The Things in Ha’apai You Can’t Miss!
It’s not every day that you get to go to remote South Pacific islands, be surrounded by vibrant culture, and have the best conditions for water sports and wildlife encounters. Ha’apai is truly a hidden gem of Tonga, which, once you discover it, will be all-to-hard to leave. But because you’ll have to eventually, make sure you hit the must-dos in Ha’apai! We’ve listed some of our top recommended experiences in the list below.
Get more advice on planning your trip in The Complete Guide to Ha’apai.
1. Swim with Whales
One of the most unique offerings in Ha’apai and Tonga is swimming with humpback whales. During July to October, Ha’apai’s warm waters provide safe harbour for migrating humpback whales to mate and calve. Join one of the local whale swimming tours and see these gentle giants in their element when you join them in the water! If you’re travelling with young kids or are not keen on swimming, it’s often just exciting to watch whales from the boat or from shore.
Check out the whale swimming tours in the 5 Best Whale Swim Tours in Ha’apai.
2. Do Some Kitesurfing
Ha’apai is arguably the top kitesurfing location in the South Pacific thanks to its favourable tradewinds experienced all year round combined with sheltered lagoons. While kitesurfing can be enjoyed from Matafonua Lodge on Foa Island, it’s Uolevu Island that steels the hearts of most kitesurfers visiting Ha’apai. The island has a 500m (1,640ft) sandbar making a huge flat water lagoon stretching 6km (4 miles) long! It’s fun to kitesurf in just about any wind direction here, with April to November typically experiencing southeast tradewinds of 15-25 knots and northeast tradewinds in the summer months of 12-20 knots. Resorts like Fanifo Lofa Kitesurf Tonga have a few gears for guests to give it a go but it’s recommended to bring your own gear if you have it.
Location: Foa Island and Uolevu Island.
3. Explore the Underwater World
Ha’apai’s underwater world is virtually untouched, providing some of the best snorkelling and scuba diving in Tonga. All of the resorts have some excellent snorkelling from the beach, especially Matafonua Lodge where there are buoys to swim to showing the best snorkelling spots. Sea Change Eco Retreat also offers excellent snorkelling, as well as snorkel boat tours to some of the most vibrant reefs. As for scuba diving, there is a PADI dive centre at the Sandy Beach Resort/Matafonua Lodge and an SSI dive centre at the Ha’apai Beach Resort, both providing courses and amazing trips to Ha’apai’s coral-filled dive sites, tunnel swim-throughs and more! See more activities like scuba diving in the 10 Luxury Activities in Ha’apai.
Location: All over Ha’apai!
4. Check Out the Historical Attractions
Ha’apai has a colourful history of Tongan monarchy, chiefs, ship ransacking, the introduction of Christianity into Tonga, the mutiny of the Bounty and more! The social history here dates back some 3,000 years where sites across the islands make for interesting places to hit when hiring a bike or going for a walk. Lifuka and Foa Island are the easiest islands to explore for archaeological sites, such as the Olovehu Tomb, Velata Moun Fortress, Hulu’ipongo Tomb, the Port au Prince Massacre Monument and more! Check out the sites and their locations in the 10 Free & Cheap Things To Do in Ha’apai.
Location: All over Ha’apai!
5. Hit the Water on a Kayak or a Paddleboard
Enjoy the serenity of gliding across Ha’apai’s mostly tranquil waters, perhaps catching a wave over a reef or back onto shore, through kayaking and paddleboarding. Kayaks are readily available at almost all of Ha’apai’s resorts, while paddleboards can be hired at a select few, such as Fanifo Lofa Kitesurf Tonga and Sea Change Eco Retreat. Matafonua Lodge and Sandy Beach Resort also offer paddleboarding safaris, sunset tours night tours and SUP yoga.
Location: Check out resorts with kayaks and/or paddleboards in the 10 Best Resorts in Ha’apai.
6. Do Some Horseback Riding
Mostly used as an everyday transportation method in Ha’apai, horses are a part of the culture on the islands. Guests at Matafonua Lodge and Sandy Beach Resort can join one of the resorts’ horseback riding tours, where you’ll be taken to a local village to meet their horses. Once acquainted with your horse, you’ll ride bareback (island-style) through tropical forest and onto the beach. Gallop across the beach if you’re confident and treat your horse and yourself to a cooling swim. See more experiences like this in our 10 Things To Do in Ha’apai with Kids.
Location: From Matafonua Lodge and Sandy Beach Resort, Foa Island.
7. Rejuvenate with a Yoga Session
The islands of Ha’apai with their balmy temperatures, soft sands and glistening waters provide the perfect environment to unwind. Heighten the experience further by doing one of the yoga sessions offered at the resorts. Serenity Beaches Resort hosts regular yoga retreats, as well as daily yoga sessions in their pavilion nestled in beachfront forest. Alternatively do a “Whales & Yoga” session at the Sea Change Eco Retreat to get your mind, body and soul prepared for swimming with whales. Finally, Matafonua Lodge and Sandy Beach Resort offer stand-up paddleboard (SUP) yoga classes. See more experiences like this in the 10 Adult-Only Activities in Ha’apai.
Location: Serenity Beaches Resort and Sea Change Eco Retreat on Uolevu Island. Matafonua Lodge and Sandy Beach Resort on Foa Island.
8. Spend the Day Marooned on an Island
Out of the 62 islands in the Ha’apai Group, 45 are uninhabited. Resorts like Sea Change Eco Retreat, Matafonua Lodge and Sandy Beach Resort offer guests the chance to have the castaway experience on a small deserted island! You’ll be dropped off at the island with your loved one complete with beach towels, snorkelling gear, a picnic lunch and a radio with Sea Change Eco Resort for the day on the island. Alternatively, Matafonua and Sandy Beach’s “Robinson Crusoe” experience is a multi-day marooning where you’ll stay in a traditional Tongan fale with the whole island all to yourself. See more experiences like this in the 10 Romantic Activities in Ha’apai for Couples.
Location: From Sea Change Eco Retreat on Uolevu Island and Matafonua Lodge and Sandy Beach Resort on Foa Island.
9. Do a Tongan Cultural Tour
An absolute must-do is immersing in the Tongan culture in Ha’apai where many traditions have gone unchanged for centuries. The culture is easily accessible with all resorts offering some sort of immersive experience, whether it’s learning some weaving at Langi Langi Guesthouse, doing an island village tour with Sea Change Eco Retreat, or heading to Ha’ano Island for a Tongan lunch feast. Learn more about the latter experience in the 6 Things to Do in Ha’apai for Foodies.
Location: All over Ha’apai!
10. Explore Pangai
Finally, most trips to Ha’apai will involve checking out the main town of the islands, Pangai! Located on Lifuka Island, Pangai is small but has a few attractions worth hiring a bike to get to. Check out the Pangai Market on the waterfront to see an array of tropical produce and handicrafts. Stop by the Mariner’s Cafe for a drink of Tongan beer or a fresh coconut and make use of the WiFi. Try a keki (Tongan doughnut) from the Matuku-ae-tau Bakery and the list goes on!
Location: Pangai, Lifuka Island.