Activities in The Niuas
See the South Pacific like it used to be on the remote islands of Niuatoputapu, Tafahi and Niuafo’ou, the three islands that make up The Niuas. The northernmost island group of Tonga is actually located closer to Samoa than it is to Tonga’s second-most northern island group, Vava’u. Visiting the islands is the real deal, where you’ll have to go it alone with no tourist organisations to guide you. That’s not to say that the local’s aren’t extremely welcoming, who are often eager to show you around their remote piece of paradise in their own way. So check out some of the activities you could be getting up to on the islands in this list of things to do in The Niuas!
1. Hike to the Summit of Tafahi Island
A prominent feature in The Niuas, Tafahi Island is a towering cone-shaped island volcano reaching 656m (2,152ft) above sea level. The island sits approximately 9km (5.6 miles) north of Niuatoputapu, where boat trips and hiking guides can be organised with villagers or fishermen. Be prepared for a steep hike. On a fine day, you’ll be able to see Samoa from the top!
2. Go Scuba Diving
Around the reefs of Niuatoputapu, you’ll find healthy coral reefs which make for some glorious scuba diving! Only available for those with their own scuba diving gear, as there is no scuba diving rental or operators on the island, the coral reefs surrounding Niuatotapu are unspoiled with vivid water clarity. However, the water is unsheltered, so it’s best attempted on a calm day. There is also a shipwreck in one of the outer reefs, which you will likely need a local to show you where.
3. Check Out Vai Lahi
Vai Lahi means “Big Lake” and it’s a large freshwater lake sitting in the crater of Niuafo’ou Island. The lake sits 23m (75ft) above sea level and contains four islands, one of which is only visible when the water level drops. While most of the inner walls of the lake are covered in forest, locals may be able to take you to one of the vantage points for a good photo opportunity.
4. Look Out for the Tongan Megapode Bird
Wildlife-lovers and birdwatchers, try your chances at seeing the Tongan megapode, which have lived on the islands of Tonga even before human migration. The birds are known to use the warm volcanic soils of Niuafo’ou to incubate their eggs, rather than sitting on them. The endangered species has seen great conservation efforts over the years where chicks have been distributed to uninhabited islands around Tonga. They are most commonly sighted on the central caldera of Niuafo’ou.
5. Enjoy Unspoiled Beaches
The best beaches in The Niuas can be found on the island of Niuatoputapu where almost the entire east, south and western rims of the island are long stretches of white sand. Beaches provide good swimming and paddling but like anywhere, always be wary of currents. Remember don’t go swimming at public beaches on a Sunday per Tongan custom.
6. Experience a Tongan Barbecue
Stay with any of the families in The Niuas and it’s likely that they’ll invite to a cook-out or a Tongan barbecue! It’s a fun social event where you’ll get an insight into what the locals eat, usually fresh fish and tropical root crops like taro and cassava. You never know, you might have a chance to try ‘ofato, a large native grub that’s a delicacy on Niuafo’ou.
Location: Anywhere in The Niuas
7. Live the Island Village Life
With no real tourist operations, your experience in The Niuas will be with the islanders. With that, you’ll be fully immersing in the island life. Niuatoputapu has three villages, Hihifo, Vaipoa and Falehau. Niuafo’ou has a few more villages, mostly on the northeastern side of the island. Tafahi has one village of around 150 people. Learn about some of the Tongan customs in Tonga Etiquette: What to Do When Visiting a Tongan Village.
Location: Anywhere in The Niuas
8. Do Some Snorkelling
Be sure to take your own snorkelling gear, including fins, to Niuatoputapu, which is the best island for snorkelling. Find healthy untouched corals around the island’s outer reefs. Those snorkelling from yachts and boats outside of the outer reefs might be lucky enough to be joined by humpback whales in the season (July-October).
9. Go for a Dip in the Hihifo Freshwater Spring
A crystal clear freshwater spring appears to crack open the earth’s surface in Hihifo, the largest village in The Niuas, located on Niuatoputapu. A small set of steps leads into the spring, which begs for a dip! Locals also go to the spring for a swim, so it’s best to wear shorts and a T-shirt to be dressed more modestly.
10. Drive Around the Island
Locals sometimes offer to transport you around the perimeter of Niuafo’ou or on the ring road around Niuatoputapu to get to see the island’s sights! This is usually a small fee, so bring cash. For more inspiration for what to do in The Niuas, see the 10 Must-Dos in The Niuas.
Location: Niuatoputapu & Niuafo’ou