We don't want to make it sound like Pago Pago is a dangerous or foreboding place. We just want you to enjoy your visit and feel comfortable all the time. You will be introduced to the heat and humidity as soon as the doors open on the plane. It might be a bit uncomfortable at first but it will not spoil your visit if you are prepared. So, be prepared.
The heat and humidity can be made tolerable with the right clothing. Lightweight, all cotton clothing is essential. Polyester and other synthetics should be avoided. When doing anything physical it is recommended and acceptable to carry a small cotton towel.
Women should be careful not to wear very skimpy attire or anything that shows too much of the bare body. Very short shorts and skirts are not recommended and may even get you into some embarrassing situations. Overexposed breasts are also not acceptable. Lightweight shirts and moderate length skirts or shorts, as well as jeans and other long pants, are good.
Men can wear most anything as long as it is appropriate for the occasion. Suits are never required although ties are required for a few situations. Ties are mandatory when appearing at the Fono and they add a nice touch at formal church occasions. The best all-around attire is cotton "Hawaiian" shirts and lightweight trousers or shorts.
Swimming attire should be very conservative. Very brief bikinis or Speedo-type swimwear is never acceptable on private beaches and really not right even at hotel pools or public beaches. At any rate, the sun will punish you if you aren't careful.
It is highly recommended that you protect your skin and eyes from overexposure to the sun. Sunscreen lotions should always be worn and reapplied frequently. The bright sun and glare off water make sunglasses essential. This is not to say that you need to protect yourself against moderate exposures but we just want you to be aware that overexposure can make you uncomfortable.
The deep blue, crystal clear waters are an amazing sight. Swimming can be delightful in the warm ocean waters - you will probably be amazed at how warm the water is. But, there are some things you must always remember.
Ocean currents can sweep you out to sea in a flash. This is especially true where rivers meet the ocean - locally known as "ava". Do not risk swimming very far away from shore unless you are absolutely certain you know what you are doing. This applies to strong swimmers too. There just is no way you can out swim the currents. You should ask before you swim or go out in kayaks or other small boats.
Absolutely all village beaches are private. Respect this and always ask permission before using a village beach. The best public beaches are Utulei Beach and the Tafuna side of Pala Lagoon where you will find a nice public park, tennis courts and Lyon's Park. Fagaalu Beach Park has a decent beach. The beach at Fatu ma Futi is also a popular, albeit very small swimming area and not really public. There are other places where you will see people swimming but you might want to ask someone before using these beaches.
The floor of the beaches is not the soft sandy composition you might expect. Live coral and many other living things inhabit the near-shore oceans. Walking in shallow water can be very difficult and reef shoes might be required. Snorkeling in shallow water can be amazing but be mindful of the edge of the reef and currents. Also, unfortunately some very thoughtless people have thrown empty bottles and other objects into the shallow waters at many beaches and the broken glass might be hazardous - here again you might want to get advice.
The best private beaches are at Two Dollar Beach, Sadie's by the Sea, Tisa's and Maliu Mai. Any one of these beaches offers a wonderful place to spend a day. There will be no glass in the shallow waters. But you still need to be mindful of currents and coral.
The most dangerous beaches are probably Vaitogi and Leala (Sliding Rock). These are very beautiful spots but many lives have been lost. Wave actions are very unpredictable and people, even very knowledgeable people, have been washed away. Please exercise extreme caution when visiting these spots.
The Rotary Club has placed "Angel Rings" at many of the most notorious beaches. Vandalism makes maintaining these thoughtful installations difficult. But, if you see Angel Rings, you know that extra caution is required.
Dogs run free in American Samoa. They are not confined to back yards and they are seldom on any kind of restraint. Very few people walk their dogs on a leash. Very few dogs are fed regularly. Dogs are very protective of their turf and will, at a minimum, bark warnings to stay away. If you persist on encroaching on their turf, they might attack. So, in that case, you will be at fault.
Some dogs roam around the roads seemingly just looking for trouble. They can be dangerous and should be avoided. They might attack you unexpectedly and they will chase your car.
Your best bet when confronted with what might look like a dog challenge is to just stay your ground, without approaching or running from the dog, while looking him straight in the eye. An old Samoan trick to run dogs off is to bend down as if to be picking up a rock. Stand up with your fist closed and the dogs should run away (this doesn't always work anymore but is worth a try). Don't raise your hand as if to throw your imaginary stone because this might provoke the dogs. Samoans are very good stone throwers and can hit dogs accurately but this might account for the inordinate number of dog bites among young Samoans.
There is no Rabies in American Samoa. Any dog entering American Samoa from a Rabies area must be quarantined and vaccinated. There is sometimes a veterinarian available. Spay and neuter clinics are held frequently and the dog population is gradually becoming healthier.
We recommend you drink only bottled water. Most of the water in Samoa is managed and treated but you won't know which is and which is not. Just drink bottled water and be safe.
Mosquitoes and Other Pests
There are no seriously venomous creatures on land. No snakes. No large venomous spiders. There are too many wasps, at certain times of the year, and they can be painful but seldom make you sick. There are centipedes but you will probably never see one.
There are mosquitoes - lots of mosquitoes. They are most active in the early evening but they will bite any time of day. Some of the most dangerous disease carrying mosquitoes are not present. There is no Malaria but there are other rare tropical diseases carried by mosquitoes such as Filariasis and Dengue Fever. Don't worry about Filariasis because it takes many years of being bitten to produce symptoms and because it is all but totally eradicated. There are other tropical diseases carried by mosquitoes, so be protected - use a reliable mosquito repellant at all times.
You will see a lot of Geckos (pilimo'o) hanging on the walls and ceilings in almost every house. These are not really pests. They are cute little buggers that eat lots of bugs. They don't talk, by the way. But they do chirp, especially when mating. They don't bite and they don't carry diseases.
Learn way more about nature in American Samoa by visiting Natural History Guide to American Samoa.