The Top Floor Shows and Umu Buffets Across Tonga
Tonga is a country with a rich and fascinating Polynesian culture. As an island nation that was never colonised, the locals are proud to claim themselves as the “True South Pacific”, which can be experienced through cultural experiences, such as a cultural show and Tongan feast.
Across three of Tonga’s main island groups, there are many Tongan buffets followed by captivating floor shows. The experience allows visitors to try a number of authentic Tongan dishes, as well as observe traditional dancing, from the graceful tau’olunga performed by the women to captivating fire dancing performed by the men. Learn more about what shows are available and when in this guide to the best cultural shows in Tonga!
TIP: Bring plenty of $1 bills for fakapale, which is the tradition of putting money onto the clothes and waistbands of the performers.
1. Oholei Beach Resort Feast and Show (Tongatapu)
Hosting memorable floor shows and buffets for more than a decade, Oholei Beach Resort’s Feast & Show is a top choice for most visitors to Tongatapu. Although shows no longer take place in the iconic venue of Hina Cave due to tsunami damage, there’s no denying the grandiosity of the resort’s well-choreographed shows and umu feasts. The evening show starts with a buffet of an array of Tongan dishes, from lu (meat wrapped in taro leaves) and ota ika (raw fish in coconut cream). There’s also a spitroast to top it all off, as well as a tasty Tongan dessert known as faikakai made from taro, breadfruit and coconut cream. After dinner, the show gets underway with some traditional Tongan dancing and an impressive fire performance. If you can’t make an evening do, be sure to book yourself in for Sunday lunch.
When: Wednesday and Friday at 6 pm (buffet starts at 8 pm) and Sunday at 11 am.
Location: Oholei Beach Resort, well signposted from Lavengatonga, east side of Tongatapu. The resort offers transfers from Nuku’alofa on request.
2. Beautiful Ofu Island Backpackers Umu Night (Vava’u)
In the tourist hotspot of Vava’u, Beautiful Ofu Island Backpackers allows you to escape the hustle and bustle with their umu night on Ofu Island. Included in the price, you’ll travel by boat from the Old Neiafu Harbour to a small village on an off-shore island. On arrival, you’ll be welcomed with a kava ceremony and enjoy traditional Tongan meals that have been prepared in an umu earth oven. The real highlight is the dance performance by local villagers, concluding with an epic fire dance.
When: Every Tuesday (as long as the minimum number of eight guests is met – it’s best to book a week ahead, then reconfirm closer to the date).
Where: Ofu Island. Boats depart from Houmelei Wharf (Old Neiafu Harbour), Neiafu, Vava’u.
3. ‘Ene’io Botanical Garden Grand Tour (Vava’u)
More than just a floor show and feast, the ‘Ene’io Grand Tour in Vava’u takes guests on a wonderful garden tour. You’ll be greeted with a fresh floral garland on arrival at ‘Ene’io Botanical Garden where you’ll embark on an insightful tour with the founder, an agronomist and former Director of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Tonga for 18 years, Mr Haniteli Fa’anunu. After the guided garden tour, enjoy a demonstration or live show of how live plants are processed into valuable products by the local women at the garden’s visitor centre. Continue to a scrumptious Tongan feast with a roast suckling pig and taste local dishes. Relax and enjoy the dazzling display of traditional dancing with a floor show and a live band with folk music to enjoy.
When: On request. Note that a minimum of eight guests are needed for this tour to go ahead.
Location: Tu’anikivale, ‘Utu Vava’u, Vava’u. Pick-ups are included from Neiafu.
4. Katea Retreat Pig Roast Dinner and Cultural Show (Tongatapu)
Another spectacular option on Tonga’s main island, Katea Retreat hosts a pig roast buffet dinner and Tongan cultural show two nights a week, as well as a Sunday pig roast lunch with string band entertainment. The former are the main events where guests will be treated to a mix of traditional Tongan dishes with a focus on seafood and local ingredients, as well as overseas favourites. Although there are vegetarian and gluten-free options available, they can add more creative dishes to the mix if you call ahead. Once you have finished seconds and dessert, enjoy the show from a team of young dancers who were the runners-up in the renowned Heilala Festival – see the 10 Biggest Events & Celebrations in Tonga.
When: Wednesday and Friday at 6 pm (buffet starts at 8 pm) and Sunday at 11 am.
Location: Katea Retreat, Nakolo (access road off Liku Road, just south of Nakolo village), southeast coast of Tongatapu.
5. Ancient Tonga Buffet and Show (Tongatapu)
As well as offering cultural tours and workshops, Ancient Tonga also offers a Friday night Tongan buffet and cultural show once a month. Conveniently located in Nuku’alofa, Ancient Tonga is set among lush tropical gardens where shows take place under the large fale (traditional Tongan building). Indulge in a number of traditional Tongan dishes, from tropical root crops to a Tongan favourite, the spit-roast pig! After indulging in Tongan food, the show begins with dancers adorning handcrafted tapa-cloth dresses and a flower lei known as a “kohoa”. Enjoy traditional lakalaka dancing, as well as a fire show.
When: One Friday a month if they meet minimum numbers – book at least a week ahead.
Location: Tamakautonga Road, Fangaloto, Nuku’alofa, Tongatapu.
6. Sandy Beach Resort Floor Show (Ha’apai)
In the islands of Ha’apai, Sandy Beach Resort works with a local school to put on a fun and fabulous floor show during the peak season (July to October-ish). Arrive around 6 pm to watch the sunset from the resort’s beachfront bar before tucking into a well-presented buffet dinner of Tongan staples and a spitroast pig. After sampling the Tongan dessert of fai kakai, sit back and enjoy a varied show of traditional styles of Tongan dancing and games. Although there’s not always a fire show, the larger dance troupe and variety of dance styles make this floor show well worth checking out even if you have seen one before.
When: Every Friday during the peak season.
Location: Sandy Beach Road, north Foa Island, Ha’apai.
7. Siva’s Dream Cafe Holiday Floor Shows (Tongatapu)
In the small village of Te’ekiu, Siva’s Dream Cafe is not only one of the limited eateries outside of Nuku’alofa on Tongatapu, but the establishment hosts a floor show and buffet during the busy holiday season in Tonga (between November and December). Far from your touristy event, this one is especially enjoyed by the locals, certainly providing an alternative floor show and Tongan buffet experience. Look out for dates posted on the Siva’s Dream Cafe Facebook Page.
When: Various dates between November and December.
Location: Signposted off Hihifo Road, Te’ekiu village, west side of Tongatapu.
8. Tukulolo Grounds & Treehouses Fire Show (Tongatapu)
Guests staying at this unique accommodation on Tongatapu have the opportunity to enjoy a fire show during their stay. Tukulolo Grounds & Treehouses works with locals from a nearby village to put on an impressive performance exclusively dedicated to many’s favourite part of a Tongan floor show – the fire dance! Needless to say, the show is much more intimate than the usual, as it’s exclusively put on for guests and perhaps a handful of others at this boutique accommodation.
When: On request.
Location: Tukulolo Grounds, signposted along Taufa’ahau Road between Hoi and Makaunga, east side of Tongatapu.
9. Humpback Lodge Kava Night (Vava’u)
Finally, Humpback Lodge in Vava’u offers a unique take on the traditional Tongan floor show by focussing more on a kava ceremony and string band entertainment rather than dancing. Taste Tonga’s most iconic drink and learn about its significance before indulging in an array of Tongan dishes presented at the buffet. Your meal is then accompanied by the relaxing tunes of a local string band. Learn more about kava experiences in Where to Try Kava in Tonga.
When: Every Saturday. Note that the Tongan buffet needs to be booked in advance. Otherwise, you can enjoy the restaurant’s usual menu with the kava night entertainment.
Location: Just across the causeway south of Toula village, Pangaimotu Island, approximately 2.8 km (1.7 mi) south of Neiafu, Vava’u. Transfers are available from Neiafu on request.
About the Tongan Lakalaka
What you will see at the cultural shows in Tonga is a style of Tongan dancing known as “lakalaka”. It is the only Pacific performing art that has won recognition from the United Nations as “A Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”.
Traditionally, lakalaka are performed for special occasions, but visitors get the opportunity to experience it for themselves at Tongan cultural shows. The performances incorporate history, politics and entertainment, performed by both men and women. Women typically have gentle movements, telling stories with their hands, while the male performances are more vigorous.
In Tongan tradition, lakalaka are performed in huge groups, but visitors will observe smaller groups performing the lakalaka at the cultural floor shows.
For more information about the Tongan culture, see The Complete Guide to the Tongan Culture.
More About Cultural Shows in Tonga
That’s it for our guide to the best cultural shows in Tonga. For more about experiencing the fascinating Tongan culture, take a look at the following guides:
- The Guide to the Tongan Culture for Travellers
- 10 Best Culture Tours & Experiences in Tonga
- The Best Small Towns and Villages to Visit in Tonga