Budget Activities in Tongatapu
You certainly don’t need to be a millionaire to enjoy the sights of Tongatapu! Tonga’s main island is brimming with interesting historical sites, unusual natural formations and wildlife sanctuaries that can either be seen for free or at least an incredibly cheap price. Not only will you find a wealth of free things to do on Tongatapu, but you’re sure to find cheap activities too. So take a look at our list of free and cheap things to do in Tongatapu and start making your Tongatapu bucket list!
1. See the Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon
Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon, also known as “Maui’s Burden”, is an intriguing ancient monument believed to have been constructed in the 13th Century by the 11th Tu’i (king) of Tonga, Tu’itatui. The attraction near Niutoua is within an attractive park setting with souvenir stalls and a grassy walkway leading to ‘Esi Makafakinanga or “Tu’itatui’s Backrest”, which is said to be where the king leant while he watched the construction of the monument. Interpretation panels at the site explain the history of the site.
Location: Niutoua, eastside of Tongatapu
2. Explore and Swim at ‘Anahulu Cave
This impressive limestone cave on the east coast of Tongatapu is a must-see, and not too expensive either! Duck through a small cave entrance which instantly opens up into a vast limestone cave lit up to admire in all its glory. A well-formed walkway leads to a refreshing swimming hole – so bring your swimwear! Although it’s possible to swim into more caverns, it’s best done if you know what you’re doing or if you’re with a guide. Entry is approximately TOP$15 per person.
Location: Fatumu, eastside of Tongatapu
3. Check Out the Hufangalupe Landbridge and Cliff Lookout
There are a few impressive natural features to admire in the Hufangalupe area. After a drive down a dirt track (the last 50m is really rough, so it’s best to park up and walk the rest of the way if you’re in a rental car), you’ll first come to a side trail to an astonishing lookout over Hufangalupe Beach. Another fainter trail leads down to the beach from the road. Alternatively, continue down the dirt road and follow a well-formed trail down to a cliff archway covered in vegetation and with the waves crashing below. Walk over the landbridge and for approximately five minutes before turning back to see an amazing view of Tongatapu’s rugged cliff coastline.
Location: Off Liku Road, west of Fua’amotu and south of Vaini. Eastside of Tongatapu.
4. See the Flying Foxes in Kolovai
For your wildlife fix, head to the village of Kolovai to check out its flying fox sanctuary. It’s likely that you’ll hear the strange squeaks of the large fruit bats, locally known as “peka”, before you see them hanging in the trees. While it’s possible to see flying foxes at any time of the year, the best time to see them is between October and February. Note, you only need to look up in the trees in Kolovai to see flying foxes.
Location: Kolovai, westside of Tongatapu.
5. Go Beach-Hopping
Tongatapu certainly has its fair share of beaches, from famous surf beaches on the western side to beaches leading out to lagoons and reefs on the south and eastern side. A few highlights include Ha’atafu Beach, Monotapu Beach and Laulea Beach. Check out some of our top picks in the 10 Best Beaches on Tongatapu, as well as a full guide in The Guide to Beaches on Tongatapu.
Location: East, south and west coast of Tongatapu.
6. Check Out the Fishing Pigs
Probably one of the strangest attractions in Tonga, the Fishing Pigs are essentially a bunch of pigs in the village of Mu’a that have decided that they prefer seafood to land fodder. With that, you can almost always see pigs wandering the mudflats along the coast of the village, sticking their head in the water in search of briny goodness. Don’t worry the brown tourist signs on the side of the road will point you out in the right direction of this attraction that the Tongans are extremely proud of!
Location: Mu’a, eastside of Tongatapu.
7. Admire the Three-Headed Coconut Tree
Ok, scrap the Fishing Pigs being the strangest tourist attraction, THIS is the strangest tourist attraction! The Three-Headed Coconut Tree is an unusual coconut tree found on the side of Loto Road on the outskirts of Liahona, said to be the only coconut tree in the South Pacific with three heads! Don’t worry, it’s well sight-posted so you can’t miss it! It’s worth a quick stop on the side of the road for a photo.
Location: Loto Road near Liahona, westside of Tongatapu.
8. See Amazing Natural Displays at the Mapu ‘a Vaea Blowholes
Back to something more serious, the Mapu ‘a Vaea Blowholes are an impressive natural attraction spanning some 5km (3 miles) along the coastline. You’ll see hundreds of blowholes spouting water into the air before the water falls back onto the tiered reefs making a beautiful natural feature. While the blowholes perform at any time, some of the best times to see the blowholes is at sunset for gorgeous hues and during windy weather or large swells to see blowholes bursting up to 30m (100ft) in the air!
Location: Houma, westside of Tongatapu.
9. Find All of the Landing Sites
Look at any tourist map of Tongatapu and you’ll see a lot of “landing sites” or “landing places” dotted across the island. For instance, on the eastside, you’ll find the Captain Cook Landing Site where a plaque can be seen above a mangrove inlet. On the westside, the Abel Tasman Landing Site is marked with a plaque and interpretation panel telling the story of the first European explorer to discover Tongatapu. Finally, the Christianity Landing Place nearby the Abel Tasman Site has a commemorative plaque of when the Christian missionaries first landed in Tonga. One side of the plaque in Tongan and the other in English.
Location: Captain Cook Landing Site – Holonga, eastside of Tongatapu. Abel Tasman and Christianity Landing Sites – north of Kanokupolu and Ha’atafu on Hihifo Road, westside of Tongatapu.
10. Snorkel, Paddleboard or Kayak from Your Resort
Staying on the beachfront or at an island resort? Chances are, there will be some complimentary watersports equipment to use to maximise your time. For instance, Fafa Island Resort offers free paddleboards to explore the surrounding reefs. Heilala Holiday Lodge offers free snorkel gear hire and bicycle hire. Ha’afatu Beach Resort offers snorkelling gear, kayaks and beach games for guests to use free of charge.
Location: All over Tongatapu – see the 10 Best Resorts on Tongatapu.