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 less 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 with less than 10 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.
Location: ‘Eua, south Tonga.
While the islands of Lifuka, Foa and Uoleva 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.
Location: Ha’ano, south of Foa Island, Ha’apai. Boat access is via the wharf in Faleloa village.
For more intrepid travellers, Niuafo’ou is one of Tonga’s most remote islands being around 375 km (233 mi) from Vava’u and 200 km (125 mi) from its 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 between, then Niuafo’ou is the island to head to. Learn more in The Complete Guide to The Niuas.
Location: Niuafo’ou, The Niuas, north Tonga.
A volcanic island on the western side of Ha’apai, Tofua has had an official population of two. The island has a 5 km (3 mi) 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.
Location: Boat charters to Tofua Island depart from the jetty just south of the Visitor Information Centre, Pangai, Lifuka Island, Ha’apai. Inquire about organising a return boat trip to the island at the Visitor Information Centre. Learn more about chartering boats in A Guide to Boat Transfers & Water Taxis in Tonga.
The “other” island in The Niuas group is actually a little easier to get to than Niuafo’ou with a slightly more regular flight schedule. 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 15 Best Things to Do in The Niuas.
Location: Niuatoputapu, The Niuas, north Tonga.
An island in the Vava’u group, ‘Euakafa is another (mostly) uninhabited island that has a few interesting features for those adventurous enough to visit. Despite there actually being a resort on the island, Dream Island Resort, it still evokes “Robinson Crusoe” vibes as you’re not sharing the island with much other than sand, crabs and coconut trees. It’s paradise if you’re looking to get away from it all! Learn more about this group of islands in The Complete Guide to Vava’u.
Location: ‘Euakafa Island, southern Vava’u.
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 Treasure Island Eco Resort take you to this natural haven in the southern reaches of Vava’u.
Location: Maninita, southern Vava’u.
Back to Ha’apai, Kao sits beside Tofua and is Tonga’s highest island reaching 1,030 m (3,379 ft). 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.
Location: Boat charters to Kao Island depart from the jetty just south of the Visitor Information Centre, Pangai, Lifuka Island, Ha’apai. Inquire about organising a return boat trip to the island at the Visitor Information Centre.
An island in Vava’u with just one resort open exclusively for the whale season with just four bungalows, Foeata encourages only a minute few to visit. The island is home to the Blue Lagoon Resort, famous for its whale swimming and unique overwater fales. Learn more about the resort in The Top 25 Resorts in Tonga.
Location: Foeata Island, southwestern Vava’u.
Finally, the island group of Tongatapu might be home to the most visited island in Tonga but its northern lagoon holds a scattering of paradisical islets well worth exploring. Perhaps the only time anyone makes it onto islands such as Tau Island is for lunch during whale swimming tours in the whale season. Find out more about these tours in the 10 Best Whale Swim Tours in Tonga.
Location: Tau Island, Tongatapu, south Tonga.
More About the Less-Travelled Islands of Tonga
That’s it for our guide to the less-travelled islands of Tonga. For even more islands to explore, take a look at these articles:
- 10 Places Off the Beaten Track in Tonga
- The 10 Largest Islands in Tonga
- The Best Islands to Visit in Tonga