Tonga — Attractions
Tonga is a nation consisting of 176 islands. The islands are bound together by their beauty, as well as by their cultural history, and visiting the different groups of islands provides an individual experience. Tongatapu, the main island, is where you will find ancient Polynesian culture on display; elsewhere, you are likely to be astounded by the natural beauty. Some islands are tiny and isolated, providing their own charm, such as the Niuas, while others are closer to civilization yet also well worth taking the time to visit, such as ‘Eua. Considering the sheer distance between the islands (Tonga covers an area of 270,000 square miles), most visitors fly between the islands, but traveling by boat is also possible.
This is the largest island in Tonga and the most inhabited. It is home to the capital city and the international airport, and aside from providing most of the services you will require, it offers its own slice of Tongan island culture. There is a trilithon (a manmade structure dedicated to the Polynesian deities of Tonga) near the village of Niutoua. An amazing natural site is the blowholes near the village of Houma. Natural channels in the volcanic rock push the tide water up and out at great speed, creating a visual display that is similar to the breathing action of a surfacing whale in the ocean.
Address: Tongatapu, south Tonga.
This island is just 12 miles southeast of the main island of Tongatapu and is accessible by a limited scheduled ferry service that takes around 2 hours, 30 minutes, or you can fly here in eight minutes. It is not related geologically to the other islands, being much older, and is home to Tonga’s oldest tropical rainforest. There are several places to stay on the island, making it an ideal place to get away from it all for a few days after arriving in Tonga.
Address: ‘Eua, south Tonga.
Vava’u is a group of 50 islands about 150 miles north of the main island, Tongatapau. It provides a kind of tropical island paradise you would normally only imagine. The waters surrounding the islands are known for their clarity, making the chain a popular whale watching destination, especially as humpback whales and their calves visit the region every year between July and September. The islands are also a popular stop-off point for people yachting across the Pacific, attracting around 500 sailors a year who make use of the well-developed harbor in the main town of Neiafu.
Address: Vava’u, central Tonga.
Most famously, one of these 60 islands was the site of the Mutiny on the Bounty in 1789. This naval rebellion occurred when the seamen became attracted to the idea of setting up an idyllic life on the island of Tahiti; today, many of the descendants from the mutiny live on Pitcairn Island, in the South Pacific. Aside from their historical linkages, the islands provide plenty of paradisiacal sandy beaches, with many diving and snorkeling opportunities available in the warm, tropical waters.
Address: Ha’apai Islands, north Tonga.
To get to the Niua islands you will need to fly from Vava’u; there are scheduled return flights once per week. The islands lie around 150 miles north of Vava’u and are the last inhabited islands in the outreaches of Tonga, with 1,400 people spread across the isles. These isolated islands offer some of the best beaches in Tonga, if not the world, with white crystalline sands and clear blue waters. One of the islands is actually the tip of an underwater volcano whose crater holds a lake.
Address: The Niua Islands, far north Tonga.