Free/Cheap Activities in Vava’u
We get it. Nothing ruins a getaway quite like stressing over your budget. Luckily, Tonga’s islands of Vava’u have plenty to keep you entertained for either free or an affordable price! From mountain walks to historical caves, from water activities to fascinating land tours, there’s a wealth of free and cheap things to do in Vava’u!
1. Check Out the Views from Mt Talau
A great place to start with your exploration of Vava’u is from the top of Mt Talau! Located in the Mt Talau National Park, just a 20-minute walk from Neiafu town or a TOP$10 taxi ride, the Mt Talau walk is a 10-20-minute climb through rugged forest and up some steep (and slippery) steps. Your reward at the top is awesome views of Neiafu, the Port of Refuge and, well, a phone tower directly behind you. There’s a viewing deck, which last time we checked had no steps, so that will be another thing you will need to climb. We recommend walking back into town through the villages for interesting sights like churches, pigs and roosters.
Location: From Neiafu, follow Tapueluefu Road for approximately 2km (1.2 miles) until you see the entrance signs for the Mt Talau National Park.
2. Visit the Neiafu Market
Located on the waterfront next to Halavalue Wharf, the Neiafu Market is a must-visit with its array of produce and handicrafts. Head down to the Neiafu Market, also known as the ‘Utukalongalu Market, to admire beautiful tapa paintings, woven items, carved pendants and more. You can also pick up some healthy snacks from the fruit and vegetable stalls, which are sold by the bunch or the pile.
Location: Neiafu waterfront next to Halavalu Wharf.
3. Do a Tour of the ‘Ene’io Botanical Garden
A must-do in the Vava’u Islands, yet super affordable, the ‘Ene’io Botanical Garden offers a range of tours. Learn about all sorts of interesting tropical plants and trees on a walking tour with the former Director for Agriculture and Forestry and curator of the gardens, Haniteli Fa’anunu. Alternatively, there is a bird-watching and leisurely hiking tour which include a guided tour of the gardens, pick-up from Neiafu and lunch. Tours are TOP$35-$85. We also list this activity in the 10 Things To Do in Vava’u with Kids.
Location: On the eastern side of Vava’u Island, south of Tu’anikivale Village.
4. Go to a Sunday Church Service
Sundays are a time to slow down in the islands of Tonga, and especially in Neiafu and the surrounding villages. Harmonious singing floats through the towns throughout the morning and the afternoon, where visitors can immerse themselves a little further into the cultural experience by attending a Sunday church service. While most of the churches in Neiafu welcome visitors, one of the most popular churches for travellers to attend is the grand St. Joseph’s Cathedral. Sunday services start at 10am.
Location: St. Joseph’s Cathedral, corner of Tokongahatau Road and Hala Lupe Road, Neiafu.
5. Do a Tour of the Vava’u Pearl Centre
Vava’u is renowned for its production of mabe pearls which you can learn all about at the Vava’u Pearl Centre at the main wharf in Neiafu. Either pop-in to oggle at all the pretty pearl jewellery, artwork and handicrafts in the centre which is open Monday to Friday, 9am-4pm, or join one of the tours! Tours cost around TOP$10 and take place every Thursday and Friday at 10am. The 40-minute tour explains how pearl oysters are born and bred, shows you the difference between the types of pearls, and takes you on a tour of the workshop.
Location: Halaevalu Wharf, Neiafu.
6. Do an Island Land Tour
Seeing some of the tops sights around Vava’u Island and its connecting islands can be done on an affordable land tour. Enjoy insights from your local guide as you discover some of Vava’u’s best photo stops and learn about the culture and history of the islands. Port of Refuge Villas offers full-day land tours for around TOP$75 per person, while About Vava’u offers complimentary tours of Pouono Park in Neiafu as a taster to their Neiafu Walking Tour, Saturday Morning Market Tour, half-day and full-day island tours. Compare tours in The Best Guided Tours of Vava’u.
Location: Most land tours depart from Neiafu.
7. Check Out Veimumuni Cave
An interesting natural feature hidden in the village of Toula, the Veimumuni Cave is a sea-facing cave filled with a freshwater pool. The cave is free to visit and well-signposted from the main roads when travelling south from Neiafu. At the entrance is an interpretation panel recalling the local legend behind the cave. Follow a super-short walkway down to the cave entrance where you can peer into the cave or go in for a swim – the pool is about 2m (7ft) at its deepest point.
Location: 3km (1.8 miles) south of Neiafu, clearly signposted around the village of Toula.
8. Do Some Kayaking from Your Resort
Almost all beachfront accommodation in Vava’u offers complimentary kayak hire to guests. So if you’re staying in one of the resorts, be sure to spend some time out on the water, exploring the coast and checking out the marine life swimming under your kayak! Check out some of the resorts with kayaks in the 10 Best Resorts in Vava’u.
9. Take in the Views from the ‘Utula’aina Lookout
In the north of Vava’u Island, the ‘Utula’aina Lookout provides a stunning photo stop and whale watching lookout. After a drive down a rough dirt road (make sure your rental car has high clearance), and looking out for the tomb hidden in the bushes as you drive, you’ll reach the ‘Utula’aina Lookout with breathtaking views over Vava’u’s rugged cliffs, turquoise waters and white-sand beaches. There is also a turn off in the road leading down to one of the beaches, but it can be a little too rough for some cars, so we recommend parking up and walking down.
Location: North of Holonga. The lookout is well signposted.
10. Get in Some Beach Time
It would almost be a crime to come to a South Pacific island and not spend time at the beach. While Vava’u’s island resorts, beachfront resorts and, for instance, ‘Ene’io Botanical Garden all have great beaches, a good beach destination is Hinakauea Beach in the south of Pangaimotu Island (attached to the main island). Enjoy beautiful sheltered beaches with blue waters, good snorkelling and a good place to feel your toes in the sand. Nearby, ‘Ano Beach is another stunning option with the Floating Ark Gallery with dingies and kayaks to get to it making an interesting attraction.
Location: Hinakauea Beach and ‘Ano Beach, south of Panaimotu Island.