Budget Activities in Ha’apai
Don’t worry, a holiday in Ha’apai doesn’t have to be about expensive sailing tours, whale swimming and scuba diving. There are plenty of ways to keep the costs low yet still have a blast in Tonga’s less-visited islands. Ha’apai has an interesting history, with plenty of historical sites to scout out, while the shores are full of excitement between snorkelling among tropical fish to seeing whales leaping out of the ocean! So get inspired for some of the more affordable activities you could be getting up to with this list of the free and cheap things to do in Ha’apai.
While you’re here, get more tips for budget travel in The Guide to Ha’apai on a Budget.
1. Explore the Islands by Kayak
It would almost be a crime to head to the islands of Ha’apai and not get out on the water! If you’re staying at one of the mid-range resorts in Ha’apai, it’s almost a guarantee that complimentary kayak hire will be available, making it a relaxing and free way to spend your time in Ha’apai. Alternatively, the budget Taiana’s Resort offers full-day hire for an affordable TOP$20 a day. Glide over Ha’apai’s crystal clear waters, seeing marine life below and explore the shores of Uoleva Island.
Location: Any of the mid-range resorts, as well as with budget accommodation like Taiana’s Resort and Captain Cook Hideaway on Uoleva Island.
2. Learn Tongan Crafts
It’s easy to immerse yourself in the Tongan culture in Ha’apai, especially if you are staying at one of the guesthouses that are run by locals. However, guests at the Fonongava’inga (Langi Langi) Guesthouse have the bonus of taking part in a Tongan crafting workshop with the host, Langi Langi. Langi Langi is part of the island’s WID Handicraft Centre where, for under TOP$10, you can learn how to make your own Tongan souvenirs! Learn more about the guesthouses in Ha’apai here.
Location: Fonongava’inga (Langi Langi) Guesthouse, Pangai
3. Hire a Bike and Ride to Homale’eia Beach
Some of the mid-range resorts, such as Matafonua Lodge, Sandy Beach Resort and Ha’apai Beach Resort offer complimentary bike hire – as do those staying in the remote budget accommodation, Billy’s Place. Alternatively, hire a bike from the Mariner’s Cafe in Pangai for around TOP$15 for the day and ride up to the northern tip of Foa Island. Your reward for the 14km (9-mile) journey is reaching the glorious Houmale’eia Beach! There, pop into Matafonua Lodge‘s cafe for a bite to eat. We also recommend stopping by the Port au Prince Massacre Monument, a few hundred metres north of the airport, where a sign points west to a beach and the monument.
Location: From Pangai, follow the main road north (across the airport landing strip and causeway) all the way to the northern point of Foa Island. It’s 14km (9 miles) one way.
4. Check Out Hihifo’s Archaeological Sites
Ha’apai has a colourful history dating back some 3,000 years! Checking out some of the historical sites is a free way to enjoy your time here. The village of Hihifo holds many interesting sites, including the fenced-off Olovehi Tomb, which is a burial ground for Tonga’s ancient nobles. Nearby is the Velata Mound Fortress, which was a type of ditch fortification that was used throughout the South Pacific.
Location: Hihifo, south of Pangai. Olovehi Tomb is on Loto Kolo Road. Velata Mound Fortress is approximately 1.2km (0.7 miles) south of Pangai on a turn-off toward the east.
5. Get Awesome Views and Visit a Tomb in Southern Lifuka
More sights await at the south of Lifuka where the road ends at Hulu’ i Paongo Point. Here, you’ll get amazing views of a sweeping white sand beach, as well as Uoleva Island. Just before you reach the point, there is also the Hulu’ i Paongo Tomb, a burial site of a long line of chiefs.
Location: At the very southern end of Lifuka’s main road.
6. Browse the Pangai Market
By the time you make it to Ha’apai, you will likely have seen a few of the amazing markets in Tonga. Nevertheless, it’s always an experience mingling with the locals and checking out the pyramids and bundles of tropical produce for sale. The market is in action from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday.
Location: Corner of Waterfront and Palace Road, Pangai
7. Go Snorkelling Off the Shores
Ha’apai is one of the very few places in Tonga where there is so much snorkelling to be done straight from the shore! You don’t need to worry about paying for a boat to the outer reefs to enjoy an amazing snorkelling experience. Snorkelling over coral bommies and among tropical fish can be done from just about any resort in Ha’apai. Budget accommodations that offer snorkelling gear include the Captain Cook Hideaway and Billy’s Place. Staying at other budget accommodation in Ha’apai, then it’s best to bring your own gear.
Location: Anywhere in Ha’apai!
8. Watch Humpback Whales
Humpback whales frequent the waters of Ha’apai between July and October. While amazing whale swimming encounters are available, which you can learn more about in the 5 Best Whale Swim Tours in Ha’apai, you’re unlikely to spend some time in Ha’apai during this season without seeing humpback whales from the shore! Just set yourself up on the beach and watch the horizon! The budget resorts with the best whale viewings include Taiana’s Resort and the Captain Cook Hideaway.
Location: From the coasts of the Ha’apai islands.
9. Check Out the Shirley Baker Monument
Another interesting sight you’ll notice while mooching around Likufa is the Shirley Baker Monument and European Cemetary. Amidst a cemetery of 19th and 20th-Century European traders and missionaries is a grave and monumental plaque for the Reverend Shirley Baker. He was Tonga’s first prime minister and advisor to King Tupou I. Opposite the cemetery is an excellent example of a Tongan cemetery decorated with sand and coral mounds.
Location: Approximately 800m (870 yards) north of Pangai.
10. Have a Bite to Eat at the Mariner’s Cafe
You’re only one real chance to “eat out” in Ha’apai is at the Mariner’s Cafe in Pangai. Not only is it a good go-to for information when just arriving on the island, but it also does good food. Meals here are around TOP$8-$26, which are a mix of Pacific and international dishes, including pizza, homemade pasta, soups, burgers, fish and chicken dishes. Don’t miss their Friday barbecue night, usually happening between July and October. They also offer WiFi and bike hire.
Location: Fau Road, Pangai