What are the Places in Tonga that People Know About?
How can we make a list of famous places in an island nation that, well, not many people know about? Well, if you know anything about Tonga or have seen any iconic images of Tonga, then chances are it’s at least one of the famous places in Tonga listed below. Whether you’re looking for a popular attraction, a famous place in history, or the comfort of going somewhere a little more explored in an otherwise relatively unexplored tourist destination, then this list should point you in the right direction.
The capital of Tonga is, for obvious reasons, the most recognised settlement name in Tonga. Located on the northern coast of Tongatapu, Nuku’alofa has iconic landmarks such as the Royal Palace and the Talamahu Market. Despite being the capital of the South Pacific’s only kingdom, the town itself is quite petite! Learn more about visiting Nuku’alofa in The Complete Guide to Nuku’alofa.
Location: Central north coast of Tongatapu.
2. Ha’amonga ‘a Maui
One of the most famous historical sites in Tonga is the stone trilithon, Ha’amonga ‘a Maui. The coral limestone megalithic structure on Tongatapu is said to have been built in 1200 AD by an early king, Tu’i Tonga Tu’itatui. Also at the site is the Maka Faakinanga, a leaning stone that is said to have served as the king’s throne. See more places like this in the 10 Best Historical Sites in Tonga.
Location: Signposted along Taufa’ahau Road, Niutoua, east side of Tongatapu.
3. The Pacific Ocean
Ok, so the Pacific Ocean is quite a big place, but we mention it as Tonga is arguably most famous for its whale swimming experiences. It’s one of the only places in the world where you can legally swim with humpback whales. The surrounding Pacific Ocean of Tonga’s 170 islands becomes a mating and calving ground for humpback whales between July and October. Learn more in The Guide to Whale Swimming in Tonga.
Location: All over Tonga! See the 10 Best Places to See Whales in Tonga From Shore for location recommendations.
4. Mapua ‘a Vaea Blowholes
A famous natural attraction in Tonga is the Mapua ‘a Vaea Blowholes. This natural water display stretches some 5 km (3 mi) along the southern coastline of Tongatapu, shooting the ocean’s waves up to 30 m (100 ft) in the air through narrow blowholes. When the water falls back to earth, it cascades down the tiered reef. Check out more famous natural attractions in the 10 Best Natural Attractions in Tonga.
Location: End of Vaea Road, Houma, southwest side of Tongatapu.
5. Swallows Cave
If you’ve seen photos of an underwater cave with thousands of fish and beams of light casting through the cave’s entrance, then chances are it’s of Swallows Cave. Etched into the cliffs of Kapa Island in Vava’u, Swallows Cave is a top spot to visit on snorkelling and boating tours in the island group. The cave is known for being home to rare Pacific swallows (‘anapekapeka), but the snorkelling here is what the cave is most famous for. Check out more sights in the area in Sightseeing in Vava’u: Top 10 Sights & Natural Attractions.
Location: Northwestern tip of Kapa Island, Vava’u.
Tonga was the first group of islands in Polynesia to be settled by the Lapita people around 2,850 years ago. According to archaeological findings of Lapita pottery, the village of Nukuleka, on the edge of the Fanga’uta Lagoon on Tongatapu, was where they first settled. For this reason, Nukuleka has become famous for being one of the oldest known settlements in the South Pacific. Discover more of Tonga’s villages in The 5 Best Small Towns & Villages to Visit in Tonga.
Location: Nukuleka, east side of Tongatapu.
7. The Royal Palace
Tonga is famous for being the only South Pacific nation with a monarchy, which is symbolised by the iconic Royal Palace. On the shores of Nuku’alofa, the Royal Palace features grand Victorian architecture. While the palace is not open to the public, you can enjoy the view from the parks on either side of the palace. Make more discoveries in the capital with our 30 Best Things to Do in Nuku’alofa.
Location: Corner of Vaha’akolo and Vuna Roads, Nuku’alofa city centre, central north coast of Tongatapu.
8. Port Au Prince Memorial
Famous in the European history of colonisation, conflicts and exploration of the South Pacific, the Port au Prince Massacre happened off the shores of Lifuka Island in Ha’apai. Visit a monument just north of Ha’apai’s airport runway to see the place where the captain and around half of the crew of the Port au Prince were killed on 26 November 1806. The ship was a French ship, captured by the British and made into a privateer. It was also the ship that William Mariner arrived in Tonga, an English writer whose published works became famous after writing about his experience of living with Tongans for four years. See more famous places in this island group in Sightseeing in Ha’apai: Top 10 Sights in Ha’apai.
Location: Signposted off Hala Holopeka Road, approximately 260 m (850 yards) north of Koulo village and the runway, Lifuka Island, Ha’apai. The memorial is approximately 260 m down the dirt road to the coast (it was just Ok for 2WD vehicles last time we checked).
9. Lianga Huo ‘a Maui Landbridge
Famous for its natural wonder and local folklore, the Lianga Huo ‘a Maui is a giant coastal archway on the island of ‘Eua. After a short walk along the southern cliffs of the island, which are dappled in unusual rocky outcrops and home to wild horses, you’ll come across a viewing platform looking through this natural landbridge and out to the Pacific Ocean. See more famous places on Tonga’s oldest island in Sightseeing on ‘Eua: Top 10 Sights & Natural Attractions.
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.
10. ‘Anahulu Cave
Another iconic cave in Tonga, ‘Anahulu Cave is noteworthy for its stunning limestone chamber leading to a freshwater swimming pool. The cave is lit up for visitors to admire the stalactites dangling from the ceiling. Find this cave on the island of Tongatapu and check out others in the 10 Best Caves in Tonga.
Location: Signposted from the southern end of Haveluliku village, east side of Tongatapu.
More Famous Places in Tonga
That’s it for the most famous places in Tonga, but there are still more noteworthy sights to discover in the following articles:
- 10 Best Photography Spots in Tonga
- 10 Most Iconic Sights & Landmarks in Tonga
- The 10 Largest Islands in Tonga