Transport in Ha’apai
The Ha’apai Group is a group of 62 islands scattering the centre of the Tonga archipelago. Mostly undeveloped, it’s an island paradise but has very limited infrastructure for “getting around”. Transport for tourists is almost entirely reliant on what the resorts and guest houses provide. Otherwise, getting around is a process of winging it, asking at the Tourist Information Centre or the Mariner’s Cafe for the latest transport operators (who change often). As for getting to Ha’apai, travellers have a choice of an effortless (but pricey) flight or an ocean adventure on a long ferry trip. Check out all of the details for transport in Ha’apai with this list of the ways to get to Ha’apai!
While you’re here, plan the rest of your trip with The Complete Guide to Ha’apai.
1. Ha’apai by Plane
Ha’apai is connected to the rest of Tonga through Tongatapu’s Fua’amotu International Airport with REALtonga Airlines. Flights through the domestic terminal operate two to three times a day except for on Sundays. Ha’apai has one main airport, Salote Pilolevu Airport, about 3km (2 miles) north of the main town, Pangai on Lifuka Island. Flights between Ha’apai and Tongatapu cost approximately TOP$170-$250 for a standard one-way ticket. Flights last around 50 minutes and offer amazing views of the islands scattering the ocean along the way. Learn more about flying in Tonga with Where Can You Fly to in Tonga?
2. Ha’apai by Ferry
A cheaper alternative for getting between Tongatapu and Ha’apai, as well as between Vava’u and Ha’apai, is taking the ferry. Friendly Islands Shipping Company operates the MV Tongiaki, a fast catamaran ferry, and the MV ‘Otuanga’ofa, a slower cargo and passenger ship. The ferries stop at the Ha’apai islands of Nomuka, Ha’afeva and Taufa’ahau Wharf in Pangai. The ferry crossing is a lengthy process of around 5h30mins with the MV Tongiaki and around 8 hours with the MV ‘Otuanga’ofa to get to Ha’apai from Tongatapu. Alternatively, it is around 3h30mins with the MV Tongiaki to 7 hours on the MV ‘Otuanga’ofa from Vava’u. Note that Pangai is further north than the other Ha’apai islands so is quicker to reach from Vava’u. While there is a ferry schedule, ferries are known to run off it, so it’s best to call prior to departure and recheck the schedule the day before you travel. Learn more about ferry travel in Travelling in Tonga by Ferry.
3. Accommodation Transfers
All of Ha’apai’s resort and almost all of the guest houses offer a transfer service between Ha’apai’s Salote Pilolevu Airport and the accommodation and Taufa’ahau Wharf and their accommodation. If the accommodation is on Lifuka then it will be road transport costing around TOP$3-$65, while resorts on the outer islands will include boat transfers which cost around TOP$30-$70. This transport should be organised with your chosen accommodation provider prior to arrival. Check out the accommodation in the 10 Best Resorts in Ha’apai and the 5 Best Guest Houses in Ha’apai.
4. Bicycle Hire on Ha’apai
The islands of Lifuka and Foa are flat and easy to cycle around. Bicycle hire is available from the Mariner’s Cafe in Pangai for around TOP$15 per day. Some resorts offer complimentary use of bicycles for guests, such as Matafonua Lodge, Sandy Beach Resort and Ha’apai Beach Resort.
5. Taxis on Ha’apai
Admittedly, road transport isn’t huge in the islands of Ha’apai, as many of the locals get around on horseback! While you can experience this transport method for yourself from resorts like Matafonua Lodge and the Sandy Beach Resort, the other way you’re going to get around is by using the very limited taxi services available. One option is Tom’s Taxi, who is often waiting at the airport or wharf to connect with arrivals, taking passengers into town for around TOP$10. Alternatively, Becky and Longo offer a taxi service, as well as tours around Lifuka. You should be able to get up-to-date contact details for them at the Tourist Information Centre in Pangai, as well as at the Mariner’s Cafe or the Information Centre. With transport options ever-changing on Ha’apai, it’s best to ask at the Mariner’s Cafe or Information Centre about what the current taxi options are.