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Usually, you have to choose between hiking or swimming. But, in American Samoa, there are a few places where a hike will lead you to a great beach. One of my favorites is the Lower Sauma Ridge Trail, located in the National Park of American Samoa. It is a wonderful family hike in American Samoa. And, as a bonus, adventurous families will love climbing down and splashing around in the tide pools at the end.
While visiting American Samoa, you will probably be staying either on the west side of the island or in the Pago Pago area, the capital and site of the world famous harbor. So, to get to the Lower Sauma Ridge Trail, you will be coming from the west.
Just follow the main road, also known as Route 001, along the coast and head east. Drive through villages, including Nu’uuli, Utulei, Fagatogo, and eventually Pago Pago. After going through Pago, you will pass the canneries. Continue on the main road through some smaller villages that aren’t marked until you get to the village of Aua. Look for a clearly marked National Park sign pointing to the left. Turn left on the road with a large church on your left and 4S Mart on your right. If it’s a Saturday, just look for the large bingo game taking place under tents at the church.
Shortly after you turn onto this road, it will start ascending the mountain. This is Afono Pass. Continue up and over the mountain until you reach the top of the second ridge. It is marked by National Park signage and a large fale. The trailhead of the Lower Sauma Ridge Trail is at this fale.
When you arrive, pull in and park to the side to leave room for anyone else who might be visiting the site. Although, you will probably have it all to yourself. Of all the times I’ve visited, I have crossed paths with someone else only twice.
Views That Are Second to None
One of the best parts of this family hike in American Samoa is the views that will blow you away. There are two gorgeous overlooks to enjoy before you even get to the trail. To the left of the fale, look down into the village of Vatia, and gaze at the awe-inspiring national landmark, Vai’ava Strait, and Pola Island. To the right, marvel at the beauty of Afono Bay and the cozy village of Afono. This is my version of sanctuary and utopia. Feel free to spend as much time as you want enjoying the views from the top. An added bonus of this hike is that the fale makes a great spot for a picnic during your outing. After oohing and aahing at the amazing views from the top, it’s time to head down the trail where there are even more breathtaking vistas awaiting you.
Hitting the Trail
The trailhead is just to the right and behind the fale. There is a small sign at the beginning. Your initial descent begins with some natural stone stairs. This is where the fun begins.
The trail is less than 0.4 mile and carries an easy rating. All in all, the main route is not that taxing. There are a few sets of stairs that switch back. The trail is extremely wide and well maintained also. But, proceed with caution because the stairs can get a bit slippery following a rain. The moisture doesn’t make the trail that treacherous though.
The hike, though short, contains lush tropical plants and coconut trees. Along the way, keep a look out for some of the native skinks that dart in and out of the rocks. You might encounter crabs, birds, and maybe even a flying fox that’s hanging out for the day. Also, look for the sign marking an ancient star mound, which is an archaeological site.
About two thirds of the way down the trail, you will reach a point where the trail splits in two. Don’t worry about getting lost, its merely a small circle that joins back up after a bit. At this point, you have essentially reached the end of the trail and are sitting on the edge of the bonus section of this outing. Before jumping into the bonus, take a minute to enjoy the views of Pola Island from this vantage point.
Bonus: Tide Pools Down the Mountainside
Once you reach the end of this trail, you should see an opening in the bush. Peek through this for another great view down the hillside. This awesome view really gives you an idea of the vastness of the Pacific Ocean as it sits directly below you. You will still have Vatia and the Strait to your left and a set of gorgeous tide pools on your right.
This is also the beginning of a trail that goes straight down. I was intimidated by this part of the trail originally. It took me a while to finally take the plunge and trek downward. But, for adventurous hikers, this is the best part of this family hike in American Samoa!
Warning: Safety First!
Before you attempt this tidepool climb, you need to check the tides. I use the app, Tides Near Me, to stay updated. You can climb down the rock, but do not attempt to get into the tide pools unless its low tide. You will see the waves coming in and dumping water into the pools over the rock facing. Use your common sense. You don’t want to get into the tide pools and then get stuck waiting for the tide to go down to make it safe to pass. Use extreme caution when you head down. Watch children and keep them close to you.
Stick to the middle of the decline as much as possible and take your time. Also watch the wind, especially for lighter individuals. Stay low and keep your center of gravity down and you will be fine. Be aware of moisture from the splashing tides below and watch your footing.
Have fun but keep an eye on the tide.
Once you have made it down, cross over the barrier with the ocean and welcome to your own private oasis. Have fun playing in the tide pools! Enjoy having this place all to yourself! Just make sure to watch the tide as it comes into the front bigger pool. When it starts dumping more and more water in, you know it’s time to start making your way back up the mountain.
There isn’t an exact way to get back up, just follow the way that you came down. Keep to the middle of the trail and away from the edges. Be aware that if you chose to swim and don’t change before going up that you will be wet when you ascend. Use caution because this can add to the difficulty of getting back up. Also make sure that you go with someone because its never a good idea to hike or swim alone. Once you get back to the top, follow the trail back to the fale.
The Lower Sauma Ridge Hike feels like a little slice of heaven in paradise. Whether you want to spend a few hours hiking and swimming below, or just need a quick spur of the moment outing, this family hike in American Samoa fits the bill. The views never grow old and you’ll definitely be glad that you took the time to pay it a visit. For more ways to experience American Samoa, see our best hikes, awesome things to see, most scenic spots, and things to do with kids. Happy travels!
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