Part of American Samoa, Manu’a is comprised of three islands–Taū, Ofu and Olosega. Taū is the largest of the three, followed by Ofu, then Olosega. The Manu’a islands are some of the most remote islands in the world, and transportation to these islands are sometimes difficult and often times expensive.
The Manu’a islands is not for everyone. There is very little to no tourism infrastructure, it is almost prohibitively expensive to travel to, and there is not much to do if you’re not an outdoorsy person.
However, if you decide to make the trip, here’s a quick guide to traveling to the Manu’a islands.
Transportation between the islands of Taū and Ofu is also quite expensive. You can charter an `alia boat (island-style aluminum catamaran) and each way costs about $150, depending on the day. The boat drivers can really charge whatever they want as there is no standard rate set.
It’s a good idea to arrange accommodations before arriving to Manu’a. There are no hotels, but there are a few lodges and short term apartments that can be rented out. There is also a homestay program through the National Park of American Samoa.
Taū is a tiny island but it’s not as tiny as I thought, so we were lucky to have a friend pick us up from the airport in their truck and drive us from Fitiuta Airport to Faleasao 30 minutes away where we would spend the night with our friend Mike. Ofu is a much smaller island and we could bike from Ofu to Olosega in about 30 minutes.
Majority of the National Park of American Samoa is on the Manu’a islands. Tumu trail is my new favorite hike! At 1,621 feet (494 meters), Tumu mountain is the highest point on Ofu, and the steep 3 mile hike has a rewarding view if you continue on the Leolo Ridge. You can see all 3 islands squarely in the horizon. What’s more is that by looking down you’ll see a lush green steep drop to the ocean, and you’ll see just how quickly the reef drops off into deep ocean. For beginner hikers, the Oge Beach Trail on Olosega island is easy on the trail guide. For advanced hikers, set your sights on Mt. Lata in Taū which has the highest peak in all of the American Samoan islands.
THINGS TO DO
For a very small island with not much more infrastructure than homes, churches, schools, and a few convenience stores, you can imagine that there isn’t much to do in Manu’a. I mean, it’s obviously not a popular travel destination for a reason. But if you’re looking to go on an adventure off the beaten path and willing to haul your own stuff (i.e. surfboards, snorkels, and FOOD), then Manu’a is for you. Go out and meet new people. See life from their perspective, it may shock you. And just explore all of it! It’s so small but so full of beauty.
OTHER TRAVEL TIPS
Bring your own food. Mealtime has been decreed family time in Manu’a, which is why there are no restaurants, no McDonalds or other fast food chains, and no chinese restaurants (which are abundant on Tutuila). So don’t expect to buy readymade food.
PACK YOUR ESSENTIALS
Can’t live without your favorite sweet treat? Do you have dietary restrictions? Take note that the stores on Manu’a are tiny little mom and pop shops with only the very basic food supplies. And fresh produce is limited to whatever grows on the island—which means bananas, taro, papaya, lemons, and breadfruit. I think it’s pretty difficult to find salad greens here.
Cash only. There are no banks or ATMs on any of the islands, so you’re better off budgeting ahead of time and bring all the cash you need. There is virtually no shopping other than groceries, and you will need money for transportation, or church offering.