Endless Summer in the National Parks: Explore a South Pacific Paradise

Mt. ‘Alava, National Park of American Samoa
Mt. 'Alava

Mt. ‘Alava stands tall over Pago Pago Harbor. Photo by: Joe Carini / Pacific Stock / Aurora Photos

You want exotic? You’ll have to think past Hawaii—2,500 miles past, to American Samoa, the uncontested champion of the system’s tropical getaways. Yes, it’s everything you imagine: Thickly rainforested peaks rising above white-sand beaches, fruit bats with 3-foot wingspans flitting among the lush trees. Head to Tutuila island and up 1,610-foot Mt. ‘Alava for the park’s best view. From Fagasa Pass, trace a ridgeline for 3.5 miles, beneath banyan and fig trees alive with the calls of tropical seabirds, to reach the summit, where views extend down to the glittery blue Pago Pago Harbor (pictured). Connect to the Mt. ‘Alava Adventure Trail and continue 2.5 miles (shimmy down a series of rope ladders) to tiny Vatia Village. Continue 1.1 miles on the Tuafanua Trail to a secluded beach where red-footed boobies fish and butterflyfish dart among coral reefs (you’ll have to come back in summer to snorkel here, though—winter’s rip currents make swimming sketchy). Backtrack or (better yet) arrange for a homestay with a family in Vatia. Average January high/low: 87°F/78°F Season: Year-round