How to Plan the Best Trip to Vava’u
Water, water, water; it’s all about the water in the island archipelago of Vava’u. Sitting in the north of Tonga, Vava’u and its 50 islands are often described as some of the best sailing grounds in the South Pacific. Its warm sheltered waters are also what attract humpback whales every year (July-October) to mate and calve, while it also means you have incredible visibility for scuba diving, ideal conditions for kayaking and kitesurfing, and oh yeah, the sports fishing here is something else!
Vava’u certainly has the most options when it comes to water activities in Tonga, offering more than 25 whale swimming tours, as well as a handful of snorkelling tours and fishing charters, and the list goes on, making other destinations in Tonga almost feel like there’s “nothing to do”. That’s not to say that there aren’t almost too many operators in Vava’u competing to make you happy, so choose your Vava’u tours with ethics and sustainability in mind.
As for places to stay, you could be spending your time on one of the idyllic outer islands with boutique resorts or somewhere more convenient, like the main town of the island group, Neiafu. Learn about it all according to your unique travel style in this complete travel guide to Vava’u!
Frequently Asked Questions About Vava’u
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 Vava’u.
How Do You Pronounce Vava’u?
Vava’u is pronounced “va-va-oo”.
What is Vava’u Known For?
Vava’u is known as one of the best sailing grounds in the South Pacific due to its sheltered waters. It’s also one of few places in the world where you can legally swim with humpback whales.
Where is Vava’u Located?
Vava’u is the second-most northern island group of Tonga. Tonga is a country in the South Pacific in the continent of Oceania. Learn more about its location in Where is Tonga Located?
How Many People Live on Vava’u?
Vava’u’s population is approximately 14,200.
What is the Weather Usually Like in Vava’u?
The daily average temperature in Vava’u is 26°C/79°F, while the yearly average rainfall is 2,100 mm/83 in. Find out more in What is the Weather Like in Tonga?
How Do You Get to Vava’u?
International flights from Fiji, Australia and New Zealand land at Fua’amotu International Airport on Tongatapu, where travellers can connect to Vava’u via flights from the domestic terminal or by taking a ferry from Nuku’alofa. Alternatively, flights arrive in Vava’u from Fiji, Samoa and American Samoa. Cruise ships call in at Neiafu. Find out more in the 10 Ways to Get (& Around) to Vava’u.
What is the Main Island of Vava’u Called?
The main and largest island of Vava’u is ‘Utu Vava’u.
How Big is Vava’u?
Vava’u has a land area of 138 km² (53.28 mi²).
Finally, check out the Information, Shops & Services in Vava’u for more practical tips.
What to Do in Vava’u
Iconic water experiences like swimming with whales and diving at astonishing dive sites are the main reasons travellers make the journey to Vava’u. But on land, the Tongan crafts scene to the scenery captured from the main island’s breathtaking lookouts are more reasons to explore this island group.
The Top Experiences in Vava’u
What are the must-dos? Here are some of the Vava’u highlights:
- Get amazing views by hiking up Mt Talau
- Swim with humpback whales
- Scuba dive at tens of dive sites
- Snorkel inside Swallows’ Cave
- Take a tour of ‘Ene’io Botanical Garden
- Soak in the views from the ‘Utula’aina Lookout
- Shop for stunning Tongan arts and crafts in Neiafu
- Join a fishing charter to catch marlin…
Where to Stay in Vava’u
Aside from our top recommendations listed alongside this complete travel guide to Vava’u (or at the bottom, 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 put together by some dodgy algorithm!
- 10 Best Resorts
- 5 Best Eco-Resorts
- 10 Best Hotels
- 10 Best Guesthouses
- 5 Best Holiday Homes
- 10 Best Self-Catering Accommodations
- 10 Best Budget Accommodations
- 10 Best Family Accommodations
- 10 Best Honeymoon & Romantic Accommodations
- 5 Best Luxury Accommodations
And for a comprehensive list, see Where to Stay in Vava’u: The Best Accommodations.
Where to Eat in Vava’u
Vava’u is a significant producer of Tonga’s crops, from vanilla to kava, making it an interesting destination for foodies. Tour plantations, learn about tropical natural products and health foods, and experience cultural activities like Tongan feasts. Food can also be experienced through the restaurants of island resorts or simply by popping down to the produce market and sprucing up your own meal in self-catering accommodation. Learn more in The Food Guide to Vava’u: Places to Eat & Food Tours.
The Best Restaurants in Vava’u
- Basque Tavern (Neiafu, ‘Utu Vava’u)
- Le Galion (Neiafu, ‘Utu Vava’u)
- The Harbourview (Toula, ‘Utu Vava’u)
- MJ Seafood (Neiafu, ‘Utu Vava’u)
- Bellavista Cafe & Restaurant (Neiafu, ‘Utu Vava’u)
See the complete listing of our top dining recommendations in the 15 Best Cafes & Restaurants in Vava’u.
Things to Do in Vava’u for Foodies
- Tour a vanilla plantation
- Catch dinner on a fishing trip
- Experience a Tongan umu feast
- Check out the bustling Neiafu Market
- Dine at one of the many restaurants across Vava’u.
Get more details on each experience in our 10 Best Foodie Experiences in Vava’u.
Dining at Outer Island Resorts
Those staying on the outer islands of Vava’u at the island resorts only have their chosen resort’s meal offerings for dining. Depending on the resort, meals are either a la carte or a set menu each day, enjoyed at a communal dining fale or restaurant with a bar with drinks available to purchase on the go. Meals are either pay-as-you-go (but you still need to give your hosts notice) or are included in your resort rate as a compulsory meal plan. Either way, expect a variety of Western and Tongan dishes mainly using local ingredients. Learn more about resorts’ set meals and meal plans in Should You Buy a Resort Meal Plan in Tonga?
Self-Catering in Vava’u
Stick to a budget and enjoy the pleasures of preparing meals using local ingredients by staying in one of the self-catering accommodations and making use of the abundance of grocery stores and the market in Neiafu. There are a few guesthouses with shared kitchens and apartments with private kitchen facilities, which we list in the 10 Best Self-Catering Accommodations in Vava’u. More information on the shops available in Neiafu can be found in our guide, Information, Shops & Services in Vava’u.
Budget Holidays in Vava’u
Admittedly, Vava’u is the most expensive Tonga island group to visit in terms of activities, food and transport. Nevertheless, it’s always worth putting some of your budget aside for the must-do activities in Vava’u, like snorkelling tours, fishing and whale swimming. The rest of your time can be filled with the free/cheap activities available and by staying in the islands’ budget accommodation. Get more tips in The Guide to Vava’u on a Budget.
Budget Activities in Vava’u
- Check out the views from Mt Talau
- Go to a Sunday church service
- Check out Veimumuni Cave
- Take in the views from the ‘Utula’aina Lookout
- Get some kayaking time in.
For more suggestions and details, see the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Vava’u.
Cheap Accommodation in Vava’u
Budget travellers can make use of the many guesthouses and budget hotels in Neiafu, as well as even a few backpacker island resorts. Check out the details in the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Vava’u.
Luxury Holidays in Vava’u
“Luxury” wouldn’t be the best way to describe Vava’u. It is raw and rugged when it comes down to services and accommodations, but many would argue that the beautiful destination of private islands is where the true luxury can be found. It’s not about the glitz and glam but more about experiencing one of the best places in the world for whale swimming, blue water fishing and sailing. Find out more in The Luxury Guide to Vava’u.
Luxury Activities in Vava’u
- Scuba dive among vibrant coral
- Hire a sailing charter to explore the islands
- Catch blue marlin and GT on a fishing excursion
- Swim with beautiful humpback whales
- Hit some epic kitesurfing spots.
See more activities like this in the 10 Best Luxury Experiences in Vava’u.
Luxury Accommodation in Vava’u
Although there’s no such thing as five stars in Vava’u, you will still find some of the most idyllic resorts in Tonga in this island group. All resorts are boutique, rarely going over five fales (beach huts) in one place. Check out your options in the 5 Best Luxury Accommodations in Vava’u.
Family Holidays in Vava’u
While Vava’u has a reputation for adventure activities, there are still ways to enjoy the islands with children. There are spectacular sights to see by land or by boat, snorkelling hotspots in safe and sheltered waters, and so much more. Let us guide you through the activities, accommodation and tips in The Guide to Vava’u for Families.
Things to Do in Vava’u with Kids
- Do a boat cruise and see Swallows’ Cave
- See a cultural show at the ‘Ene’io Botanical Gardens
- Have a peek into the Veimumuni Cave
- Do some snorkelling
- Visit a local school and donate supplies.
Learn more about each activity in the 10 Things to Do in Vava’u with Kids.
Family Accommodation in Vava’u
From homely private apartments to idyllic resorts, Vava’u has a wide range of accommodations for families. However, family rooms are limited, especially in resorts, so remember to book early! Learn more in the 10 Best Family Accommodations in Vava’u.
Honeymoons and Romantic Getaways to Vava’u
For the couple who prefers to be out there “doing” rather than lazying on a beach all day, Vava’u makes an amazing honeymoon destination. It’s a place where you can experience many “firsts” together, like swimming with humpback whales or connecting with nature and each other through island hikes, kayaking, scuba diving and much more. There are also some pretty special experiences for couples seeking tranquillity on private islands or stargazing some of the clearest skies. Find out more in The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Vava’u.
Romantic Activities in Vava’u
- Test your relationship in a double kayak
- Enjoy a private dinner on the beach
- Be treated to a private island experience
- Do some stargazing
- Be a couple of love birds and do some birdwatching.
For more details on each suggestion, take a look at the 10 Most Romantic Things to Do in Vava’u.
Romantic Accommodation in Vava’u
While staying in a cosy fale in a beautiful island resort is how most couples prefer to stay in Vava’u, there are also self-contained apartments and plenty of double rooms in hotels in Neiafu. Check out the 10 Best Honeymoon & Romantic Accommodations in Vava’u for inspiration.
Adults-Only Holidays in Vava’u
The idyllic adults-only holiday is something that’s slowly catching on in Vava’u with a couple of resorts that are exclusively for adults. Even so, with all of the accommodations in Vava’u being boutique and most of the must-do experiences being more suitable for adults, Vava’u’s not a destination where you need to worry about “too many kids”. Find out more in The Adults-Only Guide to Vava’u.
Activities in Vava’u for Adults
- Explore Vava’u on the adults-only TradeWinds yacht
- Drink and be merry at Neiafu’s bars
- Harness the elements in kitesurfing
- Explore the underwater world in scuba diving
- Reconnect in a yoga session.
For more information on each experience, see the full list of the 10 Adults-Only Activities in Vava’u.
Adults-Only Resorts in Vava’u
Vava’u has a small selection of adults-only resorts where guests must be over a certain age to stay. Adults-only resorts in Vava’u include Dream Island Resort and Mandala Resort. Treasure Island Eco Resort has a loose child policy where guests have to make special arrangements for children under 12 to stay. Learn more about these accommodations in the 5 Best Adults-Only Resorts in Tonga.
More About Vava’u
That’s it for our complete travel guide to Vava’u but by no means the end of our Vava’u advice! Check out the following guides for more Vava’u goodness:
- 10 Best Whale Swim Tours in Vava’u
- 10 Best Boat & Sailing Tours of Vava’u
- 5 Best Guided Tours of Vava’u
- 10 Best Sights & Natural Attractions in Vava’u
- 10 Best Surf Breaks in Vava’u
- 10 Best Beaches in Vava’u