What are the Differences Between Samoa and American Samoa?

Most people have heard of Samoa at this point. Many may not be able to point it out on the map but they know it’s an island in the South Pacific. Few people, even fewer Americans, know there is also a territory of the United States called American Samoa located nearby. They are cut from the same cloth but to the casual visitor they are quite different. So what are the differences between Samoa and American Samoa?

What are the Differences Between Samoa and American Samoa?, American Samoa

Viewpoint in the National Park of American Samoa

The differences between Samoa and American Samoa are subtle but many and start right there. Samoa (pronounced Saa-Moh-uh) is an independent nation made up of 2 main islands, Upolu and Savaii and several smaller and uninhabited islands. American Samoa is one main island with a few smaller islands that is an overseas territory of the United States.

Like the other overseas territories of the United States like Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands: American Samoa and its citizens are granted certain privileges like serving in the military but not others like voting in the Presidential election.

The capital of American Samoa is Pago Pago (pronounced Pango Pango). The capital of Samoa is called Apia (Ah-Pee-Uh). The 2 are similar in that they are on a bay and have a little bit of congestion from traffic. They are different in that Pago Pago is much more spread out and more difficult to walk around; there is basically only one road. Plus much of it smells like rotten fish from the Starkist Cannery right in town. Apia is pleasant enough but not the reason you go to Samoa.

Viewpoint in the National Park of American Samoa, Pago Pago, American Samoa, Samoa

View of Pago Pago Bay from high above

Outside of Apia, Samoa is a dream. There is zero traffic, the roads are perfect and everyone waves when you drive by. Outside of Pago Pago, there is still traffic along the coastal road and when you get up into the mountains the roads are not very good.

View of the Pinnacles in the National Park of American Samoa

View of the Pinnacles in the National Park of American Samoa

While there are many differences between Samoa and American Samoa: beauty is not one of them. Both are tremendously beautiful. Samoa is a natural island that blew me away with its beauty. American Samoa has a gorgeous coastline and interior mountains. The National Park of American Samoa is particularly beautiful and well worth exploring. On both islands you’ll need a car or a driver for sure.

National Park of American Samoa

The end of the road in the National Park of American Samoa

The food in Samoa is outstanding in my opinion. Of course options are somewhat limited given you’re on an island (It’s basically seafood or seafood) but I loved the food. Expect to eat a lot of poke and oka; both tuna based foods. There is also one McDonald’s in Samoa. Granted both my visits to American Samoa have been day trips but I have never been impressed by the food although people say they do Samoan food very well. There are two McDonald’s on American Samoa plus a Carl’s Jr. and some other fast food places.

Samoa has dozens of hotels and resorts of varying cost and luxury. As I illustrated in my week in Samoa post, I have stayed in at least 7 of them and was always impressed. American Samoa is said to have only two places to stay period. I have never personally stayed there but that’s what I was told by my driver.

Obviously Samoa is more geared to tourism and it has many more flight options to the island from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, the United States and others. American Samoa is only accessible from the small airport in Samoa and an expensive weekly Hawaiian Airlines flight from Honolulu. That’s it.

However, the main difference I myself have observed is the people. The people of Samoa are some of the most warm and welcoming people I have ever encountered. Their selfless culture makes you want to be a better person. They have been influenced by the west in some ways but have really maintained their own identity and culture in my eyes. Plus they all love Rugby!

American Samoa has clearly been influenced by its US affiliation not that there’s anything wrong with that. For instance, my driver had a huge New England Patriots flag draped across the kamagra back of his truck. He said many people love football more than Rugby. In fact there have been several American Samoan players in the NFL. Other influences are loud (bad) music and apparently there is a big crystal meth problem on American Samoa. In fact, we were asked if we wanted to buy some “ice”. We didn’t know what that meant and had to look it up. It was just assumed that was why we had come to American Samoa-true story!

So these are just a few of the differences between Samoa and American Samoa. Of course, these are only my observations based on my two separate daytrips to American Samoa and my approximately 2 weeks total in Samoa during my two trips including my recent one.

I really did love Samoa if that’s not obvious to anyone who followed my trip or has read my posts. However, I did not love American Samoa either time I have visited and I likely will not return. But as Samoa has grown quickly and attracts many visitors, American Samoa has some potential with its natural beauty. However, it doesn’t appear that they’re eager to target tourism in the near future. That’s one of the biggest differences between Samoa and American Samoa.

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  1. Thanks for this! I’ve always wondered about American Samoa but there’s not much material on it. I had never even seen photos of it! So thanks for the honest take. You crack me up with the ice comment!

  2. I live in Oahu and have traveled to American Samoa multiple times for business. I agree it’s a strange kindness of place in that it feels a little American but it’s far from it. The hotels are not good and I’m
    Not a fan of the food either. I’ve also heard of the ice issue down there but don’t know much about it.

  3. American Samoa sounds like a skip, Samoa a go!

    • I wouldn’t say skip it but I won’t be going back for a 3rd trip

      • Amuia Utuone says

        That’s good don’t go back there. I’m from American Samoa. I always love my Island. Thank you!!!.

        • I have so many questions. Do you feel your country has been incorrectly represented? Does being a U.S. territory have any benefits? Is there a drug problem? There isn’t much information on the internet about American Samoa.

  4. American Samoa is an actually nice place!. im sorry disagree with you but they are nice people its juss probably the people you met. not everyone is like that. so maybe y’all should try getting to actually know the real american samoa

  5. 15th January 2018 I decided to go American Samoa island with wife and 18month daughter. Please let me know about there people, food, house rent and basically about weather. I’m aupo. From Bangladesh

  6. Is there any way to build a small business.? Which help me to carry my all caustic of living American Samoa island. Also have future like that kind of business. Get me some real talk please.

    • You’re not going to build anything but confusion if the second sentence in your post is any indicator of future potential. Try constructing a proper, or even somewhat proper sentence so somebody can answer your question in a proper manner.

      • assole! you must be ugly american.

      • Daniel Finn says

        Really cool to criticize people who obviously speak English as a second language. I wonder if the criticizer can speak any foreign language/ I doubt it. No way>

        • Actually Daniel, most of us in the continental U.S. speak multiple languages. I myself speak English and German (with a Pfälzisch accent). I started German in 7th grade because I liked the language, I have no ties to Germany. Many of us are more cultivated than you give us credit for. My American born wife is fluent in English, Russian, and Latvian. She also speaks a little German and Danish. A majority of the population speaks English and Spanish. In fact, many schools are starting Spanish immersion courses for kids as young as 6. Of course you’ll find the less educated, but I can say the same thing about any country. So piss off daniel!

  7. So I cannot find much info on this island but what is the name of the most populous city in Western Samoa? And I’m curious what it’s like to rent or work there? What do people do for a living in Western Samoa?

  8. American Samoa has been my home for over 30 years, and there is nothing wrong with it at all except there is one way in and one way out. The population is roughly around 60,000 with a very low rate of unemployment (too many people depend on families) and poverty (but it exists). That is unlike Upolu. Starkist Samoa (the cannery) is a private corporation that has been in American Samoa assisting many families with more than 2000 jobs (more than 50% are individuals from Upolu), and it is located 5 minutes after its capital of Pago Pago. I live 30 minutes away from Pago Pago, and it never “smells like rotten fish” where I live. You must have been staying near the eastside closer to Starkist Samoa or just eating fish too much. The only other times it would start to smell like Starkist from Pago Pago to Futiga (Westside village where landfill is located) is if the waste from Starkist is transported to the landfill for disposing.
    Anyhow, I appreciate your admiration of the national parks and the greenery all around the island. It has most definitely kept American Samoa cooler, and I very much appreciate my hometown every time I am traveling to the states as it seems to congested every where I have been with the weather either being too cold or too hot.
    …and the “ice” comment is just ridiculous. I have to admit It has become a huge problem in Am Sam, and when we can – we do report any of these activites to the authorities.

    I appreciate your thoughts, and I definitely agree tourism in Am Sam needs some work.

    You will be fine with the right people taking you to the right places, so I hope one day somehow someone changes your mind about coming back to American Samoa.

    Thanks and have a blessed year! Tofa Soifua,

    • Thank you for the positive note on American Samoa. Now I haven’t given up hope! There are drug problems everywhere. People speak of the ice problem on Hawaii. Even in the prestine tourist destination – mountains of Western Montana are populated with Meth heads. Just stay away from the wrong places at the wrong time.

    • Susan M Hicks says

      I spent a month in Pago Pago in 1993. To this day I still say that was the best vacation I ever had. Not only was I impressed with the people there I loved all the customs. I stayed at the Rainmaker hotel and took many a solo strolls around and walked past the tuna cannery in the highest heat of the day. Ionly knew it was the cannery because a local pointed it out to me. Self education is always best. Thank goodness I rely more on my own experiences than so called travel advisors reviews. Talofa my friend!!!

  9. its so fun but i wouldnt want to live there

  10. I would love to visit one day, as long as there is a McDonald’s, I’m good.

  11. Having lived in American Samoa for about 16 months with 8 months to go in a contract, I would say this post is quite bang on. It is always nice to visit Samoa where people are nicer and there are better restaurants and accommodation options. It is so easy in Samoa to rent a car, drive around peacefully albeit on the other side of the road, with places to stay along the way and thing to do and see like beautiful water falls, etc. Wherever you go there are pigs and chickens running around with the occasional horse or cow thrown into the mix. In American Samoa the speed limit is mostly 20 miles per hour and bumper to bumper traffic is a pain in the rear. Though it is mixed with an American influence, with many American Samoans having lived in the states or having relatives that are there now, there is still a unique, genuine Samoan culture here. As the article states, American Samoa is also beautiful but I don’t think it is as nice pretty as Samoa. The large difference is a semi American thug culture with many people driving their large jacked up American truck with music blaring while wearing an NFL hat. Meth in American Samoa is no joke. Either is the fact that most people either work at the cannery or suck off the American tit in some way with a local government job. In my opinion the ideal vacation would be 2 weeks in Samoa (one week Upolu, one week Savaii), 2 days on the main island of American Samoa and 1 week in Ofu/ Olosega which are remote islands in the Manu’a island chain and part of American Samoa. Ofu and Olosega are amazingly beautiful and raw. The beach on Ofu the the National Park of American Samoa is one of the prettiest in the world and some days there isn’t anyone on it. There are definitely a lot of Samoans working in American Samoa. I have rarely had a taxi driver in Am Sam that wasn’t a Samoan.

  12. If you plan a trip to American Samoa, visiting Manu’a (ofu, olosega and ta’u) is a must to get your money’s worth! You will not regret it! Go to Ofu and Olosega to experience the true definition of island life.

  13. Theresa Talia says

    American Samoa and its citizens are granted certain privileges like serving in the military but not others like voting in the Presidential election.
    This statement is wrong because in order to serve in the Military you have to be naturalize and this process all takes place after you have passed your physical and written test. You have to pledge first to the flag of the united states before you start your service. So the naturalization process makes you a U.S. citizen and this grants your voting rights in the Presidential election.

  14. Clinton clark says

    I loved American samoa friendly people been there twice will go back next year food scenery the whole works and its not as boring as some pacific islands and for the tight wallet people it’s not that expensive head out to the outer islands as well ofu etc even anuu off the coast hospitality great awesome ssnorkeling around main island american samoa paradise islands.

  15. I went to American and what use to be called Western Samoa but is now just Samoa in 1988 and again in 1989. I fell in love for the first time . We didn’t know eachother long and he was shy to speak to me because of his not perfect english. We lost contact for 28 years and he found me on FB! he had been looking for me and I had been praying I could find him.
    We both thought of eachother over the years . He asked me to marry him on facetime, and after 28 years I flew to American Samoa ( he’s from Samoa but had lived in American Samoa since the 80s)
    We were married 2 months later! He is the love of my life and I am beyound blessed!

  16. Back in 1970’s, yes people are still alive from that era, I worked for an import/export company that had offices throughout Micronesia and the South Pacific. I traveled to both islands. American Samoa I found hostile. There was a major alcoholic problem at that time on the island. The people were under the thumb of American influences and it was primarily a welfare state. We all know what a welfare state does to any community and the drive to be in control of a person’s destiny, and I will leave that to a person’s wisdom. The island is beautiful however but remember that it can also be dangerous. The men and women are large so don’t get in a beef with them. I was robbed while I was there so just be careful if you do go. Samoa is independent territory. The diet is different from AS therefore the people are healthier and kinder. I always felt safe there with never any issues. They are not a welfare state therefore they feel responsible for their futures. Also the diet is different. In American Samoa they eat a lot of pork and imported rice. I shipped tons of it to them. Samoa the diet is primarily fish and fruits with very little starches. I really think they live a much healthier lifestyle. The island is beautiful and so are the people. So keeping all this in mind and knowing travels are about the adventure I would still go to both islands if I could afford it, but if I could only go to one, the answer is obvious. Enjoy your travels but always keep an eye on your six.

  17. Visited both S and AS last year. Both were pleasant. S has a broader tourism and business base. It appears a bit “colonial” in city center but easy to navigate. International airport is beautiful and islanders are quite proud of it, rightfully so. AS basically has a dwindling stardust plant, a hospital, government and the national Park. Our purpose was to visit the NP. Had no plans to visit S but after touring pago pago we had time on our hands and decided to fly 20 minutes, cross the international date line and visit S. Well worth the trip. Hope you keep an open mind If you travel to AS. People were nice, NP was free of camera hawking tourists and we never encountered ice. Sure the young kids luster to loud music. As recently quoted; OK Boomer. And this comes from a boomer couple.

  18. Anyone born on a US Territory is a US citizen. Period.

    Whether they can vote in any election is determined by there current residence. If they live in a US state, then they can vote for congress, senate, and president. If they live in a territory, they cannot. The birth location doesn\’t matter, it is a residency issue.

    Adults with permanent residency in the US can become Naturalized US citizens by taking a knowledge test and oath.
    BTW, being in the US military does not require US citizenship. It requires only legal permanent residency (green card). US citizenship is required to be an officer or very high ranking NCO.

    • Not true. America Somoa is the last place in US jurisdiction where residents are not born full American citizens. They are US nationals only. If they move to a US state they do not have the right to vote. There is a case in the district courts to give American Samoans full citizenship, but it’ll probably have to wait for the Supreme Court to weigh in.

  19. I have to disagree with your view of American Samoa. My husband and I went to American Samoa to do some training and we were there for two weeks. We fell in love with the people and the island. One of the men who we were working with came to our hotel on the weekend and he and his family took their day and drove us around the island. The people are so kind and we Never, had anyone ask us about buying drugs. We did hear that the elders are working to keep it out of their villages. We heard it was a small problem, and the people who went to the mainland and came back were the ones with the problem. We did rent a car on our days off and drove from end to end of the island and everyone was kind and helpful and very welcoming. The only time we smelled the fish was going by the Starkist plant, but that obviously would smell like fish! We stayed in a beautiful hotel and were treated very well. The food was good and we learned to order one plate and split it
    because the portions were so big.
    I have to disagree that American Samoa is not somewhere you want to go. We did fly to Samoa and spent a day in Samoa and we preferred American Samoa. Samoa was nice but a bit touristy. We will be going back to American Samoa in 2020 and are looking forward to it and to the beauty, calmness and kindness of its people.

    • Jackie Ables says

      If American Somoa can’t vote, how come it is shown on TV as a delegate that Bloomberg won?

      • Kenneth Binder says

        This is a great point……
        Why would he? And he’s no dummy.

      • David Hart says

        It is very simple to google this question and find the answer, which is this:
        As a U.S. territory, American Samoa also votes to send a non-voting delegate to the US House of Representatives, from American Samoa’s at-large congressional district. The official head of state is the President of the United States. While American Samoans can vote in party primaries, they cannot vote in the general presidential election.

  20. Clinton clark says

    American samoa has the best of both worlds very luck for a south pacific us territory. The spectacular scenery white sandy beaches galore samoan culture absolutely amazing and genuine with a touch of the star spangled banner very proud pelpe. Ive been to a few south pacific destinations but will always go back to american samoa so close to Australia but a paradise far away hands up american samoa.

  21. Hi!!! My name is Mercy, but the thing is that i born in American Samoa but i don’t know anything about American Samoa Village names because my whole life is raise from Samoa, That thing is that one day i meet with a American Samoa person she ask that am a Samoa than i said yes !!! then we talk but my Fa’asamoa is different with her.. then i learn that American Samoa had different speak as Samoa… Then i think am the own person that different with other American Samoa… i wish that i can go to visit my real island that i was born… but Samoa is a nice place for people everyone are so kind but now i miss Samoa because i here USA

  22. I have never been near American Samoa or Samoa , but what I read about these two entities is very nice and interesting .

    I have always had the great curiosity for people staying in far away places.

    I am from South Africa and I like to read about countries which are halfway around the world from mine !!

    Having spent many years in the consular service of my country I would like to ask
    about the following;

    1. Can citizens of Samoa visit American Samoa without a visa?? Us there a USA Embassy in Samoa?

    2. Are the inhabitants of American Samoa able to go and reside in the United States of America without any specific permits or residency issues??

    Thanks for the contributors it’s interesting for a virtual traveller like ne

  23. Hi Lee,
    I love your writing and your reviews of places! It is especially good to read yours because you’ve been to so many places and can make great comparisons & contrasts! I am confused though. In the above article, you write that the “National Park of American Samoa is particularly beautiful and well worth exploring.” But in your rankings on the 60 national parks article, you write that the park “is nice enough but not too impressive”, and that it looks like a typical view in Hawaii. How do you really feel about American Samoa and its national park? Thanks!

  24. Herbert Chew says

    I know that NFL wants Samoans.

  25. Jaden Mathias says

    Thank you for the information. It was soo useful

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