Nuku’alofa Food Guide
If your the type of traveller that likes to experience a place through its flavours and culture, then you’re in for a treat in Nuku’alofa. Nuku’alofa might be the administrative capital of Tonga, but it could be the capital of food with its amazing food-related attractions, such as the Talamahu Market and cultural tours focussing on how to prepare traditional Tongan meals. There’s the opportunity for foodies to get a hands-on experience through tours of coffee roasters or take part in a kava circle. Alternatively, sit back and relax with a Tongan dinner and a cultural show. We’ll go through it all and more in this foodie guide to Nuku’alofa!
Things to Do in Nuku’alofa for Foodies
- Browse the bustling hub of the Talamahu Market
- Learn how to prepare an “umu” at Ancient Tonga
- Taste kava in a local kava circle
- Drink and be merry at one of the waterfront bars
- Check out Tu’imatamoana Fair & Fish Market
- Try Tongan and international cuisine at one of the city’s restaurants
- Take a tour of a coffee roaster & cassava chip factory at Tupu’Anga Cafe
- Experience a Tongan buffet and a cultural show
Get more details on each activity in our 8 Things to Do in Nuku’alofa for Foodies.
How to Get to Nuku’alofa
Nuku’alofa and Tongatapu are extremely easy to get to through its international airport, cruise port and ferry terminal if you’re coming from another one of Tonga’s islands. As for getting around Nuku’alofa, you can rely on taxis, rental cars, accommodation shuttles and buses to get around.
Fua’amotu International Airport is the closest airport to Nuku’alofa, around 30 minutes drive away. Direct flights to Fua’amotu Airport are available from Auckland (New Zealand), Sydney (Australia) and Nadi (Fiji). Coming from elsewhere, you’ll need to make connections at these airports. Flights between Tongatapu and its other islands of ‘Eua, Vava’u, Ha’apai and The Niuas are also available through the domestic terminal.
Several cruise liners have Nuku’alofa on the itinerary, stopping at Vuna Wharf on the waterfront of the city. Cruises are available with Holland America Line, P&O, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and much more. Learn more about them in 10 Cruises that Visit Tonga.
Taxis in Nuku’alofa
Taxis are available at both terminals of Fua’amotu Airport, as well as taxi ranks around the city. Taxis have a “T” at the beginning of their number registration and note that they don’t operate on Sundays. See more tips for taking taxis in Tonga and Nuku’alofa here.
Rental Cars in Nuku’alofa
Rental car depots are available in various locations throughout Nuku’alofa. You will need to obtain a Visitor’s Driver’s License for driving in Tonga – learn more about getting one in Things to Know About Car Rental in Tonga.
Buses in Nuku’alofa
Public buses are also available, proving a super cheap way to get around Nuku’alofa and Tongatapu. The bus stations can be found on Vuna Road near Vuna Wharf. Learn more about taking the bus in Tonga in this guide.
For more information on the transport in Nuku’alofa, see 7 Ways to Get to Nuku’alofa (& Around Nuku’alofa).
Foodie Activities in Nuku’alofa
Experience the culture of Tonga through its food with a hands-on foodie experience. From browsing amazing arrays of tropical produce at the local markets to being amazed at a culture show serving traditional Tongan dishes, there are plenty of ways to experience food in Nuku’alofa.
Visit the Talamahu Market
The bustling central hub of Nuku’alofa, Talamahu Market is a must for foodies. See a huge array of fresh produce stalls across multiple levels, as you wander among the locals selling tropical fruit and vegetables. See Tongan staples, such as plantain, breadfruit, taro and cassava sold in bundles or inside woven baskets. Pyramids of tomatoes, bunches of bananas, pineapples and peanuts also decorate the stands to the floors. It’s the perfect place to try some tropical produce you might have never had before, or see what some of your tropical favourites taste like in comparison to home.
Learn How to Make an Umu
A very special dinner experience for both locals and visitors is food slow-cooked in an underground oven called an umu. Learn how Tongans have prepared umu for centuries with a culture tour at Ancient Tonga. Aside from learning about Tongan weaving, tapa-making and more, you’ll learn how to prepare an umu, as well as more about the ingredients used. The tour also includes learning about and sampling kava, a narcotic drink made from ground-up roots of a pepper plant. Find out more about Ancient Tonga on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Kava is an integral part of the Tongan way of life, especially for men who drink in “kava circles”. Apart from trying kava at Ancient Tonga (see above), visitors will need to ask around locally for kava circles. Otherwise, some guesthouses sometimes put on kava nights on request, such as at Toni’s Guesthouse. See more guest house options in the 10 Best Guest Houses in Nuku’alofa.
Tongan Feasts and Dinner Shows
Feasts are all part of the Tongan culture, where feasts in Tonga are renowned across the South Pacific for their sheer scale and diversity. In Nuku’alofa, Ancient Tonga offer buffets followed by traditional Tongan dancing on a Friday night. Be sure to pre-book, as the feast needs minimum numbers to go ahead. Alternatively, transfers to feasts around Tongatapu are available from Nuku’alofa, for instance, to the Oholei Buffet Dinner and Cultural Show in the amazing Hina Cave with Tonga Travel Troupe (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor).
The Best Restaurants in Nuku’alofa
You’ll find a wealth of variety when it comes to dining in Nuku’alofa! Try local dishes, such as ota ika (raw fish marinated in coconut cream) and lu (meat and coconut cream wrapped in taro leaves). Alternatively, European and Asian food is also readily available. Check out some of our top recommendations in the Guide to the Best Eats & Restaurants in Nuku’alofa.
Restaurants in Nuku’alofa You Can’t Miss
Nuku’alofa offers a range of dining experiences, including Tongan-Italian fusion food at The Waterfront Cafe. Try lu, fresh mahimahi and cassava tart at this well-presented restaurant on Vuna Road. For international favourites, with an awesome view of the city, head to The TOP Restaurant. Be transported to Italy with mouthwatering pizzas at Little Italy on Vuna Road. Finally, indulge in oversized burgers and Tongan beers at the Billfish Bar & Restaurant, also on Vuna Road.
Learn more about each of these restaurants and others in the 5 Best Restaurants in Nuku’alofa.
Tongan Restaurants in Nuku’alofa
You can’t visit Nuku’alofa without trying something utterly authentic. Some of the best places to try real Tongan food is at the Talahiva Restaurant on Tau’ahau Road and Mama’s Cafe (or Mum’s Cafe) on Laifone Road. Both serve local dishes, such as ota ika and lu with sides of cassava. 12 Seafoods Restaurant on Vuna Road also serves super fresh Tongan seafood from ota ika to fish curry.
Cheap Eats in Nuku’alofa
You don’t have to pay a fortune to eat like a king in Nuku’alofa. Aside from the Tongan restaurants mentioned above, other cheap eats in Nuku’alofa include Sabrina’s Chicken Vilovilo, High Five Delight, Tiger Inn Restaurant, Precious Stone Restaurant and more! Check out the Top Cheap Eats in Nuku’alofa for more information on each eatery, as well as more recommendations.
Vegan and Vegetarian Food in Nuku’alofa
While there are vegetarian options on the menus in Nuku’alofa, expect to have a minimal choice and uninspired dishes. Vegetarians can easily get by on salads, root crop meals, starchy fruits like plantain and breadfruit and more. Cafes tend to have a bit more choice, such as at Cafe Escape, Friends Cafe, Cafe Post, Moli Green Cafe and more. It’s always best to talk to the restaurant staff about vegetarian options. Finding food without dairy, however, is easy as dairy is expensive in Tonga and not typically part of the everyday diet.