Eco-friendly travel guide to Tonga advises how to be a responsible tourist. Learn how to travel in a sustainable way and how to respect the local people and culture. Make your trip green by supporting locally owned hotels, organic restaurants and other businesses. Read more on how to protect the environment by making conscientious choices and how to travel green in Tonga, Oceania.
- Air quality: 3 / 5
- Bus connections: 2 / 5
- Train connections: 2 / 5
- Hitchhiking: 2 / 5
- National parks: 3 / 5
- Outdoor activities: 3 / 5
- Locals' English level: 3 / 5
- Safety: 3 / 5
- Accommodation: US$10 - $20
- Budget per day: US$20 - $60
- 1 Responsible Travel
- 2 Air Quality and Pollution
- 3 Respect the Culture
- 4 Top 10 Places to Visit
- 5 Explore
- 6 Eat
- 7 Drink
- 8 Activities
- 9 Accommodation
- 10 Regions
- 11 Cities
- 12 Getting There and Moving Around
- 13 Sustainable Shopping
- 14 Recycling
- 15 Work and Study Abroad
- 16 See Also
Tonga is 1,800 kilometers (1,100 mi) from New Zealand's North Island. It surrounds more than 170 islands over an area of the South Pacific roughly the size of Japan. Tonga counts as the last Polynesian monarchy. It is a Christian country and has a god-gifted natural beauty.
Air Quality and Pollution
According to the World Health Organization's guidelines, the air quality in Tonga is considered moderately unsafe – the most recent data indicates the country's annual mean concentration of PM2.5 is 11 µg/m3 and is exceeding the recommended maximum concentration is 10 µg/m3. Air quality in Tonga may get affected by power generation from waste burning, vehicle emissions, and diesel. The city's specific air quality is hard to measure right now. PM2.5 air pollution may affect the population of Tonga. The people exposed to air pollution levels exceed WHO guideline value (% of total) in Tonga, which was 99.81 as of 2017. Its highest value was 100.00, and its lowest value was 99.81 in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Outdoor air pollution is a mixture of chemicals, particulate matter, and biological materials. They may react to form tiny hazardous particles and result in breathing problems, chronic diseases, increased hospitalization, and premature mortality. The concentration of particulate matter (PM) is a key air quality indicator as it is the most common air pollutant that affects short-term and long-term health. PM2.5 particles are more problematic because their small size allows them to travel deeper into the cardiopulmonary system. It is advisable to take care more, specifically while visiting this place.
Respect the Culture
Even though Western culture has influenced traditions and culture in Tonga, a few Tongan rituals and art forms are still alive. Tonga is still sharing with Fiji, Samoa, and French Polynesia parts that perform kava drinking tradition - prepared from the root of a pepper plant, has mild narcotic properties. The carving was traditionally done by men earlier, but the craftsmanship was inferior to other Polynesians, such as the Maori of New Zealand. Carving and other traditional crafts of higher quality are available in response to the tourist market demands. Women are manufacturing tapa cloth from bark and weave mats and baskets from several varieties of pandanus leaves. Traditional dancing is one of the significant parts of national ceremonies and local village festivities. In the popular paddle dance, called meʿetuʿupaki, dancers carry paddle-shaped boards carved or painted with abstractions of the human body. Other popular dances are the kailao, a war dance, the lakalaka, and the maʿuluʿulu. These dances are performed by standing and seated groups, respectively, and these dances accompany densely polyphonic singing. Thetauʿolunga is an individual dance accompanied by singing. An oral tradition persists in Tongan villages in proverbs, religious epics, genealogies, poetry, fables, and myths.
Top 10 Places to Visit
1. Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon
The Ha'amonga 'a Maui (Maui's Burden) Trilithon is the South Pacific's parallel of Stonehenge. It is close to Niutoua, one of past Polynesia's most fascinating memorials, and it is famous as one of the best Tourist Attractions in Tonga. Archaeologists give accreditation for its establishment to Tu'itatui, the 11thTu'I Tonga. A few people tell old Chinese travelers constructed it. This construction consists of three big coralline stones; each stone's weight is about 40 tones, ordered into a trilithon gate. Mortised junctions confirm the top stone won't drop off.
2. Talamahu Market
If you are looking for the truth of Nuku'alofa, you should stroll through the passages at Talamahu, Tonga's key fresh-produce center. Here you'll see vegetables and other goods heaped into handmade baskets. Additionally, you'll see piles of bananas, colorful piles of fruit, and several cooked-food stands – plus excellent. Tongan arts and crafts are alive at this place.
3. Joseph’s Cathedral
This place is a colonial devotion above Port of Refuge and St Joe's Neiafu's. It describes a piece of architecture and one of the best tourist attractions in Tonga. Inside, the hyper-colored crucifixion site beyond the altar is so pretty. The extension of Fatafehi Rd beneath the cathedral is called Hala Lupe (Way of Doves), entitled for the sad singing of the feminine inmates (declared adulterers) who have established it.
4.Mapu’a ‘a Vaea Blowholes
On a fine sunny day at Mapu'a 'a Vaea (Chief's Whistles), hundreds of blowholes squirt towards the sky suddenly. You can book your trip for a breezy day with a mighty overflow when the foam, enforced up through corroded holes in the coralline limestone. The blowhole-puzzled rocks extend for 5km along the south shore, close to the village of Houma. This extraordinary phenomenon makes this place a wonderful tourist attraction in Tonga.
Located in the northwest of the epicenter, Nukuʻalofa, near the Pacific Ocean, lies the regal residence of the Kingdom of Tonga. This timbered Palace, established in 1867, is the official home of the King of Tonga. Currently, the Palace is not accessible to the general people, but it is effortlessly noticeable from the waterfront.
A small island in the Tongatapu category of Tonga, Pangaimotu is closer to the epicenter Nukuʻalofa. It can be accessible by a 10-minute boat tour from Nukuʻalofa. Alongside the beaches, a highlight of this island draw wreckage leaping from the upside-down ship's framework, which is 50 meters far from the island's central coast.
7. Hihifo’s Archaeological Sites
Hihifo is the neighboring residential region south of Pangai. It conceals several archaeological remains apparently of more attraction to rooting pigs than anybody else. Covering beyond a low wire barrier in a thicket of Ironwood on LotoKolo Rd is Olovehi Tomb, the graveyard for people bearing the aristocratic designation of Tuita. Slightly rotate east at the Free Wesleyan Church on Holopeka Rd to see the circular Velata Mound Fortress, a 15th-century ditch-and-ridge fortification, and classic Tonga, Fiji, and Samoa.
The Mu’a region is holding Tonga’s wealthiest concentration of archaeological remains. It is one of the best tourist attractions in Tonga. During AD 1200, Tu’itatui, the 11th of the Tu'I Tonga rulers, transferred the regal epicenter from Heketa (close to modern Niutoua) to Mu'a. We can find 28 regal stone graves in the region, made with massive limestone blocks. These are two substantial former graveyards off the dirt street towards the sea, right north of the Catholic Church. The construction closer to the main road is the Paepae 'o Tele'a (Stage of Tele'a), a pyramid-like stone monument. Tele'a was one Tu'I Tonga who ruled during the time of the 16th century. The other, the Langi Namoala, is having an excellent instance of a fonualoto on top.
9. Hafangalupe Archway
This magnificent arch is also known as 'the pigeon's doorway' – a virgin land span over the striking Pacific waves, created when the ceiling of a sea tunnel gets fell. Stroll across the top and look into the hole, then stare at west along the rugged shore. You will find no barriers here – mind your step.
10. Ha’atafu Beach
On the west side of this island, Ha'atafu Beach is a sandy portion defended by a reef, where several of Tonga's most delicate surf peels in (skilled surfers require to apply). We can see shielded swimming and snorkeling at high tide in the expansive lagoon there. If you are on perfect time (June to November), you can someday observe whales skipping in the distance of the reef.
One topic that usually comes up when a person plans to travel somewhere for the first time is to know activities and things to do that will keep them busy as it will not make sense to visit a new place and be indoors all day. Typically, humans are curious, and they love to explore. It also makes sense why people are more attracted to sites that have higher tourist attractions than others. The urge to explore is familiar to all foreigners, and those visiting China are not an exception. Some people may want to argue that not everyone gets the desire to explore, especially if you are in a country for business transactions. However, we have not seen anyone who will not love to make time from their busy schedule to go sightseeing. When you explore a place, you can say you had a whole experience of the country; nothing should hold you back from exploring and having a great holiday.
There are very fewer city parks which are present here. You can perform various activities like meditation, jogging and many more while you stay nearby any city park in this city.
Eua National Park is one of the most visited and the only national park here. Established in 1992, the area of this park is 4.6 km2.
If you're looking for paradise, then you have come to the right place. Tonga's 176 islands - offer their uniqueness and diversity. For a relaxing, quiet holiday, head to the northern islands of Niuatoputao or Niuafo’ou. These private, isolated beaches are for those who want a peaceful sanctuary to sink their toes in the sand and watch the waves. The tranquil ambiance will make you feel like you're really on holiday.
Tongapatu Beaches Tongapatu beaches are more lively and perfect for families. With many water activities available, there is fun for everyone. Choose from lying on the sand with a book in hand, or embark on a water adventure. There are so many activities to partake in, such as surfing, snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, kitesurfing, and of course, diving. Diving in Tonga is truly a wonderful experience with an abundance of colorful reefs and exotic marine life.
The Sacred Island Niuatoputapu is a flat coral island situated furthest north within the Kingdom of Tonga. Located between Vava'u and Samoa, this 'sacred island' is mostly remote and underdeveloped with a noticeably warmer temperature than the other parts of the Kingdom, especially in the southern end. Commonly referred to as the NIUAS (including Tafahi&Niuafo'ou), the island lies near Tonga's border with Samoa. It is also known as Keppler Island or the Traitors Island and was referred to this by Dutch explorers; Willie Schouten & Jacob Le Maire, who discovered the island and placed it on the European map during their voyages in the Pacific in 1616. Niuatoputao consists of three main villages, Hihifo (which means 'west' in Tonga), Vaipoa, and Falehau. Beautiful beaches and traditional communities are surrounded by many of its inhabits. This island is a great place to explore, with a volcanic peak (which erupted 3000 years ago) reaching 157 meters high. Its remote location benefits the island and is the one place that still showcases the Tongan traditional communities, living and natural untouched beauty.
An Island That Sits Alone Niufo'ou, located about 100km west of Niuatoputapu, is one of the world's most remote islands. From a birds-eye view, this rimmed volcanic island could compare itself to a floating doughnut. The coastline is rocky and steep, with few black sandy beaches. Niuafo'ou, together with Tafahi & Niuatoputapu island, is referred to as the "Niuas." In 1616 the islands were also given the name "Good Hope Island" by Dutch navigators Will Schouten & Jacob Le Maire, who were voyaging through the Pacific. Niufo'ou was later named "Tin Can Island" after its unique way of receiving mail. Due to the island not having a harbor, mail was sealed in a biscuit tin and thrown overboard from passing ships, retrieved only by solid and brave swimmers from the island. The volcano, one of the island's main features, has been active for thousands of years. In the center of the island is where you will find a massive lake of bubbling water. There are no resorts or hotels, and planes only fly there twice a month due to strong winds. The island is accessible on a fortnightly Real treasure.
Below is a list of the most amazing natural and human-made landmarks of Tonga;
VOLCANOES AND GEOTHERMAL FIELDS Fonualei fumarole field - Vava'u, Fonualei. You can see an active island volcano with a dynamic field of fumaroles in the center. There are frequent eruptions.
Home Reef – Vava'u. An ephemeral volcanic island, which rises above the sea and then washes away after eruptions. The last time such an event took place was in 2006, when the island became 0.5 by 1.5 km large, with hot crater lakes on it. There are several more such ephemeral islands in Tonga.
CAVES AND SINKHOLES You can approach Mariners Cave by taking a boat. 'Ana 'Ahu (Smoking Cave) – 'Eua. Some 80 m deep, vertical cave with smooth walls. A small stream falls into it, and constant mist rises from the hole.
"Cathedral Cave" – the northern part of 'Eua. It has a magnificent marine cave, rich with life.
Makalea Cave – Eua. Narrow, approximately 40 m deep sinkholes with steep walls and eerie echo effect.
Mariners Cave – Vava'u, Nuapapu Island. It was a legendary site and hideout of those young noblemen who were afraid of the king.
Matalanga ‘a Maui – ‘Eua. Very impressive sinkhole.
Swallows Cave – Vava'u, Kapa Island. Spectacular cave in steep sea coast. The cave is partly flooded and thus represents a stunning dive site. Hundreds of swallows live in the cave, according to the Cliff drawings by Tongans.
Here is a list of museums in Tonga. The museums present in this country are the best than other neighboring countries. These museums can help you understand many things about this country and exist in different architecture styles. You can learn about this country's history with the help of articles and documents that you will witness in such historical museums.
Afā Eli Historical Museum and Research Library
Tonga National Museum
Tonga Traditions Committee
Tuku’aho Memorial Museum
Restaurants and resorts feature German, Italian, Japanese, and Taiwanese cuisine. There are many traditional Tongan dishes and delicacies also. In most restaurants, the workers catch fresh seafood features like octopus, coral trout, and lobsters and sell them to earn a living. There is a large variety of seafood present in this country on many of its islands. More to this, there are other vegetarian dishes which are also available in this country.
Traditional Local Restaurants
The Tongan people's traditional diet mainly consists of taro, yams, bananas, coconuts, and seafood – the staple of any island nation. As Westerners began to arrive in the 19th and early 20th centuries, so did new foods. Oranges, limes, and lemons were introduced, with watermelon being particularly popular. Tongans also began to adopt onions, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, and even pumpkin, which has become a relatively recent addition.
Vegetarian and Vegan
There are many vegetarian and vegan restaurants present in this country. As there is a lot of islands, therefore they have rich availability of coconuts and other fruits. Vegan dishes involve the use of only plants. As the availability of coconut is high therefore you can have coconut milk. Vegan dishes are good for health and essential to be attentive the whole day.
Topai: these doughballs are dropped in a kettle of boiling water to cook and then serve with syrup and coconut milk.
Lú: this is a meal prepared for special occasions. It includes chopped meat with coconut milk wrapped in taro and banana leaves and put in an umu (a traditional underground oven) to cook. There are many varieties of Lú, including Lúpulu – made with beef, Lúsipi – made with lamb, Lú moa – made with chicken and Lúho'osi – made with horse meat.
'Ota 'ika: 'Ota means raw and 'ika means fish, and that is basically what this meal consists of – raw fish marinated in citrus juice and coconut milk served with mixed vegetables. (For the fish portion, a wide array of seafood can be used, such as mussels, prawns, crab, lobster, octopus or squid, sea urchin or eel).
Feke: grilled octopus or squid prepared in coconut sauce.
Kapisipulu: corned beef and cabbage in coconut cream and served hot to customers.
Regarding drinks, there are many local varieties of soda made throughout the islands. There are also traditional drinks like kava, a mixture with sedative and anesthetic properties, and hopi, a homebrew beer made of water, sugar, or mashed fruit and yeast. According to the strict Sabbath, the sale of alcohol is prohibited in the area but is available on weekends.
Tap water is available in Tonga in urban areas and villages through groundwater or rainwater systems. Resorts and accommodation that's "off-the-grid" will have their water system. While locals drink the tap water in Tonga, it's advised for visitors to purify the water before drinking. Alternatively, bottled water facilities are available in each room in most accommodations with the availability of 24/7 room service. Bottled water is otherwise readily available in supermarkets and convenience stores. As a general rule, water is safe to drink in restaurants. Water supply in urban areas goes through a chlorination chamber before reaching consumers. However, Tonga's water quality can be affected by a lack of safe water storage, old pipes, outdated treatment systems, outdated sanitation infrastructure, agricultural run-off, and weather-related events like flooding. Although the locals find the water safe to drink, there may be higher concentrations of unknown bacteria strains, like E.coli, present in the water. It's unlikely that visitors will have to build up an immunity to particular bacterial strains, which can cause Traveller's Diarrhea. Depending on the pipes' condition, water storage tanks, and a few other factors, the quality of rainwater is variable and must put to the quality test before consumption.
Swim with Humpback Whales Swimming with whales in Tongatapu is impressive and is one of the best experiences you can have in this country. There are few options here, but you can go for Whale Swim Fish and Dive Tours. They are one of the priciest options on this island; however, it's worth it. They use small boats with a maximum of 8 people, and their team is fantastic.
Find the Snorkelling Pigs It is not quite sure why they call snorkeling pigs because they don't snorkel (how cool would that be?), but Tongatapu's pigs do like to run around during low tide bulldozing the sand with their snouts and looking for something to eat. Make sure you go at low tide to see this.
Visit Mapu a Vaea (the blowholes) These blowholes are famous, and everyone will tell you to visit this place. They are kind of cool since they occur down a large stretch of the coastline but don't get too excited because they are just blowholes. It is also an excellent spot to scan the ocean for any breaching whales as per the local citizens.
Swim in the Anahulu Cave The Anahulu cave, located on the east side of Tongatapu, is an extensive network of limestone caverns. It's also a natural underground swimming pool.
Search for Hufangalupe Hufangalupe, of the pigeon’s doorway, is a natural land bridge and one of the most scenic places on Tongatapu. It can be a bit tricky to find, so be sure to use google maps. There’s also a stunning beach beside it.
Wander the Talamahu Market The Talamahu market is your best bet at experiencing the real Tonga, especially on Saturday mornings. Food and drink, clothing, toys, beauty products - You name it, and it's here. It's a busy spot with all the locals coming to shop and socialize- definitely worth a visit.
Take a Photo at Ha'amonga 'a Maui. This stone trilithon is known as the Stonehenge of the Pacific and might be the most visited Tongatapu tourist site. Nobody knows why it's there, though, assuming it was some archaeoastronomical observatory. Whatever it is, it makes for the perfect opportunity for a cheesy jump shot.
Find the Three-Headed Coconut You can expect the Three-Headed Coconut to be pretty epic and some giant figure or statue, yet there are tons of signs for it after all. It's just a coconut tree with three branches instead of one. It is not as exciting as it sounds but is undoubtedly an unusual site worth the visit.
Day Trip to Pangaimoto Island Resort A ten-minute boat ride from Nuku'alofa is Pangaimoto Island resort, the perfect day trip for a beach escape. Snorkel around the wreck, lounge on the beach, and have lunch overlooking the ocean. It's open daily with one boat which leaves the harbor at 11 am. Similar to Pangaimoto Island Resort, Fafa Island is another fun day trip destination. It is a proper resort, so you'll share the island with those staying overnight, but it is a bit more upscale than Pangaimoto. Boats leave the harbor at 11 am. Please note, you must book in advance, especially on weekends.
Day Trip to Atata Island A final island day trip option is Atata Island. It's the furthest away but also offers the most—kayaking, snorkeling options, and of course, a delicious lunch on the beach. You should book the reservations for Atata Island in advance.
Take in a Cultural Show A couple of Tongatapu resorts offer cultural shows: traditional dancing, storytelling, and a meal. It's a fun and interactive way to learn a bit more about the local culture and try some local food. You should make reservations in advance.
Yoga and Retreats Some of the yoga and retreat studios have registered themselves on the internet to get an easier access to a lot of people who want this service in the country. These yoga and retreat studios often tie up with various hotels to teach yoga to their customers. Also, there are some hotels here that themself provide yoga facilities. Zumba classes and aerobics classes also available in this country in some parts.
This country has a lot of islands, and each of the islands has different types of accommodation. You can find some accommodation near famous beaches. Mostly there are hotels present here. Next to it, they offer cottages and Inns built in a traditional style to their prime customers. Other accommodation options such as hostels and guesthouses and apartment options are also present in this country.
As this is an island with a lot of vegetation, some people have established their hotels near the jungle. These hotels provide a natural environment around your stay due to the fantastic location of the hotel. The environment and the air near these hotels are often more relaxed and less polluted. These green hotels are better than ordinary hotels as per the reviews of a lot of tourist who visited this place.
Hostels and Guest Houses
Many of the tourists who visit this country are often solo travelers. For these solo travelers, there are hostel rooms available. These hostels can provide you with great company and you don't even have to spend much on these hostels. The only problem with the hostel is that you will not get any type of privacy.
Apartments provides you with total privacy as you will own the apartment till you stay there. Every apartment has a balcony to enjoy the sunset or sunrise and a kitchen. You must pre-book the apartment before visiting this country. These apartments are safer than other accommodation options.
There is no need to do Couch-surfing here because there are a lot of travel options available which are easily affordable. However, if you want to still try out Couch-surfing it’s totally up-to you. Before Couchsurfing, you must always check the crime rate of that particular place.
There are a lot of jungles which are present in this country where you can camp. While camping in jungles, you must take proper precautions. Also, wild animals roam around at night, so camping in jungles is unsafe. Camping in hilly areas and beaches can also be a great option for you.
Getting There and Moving Around
There are a lot of islands that are different in size. Each of the islands has a different size. Therefore every island has several types of vehicles used for moving around. Along with this rolling around in this country is considered to be safe. Thus you can walk around easily. If you want to visit this country, you must have a visa called a visitor's permit from the embassy of Tonga. Some of the nearby countries have free access to this country without visa till 30 days. There are only two ways to reach here which are by flights or by the means of water.
There are a total of three airports which are present in this country. Fuaamotu International airport is the primary airport in this country. There are flights from New Zealand and Sydney which reach here. People who are living far away from this country have to take an indirect flight. Flights are the most convenient mode of traveling that you will find here.
According to some surveys it has been found that there are no bus services which are present in this country. Often the areas are coverable by walking only. As there are only islands here, therefore there are zero possibilities for international buses. Only Tongatapu, which is the largest island, has bus services. Public buses are a convenient way of traveling around the city. You can meet a lot of people while traveling by bus. These buses are easily affordable. However, there are no buses present on these islands except the most significant island with few bus services available for transportation.
Trains help a person to save a lot of time. It also helps in covering a lot of distance. You can meet many people while traveling by train, due to the minor modernization of the islands. There are various islands which are smaller in size; therefore, there is no need for trains there. There are no trams and trains in this country. You can cover the distance by walking. Establishing trains/trams within the island will be a problem. Even the locals are not interested in trains.
Hitchhiking is possible in this country. However, hitchhiking is not much needed in this country because the people living here are amicable, and the crime rate of this country is more petite.
There are no other ways to reach here. However, there are ports on various islands. These ports are open to the public so that you can take a ferry ride. You can even take a boat for rent. There are no electronic vehicles present in this country. It is because electric cars cost too much. The pollution of this country is also under control. Along with this, Tonga is a less developed country; therefore, there are no electronic vehicles. However, electronic vehicles are better than ordinary vehicles. You can rent a bicycle to move around the country, whereas some hotels provide cycles for rent to their customers. More to this, you can save a lot of money. Cycling will also support your health. Walking is the best way you can move around the country. The crime rates of these islands are low. Along with this, you can even have a walk on the beachside. Walking and exploring the island will help you in having detailed knowledge. Along with this, walking will help you to save a lot of money.
There are a lot of local markets present on these islands. It is because a lot of people depend on shops for their household. You can purchase handmade products from these markets at a significantly lower price. Along with this, there are second-hand stores which are also present in these islands. There are sustainable grocery stores or stalls where freshly picked fruits and vegetables are available.
Food Markets • Yung Cheng Market • Fatafetai Store
Flea Markets • Talamahu Market • Utukalingalu Market • Fangaihesi Market
Second-Hand Stores • Value City • Vaitohi Enterprises
Eco-Fashion • BD Fashion Tonga • Zara Boutique Tonga
In simple terms, recycling means reusing. There is a company whose name is GIO. This company is the only company which recycles. Most metals are collected in these recycling centers to melt and give new shapes and figures.
There are landfills present on many of these islands. On this island, littering around is a significant problem. Out of the waste collected from household garbages, recycling centers eliminate some. All the organic wastes are separated to make fertilizers. The rest of them are either burned or disposed of in the ocean.
Work and Study Abroad
The education system of this country involves six years of primary schooling. Next to this junior secondary education is a program of three years. As the education in this country is significantly less, the government takes the responsibility to sponsor certain schools.
The Exchange Student is a well-established program where a student can enjoy the education from the experts of a different country. If you adopt this program, you can study in this country. Some countries offer free-of-cost education via scholarships that can help you experience a new culture.
There is less au pair work available. Mostly the women here are housewives and lives within the house every time. Therefore they take care of the child. However, if you find any family who needs help with child care, you can work with them. The work helps you earn some money and enables you to get shelter and a one-day meal.
A lot of organizations present in this country require people for volunteering. Along with this, different organizations have different work. You can join any of such organizations and start working and exploring their language and culture and even learn it.