The Best Food Activities and Tours Across Nuku’alofa and Tongatapu
The capital of The Kingdom of Tonga is also the capital of food as far as we are concerned! Key aspects of the Tongan culture can be experienced in Nuku’alofa and across Tongatapu, from drinking kava to indulging in Tongan umu feasts. Foodies can browse the local produce and fish markets or take a tour of coffee roasteries to delve a little deeper into the foodie scene of Tonga. Not to mention, there are some excellent restaurants and bars to relax at after a hard day of exploring. Check out some of the best foodie experiences in Nuku’alofa and Tongatapu in the list below!
While you’re here, don’t miss The Food Guide to Tongatapu: Places to Eat & Food Tours.
1. Browse the Bustling Talamahu Market
The bustling central hub of Nuku’alofa, Talamahu Market, is a must for foodies and non-foodies alike! See a huge array of fresh produce stalls across multiple levels as you wander among tropical fruit and vegetables. Purchase Tongan staples, such as plantain, breadfruit, taro and cassava sold in bundles or inside woven baskets. Pyramids of tomatoes, bunches of bananas, the sweetest pineapples and snack-ready peanuts also decorate just about every surface available. Talamahu Market is the perfect place to try some tropical produce you might have never had before and see what some of your tropical favourites taste like in comparison to home. Spoiler alert, they’ll probably be better in Tonga! See more activities like this in our 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Nuku’alofa.
Location: Salote Road, Nuku’alofa city centre. Learn more about opening hours in the 5 Best Markets in Tonga.
2. Learn How to Prepare an Umu
A very special dining experience for both locals and visitors is food slow-cooked in an underground oven, locally called an “umu”. Learn how Tongans have prepared umu for centuries on an educational culture tour with Ancient Tonga. Aside from learning about Tongan weaving, tapa-making, medicines and more, you’ll learn how to prepare traditional Tongan food. See how ingredients are wrapped in banana leaves, as well as how to husk a coconut to extract the coconut cream. Learn more about this tour in the 10 Best Cultural Activities in Tonga.
Location: Tamakautonga Road, Popua, Nuku’alofa.
3. Tour a Coffee Roastery and Cassava Chip Factory
Hidden in a suburb of Nuku’alofa is the fabulous Tupu’Anga Cafe offering a European-style cafe with a Tongan twist. The cafe is home to a coffee roastery, where beans and sourced locally, as well as a cassava chip factory that makes a hugely popular Tongan snack, “manioke chips”! See how it’s all made on an informal tour of the factory. Additionally, be sure to sit down to some of their coffee, as well as papaya scones, lu (taro leaf and meat) pies, and mouthwatering cassava cake. Oh, and check out the 10 Best Cafes in Nuku’alofa & Tongatapu for more places to get your caffeine fix.
Location: Towards the southern end of Umusi Road, Popua, Nuku’alofa.
4. Try Tongan and International Cuisine at Tongatapu’s Restaurants
You’ll find a wealth of variety when it comes to eating out on Tongatapu, and especially in Nuku’alofa! Try fabulous local dishes, such as ota ika (raw fish marinated in coconut cream) and lu (meat and coconut cream wrapped in taro leaves). Alternatively, European and Asian food is also readily available and extremely well-done. You need only head to the 20 Best Restaurants on Tongatapu to check out our top recommendations!
Location: All over Tongatapu! See the link above for recommendations and their locations.
5. Check Out Tu’i Mata Moana Fish Market and Fair
On the waterfront along Vuna Road, on the east side of Nuku’alofa, there are a couple more markets that many travellers miss! At Faua Wharf, check out the tables of tropical fish, wrapped-up crabs, bags of squid, oysters, seaweed and much more at the Tu’i Mata Moana Fish Market. Further along the wharf, you’ll also find the Tu’i Mata Moana Fair with an abundance of barbecued meals and local drinks like ‘otai for sale. Although both markets are open throughout the week, the best time to go is on a Saturday morning. Learn more about these markets in the 5 Best Markets in Tonga.
Location: Faua Wharf, Vuna Road, Nuku’alofa.
6. Taste the National Drink During a Faikava
Kava is an integral part of the Tongan lifestyle, typically drunk by men who drink in kava circles known as faikava. Apart from learning about and trying kava at Ancient Tonga (see above), visitors will need to ask around locally for faikava. Otherwise, some Nuku’alofa guesthouses put on kava nights on request, such as Toni’s Guesthouse. If you’re joining a faikava on a more casual basis (not part of a guided tour), it’s customary to bring some cash (TOP$50) or kava to contribute. Learn more about aspects of the Tongan culture in The Guide to the Tongan Culture and Traditions.
Location: All over Tongatapu! Inquire with your accommodation host to arrange the best faikava to attend.
7. Experience a Tongan Feast and Cultural Show
Another aspect of the Tongan culture is feasts, which are renowned across the South Pacific for their sheer scale and diversity! Umu buffets and cultural floor shows typically take place on Wednesday and Friday nights at Tongatapu’s resorts, such as Katea Retreat and Oholei Beach Resort. In Nuku’alofa, Ancient Tonga offers monthly buffets followed by traditional Tongan dancing on a Friday night (that’s if they have the minimum required numbers, so be sure to pre-book). Learn much more about these captivating shows and dining experiences in the 10 Best Cultural Shows in Tonga.
Location: All over Tongatapu! See the link above for recommendations and their locations. Some shows offer transfers from Nuku’alofa.
8. Try Traditional Tongan Food and Snacks
Eating Tongan cuisine is all part of the cultural experience of visiting Nuku’alofa and Tongatapu! Tongan staples like lu sipi, lo’i ika, ota ika and much more can be sampled in restaurants like Mum’s Cafe in Nuku’alofa or Ofeina Restaurant and Keli’i and Rose Restaurant in the outer villages. Otherwise, there are plenty of roadside market stalls selling Tongan snacks, such as along Vuna Road on the way to Faua Wharf where you can pick up sweet treats like topai and fai kakai! For more recommendations, check out The Top Cheap Eats in Nuku’alofa & Tongatapu, while more information about Tongan food can be found in the 10 Unique Foods in Tonga You Have to Try.
Location: All over Tongatapu! See the links above for recommendations and their locations.
9. Sample Local Beers, Juices and Cocktails
Tonga is home to its own array of drinks, such as beers from Pacific Brewing Co., coffee from Kingdom Koffie and fruit drinks like ‘otai. Try some of these local beverages at one of the many bars, cafes and markets found across the island between the resort bars and the vibrant bars and nightclubs in Nuku’alofa. See where to go in The Ultimate Guide to the Nightlife on Tongatapu, as well as what drinks to try in the 10 Drinks in Tonga You Have to Try.
Location: All around Tongatapu! Check out the links above for recommendations and their locations.
10. Experience Nuku’alofa’s Fabulous Bakeries
Whether you’re looking for breakfast, road trip snacks or fresh bread for a picnic, Tongatapu can certainly provide with its wealth of fabulous bakeries. Try a coconut and chocolate cake for two (or just to yourself if you’re feeling that way) at Ini’s Cakes, grab some silkily glazed doughnuts from Agape Donuts, or fresh bread, cupcakes, full cakes and more from A Cowley & Sons.
Location: Ini’s Cakes – Taufa’ahau Village. Agape Donuts – Wellington Road. A Cowley & Sons – Corner of Fasi-Moe-Afi Road and Salote Road. All in Nuku’alofa.
More Foodie Experiences in Nuku’alofa and Tongatapu
That’s it for our list of the best foodie experiences in Nuku’alofa and Tongatapu. For more about treating the tastebuds in Tonga, take a look at the following:
- 10 Best Foodie Experiences in Tonga
- The Food Guide to Tonga: Places to Eat & Food Tours
- 10 Unique Foods in Tonga You Have to Try