The Complete Guide to Sailing, Cruising and Flying to Tonga
An archipelago scattered in the South Pacific, Tonga is no easy feat to get to. Flights from only a handful of countries make their way to the islands, while international cruises or sailing in a private yacht are just about the only other ways to get there. We think that you’ll agree, however, that once you arrive in Tonga, the journey is definitely worth it. Take a look at our guide to how to get to Tonga to compare your options.
For more details on where Tonga is located, we have just the guide! Check out Where is Tonga Located?
5 Quick Tips for Getting to Tonga
- Do you need a visa for Tonga? Find out in our visa guide
- Be aware of the biosecurity restrictions – see Arrival Advice: Biosecurity and Customs in Tonga
- If sailing to Tonga, be aware of the customs clearance process
- Wise up on the ports of call in Tonga, Nuku’alofa and Vava’u, if travelling on a cruise
- All airports and ports in Tonga close on a Sunday.
And enjoy a smooth arrival following the steps in Arriving at a Tonga Airport: A Step-by-Step Guide.
International Flights to Tonga
Direct international flights to Tonga come from New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Samoa and American Samoa. Most connecting flights can be made in New Zealand, Australia and Fiji.
Airlines, Routes and Duration of Flights to Tonga
The following airlines fly to Tonga on the following routes:
- Air New Zealand – Auckland to Nuku’alofa (3 hours)
- Qantas – Sydney to Nuku’alofa (4 hrs 40 mins)
- Fiji Airways – Nadi to Nuku’alofa (1 hr 30 mins), Nadi to Vava’u (2 hrs 10 mins)
- Talofa Airways – Apia to Vava’u (1 hr 15 mins), Pago Pago to Vava’u (1 hr 15 mins).
Learn more about flights to Tonga in Which Airlines Fly Directly to Tonga?
International Airports in Tonga
Most international arrivals land at Fua’amotu International Airport (TBU) on the island of Tongatapu, 21 km (13 mi) from the nation’s capital, Nuku’alofa. A limited number of flights also arrive at Lupepau’u International Airport (VAV) in Vava’u, about 10 km (6 mi) from Neiafu. Learn more about these airports in Tonga Arrival Airports: Which Airport to Fly into Tonga.
Fua’amotu Airport has the most connecting flights to Tonga’s outer islands, such as ‘Eua, Ha’apai and Vava’u, while Vava’u has connecting flights to Tongatapu and The Niuas. More details on scheduled flights can be found in Domestic Flights in Tonga: A Guide to Interisland Flights.
Airport transfers from Tonga’s two international airports are available through taxis and accommodations. It’s best to have a transfer pre-booked. Check out How to Get an Airport Transfer in Tonga for more advice.
Cruises to Tonga
Tonga is on the itinerary of several South Pacific cruises from New Zealand and French Polynesia, as well as Transpacific cruises from the US and South America. There are two main ports of call in Tonga, one in Nuku’alofa on Tongatapu and the other in Neiafu in Vava’u.
Cruises to Tonga
The following cruise companies offer cruises to Tonga:
- P&O Cruises
- Crystal Cruises
- Paul Gauguin Cruises
- Holland America Line
- Princess Cruises
- Windstar Cruises
- Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours
Learn more about each of these cruise companies in 10 Cruises That Visit Tonga.
Ports of Call in Tonga
The most frequented port of call in Tonga is Nuku’alofa on the mainland, Tongatapu. Cruise ships anchor at Vuna Wharf where the town centre is a 5-minute walk away and shore excursion tours pick you up straight from port. Most of the 10 Best Tonga Shore Excursions depart from here. Find out more about the capital in The Complete Guide to Nuku’alofa.
Another frequent port of call is Neiafu in Vava’u. Cruise ships anchor in the Port of Refuge, with tenders running between the main wharf of Neiafu and the ship throughout the port day. Land tours to ‘Ene’io Botanical Gardens, around the island, as well as a few boat tours are available. Find out more in The Complete Guide to Vava’u and 10 Best Shore Excursions in Tonga.
Learn more about making the most of these destinations, as well as find a couple of other lesser-visited ports, in The Complete Guide to the Ports of Call in Tonga.
Sailing to Tonga
Finally, another way you can get to Tonga is on a sailing yacht. Tonga is ideally situated at the centre of a Transpacific journey between the US and New Zealand. The yachting season is between May and October.
Tonga Sailing Formalities
Tonga Customs requires that all yachts arriving from overseas need to submit an Advance Notice of Arrival form at least 24 hours before their ETA. There are five ports of entry in Tonga:
- Nuku’alofa, Tongatapu
- Neiafu, Vava’u
- Pangai, Ha’apai
- Falehau, Niuatoputapu
- Futu, Niuafo’ou
Yachts must go through a clearance process, flying the yellow Q flag on arrival and giving permission for officers from the Departments of Health, Agriculture, Immigration and Customs to board and inspect the yacht.
Domestic check-in and check-out are also required when sailing between island groups, where a Local Movement Report (Small Craft) is required.
For more details on sailing formalities, see The Sailing Guide to Tonga.
Sailing Destinations in Tonga
One of the most popular sailing groups in Tonga and the whole of the South Pacific is Vava’u. It requires no introduction – but you can learn more about it in The Complete Travel Guide to Vava’u.
Ha’apai should be navigated carefully but provides an interesting array of uninhabited islands and islands that have formed in the past five years. See The Complete Guide to Ha’apai for more inspiration.
Finally, The Niuas are often an exciting prospect for yachties, where just about the only visitors to these remote islands are those with their own yacht. Find out more about these islands in The Complete Guide to The Niuas.
More on How to Get to Tonga
That’s it for our guide on how to get to Tonga. For more on the subject, take a look at more of our insightful guides:
- How to Book a Cheap Flight to Tonga
- 10 Tips for Taking a Cruise to Tonga & the South Pacific
- How to Save Money When Visiting Tonga on a Cruise
Finally, once you arrive in Tonga, how are you going to get around? Check out our Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga.