Transport in Vava’u
Vava’u is a group of 61 islands in the north of the Tonga archipelago (but not as far north as the far-flung Niuas). Vava’u is well connected to the rest of Tonga, as well as a couple of international locations with flights to some of the other South Pacific nations. Most visitors to Vava’u travel to the islands via Tongatapu, Tonga’s main island and home to the main international airport of Tonga. However, it isn’t all about the flights to get to Vava’u, as the island and its main town, Neiafu, are connected to the rest of Tonga by ferry, while visitors with their own yacht will find safe anchorage around the islands. Learn more about the transport in Vava’u in this list of ways to get to Vava’u!
1. Vava’u by Plane
The most popular way for travellers to get to Vava’u is by taking a flight from Tonga’s main island, Tongatapu. Daily flights to Lupepau’u Airport on Vava’u are available from Fua’amotu Airport, except on Sundays. Tongatapu has connecting flights to Auckland (New Zealand), Sydney (Australia) and Nadi (Fiji). Flights between Tongatapu and Vava’u are approximately one hour. Alternatively, direct international flights arrive at Lupepau’u Airport from Apia (Samoa) twice a week in the high season and from Nadi (Fiji) four times a day in the high season from Tuesday to Saturday or two times a week in the low season. Be aware that flights are often cancelled in bad weather, so try to organise a flexible first day in Vava’u. Learn more about flights in Where Can You Fly to in Tonga?.
2. Vava’u by Ferry
A cheaper but more time-consuming way to get from Tongatapu to Vava’u is by taking one of the ferries from Nuku’alofa in Tongatapu to Neiafu in Vava’u. There are two ferries, the MV Taka I Pomana and MV Otuangaofa. Ferries depart from the Queen Salote Wharf in Nuku’alofa, stopping at various locations in the Ha’apai islands, arriving at Halaevalu Wharf in Neiafu and vice versa. Ferries operate from Monday to Saturday and take approximately 16 to 23 hours to travel between Tongatapu and Vava’u. Be sure to recheck ferry schedules the day before departure as schedules are often changing. Ferries between Tongatapu cost approximately TOP$80-$150. Learn more about taking the ferry here.
3. Cruises to Vava’u
Vava’u is on the itinerary of several cruise ships sailing the South Pacific islands from either Australia or New Zealand, including Celebrity Cruises, P&O Cruises, Holland American Line, Paul Gauguin Cruises, Silversea and more. Cruise ships anchor offshore of Neiafu, where tenders provide regular services between the ship and Neiafu throughout the stay. Shore excursion activities are available to make the most of your visit to Vava’u. Find out more in the 10 Cruises that Visit Tonga.
4. Accommodation Transfers
Almost all accommodations in Vava’u offer airport/accommodation transfers for a fee. This might just include road transport or both road and boat transport if necessary. Be sure to organise this service with your resort prior to arrival. A representative/driver will be waiting for you on arrival to Halaevalu Wharf/Lupepau’u Airport.
5. Taxis in Vava’u
Taxis are fairly numerous on Vava’u, offering transport around Vava’u Island and its connecting islands by causeways. Taxis usually have set prices to go between destinations, of which most of them are rates recommended by the Labour and Commerce Department. For instance, a reasonable fare between the airport and Neiafu is TOP$25 and around town is TOP$5-$10. However, tours are more variable and can start from TOP$25 costing an hourly rate which is usually around TOP$100 an hour. Taxis are readily available at the airport and from Neiafu near the Tonga Post office. Learn more about taxis in Tonga here.
6. Car Rental in Vava’u
Car rentals are available in Vava’u. Most car rentals are available in Neiafu, but some car rental companies offer airport/village drop-offs for a fee or can transport you to or from the airport either for a small fee or free of charge. It’s best to book car rentals early, as each car rental company on Vava’u has a small fee. Cars come in various states in Vava’u so it’s best to do your research first – see The Best Car Rentals in Vava’u. A reasonable price to pay for a basic car is TOP$50-$70 a day. Consider paying a little extra for a 4WD if heading to the lookouts, as they are on dirt roads. See Things to Know About Car Rental in Tonga for more tips.
7. Bicycle Hire in Vava’u
[Update: Cafe Tropicana is no longer offering cycle hire.]
It is possible to explore the area around Neiafu by bicycle with bicycle and helmet hire is available at Cafe Tropicana. Unlike other islands in Tonga, Vava’u is quite hilly so you will need to be fit to enjoy cycling around Vava’u Island. Expect to pay around TOP$30 for day hire. Free mountain bike hire is available for guests at Hakula Lodge.
8. Island Tours
Finally, another way to get around Vava’u is by embarking on an island tour. Both land and water tours are available in Vava’u to see some of the major highlights. On land, it might be various lookouts, beaches and villages, while on water tours are likely to include visits to Swallows’ Cave, Mariner’s Cave, various islands and snorkelling spots. Prices greatly differ. Compare the offerings of tours in The Best Guided Tours of Vava’u and The Best Boat Tours of Vava’u. Note that some activities, like ‘Ene’io Botanical Garden also offers transfers to and from the activity for a fee.
9. Buses in Vava’u
Bus services provide an ultra-cheap method for getting around Vava’u, but those usuing the buses will need a lot of patience and preferably somewhere to stay at your destination. Buses depart from the corner of Tu’i Road and Fatafehi Road in Neiafu, which is clearly signposted, and take passengers to various villages around the island in the morning, leaving when the bus is full. The bus then makes it return journey at the start of the afternoon, making it not a viable option if you just want to do a day trip. Nevertheless, you can hardly beat the price at usually less than TOP$2. Note that there are no buses from the airport.
10. Sailing in Vava’u
Vava’u is home to some of the most popular sailing grounds in the South Pacific. While charter yachts are available for visitors to explore the islands, those with their own yacht are best heading to the Port of Refuge Yacht Club at the Mango Cafe. Remeber you will need to go through Customs if coming from overseas. Check out The Sailing Guide to Tonga and The Best Tours for Sailing in Vava’u for more information.