Ed Salvato is editor-in-chief of www.outtraveler.com. A pre-eminent gay travel expert, Ed speaks often about gay travel and is frequently quoted in the press. He writes a monthly syndicated travel column and appears regularly on radio and TV.
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Gay-friendly American Samoa My significant other and I plan on going to American Samoa for our honeymoon. However, I am unsure if this destination is very gay friendly or not. I also can't seem to find many articles online about this specific subject. Could you please tell me if American Samoa is tolerant of homosexuality? If so, are there any hotels and tourist activities that you might recommend?
Divided into two nations, the U.S. Territory of American Samoa and the Independent State of Samoa, the stunning Samoan archipelago basks in the South Pacific, west of the Cook Islands and north of Tonga. Despite their different flags, the two entities maintain strong ties, largely as a result of the faamatai chiefly system, a form of traditional governance traced back to two famous early female chiefs, Nafanua and Salamasina. Polynesian history runs deep and strong throughout the glittering islands, which are estimated to have been occupied since 1,000 B.C. American Samoa?s 57,000 residents live throughout its seven islands and atolls. Independent Samoa has a population of 180,000 on its ten islands and feels more Western, in many ways, than American Samoa. Its capital -- and only city -- Apia has the most developed tourism structure of either Samoa, with a plethora of sophisticated lodgings to choose from. Divine natural attractions and consistent climate entice most visitors, who can explore lava tubes, rainforests, waterfalls, reefs, and pristine beaches.
Gay visitors will find refreshing perspective in the fact that gender views are flexible in Polynesian culture. Nevertheless, Samoan culture tends toward traditionalism, and reserved behavior by people of all orientations is expected. However, unlike the homophobia rampant in Fiji, homosexuality is a widely accepted part of Samoan culture, and Western gays are often cruised, not just by fa?afafine transgender locals, but also by officially straight men.
Local gay artist, Dan Taulapapa McMullin told us, "The Samoa Islands are the homeland of fa'afafine culture, a Polynesian custom that celebrates transgenderism in society, while conservative public behavior among all genders is still practiced."
Hotels in American Samoa tend to be targeted at business travelers. Try Tradewinds Hotel in Pago Pago, a solid hotel with a nice pool and shady palms, and rent a car to explore.