The Top Activities, Attractions and Sights on Niuatoputapu
Sitting isolated in the South Pacific Ocean, not only from the rest of its own country, being closer to Samoa, but from its closest neighbour, Niuafo’ou, Niuatoputapu is the ultimate adventure for travellers in Tonga.
Meaning “Sacred Island”, Niuatoputapu consists of three villages, including the largest one in The Niuas, Hihifo. Features of the island include white sandy beaches with lagoons, villages with traditional thatched fales (houses), and a 157 m-high volcanic peak where you can get amazing views. For anyone who makes the effort to get to this far-flung island, there are several unique and amazing things to do on Niuatoputapu. Discover them in the list below!
1. Go for a Dip in the Hihifo Freshwater Spring
A crystal clear freshwater spring appears to crack open the earth’s surface in Hihifo, the largest village on Niuatoputapu. A small set of steps leads into the spring, which begs for a dip! Locals also go to the spring for a swim, so it’s best to wear shorts and a T-shirt to be dressed more modestly.
Location: Western side of Hihifo village, north west coast of Niuatoputapu.
2. Enjoy Unspoiled Beaches
The best beaches in The Niuas can be found on Niuatoputapu where almost the entire east, south and western rims of the island are long stretches of white sand. Beaches provide good swimming and paddling but like anywhere, always be wary of currents. Don’t go swimming at public beaches on a Sunday per Tongan custom, which is highly regarded on Niuatoputapu.
Location: East, west and south coasts of Niuatoputapu.
3. Hike to the Top of the Island
Get an amazing vantage point of the surrounding island, villages of Hihifo, Vaipoa and Falehau and especially of the volcanic cone of Tafahi Island from the top of Niuatoputapu. This is a common sight that locals will show visitors, taking you on a steady but steep climb to Niuatoputapu’s highest point at 157 m (515 ft). At the top, the hill is exposed with grassy areas and clusters of volcanic rock.
Location: Behind Hihifo and Falehaufo’ou villages, central Niuatoputapu.
4. Take a Trip to Tafahi
The perfectly cone-shaped extinct volcano is ever so enticing sitting 9 km (5.6 mi) from Niuatoputapu. Local fishermen take the trip to Tafahi almost daily where you can negotiate a boat ride across the water and back. There is one village on Tafahi, but most visitors to the island prefer to tackle the steep climb to the top of the 656 m (2,152 ft) volcano! On a fine day, you’ll be able to see Samoa from the top! It’s best to get yourself a guide for this mission, as with most places you’ll want to visit in the Niuas.
Location: Tafahi, approximately 9 km (5.6 mi) from Niuatoputapu. Boats depart from Falehau Wharf and Vaipoa on the north coast of Niuatoputapu.
5. Experience a Tongan Barbecue
Stay with any of the families on Niuatoputapu and they’ll likely invite you to a cook-out or a Tongan barbecue! It’s a fun social event where you’ll get an insight into what the locals eat, usually fresh fish and tropical root crops like taro and cassava. Check out some Tongan staples in the 10 Unique Foods in Tonga You Have to Try.
Location: Anywhere on Niuatoputapu.
6. Do Some Snorkelling or Scuba Diving
Around the reefs of Niuatoputapu, you’ll find healthy coral which makes for some glorious snorkelling and scuba diving! Only available for those with their own gear, as there are no snorkelling or scuba diving rentals on the island, the coral reefs surrounding Niuatotapu are unspoiled with vivid water clarity. However, the water is unsheltered, so it’s best attempted on a calm day. There is also a shipwreck in one of the outer reefs, which you will likely need a local to show you where.
Location: All around Niuatoptutapu.
7. Donate Supplies to a School
With no tourism operators, integrating yourself into village life and showing your appreciation to the locals who welcome you is a good way to approach a visit to Niuatoputapu. Bring some school supplies like crayons, exercise books and pencils, for example, and donate them to some of the village schools that are always in need.
Location: Any school on Niuatoputapu.
8. Do Some Whale Watching
Yes, humpback whales even come as far as Niuatoputapu during their migration from the Antarctic between July and October. Some of the vantage points we’ve mentioned so far are good spots to look out for whales from afar. Whales can sometimes be spotted from the beaches or island lookout while many yachties also find themselves meeting whales who are curious about their boats. Note that it is illegal to swim with whales in Tonga’s waters without a license.
Location: Anywhere on Niuatoputapu.
9. Enjoy Fishing with a Local
Fishing is a way of life on Niuatoputapu. Those who are interested in the sport could get an authentic experience heading out with one of the local fishermen. Learn traditional fishing techniques and try the fresh fish you catch with a barbecue at the end of the day. Note that ciguatera is a food poisoning caught by certain reef fish, so ask a local what fish is safe to eat – learn more in How to Keep Safe in Tonga.
Location: Boats depart from Falehau Wharf and Vaipoa, north coast of Niuatoputapu.
10. Attend a Sunday Church Service
Another way for visitors to immerse themselves in the culture of Niuatoputapu is to attend a Sunday church service. Sunday is a day of rest in Tonga where Tongans will attend a church mass on a Sunday morning and/or afternoon. Visitors are welcome to church services where you’ll get to experience beautiful harmonious singing which echoes across the small islands. Remember to dress appropriately for the church services, covering below the knee and shoulders – wear your “Sunday best”! Learn more about Tonga’s spiritual side in The Guide to the Religions in Tonga.
Location: Hihifo, Vaipoa and Falehou villages, north coast of Niuatoputapu.
More Things to Do in Niuatoputapu and The Niuas
That’s it for our list of the best things to do on Niuatoputapu. For more information about Tonga’s lesser-visited islands, take a look at the following:
- Niuas Transport: 5 Ways to Get to The Niuas
- 10 Best Things to Do on Niuafo’ou
- 15 Best Things to Do in The Niuas
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in The Complete Travel Guide to The Niuas.