Things in Tongatapu You Can’t Miss!
The photos of ancient stone arches, breaching whales and royal palaces that you may have seen have likely been taken on the island of Tongatapu. Tonga’s main arrival island has some amazing sights and attractions to explore before you head off to the outer islands. From spectacular dive sites to vibrant cultural markets and dinner shows, the activities on Tongatapu are exciting and varied! So check out the experiences you can’t miss in this list of must-dos in Tongatapu!
And another thing you can’t miss is The Complete Guide to Tongatapu!
1. See the Mapu ‘a Vaea Blowholes
Tongatapu is full of amazing natural attractions, with one of the must-sees being the Mapu ‘a Vaea Blowholes. Spanning some 5km (3 miles) along the coastline, hundreds of blowholes shoot seawater into the air onto the tiered reefs like nature’s own water feature. Although the blowholes can be seen doing their thing at any time, the blowholes look their best at sunset, as well as during windy weather or large swells when water can shoot up to 30m (100ft) in the air! See more recommendations like this in 10 Free & Cheap Things To Do on Tongatapu.
Location: Houma, westside of Tongatapu.
2. Swim with Whales
A once-in-a-lifetime activity can be experienced in the waters of Tongatapu between July and October, humpback whales have taken a remarkable journey from the Antarctic to Tonga. The warm, shallow and sheltered waters of Tongatapu are the perfect conditions to swim with these amazing creatures on one of the whale swimming tours from Nuku’alofa. See more like this in 10 Luxury Activities on Tongatapu.
Location: Faua Wharf, Nuku’alofa
3. Scuba Dive or Freedive to Coral Reefs and Caves
Tongatapu is home to some unique scuba diving and freediving experiences, where dives are accompanied by whale song in the whale season. Dive among vibrant coral reefs with more than 170 fish species or take a trip a little further afield to ‘Eua island, Tonga’s oldest island with an astonishing underwater seascape of volcanic caverns. Check out the dive trips available in The Best Snorkel & Scuba Dive Tours on Tongatapu.
Location: Faua Wharf, Nuku’alofa
4. Surf, Swim and Snorkel at Ha’atafu Beach
Ha’atafu Beach is not only a hidden gem of surfing in the South Pacific, but the beach is also a marine reserve. Enjoy around 10 different uncrowded surf breaks for experienced surfers, don your snorkel mask for some fishy fun or hire a kayak from one of the beach resorts and paddle over crystal clear waters. Learn more about the beaches on Tongatapu here, and see similar activities to surfing in 8 Adult-Only Activities on Tongatapu.
Location: Ha’atafu Beach, westside of Tongatapu
5. Escape to an Off-Shore Island for the Day (or a Few…)
If you’re not staying at one of the island resorts mentioned in our 10 Best Resorts on Tongatapu, then you can still get the island experience by doing one of the island day trips from Nuku’alofa. Take a short boat journey to one of the idyllic islands such as Fafa Island, ‘Atata Island and Pangaimotu Island. There, you’ll have the day to experience the island as you desire, whether it’s snorkelling above the reefs, kayaking, paddleboarding, visiting island villages, sunbathing or eating. What’s more, it’s an activity that you can even do on a Sunday. See more activities like this in 8 Romantic Activities on Tongatapu for Couples.
Location: Trips depart from Faua Wharf, Nuku’alofa
6. See Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon
One of the most famous historical sites in the South Pacific, the Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon is a definite must-see! Translating to “Maui’s Burden”, this Stone Henge of the South Pacific was constructed around the 13th Century, where the history of the stone arch can be read at the site’s interpretation panels. Another interesting feature here is ‘Esi Makafakinanga, a leaning stone pillar that is said to be where the king of Tonga rested while watching the construction of Ha’amonga ‘a Maui.
Location: Niutoua, east side of Tongatapu
7. Browse Talamahu Market
A must-do in the centre of Nuku’alofa is to visit the Talamahu Market. A vibrant hub of culture, Talamahu Market has arts and crafts covering just about every inch of the building. See handmade woven clothes and baskets, intricately carved jewellery made from bones and wood, traditional tapa-cloth paintings and awesome giant carvings of whales and warriors. Even the produce side of the market is an experience, with pyramid mounds and woven baskets full of colourful tropical fruit and vegetables. See more things to do within Nuku’alofa in our 10 Must-Dos in Nuku’alofa.
Location: Salote Road, Nuku’alofa. Open Monday to Saturday, early morning to 4.30pm.
8. See the Epic Tsunami Rock
Tsunami Rock is just one of Tonga’s epic-scale boulders in an unusual location. Surrounded by coconut fields and some distance from the coast, Tsunami Rock, locally known as “The Maka Sio’ata”, is explained by geologists to be a rock from a nearby reef that could have been deposited on land by a tsunami. You can even see the fossils of sea creatures clearly frozen in the rock. Be sure to get some obligatory photos and read about the rock’s history on the interpretation panels.
Location: Kala’au, west side of Tongatapu
9. Experience a Tongan Feast and Cultural Show
While the Tongan culture is easily accessible on Tongatapu, one of the best ways to experience it is through the Tongatapu dinner shows! Resorts, such as Vakaloa Beach Resort, Fafa Island Resort, Liku’alofa Beach Resort and Oholei Beach Resort, all host cultural nights complete with grand feasts and performing arts known as “lakalaka”. It’s a one-stop shop for experiencing authentic Tongan dishes and seeing entertaining song and dance. Plus, find more food-related activities in 9 Things to Do on Tongatapu for Foodies.
Location: All over Tongatapu
10. See the Flying Foxes
Finally, for your wildlife fix, go to the village of Kolovai to check out its flying fox sanctuary. You’ll probably hear the strange squeaks of the large fruit bats or “peka” before you see them hanging in the trees, easily seen from the roadside. While it’s possible to see flying foxes anywhere on Tongatapu at any time, the best time to see them is between October and February.
Location: Kolovai, westside of Tongatapu.