The Food Guide to Ha’apai
Food is an integral part of the South Pacific Island experience, especially as most food is locally sourced from the surrounding waters and tropical plantations. In Ha’apai, the foodie experience is half cultural through Tongan feasts and markets and half healthy and sustainable through the eco-resort experiences. The restaurant scene is tiny in Ha’apai, with the only real restaurant being on Lifuka Island, the main island of the group. Otherwise, you’re accommodation will look after you with their meal plans or you can self-cater if staying in a guest house on Lifuka. We’ll guide your through the food-related experiences, the meals and the accommodation in this foodie guide to Ha’apai.
6 Foodie Activities in Ha’apai
- Check out the Pangai Market
- Indulge in a Tongan feast on a culture tour
- Be treated to a private dinner on the beach
- Catch your own dinner on a fishing charter
- Head down to the Mariner’s Cafe for barbecue night
- Try Keki at the local bakery
For more information on each activity, see the 6 Things to Do in Ha’apai for Foodies.
How to Get to Ha’apai
The Ha’apai Group sits in the centre of Tonga, most easily accessed from Tonga’s main islands, Tongatapu. However, it’s also possible to reach from Vava’u. Flights and ferries run to the island throughout the week, while getting around the islands mostly relys on the transport of your chosen accommodation.
Ha’apai by Plane
The fastest way to kickstart your Ha’apai getaway is by taking a flight from Fua’amotu Airport’s domestic terminal in Tongatapu. Flights run twice a day except on Sundays. The journey lasts approximately 50 minutes. Learn more about taking the plane in Tonga here.
Ha’apai by Ferry
Ha’apai is also connected to Tongatapu, Vava’u and various other islands in the Ha’apai Group by ferry. There are two ferries running between the islands, the fast MV Tongiaki and the slow MV ‘Otuanga’ofa. This method of transport is significantly cheaper than flying. Find out more in Travelling in Tonga by Ferry.
Getting Around by Bike
With very limited public transport on the islands, the most popular way to get around independently is by bike. The main islands, Lifuka and Foa are both flat and easy to get around by bike using the quiet roads. Bike hire is either complimentary at resorts or for a small fee per day from guest houses and the Mariner’s Cafe.
Find out more about transport in Ha’apai in the 5 Ways to Get to Ha’apai (& Around Ha’apai).
Food Activities in Ha’apai
Food is an amazing way to experience the local culture. From browsing the local market to indulging in a Tongan feast, Ha’apai presents a few gastronomical ways to visit the islands. Here are just a few of the top ways to experience Ha’apai as a foodie…
Tongan Village Culture Tour
Lying north of Foa and Nukunamo Islands, Ha’ano Island is where you’ll get to truly immerse in the local island culture. Matafonua Lodge and Sandy Beach Resort run tours here with the Ha’ano village’s Women’s Group for day of handicraft demonstrations, traditional dancing from the local school children, and, most importantly, an authentic feast for lunch. Boat transfers are included in the tour and all of the proceeds go to the Women’s Group.
Browse the Pangai Market
At the centre of most larger communities in Tonga is the local market. The Pangai Market is the largest market in the Ha’apai Islands. Mingle with the locals and browse the array of tropical fruit and vegetables present in pyramid-shaped piles, bundles and in woven baskets. Find the market on the corner of Waterfront and Palace Road.
Fishing is a way of life on the islands of Ha’apai, so whether you see it as a sport or a cultural experience, you’re still going to go out and catch food for your resort or a local community. Captain Cook Hideaway offers authentic fishing trips with a local, while Matafonua Lodge and Sandy Beach Resort offer more sport-style fishing, trolling for Mahimahi, Wahoo and Tuna. Either way, if you’re lucky, the result will be fresh fish on the table!
The Best Restaurants in Ha’apai
Admittedly, Ha’apai isn’t a destination to try a different restaurant each night. Most accommodations provide their own meals to guests through a meal plan where you’ll either get to choose from two or three dishes or you’ll just get what you’re given! However, here are your only three restaurants on the island open to the public.
Restaurants in Ha’apai
The central hub for meet-ups, drinks, information and general good times is the Mariner’s Cafe in Pangai. Stop by for one of their international or Pacific dishes, including pizzas, homemade pasta, burgers, soup, fish and chicken meals. They have Tongan beer on tap, homegrown coffee beans and fresh drinking coconuts!
Resort Restaurants in Ha’apai
One of the only resorts in Ha’apai with a restaurant open to the public is Matafonua Lodge, located at the northern tip of Foa Island. Their kiosk-style cafe is a welcome reward after you’ve inevitably cycled up the island. Items on their all-day menu include all-day cooked breakfast, pizzas, burgers, freshly-baked pies, pastries, wraps, sandwiches, salads and more. Evening meals are made with fresh local fish and lobster. There’s usually a good choice of vegetarian food too.
Finally, Ha’apai Beach Resort, located between Pangai and the airport, is a good place to stop by for food, drinks and to use the free WiFi. Their ocean-view restaurant and bar serves up seasonal meals, revolving around local produce, particularly fish and starchy tropical fruits and vegetables.
Vegan & Vegetarian Food in Ha’apai
With many resorts across Ha’apai focussing on sustainability, finding vegan and vegetarian options at resorts is rarely an issue. However, it’s crucial that you inform your resort of any dietary requirements prior to arrival so that they can prepare for you. The Mariner’s Cafe and Matafonua Lodge are vegetarian-friendly.