Food Activities in Vava’u
Despite food being an integral part of the Tongan culture, most of the activities orientate around whale swimming, scuba diving and sailing in Vava’u. Nevertheless, those who like to experience a place through its tastes are still in for some interesting foodie experiences on the islands of Vava’u. Learn about the tropical produce grown across the main islands, see it sold at the Neiafu Market, and try some of the goods for yourself in a Tongan feast! Check out some of the top things to do in Vava’u for foodies in the list below!
While you’re here, you might also be interested in The Foodie Guide to Vava’u.
1. Learn About Natural Superfoods and Enjoy a Tongan Buffet at ‘Ene’io Botanical Gardens
Learn about tropical plants, fruit and vegetables and their health benefits on a Garden Tour of the ‘Ene’io Botanical Gardens, which also makes its own health foods and natural products. Your tour guide and curator of the gardens, Haniteli Fa’anunu, will show you a wide range of interesting plants from Vava’u and all around the world. The centre also has a restaurant serving Tongan meals throughout the week, Tongan buffets during their Cultural Tours, and hosts a Sunday Tongan feast… More on the latter in the point below… Learn more about the gardens in the 10 Free & Cheap Things To Do in Vava’u.
2. Do a Tour of a Vanilla Plantation
Vava’u provides the perfect conditions for growing vanilla beans, where a drive around the main islands alone provides travellers the opportunity to check out vanilla plantations. To amp up the experience, do an informal vanilla tour with Heilala Vanilla, who works with local farmers to grow ultra-fresh vanilla and create all sorts of vanilla products. Vanilla plantation tours can be organised through accommodations like Mystic Sands. Otherwise, pop in if the gate is open at their plantation just before the causeway onto ‘Utugake Island.
3. Take Part in a Tongan Sunday Feast
The Tongan culture is very food-centric, which is best experienced in one of their Tongan feasts, typically taking place on a Sunday. There are a few places around the islands of Vava’u where you experience a Tongan feast for yourself where you can taste food that has been slow-cooked in an earth oven called an “umu”. A spit-roast pig is also usually a staple. Tongan feasts can be experienced at the Port of Refuge Villas, ‘Ene’io Botanical Gardens, Beautiful Ofu Island Backpackers and anywhere advertised on the Neiafu noticeboards! You can also ask at the Tourist Information Centre for upcoming feasts. Be sure to pre-book as a minimum number might be required.
4. Indulge in Vava’u’s Restaurants
The best way to describe Vava’u’s restaurant scene is that it has tons of hidden surprises. You’ll find Italian food, Spanish food and Chinese food with a tropical flair. For instance, the Bellavista Cafe & Restaurant serves up Tongan seafood dishes, as well as pizzas and pasta. Speaking of pizza, head a little out of town to find Vava’u’s cool little pizza joint, Hepi Pizza, with a viewing deck overlooking Koko Bay. Try a Tongan dish like ota ika or a fresh fish burger at the Tongan Beach Resort. See more recommendations in our Guide to the Best Eats & Restaurants in Vava’u.
5. Browse the Neiafu Market
A must for foodies in Neiafu, the Neiafu Market is where you can get a great insight into grocery shopping in the South Pacific. Admire piles of tropical fruit and vegetables, mingle with the locals and check out the handicrafts for sale in the section next door. The best time to go is on a Saturday morning, but it’s open throughout the day Monday to Saturday.
6. Catch Dinner on a Fishing Charter
Vava’u’s waters provide some exciting fishing for beginner and experienced anglers alike! Sports fishing is huge in Vava’u where species like blue marlin are one of the highly prized fish here. However, this species is usually released in order to achieve sustainable fishing practices, so tell your skipper that you want to keep a fish for eating and theuy’ll help you target the best species for dinner! Compare charters in the 10 Best Fishing Charters in Vava’u.
7. Learn About Kava and Taro on an Island Tour
While not exclusively a foodie experience, guided land tours around the main islands of Vava’u provide an interesting insight into the plantations across Vava’u. Vava’u is the biggest producer of kava in Tonga, which is a pepper plant used to make a narcotic drink. A drive around the island will also reveal vast taro plantations, banana plantation, vanilla plantations and more. Check out some of the island tours in the 5 Best Guided Tours of Vava’u.