Food Activities in Tonga
Food might be one of life’s simple pleasures but it means much more than that in the Tongan culture. Tonga is a nation of grand feasts, traditional cooking methods such as in an underground oven known as an “umu”, larger-than-life portions and has its own interesting dishes to try. Experience the tropical produce grown on the islands, catch some seafood for yourself, learn how to prepare traditional Tongan food, and much more, as we explain in this list of foodie experiences in Tonga.
1. Go to a Tongan Cultural Feast and Show
To sample a range of traditional Tongan dishes, including ‘ota ika, lu pulu, kapisi pulu and more, go to a Tongan cultural show and feast! There are a few options for this sort of experience in Tonga, including a few resorts putting on such shows in Tongatapu, Ha’ano island village’s cultural experience in Ha’apai and the cultural show on Sundays at the ‘Ene’io Botanical Gardens in Vava’u. Learn more about these shows in the 5 Best Cultural Shows in Tonga TTD361.
2. Visit a Local Market
Checking out a local market is a must-do foodie experience in Tonga, as it gives a good insight into the local culture as well as gives you the opportunity to mingle with the locals. Visit the Talamahu Market in Nuku’alofa, the ‘Utakalongalu Market in Neiafu or the Pangai Market in Lifuka to see an array of tropical fruit and vegetables for sale, presented in piles and bunches. For recommended fruit to try, see the 10 Exotic Fruits in Tonga You Have to Try.
3. Try a Traditional Umu
An umu is a traditional style of cooking where food is slow-cooked in an underground oven for several hours. It’s a cooking style usually saved for special occasions, but visitors can experience an umu at experiences like Ancient Tonga in Nuku’alofa (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor). You can also try umu food at some accommodation, such as Taina’s Place and The Hideaway in ‘Eua or the Port of Refuge Villas and the Beautiful Ofu Island Backpackers in Vava’u. Learn more about the latter in the 7 Things to Do in Vava’u for Foodies.
4. Try Kava
Kava is the national drink of Tonga, which is made from the ground-up roots of a pepper plant. It has been drunk in “kava circles” for centuries, typically only reserved for men while the women start the kava drinking off with a blessing. Kava is available to try at some resorts around Tonga, while some accommodations in ‘Eua, in particular, can organise for you to drink with a local kava circle. Find out more in Where to Try Kava in Tonga TTD373.
5. Catch Dinner on a Fishing Charter
Seafood is understandably part of this island nation’s diet so jumping on a fishing charter to reel in eating fish like mahimahi and wahoo is one way to have a foodie experience in Tonga (even if it’s more about the sport of fishing). There are fishing charters in Tongatapu, ‘Eua, Ha’apai and Vava’u with skippers and guides eager to show their favourite fishing grounds to catch some large pelagics of the southern Pacific Ocean. Find out more in The Complete Guide to Fishing in Tonga.
6. Be Treated to a Private Dinner on the Beach
For something a little special to do with your loved one, enjoy a private dinner on the beach of your resort. Resorts such as Sea Change Eco Retreat in Ha’apai and Treasure Island Eco Resort in Vava’u can prepare an evening under the stars. Many resorts can also prepare packed picnic lunches to take with you on walks around the island or even in your kayak for paddling to nearby uninhabited islands. Check out the 10 Romantic Things to Do in Tonga for Couples for more experiences like this.
7. Tour a Vanilla Plantation
Vanilla is one of the most labour-intensive agricultural crops in the world, where you can learn more about the aromatic bean on a vanilla tour. The main island of Vava’u, ‘Utu Vava’u, is renowned for its vanilla growing, where each flower needs to be hand-pollinated. Learn all about this and more on plantation tours with Heilala Vanilla, where tours can be organised through local accommodations in Vava’u. Otherwise, the ‘Ene’io Botanical Gardens tour in Vava’u is another good option for learning more about vanilla.
8. Indulge at a Local Restaurant
Tonga has plenty of options when it comes to dining out, from the local dishes to try at your resort’s restaurant to the multitude of international cuisines represented in the towns of Nuku’alofa and Neiafu. As there’s a lot to unpack when it comes to Tonga’s restaurants, check out the Guide to the Best Eats & Restaurants in Tonga to get some recommendations.
9. Take a Tour of a Coffee Roaster and Cassava Chip Factory
A great example of the artisan products completely produced in Tonga, head to the Tupu’Anga Cafe near the southern end of Umusi Road in eastern Nuku’alofa. The cafe offers informal tours of their coffee roastery, as well as their cassava chip factory which is a popular snack across Tongatapu. The cafe there also sells a range of Tongan-style cakes, pies and other treats. See more foodie experiences in the 9 Things to Do on Tongatapu for Foodies.
10. Try Keki from a Local Bakery
The bakeries are kind of a big deal in Tonga, which is one of the very few businesses that are open on a Sunday! While you can pick up coconut bread and buns, which are pretty magical, keki is the most iconic baked good to try in Tonga. Keki is a Tongan-style doughnut, which you can find in bakeries in Nuku’alofa and the Matuku-ae-tau Bakery in Ha’apai. Check out more foodies experiences in Ha’apai in the 6 Things to Do in Ha’apai for Foodies.