10 Best Things to Do in The Niuas© TongaPocketGuide.com
10 Best Things to Do in The Niuas

15 Best Things to Do in The Niuas

© TongaPocketGuide.com

The Top Activities, Attractions and Sights 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 locals aren’t extremely welcoming and 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!

While you’re here, get more tips in The Complete Guide to The Niuas. Plus, see how to get to the islands in the 5 Ways to Get to The Niuas.

1. 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.

Location: Hihifo village, Niuatoputapu.

10 Things to Do in The Niuas(c) Eunice Pongipongi

2. 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 23 m (75 ft) 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.

Location: Niuafo’ou.

10 Things to Do in The Niuas(c) Google Map

3. Look Out for the Rare Tongan Megapode

Wildlife lovers and birdwatchers, try your chances at seeing the Tongan megapode, which has lived on the islands of Tonga before humans did. 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.

Location: Niuafo’ou.

10 Things to Do in The Niuas(c) Michael Lusk on Wikipedia

4. 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. Don’t go swimming at public beaches on a Sunday per Tongan custom, which is highly regarded in The Niuas.

Location: Niuatoputapu.

10 Things to Do in The Niuas(c) Eunice Pongipongi

5. Hike to the Top of Niuatoputapu

Get an amazing vantage point of the surrounding island, villages of Hihifo, Vaipoa and Falehau and especially of the volcanic cone of Tafahi Island from the top of Niuatoputapu. This is a common sight that locals will show visitors in Niuatoputapu, taking you on a steady but steep climb to Niuatoputapu’s highest point at 157 m (515 ft). At the top, the hill is exposed with grassy areas and clusters of volcanic rock.

Location: Niuatoputapu.

10 Best Things to Do in The Niuas© TongaPocketGuide.com

6. Take a Trip to Tafahi

The perfectly cone-shaped extinct volcano is ever so enticing sitting 9 km (5.6 mi) from Niuatoputapu. Local fishermen take the trip to Tafahi almost daily where you can negotiate a boat ride across the water and back. There is one village on Tafahi, but most visitors to the island prefer to tackle the steep climb to the top of the 656 m (2,152 ft) volcano! On a fine day, you’ll be able to see Samoa from the top! It’s best to get yourself a guide for this mission, as with most places you’ll want to visit in the Niuas.

Location: Tafahi.

Tafahi Island Garth Rogers Wikipedia(c) Garth Rogers on Wikipedia

7. Experience a Tongan Barbecue

Stay with any of the families in The Niuas and they’ll likely invite you 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. Check out some Tongan staples in the 10 Unique Foods in Tonga You Have to Try.

Location: Anywhere in The Niuas.

10 Best Things to Do in The Niuas© TongaPocketGuide.com

8. 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 immersed 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: Tongan Customs & Traditions.

Location: Anywhere in The Niuas.

10 Things to Do in The Niuas(c) Eunice Pongipongi

9. Do Some Snorkelling

Be sure to take your snorkelling gear, including fins, to Niuatoputapu, which is the best island for snorkelling. Find healthy untouched corals around the island’s outer reefs, accessible by boat/yacht.

Location: Niuatoputapu.

10 Best Things to Do in The Niuas© TongaPocketGuide.com

10. Drive Around the Islands

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!

Location: Niuatoputapu and Niuafo’ou.

10 Things to Do in The Niuas(c) tongapocketguide.com

11. Go Scuba Diving

Around the reefs of Niuatoputapu, you’ll find healthy coral which makes 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.

Location: Niuatoptapu.

10 Things to Do in The Niuas(c) Tonga Ministry of Tourism

12. Donate Supplies to a School

With no tourism operators, integrating yourself into village life and showing your appreciation to the locals who welcome you is a good way to approach a visit to The Niuas. Bring some school supplies like crayons, exercise books and pencils, for example, and donate them to some of the village schools that are always in need.

Location: All three islands.

10 Best Things to Do in The Niuas© Eunice Pongipongi

13. Do Some Whale Watching

Yes, humpback whales even come as far as The Niuas during their migration from the Antarctic between July and October. Some of the vantage points we’ve mentioned so far are good spots to look out for whales from afar. Whales can sometimes be spotted from the beaches of Niuatoputapu and the coast of Niuafo’ou, while many yachties also find themselves meeting whales who are curious about their boats. Note that it is illegal to swim with whales in Tonga’s waters without a license.

Location: All three islands.

10 Best Things to Do in The Niuas© TongaPocketGuide.com

14. Enjoy Fishing with a Local

Fishing is a way of life in The Niuas. Those who are interested in the sport could get an authentic experience heading out with one of the local fishermen. Learn traditional fishing techniques and try the fresh fish you catch with a barbecue at the end of the day. Note that ciguatera is a food poisoning caught by certain reef fish, so ask a local what fish is safe to eat – learn more in How to Keep Safe in Tonga.

Location: All three islands.

10 Best Things to Do in The Niuas© Tonga Ministry of Tourism

15. Attend a Sunday Church Service

Another way for visitors to immerse themselves in the culture of The Niuas is to attend a Sunday church service. Sunday is a day of rest in Tonga where Tongans will attend a church mass on a Sunday morning and/or afternoon. Visitors are welcome to church services where you’ll get to experience beautiful harmonious singing which echoes across the small islands. Remember to dress appropriately for the church services, covering below the knee and shoulders – wear your “Sunday best”! Learn more about Tonga’s spiritual side in The Guide to the Religions in Tonga.

Location: All three islands.

10 Best Things to Do in The Niuas© TongaPocketGuide.com

More Things to Do in The Niuas

That’s it for our list of the best things to do in The Niuas. For more activities across Tonga’s lesser-visited island, take a look at the following:

Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in The Complete Travel Guide to The Niuas.


Laura (Lola) S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of Tonga Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in the South Pacific over 10 years ago with nothing but a backpack and a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to explore a paradise such as Tonga. She knows the islands inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience Tonga’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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