Activities, Attractions and Must-Dos on ‘Eua
Located in the south of Tonga, just 40 km (15 mi) from Tongatapu, ‘Eua is a rugged slice of paradise. The 40-million-year-old island is Tonga’s oldest, which has formed an array of amazing natural features. Think natural archways and the South Pacific’s largest underwater cave! Not only does the island attract curious travellers looking to get off the beaten track, but it attracts humpback whales between July and October, as well as resident parrots and noisy fruitbats. See what amazing adventures you could be getting up to on the island in this list of things to do on ‘Eua!
1. See the Lakufa’anga Cliffs, Rock Gardens and Wild Horses
‘Eua is home to an array of amazing hikes to unusual natural features. While we list some of the best hikes in the 5 Best Hikes in ‘Eua, the walk to the Lakufa’anga Cliffs is an easy one for just about anyone to tackle – made even easier if you visit it on a 4WD land tour but more on that later. Highlights of the area include unusual rock formations known as the Rock Gardens and the dramatic Lakufa’anga Cliffs which are steeped in legend and home to nesting seabirds. If you’re lucky, you might even spot wild horses galloping through the fields!
Location: South coast of ‘Eua. Ask about island tours to the Rock Gardens with your accommodation or the Tourist Information Centre in ‘Ohonua (just up the road from the ferry terminal). Alternatively, this site is accessible via a high-clearance rental car (like a Nissan X-Trail). Take the main road all of the way south until you reach a gate that you’ll need to open (and close behind you). The road turns into well-established grass trails for vehicles to explore the area.
2. Marvel at the Lianga Huo ‘a Maui Landbridge
Continue east of Lakufa’anga Cliffs through the forest and you’ll come across the short walk (5-10 minutes one way) to Lianga Huo ‘a Maui. This gargantuan natural attraction is an archway or a “landbridge” carved into the southern cliffs of ‘Eua. A wooden platform gives you the perfect lookout to peer through the archway to the ocean beyond (although the platform had suffered some damage the last time we visited so watch your step). See more free attractions like this in the 10 Free & Cheap Things To Do in ‘Eua.
Location: South coast of ‘Eua. From the Rock Gardens, follow the grass trail east through a short tract of forest to a parking area where a sign indicates a short walk to Lia’anga Huo ‘a Maui. Return the same way.
3. Explore the Amazing Beaches
‘Eua is blessed with some glorious beaches, most of which are often completely secluded. ‘Eua’s beaches are ideal for walking, collecting shells (if you have kids or just like shells, dammit), watching whales and exploring tidal pools with some even big enough to snorkel in like your own human-sized aquarium! Check out Ha’aluma Beach on the south coast for its long white sandy shores and ancient Tongan stone cuts. Tufuvai Beach is also picturesque and easy to access from waterfront accommodations. ‘Ufilei Beach is just north of ‘Ohonua and is a good beach for swimming. Otherwise, guided hikes to the remote Fangatave Beach and Lokupo Beach on the east side of the island are amazing rewards after trekking through caves and the rainforest. See more activities like this in the 8 Romantic Things to Do on ‘Eua.
Location: All over ‘Eua! Find the locations of each beach mentioned in the 5 Best Beaches on ‘Eua.
4. Check Out the Big ‘Ovava Tree #2
There are, not one, but two “Big ‘Ovava Trees” on ‘Eua thought to be around 800 years old! Also described as an incredibly large banyan tree, Big ‘Ovava Tree #2 drapes hundreds of roots from above which delve deep down into a sinkhole below. Needless to say, you should watch your step as you explore this area. This ‘Ovava Tree is a popular stop on ‘Eua 4WD tours.
Location: Towards the east coast of ‘Eua. Follow signposts at the intersection from the main road in Kolomaile/Ha’atu’a villages. From the intersection, follow the road, which quickly turns into a dirt road, for approximately 1.6 km (1 mi) and then take the first road left. The ‘Ovava Tree is approximately 100 m (109 yards) down this track.
5. Peer Down ‘Ana ‘Ahu (Smoking Cave)
An eerie sinkhole plunges deep (and no one seems to know how deep) into the abyss at this mystical natural attraction among the ‘Eua forest. After a short but steep (and slippery) descent down some concrete steps, you’ll step onto a wooden platform above ‘Ana ‘Ahu, also known as the “Smoking Cave” due to the light waterfall creating a surrounding mist. Again, this is a common sight seen on ‘Eua island tours. If you just want to stick to the natural attractions, head to Sightseeing on ‘Eua: Top 10 Sights & Natural Attractions.
Location: ‘Eua forest toward the east coast of the island. ‘Ana ‘Ahu is approximately 800 m (880 yards) from Big ‘Ovava Tree #2 (see above). From the ‘Ovava Tree, continue east on the main logging road for about 225 m (250 yards) then turn right, then take the first left in approximately 250 m (270 yards), then the trail to ‘Ana ‘Ahu starts in around another 250 m.
6. Revel in the Views from Lokupo Lookout and Lau’ua Lookout
For those willing to explore a little further into the ‘Eua National Park, there are some amazing vantage points to find. The Lokupo and Lau’ua Lookouts are destinations on some of the guided tours available in the ‘Eua National Park. The Lokupo Lookout tends to be the most favoured lookout with its wooden platform to “elevate” the experience, while the Lau’ua Lookout is a little tougher to get to. Again, guided island tours are the easiest way to explore these attractions.
Location: ‘Eua National Park, east coast of ‘Eua. A guided tour of this area is highly recommended as not all of the appropriate turn-offs are signposted the entire way. Otherwise, follow signposts at the intersection from the main road in Kolomaile/Ha’atu’a villages (same as the ‘Ovava Tree). From the intersection, follow the logging road for approximately 3.3 km (2 mi) and turn right at the crossroads. In 400 m (440 yards) turn right, then left in another 300 m (330 yards). After approximately 500 m (550 yards), look out for remnants of signs on the right-hand side and walk the rest of the way.
7. Crawl Through Rats Cave
Just 50 m (55 yards) west of the Lokupo Lookout is Rats Cave (‘Ana Kumā), named after the small tunnel to crawl through before a small hole opens up into the cliffside abyss below – not for the faint-hearted!
Location: ‘Eua National Park, east coast of ‘Eua. Close to Lokupo Lookout (see directions above).
8. Swim With or Watch Humpback Whales
Tonga is renowned for being one of the only places in the world where you can legally swim with whales. With that, ‘Eua provides some amazing whale swimming experiences in small but comfortable boats for a less intrusive experience. The waters around ‘Eua are famous for the whales’ “heat runs”, meaning you’ll find lots of action whether it’s watching the whales on a boat tour or even from shore. Learn more about the whale experiences in The Best Whale Tours in ‘Eua.
Location: Whale swimming operators depart from Nafanua Wharf, ‘Ohonua but usually offer transfers from ‘Eua’s accommodations.
9. Do a 4WD Island Tour…
See the natural highlights of ‘Eua on a 4WD island tour. Many accommodations offer tours that involve short hikes to a range of must-see attractions across the island – some of which we’ve already talked about on this list of the best things to do on ‘Eua! Climb to stunning viewpoints for epic photo opportunities, stop for a swim and a snorkel at secluded beaches, see the astonishing 800-year-old ‘Ovava Trees, peer into the amazing sinkhole of ‘Ana ‘Ahu, visit the southern Rock Gardens and wild horses, the Li’anga Huo ‘a Maui natural archway and the list goes on! We also list this activity in the 7 Best Things to Do on ‘Eua with Kids.
Location: All over ‘Eua! See The Best Guided Island Land Tours of ‘Eua for operators.
10. … Or Hike to Embrace Nature
If you have more time on ‘Eua, a fantastic way to experience some of the sights is on foot! The 4WD tracks actually make ideal walking tracks to experience the island’s forests and natural attractions at a more natural pace, allowing time to soak in your surroundings and spot wildlife. If you want to take a little longer exploring the sights, we’ve compiled some attractions that you can hike to in the 5 Best Hikes on ‘Eua.
Location: All over ‘Eua! See the link above for suggested locations.
11. Experience Spearfishing
With incredible visibility and pelagic fish scouting the waters just moments from shore, ‘Eua boasts a top destination for spearfishing. Blue Water Retreat specialise in the sport with years of experience fishing ‘Eua’s waters; they even have some gear on hand if required. Alternatively, Kiko’s Whale Watching/‘Alakoka Tahi Moana Guest House has good knowledge of decent spearfishing spots as long as you bring your gear and freediving/spearfishing experience. Learn more about planning a spearo getaway in The Complete Guide to Spearfishing in Tonga and see more activities like this in The Adults-Only Travel Guide to ‘Eua.
Location: Spearfishing operators depart from Nafanua Wharf, ‘Ohonua but usually offer transfers from ‘Eua’s accommodations.
12. Taste Kava with the Guys
‘Eua isn’t just all about nature, but the island is home to a rich culture too. The local men gather together most evenings or before Sunday church for “faikava“. In other words, to sit in a circle, drink kava, sing harmoniously and play the guitar. Kava is a narcotic drink made from the ground roots of a kava plant, but just one drink from the coconut shell won’t have an effect. Although this is traditionally a male activity, females are welcome too.
Ask your accommodation provider if they can recommend a local faikava. You’ll find that the locals are very welcoming and are proud to share their culture with visitors. Either bring a bag of kava powder, which you can usually find at local grocery stores or leave a TOP$50 donation. For those staying at Blue Water Retreat, note that they host a kava session at the retreat once a week.
Location: All over ‘Eua!
13. Look Out for the Red Shining Parrot
That’s right, not only is the underwater world of ‘Eua full of interesting wildlife, but the land provides too! The red shining parrot, also known as the “koki”, is the icon of the island with ‘Eua being the only place in the world you can find this species. It’s often seen and/or heard on the forest walks of the island, especially around ‘Ana ‘Ahu, the Big ‘Ovava Trees and elsewhere.
Location: All over ‘Eua but mostly in the ‘Eua National Park, east coast of ‘Eua.
14. Have a Dip in Hafu Pool and Check Out Big ‘Ovava Tree #1
You didn’t think we’d forget about ‘Ovava Tree #1, did you?! First, you need to make your way to Hafu Pool, which is a series of refreshing freshwater pools among the forest. There are two small concrete dams to keep the water at prime dipping level but not too deep. Across the pool is a well-established trail to the “Big ‘Ovava Tree #1“. Cross the longer of the concrete dams and follow the trail for 5-10 minutes. At the fork, turn left and then left again to find the sign for the “Big ‘Ovava Tree #1”. Be mindful of your step, however, as the tree plunges deep into the caves below.
Location: Signposted between Mata’aho and ‘Esia villages down a narrow 1.8 km (1.1 mi) dirt road. A high-clearance vehicle is advised.
15. Race Down Heke Slide
If you have a local guide with you, you’ll be able to extend the above trip to the ridiculously fun Heke Slide. The trail continues past the Big ‘Ovava Tree #1 but is very difficult to follow without a guide. After a light 10-minute scramble through the forest, you’ll find a natural slippery slope created by water flowing from the highlands. At the bottom of the slope is a small pool to plunge into. Be prepared for good old-fashioned wet and muddy fun.
Location: Approximately a 20-30-minute walk from Hafu Pool (see above). A guide is advised, which can be organised through your accommodation or the Tourist Information Centre in ‘Ohonua (just up the road from the ferry terminal).
16. Experience an Umu Feast
Sunday is umu day in many homes across Tonga. Experience this yummy slice of life at one of the accommodations on the island that prepare Sunday umu, often when there are plenty of guests. An umu is a traditional cooking method using an underground oven to slow-cook root crops and meat, with a staple of the feast being lu, which is meat and coconut cream wrapped in a taro leaf. If it’s a big occasion, there may even be a spitroast pig – a Tongan favourite! Learn more about Tongan dishes in the 10 Unique Foods in Tonga You Have to Try.
If you’re invited to an umu by a local, it’s customary to either bring a gift (ice cream from the grocery stores has always been a winner with us, as Tongan families have lots of kids) or feel free to leave some cash behind as a thank you. Otherwise, there will be a fee with accommodation providers. Note that you will also be eating first and separate from your hosts – this is also customary in Tonga. Learn more in our guide to Tonga Etiquette: Respecting the Local Customs.
Location: Any accommodation may decide to host an umu but ‘Alakoka Tahi Moana Guest House is particularly known to host if there are lots of guests.
17. Go to a Sunday Church Service
Sunday is an important day in Tonga where services and shops shut down and it’s illegal to play any sports. What you can do, however, is do one of the self-guided hikes in ‘Eua, try a traditional umu (see above) and go to a Sunday church service. Church is an integral part of the Tongan culture, where visitors can experience the harmonious singing of the choirs flowing through the churches and villages. Services usually take place in the morning around 9 am/10 am and sometimes again in the afternoon around 3 pm/4 pm.
Location: Any church is welcoming to visitors, but you can ask your accommodation host for the nearest church. We list our favourites in the 10 Best Churches in Tonga for Tourists.
18. Discover Historical Sites Like Tokopuha Folokotoa
A little hard to find but perhaps one of the most fascinatingly eerie historical sites on ‘Eua, Tokopuha Folokotoa is a coffin-shaped hole within the rock pools of Tuluvai Beach. During the time of ‘Eua’s legendary warrior Kaufana and his two brothers Talimalolo and Faivalava, only members of the royal families were allowed to be buried on land. As for the rest of ‘Eua’s residents, their bodies would be placed in this crack in the reef floor and sink to the bottom. Needless to say, later generations abolished the practice. Learn more about the island’s fascinating historical places in the 6 Best Historical Sites on ‘Eua.
Location: Tuluvai Beach, in the rock pools directly in front of the southern end of Blue Water Retreat. Best accessed at low tide.
19. Scramble Down the Cliffs to Fangatave Beach
On the northeastern side of the island are some incredible limestone cliffs backing Fangatave Beach. Not only is this a hotspot for rock climbing (more on that later), but there is a whole scattering of limestone caves to explore as you make your way down to the beach. Guides are available at some accommodations on ‘Eua, such as ‘Alakoka Tahi Moana Guest House, to take you to this amazing spot.
Location: Signposted along the dirt road heading east at the northern end of Houma village, northeast coast of ‘Eua. A guide is highly recommended.
20. Get Breathtaking Views from Matamahina Hopo Lookout
Nearby the Fangatave Cliffs but much easier to get to, Matamahina Hopo Lookout offers an elevated clifftop platform to bask in some of ‘Eua’s most magnificent scenery. The ocean ahead is the Tonga Trench, the second deepest ocean in the world at 10.8 km (6.7 mi) deep. Also due to its position close to the International Date Line, this point on ‘Eua is one of the first places to see the sunrise of the new day.
Location: Matamahina Hopo Lookout is located along a 1.5 km (0.9 mi) rough dirt road starting from the graveyard at the northern end of Houma village. Continue past the Fangatave Beach sign to a lookout platform. The journey from the main road takes approximately 35-45 minutes on foot one way.
21. Learn Traditional Crafts and Dancing
Some accommodations can organise classes and workshops with the local community so that you can dive a little deeper into the Tongan culture. Learn how to weave a basket or fan, paint your own work of art on a piece of tapa cloth (cloth made from the bark of a mulberry tree), and learn how to do traditional Tongan dancing known as a “lakalaka”. See more experiences like this in the 7 Things to Do in ‘Eua with Kids.
Location: All over ‘Eua! Enquire with your accommodation.
22. Do Some Rock Climbing
A more specialised activity, rock climbing on ‘Eua is incredible for experienced climbers. Ascend the dramatic cliffs of Fangatave Beach, which boast steep limestone climbing in the range of grades 18 to 23. More than 50 routes have been established in ‘Eua so far with more being discovered as the sport develops on the island. Climbers will need their own equipment. Route guides are available on thecrag.com.
Location: Signposted along the dirt road heading east at the northern end of Houma village, northeast coast of ‘Eua. A guide is highly recommended.
23. Watch the Sunrise or Sunset
Golden hour is a magical time on the already beautiful island of ‘Eua. There are some magnificent locations to experience the sunset, from golden-sand beaches, such as Tufuvai, ‘Ufilei and Ha’aluma, to the sunrise from the dramatic clifftop lookout of Matamahina Hopo. See how these compare to the 10 Most Beautiful Sunrise & Sunset Spots in Tonga.
Location: See beach locations in the 5 Best Beaches on ‘Eua. Matamahina Hopo Lookout is located along a 1.5 km (0.9 mi) rough dirt road starting from the graveyard at the northern end of Houma village. Continue past the Fangatave Beach sign to a lookout platform. The journey from the main road takes approximately 35-45 minutes on foot one way.
24. Stargaze Among Some of the Darkest Skies
Isolated in the vast South Pacific, ‘Eua certainly doesn’t suffer from too much light pollution and therefore offers a breathtaking location for stargazing. Looking up from anywhere on the island on a dark and clear night is bound to mesmerise with the view of the universe, but getting away from the village lights to any one of the beaches is sure to enhance the experience.
Location: Anywhere on ‘Eua! Check out the 5 Best Places for Stargazing in Tonga for specific locations.
25. Find Matalanga ‘a Maui and Fele’oko ‘a Maui; the Shining Cave
You didn’t think we were done with the amazing natural attractions of ‘Eua, did you?! With a local guide, there are more hidden gems to be found, such as Matalanga ‘a Maui and Fele’oko ‘a Maui. Not on any of the guide maps, nor signposted from the main road, these natural attractions from the legendary Maui are said to be the remains of the origins of ‘Eua. Matalanga ‘a Maui is a huge sinkhole nestled in the forest, while Fele’oko ‘a Maui is a beautiful cave awash in sparkling stalactites and columns. Note that there are no established trails to these sights, so they should only be attempted by those who are able to climb and scramble.
Location: The next left after the sign and intersection to other east coast attractions (Lokupo Lookout, ‘Ana ‘Ahu, etc.). These walks are guided only.
… 25 More Things to Do on ‘Eua!
That’s right, there’s so much to do on this little island in Tonga that we can barely fit it all onto one list. With that, here are some honourable mentions of more things to do on ‘Eua:
Nature and Adventure:
- Snorkel in clear waters – Charter a boat (with Kiko’s or Blue Water Retreat) to access spots behind the reef or enjoy snorkelling spots off beaches like Tuluvai and Ha’aluma.
- Explore ‘Eua’s stunning natural caves – For those lucky enough to find the locals who know where they are, there are more caves to discover across ‘Eua, including Houma Tahi Arch, Broken Cave and more.
- Take a scenic boat tour – Charter a boat for a scenic vantage point of ‘Eua’s dramatic cliffs.
- Go horseback riding – Inquire about horse riding on ‘Eua with your accommodation
- Glamping – Blue Water Retreat offers glamping tents with beach views
- Explore hidden waterfalls – Those in the know can lead you to Vaiangina Falls.
- Explore the island’s limestone formations – Yes, more limestone formations can be found at the Bowl of Cliffs and ‘Ana Pekapeka Cave.
- Bird photography for ornithology enthusiasts – See 5 Best Places for Bird Watching in Tonga for more ideas
- Go on a deep-sea fishing expedition – Accommodations like Blue Water Retreat can take you fishing when guides are available
- Scenic flight over the island – The flight to ‘Eua is so close to land that it couples up as a scenic flight!
Cultural and Traditional Experiences:
- Visit local villages – Simply exploring the tightly compact villages in the centre of ‘Eua is a fun and rewarding experience.
- Sample Tongan cuisine at local restaurants – There are a couple of restaurants on ‘Eua worth experiencing, as listed in The Complete Travel Guide to ‘Eua.
- Taste Tongan snacks from grocery stores – Grocery stores tend to sell home-baked Tongan snacks, like manioke tama and lolo. Give them a try!
- Try coconut husking – A local will probably feel sorry for you and won’t be able to resist teaching you.
- Attend a community event – Rugby games, markets, church events; see 10 Biggest Events in Tonga for more examples.
- Speak Tongan with the locals – It’s fun to learn a new language and locals respond well to visitors who try!
- Try traditional fishing – Fishing boats leave the wharf early morning.
- Enjoy Tongan music – Faikava sessions and church are some of the best places to experience it.
- Learn about Tongan traditional medicine – Some guides are happy to share their knowledge on medicinal plants as you explore the forest.
- Listen to Tongan storytelling – Sightseeing with locals is always a rewarding experience when they teach you about the legends behind the places.
Relaxation and Leisure:
- Cosy up in eco-friendly accommodations – Guesthouses and retreats on ‘Eua are much more sustainable and ethical than large resorts elsewhere in the South Pacific
- Read a book by the beach – You know the drill.
- Do some yoga – Guide your own yoga or meditation session in a beautiful environment.
- Take a cooking class to prepare Tongan dishes – Join a local umu and offer to help out to learn more about Tongan cooking.
- Practice your photography – Between the cultural and natural wonders, there’s so much beauty to capture on ‘Eua.
More Things to Do on ‘Eua
That’s it for our list of the best things to do on ‘Eua. For more tips for visiting this glorious piece of South Pacific, take a look at the following guides:
- 5 Ways to Get to (& Around) ‘Eua
- Where to Stay in ‘Eua: The Best ‘Eua Accommodations
- Information, Shops & Services on ‘Eua
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in The Complete Travel Guide to ‘Eua.