The Best Activities, Sights and Attractions in Neiafu
Visiting Vava’u? Those exploring the 50-or-so islands of Tonga‘s northern island group will sooner or later find themselves in Neiafu. Whether you’re visiting via cruise ship, checking in via yacht, or hitting one of the outer islands for a tropical holiday, Neiafu is the bustling hub of the island group where almost all of the region’s shops and services are located. Aside from some necessary formalities, Neiafu also holds its own array of activities and attractions that are well worth sticking around for. Let’s explore them in this list of the best things to do in Neiafu!
1. Check Out the Amazing Views from Mt Talau
A great place to start with a visit to Neiafu is hiking to the top of Mt Talau! Located in the Mt Talau National Park, just a 20-minute walk from town or a TOP$10-taxi ride, the Mt Talau walk is a steep 10-20-minute climb through rugged forest to a rewarding viewpoint. Get an amazing photo opportunity of Neiafu and the Port of Refuge. There are two viewing decks, so make sure to explore to find them. We recommend walking back into town through the villages for a quintessential look into village life including the sights of churches, pigs and roosters. See more activities like this in the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Vava’u.
Location: From Neiafu, follow Tapueluefu Road (just past the Police Station) for approximately 2 km (1.2 mi) until you see the entrance signs for the Mt Talau National Park.
2. Browse the Neiafu Market
A must-do for its impressive handicrafts and delicious tropical produce, ‘Utukalongalu Market is well worth discovering! Get a great insight into grocery shopping in the South Pacific and admire piles of tropical fruit and vegetables, mingle with the locals and sample some of the sweetest pineapples and bananas you’ll ever try! You also browse stalls and stalls of handicrafts where locals are often producing new jewellery and carvings right on the spot. The best time to go is on a Saturday morning, but it’s open throughout the day Monday to Saturday.
Location: On the waterfront of Halaevalu Wharf, Neiafu, ‘Utu Vava’u.
3. Go to a Sunday Church Service (or Snap Some Photos of the Churches)
When it inevitably gets to Sunday and all of Tonga’s activities and shops close, you could go where the locals go! Going to church is an integral part of the Tongan culture, where visitors are welcome to join church services to listen to the beautiful harmonious singing. While going to any church in Neiafu is an experience, a popular choice for visitors is the grand St. Joseph’s Cathedral. Remember to dress respectfully. Sunday services typically start at 10 am. Otherwise, if it’s not Sunday, you can still snap up some photos of the attractive churches around Neiafu.
Location: All over Neiafu! Check out recommendations in the 10 Best Churches in Tonga for Tourists.
4. See the Memorial at Pouono Park
Vava’u might not have a museum to learn about its history, but an interesting site to learn a bit more can be found at Pouono Park. In 1839, this is where King George Tupou I famously enacted the first code of law known as the “Vava’u Code”. It was where he committed the country of Tonga to God after his conversion to Christianity. More on the story can be found at an interpretation panel along Pouono Road.
Location: Between Kovana and Pouono Road, Neiafu.
5. Swim with Humpback Whales
One of the most popular activities in Neiafu, swimming with majestic humpback whales is a must-do! Every year between July and October, humpback whales come to Vava’u’s warm and sheltered waters to breed and raise their young. Whale swimming tours give travellers the unique opportunity to snorkel with these gentle giants in their natural element. However, not all operators follow whale-watching regulations to ensure an ethical and sustainable experience, so recommend doing your research and going with one of the 10 Best Whale Swim Tours in Vava’u (or check out the other island groups for whale swimming in Tonga).
Location: Whale swimming trips in Neiafu depart from either the small boat marina at Halaevalu Wharf, outside of Puataukanave Hotel, or at Fangafoa Marina. See the link above for recommended operators and their locations.
6. Head Out on a Snorkelling or Scuba Diving Tour
Although humpback whales tend to steal all the limelight during the whale season, there are some magnificent snorkelling spots and dive sites to discover as well. Join one of the boat tours from Neiafu to discover highlights like Swallows Cave and snorkel over the vibrant Coral Gardens. Those with a scuba diving certification can hire scuba diving gear to enjoy some of the natural architectural wonders of China Town or explore the Clan McWilliam wreck. See more dive sites in the Top 10 Places to Scuba Dive in Vava’u. Plus, check out 5 Best Snorkelling Tours in Vava’u.
Location: Boat tours in Neiafu depart from either the small boat marina at Halaevalu Wharf, outside of Puataukanave Hotel, or at Fangafoa Marina. See the link above for recommended operators and their locations.
7. Indulge in Neiafu’s Restaurants
The best way to describe Neiafu’s restaurant scene is that it has tons of hidden surprises. You’ll find Italian food, Spanish food and Chinese food with a tropical flair. For instance, the Bellavista Cafe & Restaurant serves up Tongan seafood dishes, as well as pizzas and pasta. A rustic roadside setting, The Basque Tavern is more than meets the eye with its ever-changing menu of delectable tapas. Otherwise, enjoy the maritime theme of The Kraken or the creative vegetarian-friendly cuisine of Le Galion. See more recommendations in the 15 Best Cafes & Restaurants in Vava’u.
Location: All over Neiafu! See the link above for recommendations and their locations.
8. Shop for Unique Arts and Crafts
The Tongan culture is renowned for its incredible arts and crafts, which can be sampled by taking a look around the shops and market in Neiafu. As already discussed, ‘Utukalongalu Market is a great place to start to see an array of handicrafts, from gorgeous whale tapa paintings to beautifully woven bags. They’ll even customise pieces for you, usually for the day after! Additionally, check out the Langafonua Handicraft Shop and Kaila Handicraft for more unique gifts and souvenirs! Learn more about these stores and more in our guide, Where to Buy the Best Souvenirs in Tonga.
Location: ‘Utukalongalu Market – Halaevalu Wharf, Neiafu. Langafonua – Behind the Tourist Information Fale, Fatafehi Road, Neiafu. Kaila Handicraft – Fatafehi Road, Neiafu town centre.
9. Join a Sightseeing Tour
There are so many more amazing sights outside of Neiafu. Either visit the highlights by hiring a car or take a guided tour with the advantage of local insights (and navigation). Guided land tours will take you around the main islands of Vava’u, like ‘Utu Vava’u (the main island) and the causeway-connected Pangaimotu, ‘Utungake, Okoa and Koloa Islands. Guided tours will take you to see historical sites and breathtaking lookouts, as well as impromptu cultural experiences, such as stopping by women’s weaving groups or something else. Check out the tours available in the 5 Best Guided Tours of Vava’u.
Location: Tours depart from Neiafu with pick-ups available from in and around town included.
10. Drink and Be Merry at One of Neiafu’s Bars
Drink like a sailor in the yachtie’s paradise of Vava’u! Neiafu is a hub of restaurants with great bars, including The Basque Tavern on a hilltop, boasting awesome views of the Neiafu Harbour. The Mango Cafe is a popular spot with a full bar and restaurant right on the water’s edge. Le Galion has an uber-fun Tongan-style burlesque show once a week. Finally, check out the Bellavista Cafe & Restaurant for its excellent wine and beer selection along with views over the harbour. Learn more about the best bars across the Kingdom in the 10 Best Bars in Tonga and The Ultimate Guide to Nightlife in Tonga.
Location: All over Neiafu! See the links above for recommended locations.
More Things to Do in Neiafu
That’s it for our list of the best things to do in Neiafu! Now that you know what to do, here are more ways to enjoy your time in Vava’u:
- The Food Guide to Vava’u: Places to Eat & Food Tours
- Vava’u Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get to (& Around) Vava’u
- Where to Stay in Vava’u: The Best Accommodations
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in The Complete Travel Guide to Vava’u.