The Natural Beauty of Tutuila Island, American Samoa

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Tutuila Island from the sea. Photo: James Visser.

 

Tutuila Island is a tropical paradise that is part of the islands and atolls that make up American Samoa. Tutuila Island is also the largest and main island of America Samoa and home to its capital, Pago Pago.

American Samoa is located pretty much in the center of the Pacific Ocean, halfway between Hawaii in the north and New Zealand in the south. Its geographic coordinates are 14° 16S, 170° 42W.

 

The 5 volcanic islands of Tutuila, Aunu’u, Ofu, Olosega and Ta’u along with the 2 atolls of Rose and Swains are spread over an area of 117,500 square miles (or about the size of Oregon or New Zealand). In total the combined land area of all the islands and atolls put together is just 76 square miles. The islands and atolls of American Samoa are also completely separate politically from the islands of (Western) Samoa.

America Samoa’s islands make up the eastern part of the Samoan Archipelago and whose native peoples are Polynesian. Today they are regarded as the largest full-blooded Polynesian race left in the Pacific.

Tutuila Island itself is a fairly small and narrow, measuring roughly 33 km (21 mi) across and little more than 3 mi (4.8 km) from north to south at its widest point.

 

Getting there

There are 3 international airlines that fly to American Samoa from Hawaii and (Western) Samoa. Hawaiian Airlines operates bi-weekly flights from Honolulu to the capital of American Samoa, Pago Pago, while both Inter-Island Airways and Polynesian Airlines operate daily services from Apia, Samoa.

 

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Quick snapshot was taken going past the airport. Photo: James Visser.

 

The other way of getting there is by ship, which is how I travelled. Aside from preferring to travel by sea when I can, the arrival into Tutuila Island by ship just provides a much better vista of the amazing beauty that no aircraft arrival can possibly match. Take a look at some of the photos taken below as we glided into Pago Pago, one of the world’s largest natural harbors.

 

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Approaching Tutuila Island early in the morning. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

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Beginning our entry into Pago Pago Harbor. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

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A closer shot as we near the wharf. Here you can see how prominent the Governor’s Mansion is (large white building on the hill to the left). Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

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On the left hand side, you can see the wharf we were coming in alongside. Governor’s Mansion again the large white building elevated just behind the wharf area, overlooking the harbor. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

The environment of Tutuila Island and American Samoa

Featuring steep volcanic mountains, American Samoa more broadly averages 82°-83° Fahrenheit and the ocean waters surrounding the islands averages 82°-86° all year round!

90% of the area within the islands are covered by untouched tropical rainforest and a lot of their flora and fauna is quite unique.

The National Park of American Samoa is the only US Park in the Pacific. The park offers challenging and dramatic hiking trails to historic sites, secluded beaches and traditional villages. Indeed from hiking tropical rainforests to swimming, snorkelling, diving or fishing, this is an ecotourism haven for visitors.

 

Enjoying Tutuila Island’s natural beauty

Spending time driving around and getting across the island was a real delight. This was done via a tour taken in an open-air bus which included wonderful views as we travelled the coastline. The weather was perfect, the environment spectacularly lovely and the cool breeze coming in from the ocean simply divine.

 

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The interior of our open-air tour bus. Photo: James Visser.

 

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Part of the coastal drive going west from Pago Pago. Photo: James Visser.

 

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At every turn, there seemed to be another picturesque bay. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

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Absolutely no shortage of coconut trees on the island. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

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The water just looked perfect all around the island. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

Fatu Rock and Flower Pot Rock

Fatu-ma-Futi aka ‘flower pot rock’ and Fatu Rock are really beautiful. They are situated as part of a reef so close to shore with green plants growing on the top of them, just sticking out of the water.

This famous site synonymous with American Samoa is situated right by the roadside on the western side of the island. There is also a little sandy beach and crystal-clear water, and it was so easy to stop by and take a few photos and even dip your toes in the water.

 

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Me standing on the water’s edge immediately in front of the Fatu Rock and Flower Pot Rock. Photo: James Visser.

 

History

Archaeologists have stated that the early Polynesians travelled from South East Asia into the Pacific, populating the islands of the western Pacific from Papua New Guinea to Samoa and Tonga. It was from Samoa and Tonga sometime later that the Polynesians migrated east and populated the Cook Islands, Niue and Tahiti before heading north to Hawaii and south to Aotearoa (New Zealand) on the last legs of the great Polynesian migration.

Spending a bit of time in the museum in Pago Pago is interesting as you can learn more about how people first settled on Tutuila and other islands within the Samoan Archipelago. This together with the interesting exhibits give you are real feel for how life might have been like within the natural wonders of the islands here.

 

Inside the museum in Pago Pago. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

Model of an outrigger canoe within the museum. Photo: James Visser.

 

Polynesian art pieces on display at the museum. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

Culture

Similar to the people of Tonga in many ways, Samoans are a very religious people who also love to share their heritage with visitors. In some villages each day a ‘sa’ or curfew is imposed during the evening prayer time which is usually between 5.00pm and 6.30pm, depending on the village. This prayer time normally lasts around 30 minutes during which time visitors are asked to avoid walking around the village(s).

Sunday in American Samoa is a day of worship, spending time with family and rest, so no work is done and people are asked to respect this day. During our visit and tour around Tutuila Island, we took the opportunity to have a look at one of the churches which you can see in the photos below.

 

Our tour bus parked outside one of the main churches on the western side of the island. Photo: James Visser.

 

The church interior was beautifully done and well looked after. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

Another shot of the church interior showing the stained glass. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

In addition to their Christian religious beliefs, Samoans love to express their heritage through performance and dance. They also are really happy when visitors join in and interact. It was certainly a pleasure to meet and talk with Samoans about their life and culture.

 

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Dance performance in an open-air building fronting beautiful sea breezes. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

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One of the male dancers posing with me after the performance. Photo: James Visser.

 

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James and I enjoying the warm hospitality. Photo: friendly local.

 

Aside from drinking a fresh coconut drink, I also tried their traditional ava root drink, the taste of which I found rather bland but the entire cultural experience was interesting and entertaining and enjoyable.

 

Other things you can do while on Tutuila Island:

Visit the National Park of American Samoa on Tutuila Island as well as Manu’a Island.

Take a drive from Pago Pago Harbor over to the village of Vatia and enjoy the breathtaking view of the harbor below.

Drive west and visit the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa at Larsen’s and Fagatele Bays.

Lunch at Utulei Beach and enjoy the spectacular view of Pago Pago Harbor and Rainmaker Mountain.

Visit a local church on a Sunday morning and enjoy the rousing sermons and melodic singing.

With map in hand, hop on a local bus and head east or west and take in the picturesque villages and explore.

Visit Ofu Beach in the Manu’a Islands, voted one of the most beautiful undiscovered beaches in the world.

Catch a local alia boat for the short trip to Aunu’u Island and hike to the quick sand lake.

Take a drive up to the mountain village of Aoloau and take in the grand views of the Tafuna Plain below and the northern Pacific Ocean.

Take a tour of Maugaoalii Government House, the official residence of the Governor and First Lady.

 

Sailing out

Again leaving by ship was a wonderful experience. We had the luck of fabulous weather, beautiful scenic views and that lovely tropical breeze as we slowly made our way out of the harbor and back out into the ocean.

Below are some parting photos I am happy to share as we left Tutuila Island and American Samoa. I think you will agree this is a special place.

 

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Really quite mountainous, yet so green and lush. Photo: James Visser.

 

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Exiting the huge natural harbor and looking down the east coastline of Tutuila Island. Photo: James Visser.

 

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Looking back as we start to pick up speed outside of the harbor. Photo: James Visser.

 

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On deck with Tutuila Island in the background. Photo: fellow passenger.

 

Whatever you choose to see or do when you come here, I would just offer 1 piece of advice. And that advice would be to take your time and not feel rushed to get a load of attractions ticked off your list. The wonderful scenery and weather aside, part of the beauty of a place like this is to take it easy and really take in the relaxed culture and atmosphere that you typically associate with the South Pacific.

In our crazy day to day world, this should be escapism at its finest.

 

 

This article is part of the Natural Beauty Travel Series, authored by travel writer Nicole Anderson.
Founder and Publisher at | Website

Outdoor adventure enthusiast that loves nature having travelled locations across North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.

Passionate Travel Writer, Blogger and Influencer.

118 thoughts on “The Natural Beauty of Tutuila Island, American Samoa

  • May 6, 2019 at 9:42 pm
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    I would love to visit any of the Samoan islands, but now especially Tatuila! I find the history to be so fascinating and would love to learn more about that since I admittedly know very little about it right now. The cultural experiences appeal to me the most. I’d love to attend one of the dances and try the ava root drink, even though you found it to be a bit bland.

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    • May 7, 2019 at 8:39 am
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      I guess we all have different tastes Diana and you might find the drink quite nice. Irrespective, I found it really interesting to learn as much about the local culture as possible. The culture is so important to the Samoans and makes them the lovely and friendly people that they are. I do hope you make it out to visit and let us know how you enjoyed this beautiful place.

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  • May 6, 2019 at 4:04 am
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    Reading this post has been a lesson in geography for me! I’ve heard of the American Samoa Islands but not Tutuila and didn’t even know Pago Pago was a city, let alone the capital! It does look like a tropical paradise and I’d love to immerse in their culture through song and dance. What a lovely experience.

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    • May 6, 2019 at 6:48 am
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      Thank you so much, Medha. I really enjoyed the cultural performances and all that I learned about their culture during the limited time I was there. I’m sure you would enjoy their songs and dances as well. The fact that they are such a friendly and open people makes all the difference in such a beautiful environment.

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  • May 5, 2019 at 6:28 am
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    I am so glad I came across this post! People hardly talk about American Samoa which makes them a hidden gem frankly. I’m sure you had an amazing trip. The cultural performance looks like a must experience to actually get to know the culture and history of the Island! 🙂

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    • May 6, 2019 at 6:43 am
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      I agree that it makes it so much better that these islands are not over-run with tourists. You are able to enjoy such a beautiful place so much more, which is unspoilt and interact more with the local people who are so genuine and welcoming. Thank you so much for reading and leaving your comment.

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  • May 4, 2019 at 12:43 pm
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    I haven’t been to American Samoa; had no idea it was made up of five islands. It seems like something I should be including in my bucket list. I’d also like to go there by ship just to enjoy the view as I approach the island. A visit to the Ofu beach sounds like a great idea. I’d also love to visit the churches – I like touring churches and cathedrals to see the great architecture.

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    • May 4, 2019 at 10:51 pm
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      Thanks Lora, there is certainly a lot to see without even going to the other 4 islands (although that would be a fabulous adventure as well). The beaches are lovely there and if you like churches, I think you would like the ones they have constructed. Let me know if you end up visiting also.

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  • May 3, 2019 at 6:21 pm
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    I know American Samoa, but I have no idea about how many islands made it. Your article really helped me understanding American Samoa geographically. Of course, learning about the Tutuila Island and the tradition in the area, too. Looks like life in the island is peaceful. A great place to recharge.

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  • May 3, 2019 at 2:44 pm
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    Just when I think I have enough places on my hiking/camping/backpacking bucket list! WOW! I need to travel with you!

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  • May 3, 2019 at 1:29 pm
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    This is such a beautiful island! Quite far away but that adds to its beauty.

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    • May 4, 2019 at 2:11 am
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      I do know what you mean Blair. Due to the relatively few tourists that come here (compared to other places), more of the natural beauty is preserved here longer. This does make the trip all the more worthwhile.

      Reply
  • May 3, 2019 at 10:01 am
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    I felt like a dunce reading your post as I didn’t even know that American Samoa existed, though I knew very little about Samoa at all, to be truthful. What a beautiful place to visit, Tutiula island does indeed look like paradise, worth the journey to get there! Loved the photos all around the island, and of the cultural sights from the church to the museum at Pago Pago.

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    • May 4, 2019 at 2:09 am
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      A lot of people are unaware of American Samoa and indeed of quite a few places in the South Pacific, Kavita. There are so many islands and it is so far from most places that people live in the world that it really isn’t surprising. I am so pleased though that you enjoyed reading the post and thank you very much for commenting as well.

      Reply
  • May 3, 2019 at 9:14 am
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    I can’t say this is a place that I’d ever heard of or even considered for my travel bucket list until reading your post. It sounds like you had an amazing trip. I loved learning about the culture. Especially the fact that they take prayer time and Sunday so seriously and ask tourists to respect that tradition. That is so rare! I’ve learned a lot reading this and seeing your wonderful pictures.

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    • May 4, 2019 at 2:05 am
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      What a wonderful comment Erica. That is so much appreciated, thank you. Maybe you might add this to your bucket list after all. If so, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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  • May 3, 2019 at 7:41 am
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    I like travelling by ship as well. It helps you to take in the beauty of nature. And I find the picture of the open-air tour bus amazing. With its wooden seats it renders the sense of travelling back in time.

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  • May 3, 2019 at 5:03 am
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    I love visiting islands and Tutuila is so enticing. Loved the pictures and going through the history. Thanks for sharing.

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  • May 3, 2019 at 2:12 am
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    Have never heard of Tutuila island. I would love to sail all over the South Pacific Islands. What a lovely experience it will be! Loved the pictures you shared. The open air tour bus looks so cute. Plus the island has so much to offer. You surely had a great time to relax there.

    Reply
  • May 3, 2019 at 1:33 am
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    I knew American Samoa was a U.S. territory, but I really didn’t know much about it. This was really informative, both with the logistics of visiting and with the culture. It seems like such an interesting place!

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  • May 2, 2019 at 9:10 pm
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    Indeed sometimes the beautiful scenery is all you really need. Just lovely!

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  • May 2, 2019 at 9:09 pm
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    I have never heard of this island before, thanks for information about it and American Samoa. Looks lovely there I’d definitely want to go there one day, seems like a paradise to explore.

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  • May 2, 2019 at 8:39 pm
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    These sights are beautiful and enticing! The history of the place is fascinating and inviting. Thank you for sharing.

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  • May 2, 2019 at 1:10 pm
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    I had never heard of Tutuila, it looks truly stunning. It reminds me a little of Fiji. Gosh so many places to add to my ever-growing list.

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    • May 4, 2019 at 1:53 am
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      LOL…I hear you Nikki! It’s always a challenge to get to see and experience everything on the old bucket list! It’s always fun to try though… and there certainly would be elements of this place that would be similar to Fiji.

      Reply
  • May 2, 2019 at 4:49 am
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    This looks like a fantastic bucket list item. A Polynesian island is a must-see on anyone’s list and this one looks perfect. I agree that coming in by ship would be much better. And the time on the cruise would add to the experience. Love the photos.

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  • May 2, 2019 at 3:20 am
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    Your pictures are stunning! I’m horrible about trying to fit in as many attractions as possible. Great advice to take your time and not rush. I really enjoyed reading and learning about the people.

    Reply
  • May 2, 2019 at 1:31 am
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    The landscape of Tutuila Island looks spectacular! This area of the world is a dream vacation but from New England it’s hard to get there! It looks like you had a wonderful time exploring and balancing a relaxing vacation.

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  • May 1, 2019 at 10:35 pm
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    What a beautiful place. You have some amazing photos and it sounds like you had a lovely vacation.

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  • May 1, 2019 at 2:31 pm
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    Escapism at it’s finest! That’s very true. I’m sure you had a wonderful time. I love your photos and would love to visit this place someday. But that’s a far dream right now.

    Reply
  • May 1, 2019 at 1:44 pm
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    Tutuila Island looks like one if the best places to visit with the family. Lots of fun activities to do there! Btw lovely photos! 🙂

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  • May 1, 2019 at 10:11 am
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    Places like this seem so exotic, especially since they’re so far away from most places! I think meeting the native people and learning about their history and culture would be the most interesting.

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  • May 1, 2019 at 1:43 am
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    Stunning photos, especially of the arrival to the island. Samoa is a beautiful place and I love how you’ve captured a flavour of the culture of the people in your post.

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  • April 30, 2019 at 11:35 pm
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    I learned quite a bit from this post beside the fact that I now need to go to Samoa. I had no idea they were such a Christian based culture. I would imagine that the greenery and topography there must be amazing. I’d be interested to see which cruise lines go there as that does seem to be the neat way to see it all. I’d rather be in a cruise ship for an extended period of time as opposed to an airline

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    • May 4, 2019 at 1:35 am
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      Thanks Scott – I agree that cruising is such a nicer way to travel than flying. However you may also wish to stay a bit longer here, having come so far, to enjoy more of the island, and the region more broadly.

      Reply
  • April 29, 2019 at 4:45 pm
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    Wow Nicole, seems like you had such a relaxing holiday on that tiny island. What beautiful images and description in your post. Actually just driving around with the wind in your hair is so rejuvenating. Isn’t it?

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  • April 27, 2019 at 7:50 pm
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    The Island looks really amazing! It remind me a little bit of Hawaii, especially black sand beach looks like one of the beach on Big Island. How many days you recommend to visit the whole island? Do you think one week will be enough?

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    • April 29, 2019 at 12:18 am
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      If your focus is to explore, you should be able to cover a lot in a week, Andrew. However, if you have made it to Tonga, it might also be a great idea to spend a bit of time just soaking in the relaxed atmosphere of this peaceful and beautiful place.

      Reply
  • April 17, 2019 at 8:20 pm
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    This place looks like a paradise! I love those buses set for bus tours. I love such naturesque places

    Reply