A Stroll Through Pago Pago

Although the actual village of Pago Pago sits at the head of the harbor, everyone considers Pago Pago to be the built-up area on the south shore of the harbor, including Fagatogo, the government and business center. The harbor is also called the Bay Area. Despite development that has come with economic growth of the territory, Pago Pago still has much of the old South Seas atmosphere that captivated W. Somerset Maugham when he wrote "Rain" in the 1920s.

A stroll through the Pago Pago area should take about 2 hours. Begin at Sadie's by the Sea hotel on the east end of the inner harbor, actually in the village of Utulei. Just across the road from the hotel, a set of concrete steps climbs to Government House, the clapboard mansion built in 1903 to house the governor. The mansion is not open to the public, but there is a splendid view from the top of the steps looking across the harbor to flat-top Rainmaker Mountain.

Back on the main road heading toward town, you walk past a mountain of shipping containers standing idle on the main wharf. Beyond the busy port terminal and opposite the post office is the Jean P. Haydon Museum (tel. 633-4347), in an old iron-roofed building that was once the U.S. Navy's commissary. Worth a 30-minute stop, the museum has exhibits on Samoan history, sea life, canoes, kava making, and traditional tools and handicrafts, including a 400-year-old finely woven mat. A few high-quality handicrafts are for sale. Open Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm, except on holidays. Admission is free, but donations are accepted.

Every Samoan village has a malae, or open field, and the area across from the museum is Fagatogo's. The chiefs of Tutuila met on this malae in 1900 to sign the treaty that established the United States in Samoa. The round modern building across the road beside the harbor is the Fono, American Samoa's legislature; the visitors' galleries are open to the public. The ramshackle stores along the narrow streets on the other side of the malae were Pago Pago's downtown for half a century, although like any other place under the Stars and Stripes, much business is now conducted in suburban shopping centers. On the malae, the American Samoa Archives Office occupies the stone jail built in 1911.

Just beyond the malae on the main road stands the Judicial Building, home of the High Court of American Samoa (everyone calls it the Court House). The big white clapboard building with columns looks as if it should be in South Carolina rather than the South Pacific. Across the road on the waterfront stands Fagatogo Plaza, a shopping center. In contrast to Fagatogo Plaza are the produce and fish markets a few yards farther on. They are usually poorly stocked, and when they do have produce, it most likely comes by ferry from Samoa. The markets also serve as the bus terminal.

Continuing north along the harbor, you soon come to the historic Sadie Thompson Building, where W. Somerset Maugham stayed in the 1920s. Now home to the Sadie Thompson Inn and restaurant, it is the best place in town for lunch before touring the island.

Take a Mocha Break -- The local version of Starbucks is Island Java Cafe (tel. 633-5282), in Fagatogo Plaza shopping center opposite the Judicial Building. In addition to coffee and tea, it serves refreshing fruit smoothies and juices. Open Monday to Friday 7am to 5pm and Saturday 8:30am to 2:30pm.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.