Food Activities in Nuku’alofa
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 here, from drinking kava to indulging in Tongan feasts. Foodies can browse the local produce and fish markets or take a tour of coffee roasteries and Tongan snack factories 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 things to do in Nuku’alofa for foodies in the list below!
While you’re here, you might also be interested in The Foodie Guide to Nuku’alofa.
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, pineapples and 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. Open Monday to Saturday, early morning to 4.30pm
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 an umu. See how ingredients are wrapped in banana leaves, as well as how to husk a coconut for the fire. Find out more about Ancient Tonga on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Ancient Tonga, Tamakautonga Road
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 the good stuff is made on an informal tour of the factory. Additionally, be sure to sit down to some of their coffee, as well as pawpaw (papaya) scones, lu (taro leaf and meat) pies, and mouthwatering cassava cake.
Location: At the south end of Umusi Road
4. Try Tongan and International Cuisine at Nuku’alofa’s Restaurants
You’ll find a wealth of variety when it comes to eating out 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 Guide to the Best Eats & Restaurants in Nuku’alofa to check out our top recommendations!
5. Check Out Tu’imatamoana Fish Market
On the waterfront along Vuna Road, on the eastside 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. Further down the road, you’ll also find the Tu’imatamoana Fair with clothing and crafts for sale. The best time is to go early on a Saturday when there are more stalls.
Location: Faua Wharf, Vuna Road
6. Taste the National Drink in a Kava Circle
Kava is an integral part of the Tongan lifestyle, typically drunk by men who drink in “kava circles”. Apart from learning about and trying kava at Ancient Tonga (see above), visitors will need to ask around locally for kava circles. Otherwise, some Nuku’alofa guesthouses sometimes put on kava nights on request, such as at Toni’s Guesthouse.
7. Experience a Tongan Feast and Cultural Show
Another aspect of the Tongan culture are feasts, which are renowned across the South Pacific for their sheer scale and diversity! In Nuku’alofa, Ancient Tonga offer buffets followed by traditional Tongan dancing on a Friday night (if they have the minimum required numbers, so be sure to pre-book). Alternatively, transfers to feasts around Tongatapu are available from Nuku’alofa, for instance, to the Oholei Buffet Dinner and Cultural Show inside Hina Cave with Tonga Travel Troupe (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor).
8. Drink and Be Merry at the Waterfront Bars
Meet the super-friendly locals and relax with your mates in one of Nuku’alofa’s watering holes. Nuku’alofa has a vibrant bar scene where you can try Tongan beers and refreshing cocktails. Dance the night away at the city-centre Reload Bar or listen to live music and watch the sun go down from the Vuna Restaurant & Bar. Enjoy the nautical theme and dancing at Nauti Ruby’s Bar. Learn more in 5 Best Bars in Nuku’alofa.