An overused travel cliché says that the toughest places to reach are often the most rewarding. This cannot be truer in the case of Ofu Island in the remote US territory of American Samoa. One of mother nature’s finest pieces of work, touchdown on the beachside runway in Ofu signals the start of the weekly rush hour – as locals greet relatives returning from the main island with a big smile, government workers change shifts, and a few lucky tourists begin the vacation of a lifetime. On the menu? Jungle covered peaks hiding rare coconut crabs under the canopy, sleepy villages waking up only for Sunday church service, and a beach worthy of an Oscar – if only ‘The Academy’ would be aware of its existence.
Some of the most relaxing vacations mean finding a secluded spot where you can unplug from the stress of modern life. The Cook Islands is a secluded paradise with welcoming people, great dancers, drummers and singers, with strong Polynesian traditions and culture that make visiting the islands so memorable. The largest island and the home of the capital Avarua, is Rarotonga. Avarua is famous for its fascinating churches made of white coral, and don’t miss the islands Saturday market. Northeast of Rarotonga, visitors to Atiu may want to learn about the local “moonshine” known as tumunu at a local bush beer school. Neighboring Mitiaro stands in water 14,750 feet deep and has white coral streets lined with bright orange Pumarumaru trees. Although it is surrounded by coral reefs and is home to many underground caves and lakes, Ma’uke is known as “the garden island.” Finally, the second largest and oldest island is Mangaia, a beautiful location known for its fossilized coral, otherwise known as “makatea.”
But the faux-tropics didn’t offer anything like the sunbaked warmth of the real tropics. Instead, the steady heat and lack of fresh air made me feel as if I were being slowly microwaved. Over lunch, I Googled things like “How long do flamingos live in captivity?” and “What do you call a group of flamingos?” A flamboyance of flamingos can live up to fifty years in captivity, and T.I. added theirs only seven years ago. Meanwhile, I’d been inside the dome for a few hours and was already craving an exit plan.
OB is a boho beach community, so what else can you expect but dive bars, right? Winstons Beach Club is your place for live music—usually some sort of cover band in the Dead/Reggae/Jam band vein. Comedy shows are also regularly scheduled there. The Catalina Lounge is your popular, friendly dive bar, as is the Tilted Stick. The Arizona Cafe has cleaned up its act and is now a cool hangout with pool tables and big TVs for watching sports.
Surfing was introduced to San Diego at Ocean Beach in 1916 when a local lifeguard borrowed a board from Duke Kahanamoku (although it's possible that George Freeth surfed there between 1907 and 1909). By 1966, the sport was sufficiently established that the World Surfing Championship was held in O.B. Nat Young won the event and was named world surfing champion.
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