Experience the Other Side of Tonga
Tonga is a nation of 170 islands with only 36 islands being inhabited. With that in mind, there are a lot of islands in Tonga which are lesser visited. While our list isn’t particularly of the least travelled islands in Tonga, it is a list of places you should consider if you want to explore another side of Tonga than the main islands. Most importantly, they are islands that you can get to – we’re not listing islands that you will need your own yacht for. So with all that out of the way, let’s jump into our special list of the less-travelled islands of Tonga!
Tonga’s oldest island, just a seven-minute flight from Tongatapu, might be the closest of our list of islands to the main centre of Tonga but it feels a world away. The island has a small tourism industry of around six accommodations and only a couple of options for whale swimming, 4WD tours, etc. Most experiences are organised with the local villages, whether it’s learning Tongan handicrafts, horseback riding or doing a guided hike through the breathtaking ‘Eua National Park. Learn more about this island in The Complete Guide to ‘Eua.
While the islands of Lifuka, Foa and Uolevu are the most visited in the Ha’apai group, if you’re looking to see another side of Ha’apai, then take a boat trip to Ha’ano. The women’s group of the island’s village put on special cultural experiences for visitors through handicraft demonstrations, cultural performances from the school children, and a traditional Tongan lunch. Learn more about the Ha’apai group in The Complete Guide to Ha’apai.
For more intrepid travellers, Niuafo’ou is one of Tonga’s most remote islands being around 375km (233 miles) from Vava’u and 200km (125 miles) from its next nearest neighbour, Niuatoputapu. Niuafo’ou is one of the three islands that make up The Niuas island group, a place where people live in more traditional fales, fish for food and go to church every Sunday. If you want to experience the real South Pacific, and do it for quite some time as flights and ferries are few and far in between, then Niuafo’ou is the island to head to. Learn more in The Complete Guide to The Niuas.
A volcanic island on the western side of Ha’apai, Tofua has had an official population of two. The island has a 5km (3-mile) wide caldera containing a freshwater lake. Visitors to the island can enjoy birdwatching at this safe haven for South Pacific land and seabirds, as well as hike to the edge of the caldera for some epic vistas.
The “other” island in The Niuas group is actually a little easier to get to than Niuafo’ou with a flight once a fortnight to the island. Again, it’s a far-flung island where inhabitants live a more traditional life. The island is a long-extinct volcano where the peak can be hiked to for tremendous views. There is also a crystal clear freshwater pool in the island’s main village, Hihifo, that you can swim in. Learn more in the 10 Must-Dos in The Niuas.
An island in the Vava’u group, ‘Euakafa is another uninhabited island that has a few interesting features for those adventurous enough to visit. Those staying at the Treasure Island Eco Resort on the neighbouring ‘Eueiki Island can take a boat trip to ‘Euakafa to learn about the legend of a Samoan princess who is buried there. You’ll hike to various caves and even snorkel inside the island’s sea cave. Learn more about this group of islands in The Complete Guide to Vava’u.
Another island in Vava’u, Fofoa feels like an island to yourself with only one tourist accommodation, The Beach House, featuring just two beach houses to stay in. The island has white-sand beaches and bush to explore, snorkelling in its lagoon and outer reef, while you’ll also have access to popular activities like whale swimming and fishing.
Maninita Island is a sanctuary for around 19 species of birds, making this uninhabited island well worth visiting for nature lovers. Bird watching tours with Mounu Island Resort and the Mandala Island Resort take you to this natural haven in the southern reaches of Vava’u.
Back to Ha’apai, Kao sits beside Tofua and is Tonga’s highest island reaching 1,030m (3,379ft). It’s a stratovolcano in which adventurous travellers who can organise a boat trip with their resort can reach to do one of the toughest hikes in Tonga. The views at the top, however, are the ultimate reward.
Finally, for an uninhabited island that you can stay on all by yourself, look up Luahoko. The small uninhabited island is approximately 12km (7 miles) from Foa Island where Matafonua Lodge and the Sandy Beach Resort can organise a “Robinson Crusoe” experience for couples who wish to stay on the island.