Friday, August 15, 2014

Romantic walk awaits at South Pacific beach

Ofu Island at night. Photo courtesy of American Samoa NPS.

Ofu Beach trail
offers 2.5 miles
of paradise

A South Pacific romance along a tropical, white-sand beach awaits day hikers on American Samoa National Park’s Ofu Island.

Located in the only American national park south of the equator, the Ofu Island Beachwalk Trail stretches about 2.5 miles one-way between Va‘ota and the Asaga Strait. As a beachwalk, there’s no marked trail.

Perfect sand for bare feet
Many days you’ll have the beach all to yourself. Ofu is but one of three islands where the national park sits and hardly the main one; in addition, American Samoa is the least visited of all national parks.

Unless living on Ofu, reaching the beach requires flying to Pago Pago International Airport on Tutuila Island; flights leave from Honolulu, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. A connecting flight then can be taken to Ofu; the airport runway doubles as the road that heads east to Ofu Beach.

The beach is a long, curve of palm-fringed white sand that feels soft and warm on the feet. To the northwest stand high, verdant cliffs with Tumu Mountain standing 1621 feet above you; at beach’s east end, Sunu‘itao Peak rises 765 feet.

Southeast of the beach is the brilliant blue Pacific Ocean with a coral reef. Nearly 300 fish species and 150 kinds of coral have been found in the reef. When in season, whales breach off shore.

Nighttime on the beach
As walking up the beach, to the east the green mountains of Olosega Island form a wonderful, distant wall that will give you and your loved one the feeling of being in your own self-contained paradise. Bring a picnic of fresh bananas, mangoes, and papaya – all grown on the islands.

Both sunrise and sunset bathe the ocean and beach in gold. After dusk, enjoy the clear, star-filled skies. Being south of the equator, you’ll see an entirely new set of constellations, with the Southern Cross easy to pick out. Falling stars sometimes can be spotted as well.

Ofa Beach is not the best place for children to visit, though those who can appreciate a more laid back, tranquil setting and possess a roll-with-it attitude will enjoy the park and this walk.

Learn more about national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.