Vava’u Food Guide
Most travellers make their way to the remote Tongan islands of Vava’u for whale swimming, crystal clear scuba diving or chilling out at an island resort. But with Vava’u producing so much wonderful tropical produce and the Tongan culture being so orientated around food, it would almost be a crime to not get some foodie experiences during your stay. We’ll guide you through the resorts with amazing restaurants, the best eateries around Vava’u, as well as the food-related activities in this foodie guide to Vava’u!
7 Things to Do in Vava’u for Foodies
- Learn about tropical plants, browse natural health products and indulge in a Tongan feast at the ‘Ene’io Botanical Gardens
- Tour a vanilla plantation
- Catch dinner on a fishing charter
- Experience a Sunday Tongan feast
- Check out the Neiafu Market
- Indulge at one of the many restaurants across Vava’u
- Learn about kava and taro on an island land tour
Get more details on each experience in our 7 Things to Do in Vava’u for Foodies.
How to Get to Vava’u
Most travellers make their way to Vava’u from Tongatapu, the main island of Tonga where most international flights arrive. Cruises are another way to get to Vava’u, while getting around could include the bus, accommodation transfers, taxis, bicycle hire and more.
Vava’u by Plane
Vava’u is connected to the rest of Tonga, as well as Samoa and Fiji, through the Lupepauʻu International Airport. Flights from Tonga’s main island, Tongatapu, arrive twice daily except Sundays. Plan a flexible first day, as flights are often cancelled in bad weather. Learn more in The Guide to Flying Around Tonga.
Vava’u by Ferry
The budget option for getting between Tongatapu and Vava’u is by taking one of the ferries. There’s the fast MV Tongiaki and the slower MV Otuangaofa. Journeys from Tongatapu take nine to 16 hours depending on which ferry you choose and which schedule. Schedules change frequently so be sure to check up-to-date information at the Tourist Information Centres in Nuku’alofa and Neiafu. Learn more in Travelling in Tonga by Ferry.
Car Hire in Vava’u
To visit plantations and try different restaurants around the main islands, we recommend hiring a car for full flexibility. Car hires are around TOP$50-$70 a day. Be warned that cars on Vava’u are old so take it easy. Learn more in The Best Car Rentals in Vava’u.
Find out more about the transport in Vava’u in our 10 Ways to Get to Vava’u (& Around Vava’u).
Food Activities in Vava’u
As top producers of vanilla, coconut products, noni products, kava, taro, yams and much more, Vava’u really offers foodies the ultimate tropical food experience. Here are just a few ways to experience Vava’u through food-orientated activities.
‘Ene’io Botanical Gardens Tour
Learn about tropical plants, fruit and vegetables and their medicinal functions on a Garden Tour of the ‘Ene’io Botanical Gardens. Your tour guide and curator of the gardens, Haniteli Fa’anunu, will show you a wide range of interesting plants grown on Vava’u and some of the health foods made at the gardens. The centre also has a restaurant serving Tongan meals, holds Tongan buffets during their Cultural Tours, and hosts a Sunday Tongan feast.
Tour a Vanilla Plantation
Vava’u provides the perfect conditions for growing vanilla beans, where a drive around the main islands will reveal plantations of sprawling vanilla. One of the main producers in Vava’u is Heilala Vanilla, which works with local farmers to grow ultra-fresh vanilla and create all sorts of vanilla products. Organise a vanilla plantation tour with Mystic Sands or one of the other accommodations on the main island, who will be able to organise an informal tour.
Attend a Sunday Tongan Feast!
Tongans are very food-centric, with one of their most renowned cultural events being their Sunday feasts. There are a few places around the islands of Vava’u where you experience this for yourself. Food is slow-cooked in an earth oven called an “umu”, while a spit-roast pig is also usually a staple. Tongan feasts can be experienced at the Port of Refuge Villas, ‘Ene’io Botanical Gardens, Beautiful Ofu Island Backpackers and anywhere advertised on the Neiafu noticeboards! Be sure to pre-book!
See more suggestions in the 7 Things to Do in Vava’u for Foodies.
The Best Restaurants in Vava’u
The best way to describe Vava’u’s food scene is that it has tons of hidden surprises. You’ll find Italian food, Spanish food and Chinese food with a tropical flair. Some of the island resorts try to provide an authentic dining as possible, with food grown on the islands and fished straight from Vava’u’s waters.
Restaurants in Vava’u
Offering excellent value and variety, the Bellavista Cafe & Restaurant is a top choice in Neiafu. Try Tongan seafood dishes or stick to something familiar like pizzas and pasta at this Italian-meets-Tongan restaurant overlooking the harbour. Speaking of pizza, head a little out of town to find the coolest little pizza joint, Hepi Pizza, with a viewing deck overlooking a quiet channel of the Port of Refuge. Try a Tongan dish like Oka Ika or a fresh fish burger at the Tongan Beach Resort, with its restaurant open to casual diners, while those with determination can take a boat to Topana Island for what’s often described as the best paella in the South Pacific at the La Paella Restaurant.
See more restaurant recommendations in our Guide to the Best Eats & Restaurants in Vava’u.