A Self-Guided Day Trip of Ha'apai: One Day Itinerary© TongaPocketGuide.com
A Self-Guided Day Trip of Ha'apai: One Day Itinerary

A Self-Guided Day Trip of Ha’apai: One Day Itinerary

© TongaPocketGuide.com

A Self-Drive (or Cycle) Day Tour of Ha’apai’s Lifuka and Foa Islands

Have a day to spend in Ha’apai and don’t know what to do with it? This one-day itinerary of Ha’apai’s Lifuka and Foa Islands will ensure you make the most of this Polynesian paradise! Rent a car or a bicycle and hit the road to explore fascinating historical sites, do some beachcombing, dine at little-known restaurants, observe Pacific village life, and even do some island-hopping. You don’t need to hire a guide, as this self-guided day trip of Ha’apai lays out almost all of the sights and attractions on an easy-to-follow route complete with maps.

How to Get Around Ha’apai Using This Self-Guided Itinerary

This self-guided one-day itinerary of Ha’apai has you exploring Lifuka and Foa Islands independently. To get around, you will either need to rent a car or a bicycle. Tips on where to hire vehicles can be found in the following guides:

For more transport options, check out our Ha’apai Transport Guide: 7 Ways to Get to (& Around) Ha’apai.

A Self-Guided Day Trip of Ha'apai: One Day Itinerary© Google Maps

Visitor Information Centre to Hulu’ i Paongo Point

Distance: 5.1 km (3.1 mi), Drive time: 12 mins, Cycle time: 25 mins.

Mystery Cross

Starting from the Tonga Tourism Visitor Information Centre where you can get information and maps, head south on Holopeka Road (the main road) and take the second left at the Customs Office onto Faifekau Road. Approximately 100 m (110 yards) down this road is the entrance to the Pangai Free Wesleyan Church grounds and the location of the Mystery Cross. The cross lying on the grass commemorates when a local reverend claimed to have seen a cross-shaped light from the sky shining on this very spot. The church is also a popular option for experiencing a Tongan church service, as listed in the 10 Best Churches in Tonga to Experience as a Visitor.

Olovehi Tomb

Continue to the end of Faifekau Road then turn right (south) down Tua Road. Enjoy the sights and sounds of village life as you travel approximately 1.1 km (0.7 mi) where the Olovehi Tomb (Langi ‘o Olovehi) is signposted on the right. The tomb was constructed in the late 1700s for a princess where it is claimed that many individuals were killed and buried around the outside to serve her in the afterlife.

Velata Mound Fortress

Further on Tua Road, on the next left, follow the road for around 200 m (220 yards) to find the Velata Mound Fortress. This site is the perfect example of a traditional ditch fortification that was used throughout the South Pacific from the 15th to the 19th Century.

Birthplace of King Tupou I

Head back toward the coast and onto Holopeka Road and follow it south to the site of the old Niu’ui Hospital. A plaque memorial here commemorates the Birthplace of King Tupou I who was the first in the current line of the Royal Family and was the architect of modern Tongan society – see A Brief History of Tonga to learn more.

The Road to Hulu’ i Paongo Point

Continue south where the road at the end of Hihifo village turns into a dirt road that is still suitable for 2WD vehicles. Continue approximately 400 m (400 yards) south of Hihifo village to reach Leleno ki Moana, which is a beachfront restaurant open all day – see 5 Best Restaurants in Ha’apai.

The dirt road continues south for another 1.5 km (0.9 mi) until it reaches Hulu’ i Paongo Point. Just before you reach the point, look out for a grassy hill just next to the modern cemetery. This is Hulu’ i Paongo Tomb, a burial site of a long line of chiefs called Mata’uvave and the highest burial mound on Lifuka.

At the southern tip of Lifuka, you’ll find amazing views where the road ends at Hulu’ i Paongo Point. Admire the scenery of a sweeping white sand beach, as well as Uoleva Island across the channel.

A Self-Guided Day Trip of Ha'apai: One Day Itinerary© Google Maps

Hulu’ i Paongo Point to the Shirley Baker Memorial

Distance: 4.9 km (3 mi), Drive time: 10 mins, Cycle time: 25 mins.

Tau’akipulu Palace

There’s no other option but to return the way you came back on Holopeka Road through Hihifo village where, on the right, you’ll see the impressive Hihifo Free Wesleyan Church facing the village’s long-stretching beach.

Just another 700 m (770 yards) further up the main road, the village transitions to Pangai and you’ll see the tent-shaped Sangata Teleisia ‘o ‘Avila Catholic Church on your right. Virtually across the road is the red-roofed Tau’akipulu Palace, one of several royal palaces constructed across The Kingdom.

Pangai Market and Taufa’ahau Wharf

Back at the Visitor Information Centre, treat yourself to an ice cream from RayLela’s Caka & Ice Cream Shop just across the road, or head toward the waterfront to Fanga ‘i he Si Market (Pangai Market) to check out the stalls of locally grown produce, as well as handicrafts and souvenirs toward the back – see the 5 Best Markets in Tonga. There’s also Tiger Inn and Lucky Pot Restaurant should you need a lunch stop.

Continue along the waterfront to see Taufa’ahau Wharf where resort boats and interisland ferries dock. You’ll also find a couple of supermarkets in the area should you need to stock up on supplies.

Shirley Baker Memorial

Head back onto Holopeka Road and continue approximately 250 m (270 yards) north to reach the 19th/20th-Century European Cemetary and Rev. Shirley Baker Memorial, who was the first prime minister and advisor to King Tupou I.

A Self-Guided Day Trip of Ha'apai: One Day Itinerary© Google Maps

Shirley Baker Memorial to Houmale’eia Beach

Distance: 13 km (8 mi), Drive time: 20 mins, Cycle time: 1 hr 5 mins.

Airport Runway and Port au Prince Memorial

Travel past plantations and forests as you make your way north on Holopeka Road. Approximately 1.1 km (0.7 mi) north of the Shirley Baker Memorial is the Ha’apai Beach Resort on the left, whose restaurant is sometimes open for casual diners. Also, inquire about snorkelling/whale swimming tours.

Further north, you’ll reach the village of Koulo where the road takes you right across the runway of Salote Pilolevu Ha’apai Airport. If a plane is scheduled to land/take off, the gate to cross the runway will be closed.

A couple of hundred metres north of the runway is the turn-off for the Port au Prince Memorial. It’s a quick side trip (about 260 m/280 yards) down a short dirt road lined with mandarin trees. The memorial commemorates the place where Tongans captured the Port au Prince in 1806, killing most of the crew apart from a young boy called William Mariner who became famous for his written works documenting his life with the Tongans.

Causeway to Foa Island

Head further north still and you’ll reach the end of Lifuka Island as the road transitions into a causeway connecting to Foa Island. Look out for locals cleaning home kills in the current that sweeps under the causeway.

Much of driving through Foa Island is about admiring the quaint villages and their magnificent churches along the way. First, you’ll come across the village of Fangale’ounga then Fotua and then Lotofoa. The fourth and final village, Faleloa is where the wharf can be found for catching boats to Ha’ano Island.

Foa Island’s Beaches

As you leave via the northern end of Faleloa village, note the church hall on your left and travel through the coastal forest for approximately 1.5 km (0.9 mi). Look out for a dirt road on your left heading toward the coast to find a stunning stretch of beach. If you reach the driveway for Sandy Beach Resort, which is your next left, you’ve gone too far.

Finally, you’ll reach the end of Foa Road with a small parking area at Houmale’eia Beach, commonly known as Matafonua Beach. It makes sense, as this is where you find Matafonua Lodge, which has a restaurant open to non-guests particularly outside of the high season. Enjoy idyllic sands that peak at the tip of the island and look out for a buoy which indicates an amazing reef for snorkelling directly in front of the resort. On the eastern side of Houmale’eia Beach are ancient petroglyphs etched into the slabs of rock on the beach.

Return to Pangai (13 km/8 mi)

This is the end of our itinerary, so there’s nothing left to do but return the way you came to wherever your final destination is for the day. It’s approximately 13 km (8 mi) back to Pangai, which takes around 20 minutes. See more driving times in our complete guide to The Driving Times & Distances in Tonga.

More About Planning a Self-Guided Day Trip in Ha’apai

That’s it for our self-guided day trip of Ha’apai’s Lifuka and Foa Islands. For more details about the sights visited on this one-day itinerary of Ha’apai, these other articles should do just the trick!

Finally, don’t miss a thing on Tonga’s central island group with The Complete Travel Guide to Ha’apai.


Laura (Lola) S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of Tonga Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in the South Pacific over 10 years ago with nothing but a backpack and a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to explore a paradise such as Tonga. She knows the islands inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience Tonga’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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