It’s the beautiful beaches you have to watch out for. Sometimes, the greater the challenge, means the greater the pay-off. Sometimes, the greater the challenge, just means the greater the price. The beach at Alao can be both, depending on how it’s used and enjoyed.
The Paradisiacal Alao Beach
Of all the beaches on Tutuila, Alao is by far, one of the most beautiful. I mean, it’s stunning! I’m talking absolute postcard quality. White sand, that feels soft under your feet, and somehow never gets too hot to walk across. The water displays perfect shades of blue, from the assure hues of the deep, to the shallow turquoise waters over the light sand.
At the southwest end of the beach, there is a quiet, cove, with a single fale. From there, the beach stretches out along the road for the entire length of the village.
The beach is clean of trash (presumably, due to the residents of the village), which adds to the overall aesthetic appeal of the location. And the views out to sea, especially across the straight to Aunu’u, are unbelievable.
The Nightmarish Alao Beach
Hidden beneath the pristine depths of the surface of the ocean are incredibly strong currents. Right in front of the village, where the beach is at it’s widest, is an ava, or a rip current, a strong current that happens where the water pushes through a narrow break in the barrier coral reef. The waves crash over the reef. Then, as the water channels through the narrow gap, it gains great force and can become a swimmer’s nightmare.
Even experienced swimmers have been known to be caught in these avas and carried out to sea.
In addition to the ava, there is a strong cross-island current that runs parallel to this end of the island. If a person gets swept too far away from shore, they could quickly end up miles away.
How to Safely Enjoy a Day at Alao Beach
So, why am I even taking the time to and energy to tell you about this beach? I don’t want you to be too scared and never give Alao Beach a try. Like I said, it is one of the most stunning beaches on Tutuila, and can make for a great place to spend a day, even for families with younger kids. With a little guidance, this could be one of your favorite beaches, too.
With a few precautions, you’ll be ready to set out for a beautiful, fun and relaxing day at Alao Beach:
Food and Drink
Pack drinks, lunch, and/or snacks. There are no stores in Alao and the closest available food or drinks will be a drive away. So, plan ahead and be prepared, saving you the trouble of having to cut your beach day short.
Protection from the Sun
This gorgeous, long sandy beach has very little shade.
So, you have two options, either obtain permission to use the fale at the west end of the beach (for us, this was as simple as walking to the house across the street and asking to use it), bring your own shade (a big umbrella or lava-lava strung up between sticks. It totally works!), or limit your time there and use plenty of sunscreen.
Be aware of the water patterns. Even in the protection of the cove, under the fale, the waves can get rougher as the tide comes in, making low tide an ideal time for enjoying the cove.
The ava is visible from land, if you know what to look for. Looking from the road, you’ll see the darker shade of water indicating the reef below. Right in front of the middle of the village, you’ll see a lighter strip of blue, indicating the break in the reef. Avoid this area of the water, as the pull from the ava begins close to the beach.
When in doubt, ask a local, as they should be able to show you exactly where it is.
Our first experience with Alao Beach ended dramatically, but the risk could have been completely avoided if only we’d known what to watch out for and how to deal with being caught in an ava.
We could have let our nightmarish experience scare us away from this little piece of Heaven on Earth, but we decided, instead, to go back a few weeks later and try again (I’m still not sure what that says about us…). We stayed far away from the ava, opting to play in the safer waters of the cove, climbing on rocks and hiking up and down from the fale, and had the perfect beach day.
Have you ever had a life threatening experience that could have been avoided with the right information and preparation?
If you ever make it out to our South Pacific island, promise you’ll visit Alao Beach, if only for the stunning views. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did.