The Complete Guide to The Niuas(c)
The Complete Guide to The Niuas

The Complete Travel Guide to The Niuas


Travel Guide to The Niuas

Discover Tonga’s most remote island group, The Niuas, where tradition, pristine underwater worlds and a destination for discovery has gone unchanged for centuries. The island group is made up of just three main islands, Niuatoputapu, Tafahi and Niuafo’ou, all of which are closer to Samoa than they are to the next nearest Tongan island group, Vava’u.

There are no tourist services on the island, other than the occasional flights and ferries to get to the islands from Vava’u. Visitors are going to have to connect with the locals, who are usually welcoming to those who have made the journey, to be shown around the hotspots. These could be glorious white sand beaches, crystal clear freshwater springs, impressive volcanic peaks or bubbling crater lakes. We’ll guide you through the highlights in this complete travel guide to The Niuas.

Fast Facts About The Niuas

Location: Northernmost island group of Tonga (see map below)

Population: 1,282

Climate: Daily average temperature – 30°C/86°F, yearly average rainfall – 2,600mm/102″
Find out more in What is the Weather Like in Tonga?

Time Zone: TST / GMT+13
Find out more in What is the Tonga Time Zone?

How to get to The Niuas: International flights from Fiji, Australia and New Zealand land at Fua’amotu International Airport on Tongatapu. From there, travellers can connect to The Niuas by travelling to Vava’u and taking the twice-a-week flight to either Niuatoputapu or a once-a-month flight to Niuafo’ou. Alternatively, a cargo ship ferry travels out to the islands from Vava’u around once a month. Find out more in the 5 Ways to Get to The Niuas (& Get Around The Niuas).

The Complete Guide to The Niuas(c) Eunice Pongipongi


Niuatoputapu, meaning “Sacred Island”, is located approximately 300km (190 miles) north of Vava’u. The island rises 157m (516ft) and is an eroded old volcano. There are three villages on the island, including the largest one in The Niuas, Hihifo. Here, you will find a police station, a small store, government offices and a post office. The other villages are Vaipoa and Falehau.

Features of the island include white sandy beaches with lagoons, villages with traditional thatched fales (houses), and a 157m-high volcanic peak where you can get amazing views.

Things to Do in Niuatoputapu

  • Hike to the peak of Niuatoputapu
  • Catch a boat to Tafahi
  • Take a dip in the Hihifo Freshwater Spring
  • Snorkel or scuba dive among the island’s untouched coral reefs
  • Relax on an unspoiled beach
  • Listen to the singing at a Sunday church service
  • Visit a local school and donate supplies
  • Do some whale watching from the beaches or the peak
  • Join a local fisherman for some fishing
  • Experience a Tongan barbecue

For more details on the activities mentioned, see the 10 Things to Do in The Niuas, as well as the 10 Must-Dos in The Niuas.

The Complete Guide to The Niuas(c) Garth Rogers on Wikipedia


Tafahi is the most recognisable island in The Niuas, being an extinct stratovolcano with a perfectly cone-shaped mountain. The 3.42km2 (1.32miles2) island sits approximately 9km (5.6 miles) north of Niuatoputapu. It’s the highest island in The Niuas, reaching 560m (1,840ft) high.

There is one village on the island with a primary school. The only way to access the island is on small boats, as there is a small opening in the fringing reef impassable for larger boats. Visitors can get to the island by negotiating with fishermen on Niuatoptupa, who make the crossing most days.

Things to Do in Tafahi

  • Hire a guide to hike to the summit of the volcano – you can see Samoa on a clear day!
  • Donate school supplies to the local primary school
  • Do some fishing with a local on your way between Tafahi and Niuatoputapu

Learn more about the island in the 10 Things to Do in The Niuas.

The Complete Guide to The Niuas(c)


The most remote island in Tonga and one of the most remote islands in the world, Niuafo’ou sits 100km (60 miles) west of Niuatoputapu. The island is much different in geography than its neighbour. The volcanic-rimmed island has a large crater with a freshwater lake called Vai Lahi. The coastline is mostly rocky cliffs with a handful of black-sand beaches. The volcano on Niuafo’ou is an active one where there have been 10 major eruptions in the past 150 years.

While Niuafo’ou has its own distinct culture and attractions, it also famous for its usual postal service, which ended only in 1931 but the legend is still widely known today! Niuafo’ou used to be known as “Tin Can Island”, as the only way post could be delivered to the island, with no anchorage or landing site, was for passing supply ships to put mail in a biscuit tin and toss it overboard. An islander would then swim out to retrieve the tin. The postal service only changed when the swimmer was taken out by a shark…

Things to Do in Niuafo’ou

  • Check out Vai Lahi, the “Big Lake”
  • Taste the local delicacy ‘ofato – a large grub only found on this island
  • Look out for the rare Tongan megapode bird
  • Experience village life in one of the island’s 10 villages
  • Listen to the singing at a Sunday church service
  • Join the locals for a canoeing trip across Vai Sii, the “smaller lake”
  • Do some whale watching from the shores between July and October
  • Go for a drive around the caldera with the locals

For more details on the activities mentioned, see the 10 Things to Do in The Niuas, as well as the 10 Must-Dos in The Niuas.


Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of Tonga Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in the South Pacific over 10 years ago with nothing but a backpack and a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to explore a paradise such as Tonga. She knows the islands inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience Tonga’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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