Discover an untapped tropical paradise with a bonus bucket list feature: it’s the last place on Earth to greet the new year.
When the countdown starts on New Year’s Eve, will you be celebrating in the same way you always do? Or will you be an adventure seeker, blazing a new trail? Well friend, if you fall into category “B,” you should definitely bring in the new year in the oft-overlooked city of Pago Pago.
Located on an island in the South Pacific, Pago Pago (pronounced Pahngo Pahngo) is the last inhabited place on earth where the clock strikes midnight. When you visit this tropical paradise, expect to live every last minute of the year to its fullest!
Where is Pago Pago?
In the South Pacific Ocean, about 2,500 miles south of Hawaii, is American Samoa. Made up of 5 volcanic islands, this is the only inhabited U.S. territory south of the equator. On the main island of Tutuila sits Pago Pago — the urban center of the entire territory, with a bustling harbor (one of the best in the South Pacific) and an ancient way of life that is still practiced today.
Samoa means “sacred earth”, and the area lives up to its name: Pago Pago is an unspoiled paradise. In fact, about 90 percent of American Samoa islands are covered with tropical rainforest, and the Greater Pago Pago area has fewer than 10,000 residents. With balmy year-round temperatures averaging 80 degrees (both on land and on sea), Pago Pago is the ultimate New Year’s Eve escape.
So why have you never heard of Pago Pago? Probably because it only receives about 34,000 visitors per year!
Best things to do in Pago Pago?
Ok, so it sounds like an amazing and intriguing place – but you’re not the average traveler. You thrive on adventure and discovery. So what is there to do in Pago Pago besides ring in the new year?
How about diving in one of the best spots in the world? Or trekking through a rainforest to spy on an endangered bat? Now we’re talking! Even though so few tourists travel to the island, Pago Pago is packed with adventure for anyone daring enough to seek it.
Explore rainforest fauna and alabaster beaches.
Pago Pago is adjacent to the only U.S. National Park south of the Equator. The National Park of American Samoa sprawls across three islands and consists of 13,500 acres of rainforest, beach, and coral reef. This breathtaking park offers dramatic hikes, sweeping views, and a wide array of fauna. Don’t miss the endangered fruit bat, which boasts a very impressive wingspan of up to 3 feet.
No island adventure would be complete without soaking up the Samoan sun on a beautiful beach. For a more social vibe, check out the Alega Beach, where you can hang with locals and enjoy a cold drink from the neighboring bar. Or take a short walk to the Two Dollar Beach (also known as Avaio Beach) – equally beautiful, but more exclusive.
Looking to get lost for a day? Take the National Marine Sanctuary of Samoa trail. Here, you’ll experience everything from craggy black lava rocks that line the shore to secret, secluded beaches and turquoise waters.
Experience world-class diving.
At the southern end of the island, just a short drive from Pago Pago, is the Fagatele Bay Marine Sanctuary – a coral reef ecosystem that is consistently ranked as one of the best diving spots in the world. While this is the smallest national marine sanctuary, it is also home to more fish and marine mammals than any other. Here, you’ll find everything from giant clams to baby octopuses to nesting turtles – and it’s not unusual to run across a shark as well!
If diving isn’t your thing (I’ll pass on the sharks, thanks), you can hop aboard a chartered boat and stay high and dry. Check out Pago Pago Marine Charters for your ultimate adventure on the high seas – this company offers sightseeing and whale watching tours all around American Samoa.
Discover an ancient way of life.
Although the island was settled over 3,000 years ago, many of the ancient customs are still practiced every day – in fact, the Samoan culture is likely Polynesia’s oldest surviving culture. The Samoan Way, or fa’asamoa, refers to the rich cultural history and strong sense of tradition passed down for centuries.
Dive deep into Samoan culture and hospitality by checking out one of the events at Tisa’s Barefoot Bar. Every Wednesday night, Tisa’s celebrates with an authentic Samoan Umu Feast cooked in an umu, which is a traditional oven heated by hot rocks. The food is mouth-watering! Best of all, you get to meet villagers and make new friends – genuine hospitality is a true Samoan tradition.
And if you’re lucky (and brave) enough to visit Tisa’s during a full moon, you’ll experience a night of revelry and mischief at the Nude Friday PO ULA full moon party. Details on this all-night party are hush hush – what happens at Tisa’s during a full moon stays at Tisa’s!
Ringing in New Years Eve in Pago Pago
When the clock strikes midnight, you’ll be the last person on Earth to bring in the new year, surrounded by locals who have been celebrating this way for over 3,000 years. While you’re friends are sitting at home, you’ll be dancing on an island and ringing in the most epic New Year’s Eve.
Love New Year’s Eve so much you want to celebrate twice? Just 550 miles away lies the islands of Tonga, where locals and visitors were celebrating a full 25 hours before. Hop on a quick 18 minute flight and count down to celebrate New Year’s Eve 2021 two times in one night.