again, I was on IPM, but managed to get out for two hours of exploring this time. I found the tourist market very close to the ship, wandered along to the local market, debated hopping on a local bus to check out Two Dollar Beach for a shirt while, and calculated it would be too risky time wise with all timings actually being on island time, and not as strict as they said they’d be. I then bumped into two guests I had befriended and they asked if Id been to the small beach near the ship in the other direction. I hadn’t so they kept me company walking there and I enjoyed a quick swim and sit on the tiny beach frequented by some local families, then started walking back as the heavens opened for a torrential downpour to descend. I luckily had my umbrella with me, so it wasn’t too bad. I passed the Marine Science Centre just short of reaching the ship. It had just closed for the day (at 4pm), but seemed interesting for another time. I bought my requisite postcard from the shop right across the street from the ship and returned to my floating home in time for all aboard.
My third and final visit thus far to Pago Pago saw me adamant to find out what all the fuss was about with this Two Dollar Beach. Being Sunday, no public buses were running, which had been my plan. I fortunately saw some shipmates at the bus depot, thiniing the same as I was, trying to get a bus to take them out. That not being an option, my friend had hailed a taxi and negotiated a price of $25 one day for the 6 of us (whom all fit in as his car was big, but two were in the boot in no seats). I tried to comment that the price seemed quite high for a one way trip with two people squashed in without seats.The driver’s defense was that he was ‘risking the police giving him toruble’ for allowing the people to sit in the boot, which had been his idea, so he was charging more as a precauction against that. After a bumpy 20 minutes ride we arrived at our intended destination of ‘Tissa’s Barefoot Beach’. The shipmates I was with went to Tissa’s last time and recommended it. It usually doesn’t come with a cover charge apparently, and has better Wi-Fi than Two Dollar, so you can choose your purchases, but we found that on Sundays it is closed for a special brunch, which meant to enter you had to pay $75 for brunch to enter. This extremely overpriced fee incudes your brunch dish of local fish, cassava and vegetables, a dessert, drinks (then in parenthesis states (1) ), and that’s about it. We of course decided it was not worth it at all for us, so hoped back in the cab just before he sped away and asked to be dropped at the next beach along, which was Two Dollar Beach.
In my opinion, it is over hyped. By the way, it does not cost $2, as the name would suggest. It used to, but entrance fee has now been upped to $5. (If you can take a local bus here, that costs $2 each way, but that’s about it for the actual $2 being relevant). Your entrance fee pays for your access to the beach, using sun loungers (which there are a lot less of than people in the place), and use of their free Wi-Fi, which didn’t even connect when I was there. The lady at the pay kiosk on the way in, when I asked her about the Wi-Fi (as it one of the reasons I went to that beach was to use it as I had articles to upload), sold me on the $5 price tag that didn’t include a drink by saying there is ‘free’ Wi-Fi for the duration of your time on the beach. When I found out it didn’t work about five minutes later, I returned and asked her, and she said it must have ‘just went down’ and then found out she’d told a shipmate moments after I’d originally asked that the Wi-Fi has been ‘down’ since the previous day after a particularly bad storm. So if you need Internet, don’t rely on it here. If you want a drink, and like beer, buy that for $5 as it is way better value than $12 for a spirit and mixer. There is a BBQ with chicken and fried cassava chops for a more reasonable $8 and $5 respectfully. The beach was pleasant, but I was put off by the greedy grabbing attitudes form the taxi driver overpriced fare, then Tissa’s overpriced brunch, then Two Dollar’s cover charge for not much and lies about the Wi-Fi. I had a pleasant swim and mediocre snorkel, read my book a little on the beach, then left when my first shipmate was leaving for work anyway. The venue didn’t live up to expectations but I was in good company. We took one of the local ‘tour buses’ back, which seems to be the same vehicles that are the public buses during the week, but only take tours and cost more on Sundays. We got our fare back to the ship for $5 after stating we would not be paying the $15 ‘Tour’ fare as we were only going one way. This was a lot better than having to split another $25 cab fare between just two. The bus stopped in front of the port entrance, where my friend left, but I stayed on as was intending on trying to use the Internet now as Sadie’s By the Sea. The bus was taking a trip down the coast for another ten minutes, so to make my extra fare more worthwhile and since they were going regardless, I asked if I could stay on for the next ten-minute segment to see what was a little further along. That was fine. By then I’d told the driver I work on the ship and make port guide videos. The bus drove another ten minutes along a bit further than id walked previously in that direction, and we made it as far as Beach and stopped there for a quick photo op, then circled back towards town, and I jumped off at Sadie’s. My dream of Internet was short-lived. I purchased a 30-minute Wi-Fi voucher in their reception (for $2 USD, you can also buy a 2-hour voucher for $5 USD) and it wouldn’t open any webpages or websites or anything. After trying for over 20 minutes to get it to work (and there were not many people in the place, so no over-use of the system could be blamed here), I gave up, got a refund and left. I then went back to the ship
My Most Memorable Moment
The moment I enjoyed most here was on my first visit, sitting on the wall eating the simple tasty local chicken and plantains (that I was not overcharged for), from Sweetie’s Restaurant (which was a pretty pink shack that cooked chicken) sharing it with a friend and a local stray dog.
Sorry there are no Maps or PDFs.
Sorry there are no extra photos to make a gallery.
My quick guide to Pago Pago in American Samoa. Here’s my top tips of what to do and see in the town of Pago Pago.