Where to Snorkel in Vava’u + Where to Get Snorkelling Gear
The 50 islands of Vava’u provide some stunning snorkelling in Tonga. For those who want to discover the underwater world through the ease of snorkelling, then you’re bound to be amazed by the dramatic caves, coral bommies and reefs in the island group. From snorkelling off the shore at your resort to taking a snorkelling boat tour, there are plenty of reasons to don your snorkel and mask. Check out this list of places to snorkel in Vava’u to be inspired for your next snorkelling destination.
Note that Tonga is a religious country where it can be seen as disrespectful to not wear modest clothing even when swimming at the beach. If there are locals around, have a rash vest or sarong handy. Learn more about respecting local customs in our guide, Tonga Etiquette: Local Customs & Traditions.
7 Quick Tips for Snorkelling in Vava’u
- Always snorkel with someone else
- Wear reef shoes and/or fins
- Don’t touch marine life
- Wear reef-safe sunscreen and/or wear a rash vest even on cloudy days
- Avoid snorkelling near the reef’s edges and passages; they have strong currents
- Assess the conditions; high swells and snorkelling don’t mix
- Respect the local culture; some snorkelling spots are near villages where wearing modest clothing (even when swimming) is important.
1. Swallows Cave
Arguably the most popular snorkelling spot in Vava’u, Swallows Cave (‘Ana Pekapeka) is a must-do! It’s almost a guaranteed snorkelling spot on any snorkelling trip taken from Neiafu, where you’ll swim into the entrance of a huge sea cave not only lined with tropical reef fish at the entrance but harbouring a huge school of fish inside the cave. The light displays beaming through the cave entrance also make this an awesome underwater photo opportunity.
Location: Northwestern tip of Kapa Island.
2. Coral Gardens
Most snorkel tours in Vava’u will take you to the wonderful Coral Gardens, home to a variety of fish and diverse hard coral. It will feel as if you are swimming through valleys of coral as the current drifts you along.
Location: Between Vaka’eitu Island and Nuapapu Island.
3. Mariner’s Cave
Inside Nuapapu Island, Mariner’s Cave is a fun place to discover if you’re a super strong and confident snorkeller/swimmer. The entrance of the cave is through a short underwater tunnel which you’ll need to dive through to emerge inside the airtight chamber. Some snorkelling tours will take you here on request if you prove to be a strong enough swimmer.
Location: Northwestern coast of Nuapapu Island.
4. Tali e Hau Beach
A real hidden gem on the southeast coast of Koloa Island, connected to ‘Utu Vava’u (the main island of Vava’u) via a causeway, Tali e Hau Beach offers interesting swimming and snorkelling. Not to be confused with the beach in Talihau village on ‘Utungake, this beach is a little further south of ‘Ene’io Botanical Garden (which has another excellent beach, FYI). Note that you should avoid snorkelling too close to the reef for your own safety. Also, note that this is a private beach, so ask the Visitor Information Centre (Neiafu) to call ahead on your behalf. You may be asked to make a small donation for the maintenance of this beach (around TOP$10). See more beaches to access from the main island in the 10 Best Beaches in Vava’u.
Location: At Holeva village, continue on the main road south for approximately 500 m (550 yards) and turn left onto the first plantation road. Continue on the plantation road for approximately 460 m (500 yards) and the beach access road is on your right. Southeast coast of Koloa Island.
5. Nuku Island
Admittedly, Nuku Island is not the best snorkelling spot in Vava’u, but it’s a cool place that some snorkelling and whale swimming tours show to guests. The beautiful spot has a small beach, as well as a few fish to check out when snorkelling. Look out for elusive eels that can sometimes be spotted in the sand.
Location: Nuku Island, off the southwest coast of Kapa Island.
6. Euakafa Island
An island that you’ll want to be a castaway on (and you pretty much can at Dream Island Resort), Euakafa Island hides many cool snorkelling spots from its encircling beach. What’s more, it even has caves you can swim in – definitely one of the least-visited snorkelling caves in Vava’u so you’re likely to have this piece of paradise all to yourself. Also, ask about tours to the island from the nearby Treasure Island Eco Resort. Again, learn more about these resorts in the 10 Best Resorts in Vava’u.
Location: Euakafa Island, southern part of the Vava’u Group next to ‘Euaiki Island.
7. Mounu Island Resort
For more excellent snorkelling straight from the resort, try Mounu Island Resort which has good snorkelling off the beach from just about any fale on the island. You’ll likely see a range of fish and coral. The resort can also arrange boat tours for snorkelling at some of the snorkelling spots already listed in this article.
Location: Mounu Island, southern part of the Vava’u Group.
8. Japanese Coral Gardens
Located just off Mala Island, the Japanese Coral Gardens or just “Japanese Gardens” was once a hotspot for snorkelling tours but the coral there has recently suffered a lot of damage from invasive species. For those who happen to be staying at the nearby Reef Resort or Mala Island Resort, it’s still worth a kayaking excursion to swim along the regenerating bommies. Learn more about these accommodations in the 10 Best Resorts in Vava’u.
Location: Between Mala Island and Kapa Island.
9. Tongan Beach Resort
The Tongan Beach Resort offers some of the best snorkelling accessible from the main island in Vava’u, which is worth a visit as a casual visitor but is great if you’re a guest! Straight off the beach, you’ll likely see large schools of fish swimming among the kelp, as well as the resident turtle if you’re lucky.
Location: Northern tip of ‘Utungake Island, which is connected to Pangaimotu and ‘Utu Vava’u (the main island) by causeways.
10. Mala Island Resort
Finally, those staying at Mala Island Resort are not only a short boat ride away from some of the other snorkelling spots we’ve mentioned, but there’s also great snorkelling right off the beach. Hire a kayak, take your own snorkelling gear and head out to explore the amazing underwater world around this island.
Location: Between ‘Utungake and Kapa Islands in the centre of the Vava’u Group.
Where to Hire Snorkelling Gear in Vava’u
Although we highly recommend bringing your own snorkelling gear to Vava’u – see our favourite gear for the islands in the 20 Essentials You Need to Pack for Tonga, if you really can’t fit it into your luggage then there are a few places where snorkelling gear can be hired:
- Cafe Tropicana – The Swiss-army knife of cafes in Vava’u, Cafe Tropicana (Neiafu) has a number of rental options including masks, snorkels and fins.
- Beluga Diving – A dive operator at Fangafoa Marina (Neiafu) has a number of snorkelling and dive gear for rent.
Also, take a look at the 10 Best Resorts for Snorkelling in Tonga for accommodations that hire snorkelling gear for their guests. Snorkelling gear is also generally provided on the 5 Best Snorkelling Tours in Vava’u but it’s always best to double-check.
More About Snorkelling in Vava’u
That’s it for our guide to snorkelling in Vava’u. For more tips for planning the ultimate trip to the islands, take a look at the following:
- 5 Best Snorkelling Tours in Vava’u
- The Best Dive Shops & Operators in Vava’u
- 10 Best Places to Snorkel in Tonga