Tongatapu Food Guide
Food is more than just a necessity, it’s an experience on the island of Tongatapu. Tonga is known across the South Pacific for its feasts “fit for a king”, which, considering they have a king, makes sense! Aside from feasting, Tonga also produces some of its own artisan foods, which can be experienced further through factory tours. Of course, eating out at the local restaurants is always a delight, while picking up tropical produce from the roadside stalls to prepare your own meals is also another way to embrace the local food culture. So let us guide you through the restaurants, food-related activities and more in this foodie guide to Tongatapu.
8 Things to Do on Tongatapu for Foodies
- Go to a Tongan feast and cultural show
- Browse the local markets and stalls
- Try the local craft beers, juices and cocktails at the bars
- Taste the national drink, kava
- Experience a traditional umu
- Take a tour of a coffee roaster & cassava chip factory
- Check out the Tu’imatamoana Fish Market
- Eat out in Nuku’alofa or one of Tongatapu’s waterfront resort restaurants
Learn more about each activity in the 9 Things to Do on Tongatapu for Foodies.
How to Get to Tongatapu
Tongatapu is relatively easy to get to via international flights and cruise ships, as well as being well-connected to Tonga’s other islands through domestic flights and a ferry terminal in Nuku’alofa. Here’s a little bit more about the transport on Tongatapu…
Flights to Tongatapu
Fua’amotu International Airport is located in Tongatapu and is the main airport for Tonga. Direct international flights to Fua’amotu Airport are available from Auckland (New Zealand), Sydney (Australia) and Nadi (Fiji), while domestic flights to ‘Eua, Vava’u, Ha’apai and The Niuas also depart here.
Cruises to Tongatapu
Several cruise liners have Tongatapu on the itinerary, stopping at Vuna Wharf in Nuku’alofa. Cruises are available with Holland America Line, P&O, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and much more as listed in 10 Cruises that Visit Tonga.
Rental Cars on Tongatapu
Rental car depots are available in Nuku’alofa, Fua’amotu Airport and Liahona. 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 on Tongatapu
Tongatapu is well-connected with local buses. Bus stations can be found on Vuna Road in Nuku’alofa and in the villages across the island. Learn more about taking the bus in Tonga in this guide to busses in Tonga.
For more information on the transport in Tongatapu, see 10 Ways to Get to Tongatapu (& Around Tongatapu).
Food Activities on Tongatapu
Between Tongan feasts, roadside fruit stalls and artisanal factory tours, foodie experiences on Tongatapu are easy enough to find. Here are just some suggestions to tickle your tastebuds…
Go to a Tongan Feast and Dinner Show
The most foodie experiences outside of Nuku’alofa are the Tongan dinner shows complete with a grand feast. Tongan feasts are known across the South Pacific for their grand scale, which you’ll experience when going to any of the dinner shows, such as at Oholei Resort & Hina Cave or the Vakaloa Beach Resort. Both shows have an array of up to 30 different dishes made with local seafood, yams, taro, sweet potatoes and cassava. Learn more about the shows in The Best Cultural Shows on Tongatapu.
Browse the Local Markets and Stalls
You’ll notice all across the island of Tongatapu, market stalls full of tropical fruit and vegetables are set up alongside the roads. When doing a road trip visiting all of the historical and natural sights (as listed in the 10 Free & Cheap Things To Do on Tongatapu), the roadside stalls are handy to pick up some road trip snacks, such as finger bananas, peanuts and much more! The must-visit market for foodies is the Talamahu Market in the centre of Nuku’alofa, which is essentially a huge gathering of island produce sold in piles or woven baskets.
Experience an “Umu” at Ancient Tonga
Offering a range of cultural tours and workshops, Ancient Tonga (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) is the place to get your cultural fix on Tongatapu. Aside from educating visitors on Tongans arts, crafts, medicine and the national drink, kava, the culture centre also shows you how to prepare an umu. An umu is an underground oven that slow cooks meats and vegetables wrapped in banana leaves. Learn more about the foodie experiences in Nuku’alofa here.
For more ideas, head to the 9 Things to Do on Tongatapu for Foodies.
The Best Restaurants on Tongatapu
Try tasty local dishes like ota ika, which is raw fish marinated in coconut cream, and Lu, which is corned beef wrapped in taro leaves, at the restaurants around Tongatapu. International cuisine is also well-represented across Nuku’alofa and Tongatapu’s resorts.
Restaurants in Nuku’alofa
For eating out, Nuku’alofa is by far the best place to go on Tongatapu. The capital is home to an array of restaurants, serving Tongan cuisine to international favourites. Some popular restaurants in the city include the Waterfront Cafe, The TOP Restaurant, Vuna Restaurant & Bar, Billfish Bar & Restaurant and Little Italy. Learn more about these eateries and more in Guide to the Best Eats & Restaurants in Nuku’alofa.
Resort Restaurants on Tongatapu
Another option for eating out is at the resorts’ restaurants on Tongatapu. Resorts along Ha’atafu and Kanokupolu Beach open their restaurant doors to casual diners, should you want to want to dine on the beachfront. Popular options include the restaurants at the Vakaloa Beach Resort, Liku’alofa Beach Resort, Heilala Holiday Lodge and Holty’s Hideaway. Learn more about these restaurants in our Guide to the Best Eats & Restaurants on Tongatapu.
Cheap Eats on Tongatapu
Those staying in Nuku’alofa have an array of cheap eats to choose from, with mains costing TOP$5-$10! What’s more, these restaurants are where you can find some of the most authentic Tongan dishes, such as at Mama’s Cafe and Talahiva Restaurant. Otherwise, more cheap restaurants include Sabrina’s Chicken Vilovilo, High Five Delight, Tiger Inn Restaurant and Precious Stone Restaurant. Learn more in the Top Cheap Eats in Nuku’alofa.
Vegan and Vegetarian Food on Tongatapu
Meat and seafood are a staple part of the Tongan diet, so don’t expect a wide range of choices when it comes to vegetarian food on Tongatapu. Nevertheless, there is always at least one vegetarian option on menus in Tonga’s restaurants and resorts. Food without dairy is easier to find, as dairy products are expensive in Tonga. Some of the best places for vegetarians to eat is at cafes, such as Cafe Escape, Friends Cafe and Cafe Post.