How to Plan the Best Trip to Ha’apai
An untouched haven for snorkelling, scuba diving, whale swimming, kitesurfing, beachcombing and simply indulging in doing nothing at all, Ha’apai is still considered one of the hidden gems of Tonga. Despite being the central island group of Tonga, many visitors miss out on this dreamy scattering of islands perhaps due to only an exclusive selection of boutique resorts and guest houses available here.
Ha’apai is made up of 62 islands, but only 17 are inhabited and only a handful of islands are explored by tourists. Lifuka Island is the main island of Ha’apai, connected to Foa Island by a causeway. Some resorts are also available on the nearby Uoleva Island while visiting the other islands can be achieved through island-hopping day trips, cultural tours or with great determination.
Learn all about visiting Ha’apai in your own unique travel style with this complete travel guide to Ha’apai.
Frequently Asked Questions About Ha’apai
We’re here to plan the best trip ever, so we won’t waste any time in giving you the questions that most travellers have when visiting Ha’apai.
What is Ha’apai Known For?
Ha’apai is known for its idyllic white-sand beaches, being one of the few places in the world where it’s legal to swim with humpback whales, and for still having new islands forming, such as Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai which formed after the eruption of a submarine volcano in 2014.
Where is Ha’apai Located?
What is the Population of Ha’apai?
The population of Ha’apai is approximately 6,600.
How Many Islands are in Ha’apai?
There are 62 islands in the island group of Ha’apai.
What is the Weather Usually Like in Ha’apai?
The daily average temperature in Ha’apai is 26°C (79°F), while the yearly average rainfall is 1,600 mm (63 in). Find out more in What is the Weather Like in Tonga?
How Do You Get to Ha’apai?
International flights from Fiji, Australia and New Zealand land at Fua’amotu International Airport on Tongatapu, where travellers can connect to Ha’apai via flights from the domestic terminal or by taking a ferry from Nuku’alofa. There is no public transport on Ha’apai so most visitors will need to rely on car and bicycle hire and accommodation transfers for getting around. Find out more in the 5 Ways to Get to (& Around) Ha’apai.
How Long Should I Spend in Ha’apai?
We recommend a minimum of 3-5 days in Ha’apai, but there’s enough to do (or not do, if you prefer) for 7-10 days.
Finally, check out the Information, Shops & Services in Ha’apai for more practical tips.
What to Do in Ha’apai
Most of your Tonga must-dos can be done from the islands of Ha’apai. Swim with whales during the whale season, scuba dive to amazing caves and reefs, immerse in cultural experiences, and relax on Ha’apai’s pristine beaches.
The Top Experiences in Ha’apai
What are the must-dos? Here are some of the Ha’apai highlights:
- Swim with whales
- Scuba dive among untouched coral
- Visit archaeological sites like Velata Fortress or Olovehi Tomb
- Snorkel over colourful coral bommies at Houmale’eia Beach or Uoleva Island
- Do some kitesurfing from Houmale’eia Beach or Kite Point on Uoleva
- Experience a cultural show and umu night
- Explore the islands by kayak or paddleboard…
Where to Stay in Ha’apai
Aside from our top recommendations listed alongside this complete travel guide to Ha’apai (or below, if you’re reading this on mobile), we’ve compiled the best accommodations and resorts based on price, suitability for families or couples, as well as more premium offerings. What’s more, each article is written by real people rather than some dodgy algorithm!
- 10 Best Resorts
- 5 Best Eco-Resorts
- 5 Best Guesthouses
- 5 Best Self-Catering Accommodations
- 5 Best Budget Accommodations
- 5 Best Family Accommodations
- 5 Best Luxury Accommodations
- 5 Best Honeymoon & Romantic Accommodations
And for a comprehensive list, see Where to Stay in Ha’apai: The Best Accommodations.
Where to Eat in Ha’apai
At first glance, getting your foodie fix in Ha’apai seems challenging but there are actually some fantastic eateries if you know where to find them. What’s more, those who have read The Food Guide to Ha’apai: Places to Eat & Food Tours will know that authentic Tongan food experiences can be had through umu nights, visiting the local market and bakery, experiencing a faikava, and more. On the other hand, some of the remote resorts provide sustainably sourced and healthy meals to help you feel revived!
The Best Restaurants in Ha’apai
- Leleno ki Moana (Hihifo, Lifuka)
- Matafonua Lodge (Houmale’eia, Foa Island)
- Tiger Inn (Pangai, Lifuka)
- Lucky Pot Restaurant (Pangai, Lifuka)
- RayLela’s Cake & Ice Cream Shop (Pangai, Lifuka)
See the complete listing of our top dining recommendations in the 5 Best Restaurants in Ha’apai.
Things to Do in Ha’apai for Foodies
- Browse the Pangai Market
- Experience the buzz of the Saturday Fish Market
- Indulge in a Tongan feast during a cultural show
- Catch dinner on a fishing charter
- Experience faikava.
For more information on each activity, see the 10 Best Foodie Experiences in Ha’apai.
Dining at Resorts
While resorts on the main islands of Lifuka and Foa have restaurants with a la carte menus, those on the uninhabited Uoleva Island have set menus and meal plans for their guests. It’s essential that you let them know of your dietary requirements before arrival. Find out more about resort meals in our guide, Should You Buy a Resort Meal Plan in Tonga?
Self-Catering in Ha’apai
A small selection of guesthouses in Pangai, as well as resorts on Uoleva, have communal kitchens or private kitchen facilities for guests to make their own meals. Grocery stores are only available in Pangai. Find out more about where to stay in the 5 Best Self-Catering Accommodations in Ha’apai, as well as where to get supplies in our guide to Information, Shops & Services in Ha’apai.
Budget Holidays in Ha’apai
Ha’apai might look like a five-star destination, but travellers can certainly experience it even with a backpacker budget. Lifuka and Foa Islands are scattered with free and interesting archaeological sites, while those staying at a resort will find that many of the ways to spend time with activities included in the stay, including kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, snorkelling, island walks and more. Get more tips for visiting the islands while keeping the costs low in The Guide to Ha’apai on a Budget.
Things to Do in Ha’apai on a Budget
- Hire a bike to ride around the islands
- Go snorkelling off the shores
- Explore the islands by kayak
- Visit fascinating historical sites
- Mingle with the locals at the Pangai Market.
Learn more about each activity and more in the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Ha’apai.
Cheap Accommodation in Ha’apai
The guesthouses in Pangai make an ultra-affordable stay in Ha’apai where you’ll be staying with locals for a true Tongan experience. Alternatively, there is a locally-run budget resort with traditional beach fales on Uoleva for a real adventure! Check out our recommendations in the 5 Best Budget Accommodations in Ha’apai.
Luxury Holidays in Ha’apai
The luxury in Ha’apai is in the breathtaking landscapes and experiences rather than the accommodation and the services. Don’t expect glamorous resorts or fine dining. Do expect to make the most of some of the world’s last remaining unspoiled landscapes by staying in eco-fales, scuba diving among colourful coral reefs, finding amazing kitesurfing hotspots, and much more. Get inspired by The Luxury Guide to Ha’apai.
Luxury Activities in Ha’apai
- Swim with beautiful humpback whales
- Get marooned on a private island for the day
- Hit Tonga’s top kitesurfing spots
- Sail across vibrant lagoons
- Scuba dive among unspoiled coral.
For more details on each experience, see the 10 Best Luxury Experiences in Ha’apai.
Luxurious Accommodations in Ha’apai
Staying in Ha’apai is best described as “rugged luxury” where beach fales (bungalows) provide the real experience but some lack luxuries like in-room electricity. Alternatively, a live-aboard experience is available in the whale season, should you want to fall asleep to whale song. Some of the most upmarket resorts are listed in the 5 Best Luxury Accommodations in Ha’apai.
Honeymoons and Romantic Getaways to Ha’apai
With glistening waters washing onto sandy shores lined with swaying coconut palms, Ha’apai is the ideal setting for a honeymoon or a romantic getaway. Couples will find a good balance of ways to relax together, as well as ways to adventure together. Check out our tips in The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Ha’apai.
Romantic Things to Do in Ha’apai
- Ride together on horseback TTD362
- Indulge in a candlelit dinner on the beach
- “Buddy up” on a scuba diving excursion
- Swim with whales
- Stargaze among some of the darkest skies.
For more details on each experience, see the 10 Most Romantic Things to Do in Ha’apai.
Romantic Accommodation in Ha’apai
Although you won’t find any “honeymoon suites” in Ha’apai, cosying up in a small beach fale is a romantic experience in itself. Check out some of, what we consider, the most romantic places to stay in the 5 Best Honeymoon & Romantic Accommodations in Ha’apai.
Family Holidays in Ha’apai
Ha’apai is a holiday destination where families can reconnect. Forget kids’ clubs and babysitting, Ha’apai is for the family who would rather adventure together, where many activities can be enjoyed straight off the beaches. The waters around Ha’apai are sheltered and have vast areas of sand, making it a safe destination for kids to swim, surf, snorkel and kitesurf. Find out more about family getaways to the islands in The Guide to Ha’apai for Families.
Things to Do in Ha’apai with Kids
- Watch the whales between July and October
- See tropical fish by snorkelling from your resort
- Go on a family kayak or stand-up paddleboard mission
- Be captivated by a cultural show
- Do some horseback riding TTD362.
For more details on each experience, see the 10 Things To Do in Ha’apai with Kids.
Family Accommodation in Ha’apai
Families will find family beach fales and triple rooms available in guesthouses. Be quick with the booking as most resorts only have one family fale! Find out more in the 5 Best Family Accommodations in Ha’apai.
Adults-Only Holidays in Ha’apai
A holiday away from the kids or other people’s kids is an attractive way to spend time on a tranquil South Pacific island. Although Ha’apai has a couple of resorts aimed at guests aged 12 and above, all of Ha’apai’s resorts only have a handful of fales where you’re sure to experience your getaway with little disturbance. Get more tips for planning the perfect adults-only getaway in The Adults-Only Guide to Ha’apai.
Activities in Ha’apai for Adults
- Experience kitesurfing in one of the world’s best spots
- Hit the awesome reef and beach surf breaks straight from your resort
- Try kava, the national drink
- Indulge in a rejuvenating island massage
- Join a yoga class or retreat.
Find out more about each experience in the 10 Adults-Only Activities in Ha’apai.
Where to Stay in Ha’apai for Adults
Ha’apai Beach Resort has a child policy of no under-12s. Alternatively, Sandy Beach Resort features fales with only double beds thus only really catering to couples and solo travellers. Families can only book at the resort with special permission. Learn more about both in the 10 Best Resorts in Ha’apai.
More About Ha’apai
That’s it for our complete travel guide to Ha’apai but by no means the end of our Ha’apai advice! Check out the following guides for more Ha’apai goodness:
- 10 Best Things to Do in Pangai
- 5 Best Whale Swim Tours in Ha’apai
- 5 Eco-Stays in Ha’apai
- 10 Best Sights & Natural Attractions in Ha’apai
- 5 Best Places to Snorkel in Ha’apai
Finally, be sure to check out The Complete Travel Guide to Tonga for even more tips!