What are the Best Islands in Tonga?
A trip to Tonga isn’t about just “going to Tonga”. Tonga is made up of 170 islands spread across five different regions/island groups. With most travellers having limited time and budget to explore the islands of Tonga, we share with you what many consider to be the best islands in Tonga for travellers to visit. Although the four main island groups offer all of the activities that most travellers come to Tonga to do, each have very different vibes and landscapes. See which island group is right for you in the guide below.
The Best Islands in Tonga for…
- Beaches: Ha’apai
- Scuba diving: Vava’u
- Sailing: Vava’u
- Surfing: Tongatapu
- Hiking: ‘Eua
- Fishing: Vava’u
- Kitesurfing: Ha’apai
- Snorkelling: Ha’apai
- Natural land attractions: Tongatapu and ‘Eua
- Tongan culture: The Niuas
- History: Tongatapu
- Shopping: Tongatapu
- Food: Tongatapu
- Remoteness: ‘Eua
- Towns & cities: Tongatapu
- Budget: ‘Eua
- Island resorts: Vava’u
- Swimming with whales: Controversial! See The Best Place to Swim with Whales in Tonga
The easiest island for travellers to visit, Tongatapu has much more going for it than Tonga’s largest international airport. The largest island in Tonga has some of the most famous historical sites in the South Pacific, as well as an array of natural attractions where you can spend a whole day hopping from one to the other. See the “Stonehenge of the South Pacific” the Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon, about 5km (3 miles) of breathtaking blowholes on the southern coast, and the majestic ‘Anahulu limestone caves.
On the northern coast of the 257 km2 (100 miles2) island is the capital of Tonga, Nuku’alofa. Culture and royalty can be experienced here between the amazing array of handicrafts at the Talamahu Market and the grand Victorian-style Royal Palace. Nuku’alofa is also where many of Tonga’s most popular water activities depart, including whale swimming tours, island-hopping boat trips, snorkelling, scuba diving and fishing.
Visitors find themselves either staying in one of the guest houses or hotels of Nuku’alofa, at one of the beach resorts on the western side of the island, or on one of the offshore islands.
Find out more about the island of Tongatapu in The Complete Guide to Tongatapu.
Island resorts, the bustling town of Neiafu and a sailing hub of the South Pacific, Vava’u is one of the most popular island groups for tourists in Tonga. Just about anything you imagined doing in Tonga is available here, from swimming with Humpback Whales to snorkelling in majestic sea caves like Swallows’ Cave. It’s also a top sailing ground with a labyrinth of inlets and islands compacted together.
Visitors can stay in one of the hotels or guest houses in Neiafu, on one of the otherwise uninhabited islands with island resorts, or in villas and resorts scattered across the islands connected to the main island by causeways.
Find out more about staying in Vava’u in The Complete Guide to Vava’u.
An ultra-short flight or a not-so-strenuous ferry ride from Tongatapu, ‘Eua is an amazing island to visit if you want to experience more than Tongatapu but are on limited time. The island is Tonga’s oldest island, weathered with natural archways, limestone cliffs awash with caves, and rock gardens providing habitat for wild horses. Not to mention the ‘Eua National Park forest where nature-lovers will be able to look out for the native Red Shining Parrot.
‘Eua might be Tonga’s second-largest island, but it is not too developed, with only six accommodations on the island for travellers to choose from. What’s more, all of the accommodations are budget, making it an affordable destination in Tonga.
Find out more about the island of ‘Eua in The Complete Guide to ‘Eua.
Despite sitting smack in the middle of Tonga, Ha’apai is overlooked by most tourists in Tonga. The island group of Ha’apai has 62 islands, but only the seriously determined travellers will make their way beyond Lifuka, Foa and Uolevu islands. Nevertheless, Ha’apai provides the ultimate destination to escape from it all.
The sheltered lagoons off many of the idyllic beaches in Ha’apai make the islands a popular spot for kayaking, snorkelling and especially kitesurfing. Scuba diving in its crystal clear waters is a must here, as is swimming the uncrowded water with Humpback Whales.
The hub of the islands in the town of Pangai, offering guest houses, one cafe/restaurant, a bakery, market and a limited choice of essential services. Travellers will either stay in a guest house in Pangai or opt for one of the eco beach resorts, many offering an off-the-grid experience.
Find out more about Ha’apai in The Complete Guide to Ha’apai.