Activities in Ha’apai, Tonga
In or on the water, on the land and in the villages, there’s lots to discover in the islands of Ha’apai. Tonga’s central island group is still relatively undiscovered, offering a small selection of eco-resorts and local guesthouses eager to show visitors the island life. It could be fishing for dinner, learning how to make things out of island materials, harnessing the elements in kitesurfing, or one of the many more things to do in Ha’apai. We’ll go through some ways to spend your time in paradise in the list below!
While you’re here, check out more advice for travelling Ha’apai in The Complete Guide to Ha’apai.
1. Explore the Islands by Kayak or Paddleboard
It would almost be a crime to head to the islands of Ha’apai and not get in or on the water! One of the most accessible and cheap ways to do so is by kayking or stand-up paddleboarding (SUP). If you’re staying at one of the mid-range resorts, complimentary kayak/SUP hire is almost a guarentee. Alternatively, budget accommodation like Taiana’s Resort offer full-day hire for an affordable TOP$20 a day. All in all, it’s a fun and inexpensive way to enjoy Ha’apai’s crystal clear waters, see marine life and explore the shores. What’ more, it’s something suitable for just about any age. See more experiences like this in the 10 Things To Do in Ha’apai with Kids.
Location: At any of the Ha’apai’s mid-range resorts, as well as with budget accommodation like Taiana’s Resort and Captain Cook Hideaway on Uoleva Island.
2. Learn Tongan Crafts
The Tongan culture in Ha’apai is all around, making it easy to immerse yourself in the local way of life, especially if you are staying at one of the guest houses. Guests at the Fonongava’inga (Langi Langi) Guesthouse in Pangai have the opportunity to take part in a Tongan crafting workshop with the host, who is part of the island’s WID Handicraft Centre. For under TOP$10, you can learn how to make your own Tongan souvenirs! See more affordable activities like this in 10 Free & Cheap Things To Do in Ha’apai.
Location: Fonongava’inga (Langi Langi) Guesthouse, Pangai
3. Watch or Swim with Whales
Whale swimming is available in Ha’apai between July and October. Ha’apai offers an uncrowded experience with the whales with only a select few licensed operators sharing a vast area. Spend the day watching and/or snorkelling with these majestic creatures where every day on the water is different. You could be swimming with mothers and their playful calves or watching lively juveniles. Whale swimming tours also include stopping at a top snorkelling spot or an uninhabited island for a picnic lunch.
Learn more about this life-changing experience in the 5 Best Whale Swim Tours in Ha’apai.
4. Scuba Dive Among Untouched Coral
Ha’apai offers interesting yet rarely explored dive sites. Choose from the two dive operators: Matafonua Lodge/Sandy Beach Resort’s PADI dive operation or the Ha’apai Beach Resort’s diving tours with SSI accreditation. Get your diving certification or jump on one of the dive tours to amazing dive sites, either by boat or off the beach! Features of the Ha’apai dive sites include hard coral bommies and soft coral gardens, exciting tunnel systems and amazing pinnacles – all teeming with tropical fish!
Location: Dive operators offer pick-ups from most resorts.
5. Try Kava
More ways to engage in the local culture is by trying the national drink, Kava. In the Tongan culture, typically men sit in a circle around a Kava bowl and socialise. Both men and women can try the narcotic drink, made with the ground-up root of a pepper plant, at resorts like the Serenity Beaches Resort, Taiana’s Resort and Fanifo Lofa Kitesurf Tonga. See more activities like this in in the 10 Adult-Only Activities in Ha’apai.
Location: Serenity Beaches Resort, Taiana’s Resort, Fanifo Lofa Kitesurf Tonga or ask locally.
6. Get a Castaway Island Experience
Ready to be whisked away to your own private island for the day? Sea Change Eco Retreat offers the opportunity for couples to spend the day on one of the nearby islands fringed by stunning coral reefs, promising a day of amazing snorkelling and a true castaway experience. You won’t have much trouble fending for yourself with a picnic lunch provided and a radio to call the crew when you’re ready to leave. Alternatively, Sandy Beach Resort and Matafonua Lodge offer couples the opportunity to spend a few nights alone on their private island, Luahako Island – learn more in the 5 Best Honeymoon Accommodation in Ha’apai. Plus, see the 10 Romantic Activities in Ha’apai for Couples for more activities like this.
Location: Sea Change Eco Retreat on Uolevu Island and Luahako Island through Sandy Beach Resort and Matafonua Lodge.
7. Visit Archaeological Sites
Ha’apai has a colourful history dating back 3,000 years! Checking out some of the historical sites, particularly around Lifuka Island, is a fun way to spend a day on the island. For instance, the village of Hihifo holds many interesting sites, like the fenced-off Olovehi Tomb – a burial ground for Tonga’s ancient nobles. Nearby is also the Velata Mound Fortress, which was a type of a ditch fortification used throughout the South Pacific.
Location: Hihifo, south of Pangai. Olovehi Tomb is on Loto Kolo Road. Velata Mound Fortress is approximately 1.2km (0.7 miles) south of Pangai on a turn-off toward the east. Get there by hiring a bicycle!
8. Do Some Snorkelling
It’s true, Ha’apai is one of the best places in Tonga for snorkelling straight from the shore. Snorkelling over coral bommies and among tropical fish can be done from just about any resort in Ha’apai, where most offer complimentary snorkelling gear.
Location: Anywhere in Ha’apai!
9. Do Some Kitesurfing
A must for kitesurfing enthusiasts, Ha’apai is the South Pacific’s ultimate kitesurfing playground! One of the top spots for skimming across the water is Uolevu Island, which has a 500m (1,640ft) sandbar stretching to the neighbouring Lifuka Island, and in turn, forming a huge flat-water lagoon stretching 6km (4 miles) long! You can kitesurf in any wind direction here, with tradewinds ranging 12-25 knots year-round. While resorts like Fanifo Lofa Kitesurf Tonga have some kitesurfing gear for guests, it’s definitely better to bring your own.
Location: Uolevu Island
10. Head on a Fishing Trip
Fishing is a way of life in Tonga in order to gather food, which just happens to be a pretty exciting adventure for travellers! Captain Cook Hideaway on Uolevu Island offers authentic fishing trips with a local, while Matafonua Lodge and Sandy Beach Resort offer sports fishing, trolling for Mahimahi, Wahoo and Tuna. Check out more experiences like this in the 6 Things to Do in Ha’apai for Foodies.