Everything You Need to Know About Transport in Ha’apai
The Ha’apai Group is a group of 62 islands scattering the centre of the Tonga archipelago LINK#TT004. 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 guesthouses provide. Otherwise, getting around is a process of winging it, asking at the Visitor Information Centre for the latest transport operators and car rentals (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 in this guide.
While you’re here, plan the rest of your trip with The Complete Guide to Ha’apai.
1. Ha’apai by Plane – How to Get to Ha’apai
Ha’apai is connected to the rest of Tonga through Tongatapu’s Fua’amotu International Airport with Tonga’s local airline. Flights through the domestic terminal operate approximately two times a day except for on Sundays. Ha’apai has one main airport, Salote Pilolevu Airport, which is around 3 km (2 mi) north of the main town, Pangai on Lifuka Island. Flights last around 50 minutes and offer amazing views of the islands scattering the ocean along the way. Note, however, that Ha’apai is the island with most flight cancellations in Tonga often due to unsuitable weather conditions. Have a contingency plan.
2. Ha’apai by Ferry – The Cheap Way to Get to Ha’apai
A cheaper alternative for getting between Tongatapu and Ha’apai, as well as between Vava’u and Ha’apai, is taking the ferry. Frequent cargo/passenger ships run between the island groups, stopping at the Ha’apai islands of Nomuka, Tungua, Matuku, Ha’afeva, Uiha and Taufa’ahau Wharf on Lifuka. The ferry crossing is a lengthy process of around 8 to 12 hours to get to Ha’apai from Tongatapu. Alternatively, it is around 7 to 9 hours 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 or visit the ticket office prior to departure and recheck the schedule the day before you travel.
Learn more about ferry travel in our complete Tonga Ferry Guide.
3. Accommodation Transfers – How to Get to Your Resort
All of Ha’apai’s resorts and almost all of the guesthouses offer a transfer service between Ha’apai’s Salote Pilolevu Airport and the accommodation, as well as between Taufa’ahau Wharf and their accommodation if they are not within walking distance. If the accommodation is on Lifuka or Foa then your transfer will be road transport costing around TOP$10-$55 per person one way, while resorts on the outer islands will include boat transfers which cost around TOP$50-$80 per person one way. This transport should be organised with your chosen accommodation provider prior to arrival. Check out the accommodation in Where to Stay in Ha’apai: The Best Accommodations.
4. Bicycle Hire on Ha’apai – Free Way to Get Around Ha’apai
The islands of Lifuka and Foa are flat and easy to cycle around. Some resorts offer complimentary use of bicycles for guests. Note that not all bikes are in great condition, as they quickly deteriorate in the salty environment of Ha’apai. Brakes are sometimes on the peddles; not the handlebars.
5. Car Rental on Ha’apai – How to Get Around Ha’apai
Aside from cycling, just about the only way to explore Ha’apai independently is to hire a car. Vehicle rental is available at around five different Chinese grocery stores in Pangai, Lifuka. Ask at the Visitor Information Centre in Pangai for the latest options for vehicle rental, as they change often. Otherwise, we have the largest car rental company on Ha’apai listed in The 10 Best Car Rentals in Tonga.
For more tips on driving and renting a vehicle and what makes it different in Tonga, head to The Guide to Renting a Car in Tonga.
6. Boat Charters – Interisland Travel in Ha’apai
To get to the closest islands to Lifuka and Foa, boat charters are available. Boats to the outer islands of Uoleva, Kao and Tofua tend to depart from the beach just south of the Pangai Police Station, while those wishing to catch a boat to Ha’ano can do so from the wharf in Faleloa village on Foa Island, typically in time with the school run. Boat charters and transfers can be arranged through the Visitor Information Centre in Pangai.
7. Ha’apai by Yacht – How to Get to Ha’apai
With the exception of the cyclone season (November to April), Pangai on Lifuka is an official port of entry for Tonga. For the few that arrive in Ha’apai by private yacht, you will need to go through the entry customs at the Ports Authority if you haven’t done so already at another port of entry. Otherwise, you are required to do a domestic check-in.
Find out more about visiting Tonga via yacht and the protocols involved in our Sailing Guide to Tonga: Tips for Yachting in Tonga.
More About Transport in Ha’apai
That’s it for our guide to Ha’apai transport with the ways to get around Ha’apai, as well as how to get to Ha’apai. If you have more questions about travelling around Ha’apai, check out the following guides:
- The Complete Travel Guide to Ha’apai
- Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga
- Tonga Travel Times: How Long Does it Take to Travel Around Tonga?
Finally, see where your transport can take you with our itineraries: The Best Tonga Itineraries for 2 Weeks, The Best Tonga Itineraries for 1 Week, The Best Tonga Itineraries for 5 Days and The Best Tonga Itineraries for 3 Days.