Ofu Beach and Lagoon is the crown jewel of the National Park of American Samoa and contains 2 miles of pristine white sand, spectacular mountain vistas, and a healthy coral reef with an abundance of tropical fish within the enclosed lagoon. Difficulties encountered include arranging transportation to Ofu, dealing with heat and humidity, avoiding sunburns, watching for falling coconuts, and when snorkeling staying far away from avas (or tidal channels leading out to the ocean), watching out for sharp coral, and being aware of any potentially harmful tropical fish or sea creatures. A topographical map of the beach (and road) walking route can be found by clicking on the button above. GPS coordinates for the central portion of Ofu Beach are -14.177949, -169.654364.
Imagine the scene. You have been dropped off on an isolated tropical island in the South Pacific with no way to leave. Walking down to the beach, you lay down on the soft white sand which spreads out for one mile in each direction. No other people are present anywhere in sight. You are surrounded by stunning mountain peaks. Cliffs over one thousand feet high rise up behind you, while dramatic jagged green peaks can be seen to the east. Out in front of you, waves break over the coral reef and settle down over the calm blue lagoon. Colorful tropical fish can be seen navigating through the coral, Green turtles swim through the water and take rest breaks on the shore, and the dorsal fin of a Blacktip reef shark pops above the water as the shark navigates through deeper waters. Out in the ocean a short distance beyond the reef, several Humpback whales can be seen breaching the surface and blowing water into the air. The warm sunshine makes you thirsty, so you crack open a coconut and take a drink. You drift off to sleep until a small hermit crab wakes you back up by tickling your foot. Is this glimpse of paradise fantasy or reality? For those who visit Ofu, such as our group, it became a reality.
Ofu Beach was one of the most beautiful yet most challenging destinations I have ever visited in my life. The island of Ofu is located in the South Pacific and is part of American Samoa's Manu'a Islands group. The Manu'a Islands group includes Ofu, Olosega, and Ta'u. Ofu is connected to Olosega by a bridge, while Ta'u can be seen towering above the ocean in the distance from various spots on Ofu-Olosega. I found out about the island of Ofu during my extensive research of beautiful islands in the South Pacific. The pictures and descriptions of Ofu seemed truly incredible. Ofu looked to be a lost tropical paradise that very few people had ever been privileged to experience. I only knew of one person who had been to Ofu, and he told me that a visit to Ofu would be "life changing". His words proved to be true, as we enjoyed an unforgettable week of hiking and snorkeling. I am documenting our time on Ofu-Olosega in three reports. This report covers Ofu Beach and Lagoon, which involves walking and swimming to experience. The second report covers hiking the Tumu Mountain Trail on Ofu. And the third report covers hiking the Oge Beach Trail on Olosega. In addition, I have two reports from the main island of Tutuila -- the Mount Alava Trail and the Mount Alava Adventure Trail (which are two different hikes leading to the same summit).
The reason that reaching Ofu island is so challenging is that transportation can be unreliable. During the time of our visit in September 2017, there were weekly flights from Pago Pago to Ofu on Thursdays. However, these flights have low weight allowance limits and you can be bumped from your flight even if you've already paid for it (according to some accounts I've read online). Personally, I found the airline staff (Polynesian Airlines) to be very helpful and accommodating, and our flight worked out perfectly. We were able to pay additional money to check in cargo baggage for the flight. This was necessary because food options are very limited on Ofu. Thus, we needed to bring as much food as possible with us to cook for one week. I don't want to spend this entire report talking about all the hardships encountered, so just plan your trip far in advance and get in communication with both the airline and your host on Ofu. For accommodations, we stayed at Vaoto Lodge, which has cabins, kitchen use, and very friendly owners Deb and Ben. Vaoto Lodge has an ideal location right on the edge of the airstrip. When your plane lands, you will be at your home for the next week. A beautiful beach is just a few steps away, where we would spend mornings and evenings taking in the sun and stars. The nighttime stars were unlike anything I had ever seen or experienced, even in Death Valley which is known for its dark skies. The Milky Way was positively glowing above us as we looked up on clear nights. From the lodge, it's just a short walk to reach Ofu Beach and Lagoon along a lightly-used paved road. On the map I have included above, the red dots represent the walking route. A few minutes into the walk, the park boundary sign is passed for the National Park of American Samoa. The trees are filled with colorful tropical birds and Samoan Flying Foxes. The Samoan Flying Foxes are fruit bats which are constantly flying overhead (especially in the late afternoon) and landing on fruit trees to hang upside down and snack on fruits. On one day, I stopped to watch many fruit bats land on a particular Breadfruit tree for 15 minutes while they were eating the Breadfruit high up in the tree. From the road, the lagoon is visible off to the right, but during the first stretch the coastline is very rocky. That changes after about 20 minutes upon reaching Ofu Beach. The first beach entrance opens up the option to leave the road and walk along the beach. The National Park beach extends for around 2 miles in length, providing plenty of time to enjoy all of the surroundings. While walking along the beach, Sunu'itao Peak rises up in the distance with its sharp summit. It is this dramatic scene -- with the lengthy white sand, oftentimes calm blue lagoon, and sharp green summit of Sunu'itao which combine to make this one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Along with all of this abundant beauty, Ofu Beach becomes even better when you realize there are no other people around. During our visit, we were the only tourists on the entire island for one full week. Thus, we had Ofu Beach and Lagoon all to ourselves. But even if there are a few other tourists or National Park workers visiting, there is more than abundant space for everyone to all enjoy their own section of paradise. As you will notice within the included full set of photographs, I do my best to showcase many of the tropical fish, coral, and sea creatures that I found while snorkeling for 6 days. Along with the coral, you will see 50 unique tropical fish and sea creatures. The Ofu lagoon and coral reef has demonstrated remarkable resistance to bleaching and warming ocean trends. Experts from all over the world come to Ofu to study this phenomenon. I should share a word of caution when snorkeling. Make sure you become familiar with and watch out for any local fish and sea creatures which can be dangerous. While it felt like I was swimming in a massive aquarium with crystal clear visibility and huge amounts of fish, caution was always in order. And be aware of coral cuts, as coral can be very sharp. Also, do not enter or swim in the water anywhere near the ava, which is the channel that exchanges water between the ocean and lagoon. Several past visitors have been swept out to sea by swimming too close to this area and that put their lives at risk. The area is marked by a sign on the road, but you can also see the ava by looking for the area where there is a gap in the waves breaking over the reef. In conclusion, visiting Ofu Beach and Lagoon was a wonderful and life-changing experience that none of us will ever forget. I'd like to share a special word of thanks to Bert Fuiava (Marine Bio-Tech and Park Dive Officer of the National Park of American Samoa) for his help in identifying 10 of the tropical fish which I couldn't figure out. Also, thanks to Brian and Rebecca (Ofu Unit staff members of the National Park of American Samoa) for being so helpful and friendly during our 7 days on Ofu. And thanks to Deb and Ben of Vaioto Lodge for making our stay so enjoyable. Our visit took place from September 7-14, 2017.
Many more photographs taken during our visit are available for viewing for this destination. To see all of them, choose one of the two options presented below. The two options are Slideshow viewing and Trip Report viewing. The Slideshow option allows for viewing larger images with an autoplay option and a full screen option (available on most browsers). This option works very well for large computer screens and tablets. The Trip Report option allows for viewing smaller pictures in a standard scroll-down format and enlarging of any panoramic photos taken during our visit. Click on the option of your choice to view all of our photos from this destination. The Slideshow format opens in a new browser window and the Trip Report format uses the same browser window for viewing.
TRIP REPORT FORMAT