Things in Nuku’alofa You Can’t Miss!
Welcome to Nuku’alofa, the “Abode of Love”, capital of the South Pacific’s only kingdom and the main centre of Tongatapu. Nuku’alofa is your introduction to Tonga, featuring some of the nation’s highlights right here! From awe-inspiring craft markets to photogenic royal sights to swimming with humpback whales, it can all be done here in the city of Nuku’alofa. Check out some of the experiences you simply cannot miss with this list of must-dos in Nuku’alofa!
While you’re here, you might also be interested in The Complete Guide to Nuku’alofa.
1. Swim with Humpback Whales
Between July and October, humpback whales swim some 3,000 miles (4,850km) from Antarctica to mate and calve in Tonga’s warm waters. With that, Tonga is one of the very few places in the world where you can swim with these majestic whales. Swim with these gentle giants in their element before stopping by an island for lunch and a chance to snorkel above life-filled coral. Learn more about whale swimming from Nuku’alofa in the 8 Best Whale Tours from Tongatapu.
Location: Trips depart from Faua Wharf, Vuna Road.
2. Browse Talamahu Market
Treat yourself to some amazing crafts while having a cultural experience at the Talamahu Market. The arts and crafts covering every inch of this market building are nothing short of awe-inspiring. See handmade woven clothes and baskets, hand-carved jewellery made from bones and wood, tapa-cloth paintings and awesome giant carvings, usually featuring whales and warriors. Even the produce side of the market is fun to explore, with impressive stands of colourful tropical fruit and vegetables. It’s certainly on the list of the 8 Things to Do in Nuku’alofa for Foodies.
Location: Salote Road. Open Monday to Saturday, early morning to 4.30pm.
3. Check Out the Royal Sights
The capital is home to a few interesting sights, including symbols of the South Pacific’s only kingdom! Check out the Royal Palace, a grand Victorian building on the waterfront where you can get the best views from the west side of the palace. The Royal Tombs is a large park-like area with the royal family’s graves in the centre adorning grand statues. While it’s fenced off, you can read interpretation signs at the gates explaining more about the history of the monarchy in Tonga. This is an activity that you can tick off the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Nuku’alofa list!
Location: Royal Palace, corner of Vaha’akolo and Vuna Road. Royal Tombs, seen from Meteialona Road, Vaha’akolo Road and Taufa’ahau Road.
4. Go on a Snorkelling Trip
Discover Tonga’s amazing array of corals and tropical fish on a snorkelling trip from Nuku’alofa. Snorkelling tours take travellers to the off-shore islands harbouring coral bommies and reefs some 20-40-minutes away. All of the snorkelling gear will be provided, including mask, snorkel and fins, so simply enjoy the boat journey and discover the amazing underwater world. Find out more about the trips in The Best Snorkel & Scuba Dive Tours on Tongatapu.
Location: Trips are available with Blue Water Explorer, Tuna Moana and Deep Blue Diving, departing from Faua Wharf.
5. Immerse in the Tongan Culture at Ancient Tonga
The Tongan culture is extremely accessible, easily seen even in the capital city! However, if you want to dive a bit deeper, Ancient Tonga offers a range of cultural tours. The culture centre has a wide range of experiences revolving around Tongan arts, crafts, dance and food. Learn about traditional Tongan clothing, why it’s worn and what it’s made from. Try tapa-cloth painting for yourself, learn about traditional Tongan medicine, try kava, learn how to prepare an underground oven called an “Umu”, and the list goes on! Ancient Tonga offer pick-ups from the city centre, as well as buffet nights and cultural shows on a Friday providing minimum numbers are met. Find out more about Ancient Tonga on Viator and Tripadvisor. We also recommend this activity in the 10 Things to Do in Nuku’alofa with Kids.
Location: Ancient Tonga, Tamakautonga Road.
6. Do an Island Day Trip
Just about the only tourism-related activity that you can do on a Sunday, which is also amazing to do any day of the week, is a day trip to one of the idyllic off-shore islands of Tongatapu. For instance, take a Day Trip to Royal Sunset Island Resort! After a 15-20-minute boat trip, you’ll arrive on the island to a welcome drink before having the whole day to enjoy the island as you choose: kayaking, swimming in the outdoor pool, walking to the island’s village and meeting the locals, sunbathing on the beach or snorkelling at the nearby reef. Find out more about the day trip on Viator and Tripadvisor. We also recommend this in the 6 Romantic Activities in Nuku’alofa for Couples.
See more island day trips in our 10 Best Island Day Trips from Nuku’alofa.
7. Scuba Dive Among Caves and Corals
Tonga’s underwater world presents an array of exciting sights for divers. Among the 170 marine species in Tonga’s waters, divers have the chance to see sea turtles, tuna, marlin, manta rays and whale sharks, all to the song of humpback whales in the right months! Explore caves created by volcanic activity at ‘Eua Island, explore coral reefs around Tongatapu, and enjoy the views from waters that are crystal clear. See more activities like this in our 5 Adult-Only Activities in Nuku’alofa.
Compare dive operators in Nuku’alofa with our The Best Snorkel & Scuba Dive Tours on Tongatapu.
8. Try Your Luck on a Fishing Charter
Join in on the excitement of sports fishing from Nuku’alofa on a fishing charter! Highly-sought game fish like mahimahi, wahoo, dogtooth tuna and giant trevally can be targeted in the tropical waters of Nuku’alofa. For instance, Blue Water Explorer offers sports fishing and spearfishing from their custom-built charter vessels. Alternatively, Deep Blue Diving offer laid-back reef fishing charters with all of the equipment provided. See more activities like this in our 7 Luxury Activities in Nuku’alofa.
Learn more in The Best Fishing Charters on Tongatapu.
9. Eat Out at Nuku’alofa’s Restaurants
Yes, even eating out in Nuku’alofa is an experience worth mentioning! Try fabulous local staples, such as ota ika (raw fish marinated in coconut cream) and lu (meat and coconut cream wrapped in taro leaves). Alternatively, European and Asian food is also readily available and done well. Just head to the Guide to the Best Eats & Restaurants in Nuku’alofa to check out our top recommendations!
For more suggestions, also check out the 5 Best Restaurants in Nuku’alofa.
10. Experience a Sunday Church Service
With 99% of Tonga’s population being devout Christians, sampling a slice of life at one of the Sunday church services is an amazing way to experience the culture. Tongan church halls boom with harmonious singing and the sound of brass instruments played by local school children. It’s an excellent free way to spend a Sunday morning (or afternoon) in Nuku’alofa. Check out the 5 Best Churches in Nuku’alofa to Experience as a Visitor for more recommended churches to visit.
Location: Centenary Church on Wellington Road, Centennial Church on the corner of Laifone and Hala Tu’i Roads, St Mary’s Cathedral on Vuna Road and St. Paul’s on the corner of Fatafehi Road and Wellington Road.