National Park of American Samoa, 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii, is spread over parts of Tutuila, Ta’u and Ofu. It attracted 13,892 visitors last year, about what Yosemite gets in a summer day.
Probably fewer than 300 of them found their way to the park’s greatest asset, a beach on Ofu with creamy sands, volcanic boulders, serrated mountain ridges and turquoise shallows.
Although the park does have rangers, trails and a few miles of road, there are no campgrounds or lodgings, no snack bar, no shuttle buses, no entrance gate, no admission fee — few of the conventions that Americans imagine when they hear the words “national park.”
“It’s probably the most remote culture you can visit that’s still in the U.S.,” park superintendent Scott Burch says. “It’s the only paleotropical rain forest in the U.S.
The park is 9,000 or so acres of rain forest and about 4,000 acres of coral reefs. Look for unusual wildlife like flying foxes (a.k.a. fruit bats) that steal bananas and papayas; the crown-of-thorns starfish that gobbles coral and wears a fearsome exoskeleton of venomous spikes; and the giant coconut crab, which climbs trees, weighs as much as 9 pounds, looks like “the world’s largest bug” and is prized as a delicacy.