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Explore Tonga

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Tonga is the last remaining kingdom in the Pacific Ocean, a true paradise of 170 spectacular tropical islands with their own language and culture. Located in the Pacific Ocean, Tonga is the first country on the western side of the international date line; so this is where the day starts first. It is also one of the few places in the world where you can swim with whales - a unique experience. But there are many other attractions in this archipelago.

The islands are so diverse and each so beautiful that you could easily linger in Tonga for a longer period. You'll find extraordinary natural wonders, from blowholes and caves to naturally formed bridges. Also tourism is not yet fully developed in Tonga, which is amazing.

Most of the sights are on the main island of Tongatapu and are easy to explore with a rental car. For the humpback whales and exotic islands, you have to travel a little further. From the waterfront of the capital Nuku'alofa, boats leave every day for three tropical islands. Just count on them sometimes being delayed, as time is a broad concept in Tonga.

The 7 best things to do in Tonga

Let us now share with you what we consider the best things to do in Tonga.

Ha'amonga 'a Maui
Located on the island of Tongatapu, Ha'amonga 'a Maui is one of Tonga's main historical attractions. This curious structure of coral limestone is known as the "Stonehenge of the Pacific". The megalithic structure consists of two upright stones and a large flat stone placed over them. The individual stones weighing about 30 to 40 tons each. All sorts of legends circulate as to how this structure came to be.

According to one popular legend, the stones are too heavy to lift and the local god Maui is responsible for their construction. Another story says that Chinese travelers placed the stones on Tonga.

Vava'u is an archipelago in northern Tonga, about 24 hours by boat from the main island of Tongatapu. The archipelago consists of one main island and about 60 islets around it. Vava'u is an azure tropical paradise dotted with coral reefs, deserted beaches, hidden coves and shimmering clear lagoons.

The biggest attraction, however, is that you can swim with whales. There are only three places in the world where that is possible, and this is one of them. From June through November, gentle humpback whales seek the calm waters around Vava'u to mate and care for their newborn calves. The humpbacks are huge, but swimming with these majestic animals is not dangerous.

It is also considered one of the best places in Tonga to dive and snorkel and to experience fascinating marine life. You will see marine animals like reef sharks, turtles, octopuses, secluded sea caves and shipwrecks. The water is so clear that you can sometimes see up to more than 30 meters (98 ft).

Blowholes of Mapu'a Vaea
Experience the power of the sea at the blowholes of Mapu'a Vaea on the south side of the island of Tongatapu. Mapu'a Vaea in the local language means "the chief's whistle. This is because there are holes in the rocks on the coast, where seawater gushes upward with tremendous force and this happens with a whistling roar. This extraordinary natural phenomenon extends along 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) of coastline.

On windy days and at high tide, the naturally formed fountains sometimes reach a height of 30 meters (98 ft). It is certainly impressive to witness this foaming natural spectacle.

Talamahu Market
In the capital city of Nukuʻalofa, you can see how the people of Tonga live, work and live - away from the tourist resorts. Join the locals for shopping, a chat and a bite to eat.

Stalls sell everything from Tongan art to fruits and vegetables piled in handmade baskets. You'll experience real Tongan life especially on Saturday mornings, when locals meet here en masse. The market is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.

Ha'atafu Beach
Tonga is blessed with some beautiful beaches, but Ha'atafu Beach is one of the most beautiful. Located in the far west of Tongatapu Island, this beach has soft white sand with palm trees and a beautiful turquoise sea.

The coral reef off the coast creates a wide lagoon where you can swim and snorkel protected at high tide.

Surf spots
Tongatapu Island has become a popular surfing destination, with waves cresting over the coral reefs 100 meters (328 feet) from the shore. For those who don't surf, simply observing this breathtaking scene from the beach is equally rewarding.

Niuas: The End of the World
North of Vava'u, where three small volcanic islands loom out of the sea. These Niuas islands are about two and a half days sailing from Tongatapu. You can hardly get much further away. The inhabitants of the islands are self-sufficient and never want to leave the island. On these volcanic islands you can take beautiful hikes past volcanic craters and barren lava fields.

Accommodation in Tonga

For many people, the Pacific Islands are synonymous with limitless luxury in expensive resorts. Tonga is different. Accommodation in Tonga is small-scale and less luxurious and exclusive than in, say, Fiji. But the location of the hotels and bungalows is often stunning.

The hotels are close to the beach and consist of individual bungalows or apartments. The cottages are often hidden in the jungle and built according to Polynesian traditions. Some rooms have sea views, almost all are within walking distance of the cobalt blue sea. Many hotels offer a variety of activities, including snorkeling, diving, fishing and boating. For example Mystic Sands, which is an excellent choice. This property is right on the beach and is a wonderful find. It has great reviews and for good reasons.

How to get there

Direct flights to Tonga depart from Auckland in New Zealand and Nadi in Fiji. In just under three hours you fly to this destination from Auckland and from Fiji it is a 1.5-hour flight.

Best time to visit

Temperatures in Tonga are fairly constant. During the day the thermometer goes towards 30°C (30°F) throughout the year. The dry period May to October is the best time to visit. The temperature is a few degrees lower with daytime averages of 26°C (79°F). Due to the warm sea water, temperatures drop only a few degrees at night.

This article was last updated on April 12, 2024.