Are There Cruises in Tonga?
The short answer is: no. There are no inter-island cruise ship experiences in Tonga like you might find in other Pacific Island nations like Fiji or Tahiti. The alternatives to cruising in Tonga are inter-island ferries, sailing charters and boat tours. There are some cruise liners that sail the South Pacific with Tonga on the itinerary should you seek that cruise experience. We’ll go through all of your alternatives to cruises around Tonga in this guide.
Before we jump into this guide to cruises in Tonga, be sure to bookmark our Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga for even more transport tips.
Alternatives to Cruises in Tonga
- Travel between the island groups on one of the ferry services
- Hire a sailing charter and experience some of the best sailing grounds in the South Pacific
- Boat tours are available to take you to uninhabited islands and snorkelling hotspots
- Jump aboard a South Pacific cruise with Tonga on the itinerary
Find out more about each alternative in the guide below!
Ferries in Tonga
If you’re determined to travel around Tonga on the water then you’ll likely find yourself on the inter-island ferries. Far from your luxury cruise liner experience, the ferries of Tonga are the budget transport option for getting between the major island groups. The ferries in Tonga are a mix of modern catamaran ferries and taking-it-easy cargo ferries.
Ferry Routes, Duration and Prices
- Tongatapu – ‘Eua: 1-hour to 2h30mins, around TOP$20-$30
- Tongatapu – Ha’apai: 5h30mins to 8 hours, TOP$65-$100
- Ha’apai – Vava’u: 3h30mins to 7 hours, TOP$70-$100
- Vava’u – The Niuas: 16 hours, around TOP$215-$250
Learn more about ferry prices in How Much Do Ferries Cost in Tonga?
What is it Like to Take the Ferry in Tonga?
More of a form of commuting rather than a cruise experience, the ferries in Tonga are an affordable means to get from one island to the other. Some ferries are more comfortable and faster than others, such as the MV Maui to ‘Eua which provides rows and comfortable seating in a modern catamaran. Alternatively, the ferries between Tongatapu, Ha’apai and Vava’u are an experience in themselves where it’s a slow crossing taking some 16 hours of huddling up and mingling with the locals on the ship’s floor (unless you get a bunk in the 28-bed cabin).
Learn more about taking the ferry in The Guide to Travelling in Tonga by Ferry.
Sailing Charters in Tonga
A more luxurious way to get around the islands in Tonga is to hire a sailing charter. The most popular destination for this is in the island group of Vava’u where the area is renowned for its sheltered waters and ideal sailing conditions. While yachties come and go in Vava’u, there are a few year-round sailing operators who hire out bareboat and skippered charters. Check out The Best Tours for Sailing in Vava’u for more details.
Alternatively, Whale Discoveries offers one-way sailing tours between Tongatapu and Ha’apai during the whale season. Find out more in 10 Best Whale Swim Tours in Vava’u.
For more about sailing, see our Sailing Guide to Tonga.
Boat Tours in Tonga
Swap huge cruise ships for small boats and you have another amazing way to explore the waters and islands of Tonga. There are island-hopping trips in Tongatapu, Ha’apai and Vava’u, almost always involving stopping at snorkelling hot spots.
In Vava’u, join boat trips to Swallows’ Cave a huge sea cave with schools of fish in its sheltered waters. You’ll also have the opportunity to visit Mariner’s Cave and various coral gardens.
In Tongatapu, there are various snorkelling trips and island-hopping tours taking you to uninhabited islands with sandy shores for a picnic. Similar experiences are available with selected resorts in Ha’apai.
Find out more in the Best Boat Trips in Tonga.
Cruises to Tonga
Finally, if you really want that cruise experience in Tonga, then you’re going to have to jump on an international cruise. Cruises depart for Tonga from Sydney, Auckland, Tahiti, San Diego and even London.
Tonga has two ports of call, Nuku’alofa in Tongatapu and Neiafu in Vava’u, while some cruise ships do make a quick stop at Mounu Island in Vava’u too. Port days in Tonga are usually just one day, where there are shore excursions and tours to make the most of the limited time in Tonga.
Find out more about cruising to Tonga in The Guide to Taking a Cruise to Tonga.