Pago Pago’s small size belies its historic stature and epic setting. The city—or more accurately, cluster of several fishing villages—lies along the shore of Pago Pago Harbor, which was carved from thousands of years of volcanic-crater erosion on Tutuila Island. The fjordlike harbor, one of the most stunning in the South Pacific, is bordered by steep and lush hills and dominated by Rainmaker Mountain.
The protected harbor site was selected in 1872 by Commander R.W. Meade for a fuelling station for the U.S. Navy. Meade negotiated the real estate deal with a Samoan high chief and the resulting naval base at Pago Pago was in use from 1900 to 1951.
Pago Pago itself is tranquil as far as capital cities go, though there is commerce and activity in the areas of Fagatogo and Utulei. The hills near the seafront are dotted with houses, while a variety of shops line the street that runs in front of the dock itself. The best views of the harbor and downtown can be had from the summit of Mount Alava in the National Park of American Samoa.