Transport on Tongatapu
The Tongatapu Group in the south of Tonga presents one of the easiest island groups to get around. With an international airport, cruise ship port and a wharf with interisland ferries, Tongatapu is well connected to the rest of the world and the rest of the islands of Tonga. On top of that, Tongatapu offers a number of ways to get around the 260.5 km² (100 miles²), from car rentals to cheap public buses to guided tours. Take a look at your wealth of options in this list of the best ways to get to Tongatapu, as well as the best ways to get around Tongatapu.
1. Tongatapu by Plane
International and domestic flights to Tongatapu arrive at Fua’amotu International Airport. Direct flights to Fua’amotu Airport are available from Auckland (New Zealand), Sydney (Australia) and Nadi (Fiji). Coming from elsewhere, you’ll need to make connections at these airports. Check out Which Airlines Fly Straight to Tonga? for more information. Flights also arrive from Tonga’s other islands, such as ‘Eua, Vava’u, Ha’apai and The Niuas, which you can learn more about in Where Can You Fly to in Tonga?
2. Tongatapu by Cruise
Several cruise liners have Tongatapu on the itinerary, with the port of call located at Nuku’alofa. Cruises anchor at Vuna Wharf on the waterfront, beside the Royal Palace and a short walk from the city centre. Cruise ships that visit Nuku’alofa include Holland America Line, P&O, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and much more. Learn more about each cruise in 10 Cruises that Visit Tonga.
3. Airport/Accommodation Shuttles
Public airport shuttles meet incoming flights at Fua’amotu International Airport, taking passengers to Nuku’alofa for around TOP$15-$30 per person. Follow the blue “shuttle” signs outside the arrivals area of the international terminal. Alternatively, some accommodations across Tongatapu offer their own airport transfers, usually cheaper than a taxi. Expect to pay around TOP$15-$30 to go to Nuku’alofa and around TOP$30-$60 to go elsewhere in Tongatapu. Be sure to book your shuttle with your accommodation prior to arrival, so that they’ll know to meet you on arrival. Airport transfer services are also available with companies like Teta Tours & Travel taking you anywhere across the island – more info on Viator and Tripadvisor.
4. Taxis on Tongatapu
Taxis also meet incoming flights at Fua’amotu Airport, both at the domestic and international terminals. Expect to pay TOP$30-$50 to travel between Nuku’alofa and the airport. Taxis between the domestic and international terminal cost around TOP$5. For elsewhere on Tongatapu, it’s best to ask the price first, but as a general rule, there is a minimum fare of TOP$3 for the first kilometre and around TOP$1.50 for every kilometre after that. As for taking a taxi within the city of Nuku’alofa, trips typically cost TOP$5-$8. Taxis can be identified by a “Taxi” sign on the roof and/or they will have a “T” at the beginning of their number registration. Note that taxis don’t operate on Sundays. See more tips for taking a taxi in Tonga here.
5. Car Rentals on Tongatapu
Rental car depots are available in Nuku’alofa, Fua’amotu Airport and Liahona. Check whether you need a Visitor’s Drivers Licence before picking up a rental car. Driving licences can be picked up from the Traffic Department on Bypass Road across from St Andrews School, Nuku’alofa. Rental cars typically cost TOP$50-$200 per day. Check out your options around the island in The Best Car Rentals in Tongatapu.
6. Boat Transfers on Tongatapu
To get to Tongatapu’s island resorts, there are scheduled boat departures from Faua Wharf in Nuku’alofa. For instance, boats to Pangaimotu Island depart from Faua Wharf at 10am Monday-Saturday and 10am, 12pm and 1pm on a Sunday. To Fafa Island, it’s 11am and 5.30pm, and to ‘Atata Island (Royal Sunset Island Resort) it’s at 10am. Boat transfers cost TOP$60-$100 return per person.
7. Ferries to Tongatapu
Faua Wharf in Nuku’alofa is where the interisland ferry terminal is located for ferries going between Tongatapu and Tonga’s other islands. The MV Taka I Pomana and MV ‘Otuanga’ofa ferries depart to the islands of Ha’apai, Vava’u and the Niuas. Ferries to ‘Eua operate on from a different terminal on Faua Wharf with either the MV ‘Alaimoana, MV ‘Onemato or the MV Maui. Find up-to-date schedules at the Ministry of Tourism’s Visitor Centre. Plus, learn more about taking the ferry in Travelling in Tonga by Ferry.
8. Buses on Tongatapu
For travellers looking to explore more of Tongatapu on a budget, the cheapest way to do so is with the local buses. There are bus stops around the island, with the two main bus stations being in Nuku’alofa on Vuna Road close to the Visitor Information Centre and Vuna Wharf. One station is for buses travelling to the west side (Hahake) of Tongatapu and the other is for the east side buses (Hihifo). Buses are also available for inner-city travel, labelled with a “Vailoa” sign. Bus fares cost approximately TOP$1 to travel within the city, which must be paid with cash, while you will pay no more than TOP$3 to travel to destinations around Tongatapu. Learn more about taking the bus in Tonga here.
9. Bicycle Rentals on Tongatapu
Tongatapu is a flat island, which means you can explore relatively easily by bicycle. Many of the accommodations and resorts across the island offer their own bicycle hire (just be sure to ask for their newest bike). For instance, bikes are available to rent from the Liku’alofa Resort and Heilala Lodge (the latter being free bike hire), while e-bikes are available to hire from Seaview Lodge. Expect bike hires to be either free or TOP$20-$50 a day.
10. Guided Tours of Tongatapu
Let someone else take care of the driving and the itinerary for you, while you enjoy seeing the sights of Tongatapu. There are a few fabulous island day trips available taking you to all of the highlights of Tongatapu within usually six hours. Otherwise, half-day tours available to see one side of the island in two to three hours. Check out some of our top recommendations in The Best Guided Tours of Tongatapu.