Get Off the Tourist Trail in Tonga
Admittedly, Tonga is already a country that is off the beaten path. However, even in Tonga, you can easily get further off the tourist trail by simply leaving the hotspots like Tongatapu, Neiafu and Lifuka and exploring elsewhere. That’s right, everywhere else in Tonga can easily feature on this list! Nevertheless, we all need a place to start when looking for authenticity and ultimate serenity, so take a look at our list of the top places that are off the beaten track in Tonga!
1. Luahoko Island
What’s more off the beaten track than having a whole private island to yourself?! That’s right, Luahoko is an island in the Ha’apai group with just one cosy traditional-style fale for those looking for the “Robinson Crusoe” experience. A stay here can be organised through Matafonua Lodge or the Sandy Beach Resort.
2. ‘Eueiki Island
Vava’u is home to several islands with nothing but boutique resorts and nature, proving for a real off-the-beaten-track experience. ‘Eueiki is one such island where you can stay at the Treasure Island Eco Resort. Stay in one of the traditionally thatched fales, snorkel or swim with whales from the resort’s outrigger, or enjoy the serenity of this otherwise uninhabited island.
Only the truly intrepid make their way to the far-flung islands of The Niuas, the largest island of which is Niuatoputapu. It’s a place that hasn’t rushed to develop with the changes of modern-day life, where fishermen go out in the fishing boats every day and inhabitants live in simple fales. There’s a flight once every two weeks, giving visitors enough time to experience getting “stranded” in the true South Pacific. Learn more in The Complete Guide to The Niuas.
From Niuatoputapu, you’ll see the cone-shaped island of Tafahi. Fishermen travel between the islands each day, so you might be able to negotiate your way across to the island which has just one village. From here, you can hike to the top for spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and the nearby Niuatoputapu.
Just a seven-minute flight or a half-day ferry journey from the bustling Tongatapu, ‘Eua feels like a world away and a true off-the-beaten-track destination. Although the island is the third-largest in Tonga, it only has a handful of tourist accommodations and experiences. Activities are typically organised with the local villagers to learn handicrafts, go horseback riding or take on a guided hike through the island’s ancient forest. Learn more in The Complete Guide to ‘Eua.
It can easily be said that the whole Ha’apai group of Tonga is “off the beaten track”, but you can get further off the beaten track still by visiting the island of Ha’ano. Resorts can organise boat trips to visit the island and its villagers who share a slice of village life through handicraft demonstrations, cultural performances by the local school children, and a Tongan feast.
7. Mounu Island
A 2.6ha (6.5-acre) coral atoll and private island in the Vava’u group, Mounu Island is yet another stunning off the beaten track destination in Tonga. The private island resort here only has three fales for guests, so the beaches, lagoon and bushy interior never feels crowded. The island is great for snorkelling, kitesurfing, stargazing or simply sitting back and relaxing. Check out more resorts in the area in the 10 Best Resorts in Vava’u.
There are many interesting islands in Tonga, especially the volcanic Tofua. The volcanic island on the western side of Ha’apai has a huge caldera filled with a freshwater lake. While only a couple of farmers live here now and then, the main inhabitants are seabirds. If you can manage to organise a boat excursion from your Ha’apai resort, be sure to hike to the edge of the caldera for epic views.
The third and final island in the remote Niuas, Niuafo’ou has even fewer flights than Niuatoputapu! The island feels even far different from the rest of Tonga, with villages speaking their own distinct language. The island has a volcanic rim with a large crater lake in its centre. There is no tourist accommodation here, so an excursion here means befriending the locals and experiencing the South Pacific as it used to be.
Finally, if you want to check out the highest island in Tonga, then you’ll need to head to Kao. The 1,030m (3,379ft) high stratovolcano sits next to Tofua island in the Ha’apai group and can be reached on boat excursions with some resorts and locals. It’s a tough hike, but the views are worth the effort.