A Family Guide to Nuku’alofa
Many families, once they arrive in Tonga, head straight to Nuku’alofa and for good reason! Not only is the capital of Tonga extremely easy to get to and has a wealth of family-friendly accommodation, but there’s a whole lot of experiences for the whole family. Get a vibrant introduction to the islands and their culture through crafting lessons, visits to inspiring markets, and visits to the historic sites relating to Tonga’s monarchical history. What’s more, there are plenty of ways to get out onto the water between whale watching and snorkelling. Learn more about how to enjoy your time as a family in Nuku’alofa with this complete travel guide to Nuku’alofa for families.
10 Things to Do in Nuku’alofa with Kids
- Go on a snorkelling excursion to swim with coral and tropical fish
- Shop for Tongan presents at the Talamahu Market
- See the whales between June and October
- Check out interesting sights, like the Royal Palace, the Royal Tombs and more
- Play and have a picnic at Popua Park
- Learn how to do Tongan arts and crafts at Ancient Tonga
- Have a coffee while the kids play at the playground at Tupu’Anga Cafe
- Go on a sightseeing tour of Nuku’alofa
- Do a day trip around Tongatapu
- Experience a Tongan Sunday
For more information on each activity, take a look at the 10 Things to Do in Nuku’alofa with Kids.
How to Get to Nuku’alofa
Most travellers heading to Tonga find themselves in Nuku’alofa at least a couples of times during their travels of the islands. The city is a mere 30-minute drive from Tongatapu’s international airport and is the base for ferries departing to Tonga’s other islands. Plus, with plenty of ways to get to Nuku’alofa, it removes the stress of getting to Tonga’s capital for families.
Nuku’alofa by Plane
Nuku’alofa’s nearest airport is Fua’amotu International Airport, approximately 30 minutes drive away. Direct flights are available to Fua’amotu Airport from New Zealand, Australia and Fiji, as well as from Tonga’s outer islands – see Which Airlines Fly Straight to Tonga? for more information.
Nuku’alofa by Cruise
Several cruise liners have Nuku’alofa on the agenda, with the city having one of only two ports for large cruise ships available in Tonga. Cruises that visit Nuku’alofa include Holland America Line, P&O, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and more.
Taxis to Nuku’alofa
Taxis meet incoming flights at Fua’amotu International Airport, charging TOP$30-$50 to travel to Nuku’alofa. Taxis between the domestic and international terminals around TOP$5. Taking a taxi within the city is usually around TOP$5-$8. Note that legal taxis have a “T” at the beginning of their number registration. Taxis don’t operate on Sundays.
Airport Shuttles and Accommodation Shuttles
Airport shuttles meet incoming flights at Fua’amotu International Airport, taking passengers to Nuku’alofa for around TOP$15-$30 per person. Some accommodations offer their own airport transfers, usually cheaper than a taxi. Be sure to book this with your accommodation in advance.
Learn more about getting to and around Nuku’alofa with our 7 Ways to Get to Nuku’alofa.
Water Activities for Families
Yes, even in the nation’s capital there’s plenty of exciting water activities to experience as a family! See the humpback whales and their babies between July and October, or check out the amazing coral displays just off the surrounding islands on a snorkelling trip.
Snorkelling Trips from Nuku’alofa
Discover Tonga’s amazing array of corals and tropical fish on a family-friendly snorkelling tour from Nuku’alofa. Snorkelling trips are in sheltered waters, usually off idyllic islands some 20-40-minutes off the shores of the city. All of the snorkelling gear will be provided, all you need to do is enjoy the journey and discover the amazing underwater world together. Trips are available with Blue Water Explorer and Deep Blue Diving, departing from Faua Wharf.
Whale Watching/Swimming from Nuku’alofa
Whale tours are available from Nuku’alofa between July and October. Whale swimming is a popular option with families who are strong swimmers, as swimming is in the open water and involves a lot of getting on and off the boat. Nevertheless, those with younger kids can often experience just as much excitement by staying on the boat and watching the whales breaching and swimming to the surface! There are several whale operators departing from Faua Wharf in the whale season.
Land Activities for Families
Sightseeing and cultural activities make up the adventures you can enjoy on land together as a family in Nuku’alofa. Sights are quick to see and to get to, so the kids won’t lose interest, while hands-on and educational activities are available too.
Tonga is a nation with rich island culture, experienced through captivating performances seen across the islands of Tongatapu (see The Guide to Tongatapu for Families for more information on these activities). Otherwise, a fantastic option in Nuku’alofa is Ancient Tonga, offering a half-day and full-day culture experience, mainly revolving around Tongan arts, crafts, dance and food. It’s a great way to get the kids involved in a more hands-on experience! Find out more on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Treat the little ones to amazing souvenirs while being in awe of the amazing arts and crafts of Tonga at the Talamahu Market. The market on Salote Road is available Monday to Saturday, where kids can oggle at handmade woven clothes and baskets, hand-carved jewellery made from bones and wood, and see impressive stands of colourful tropical fruit and vegetables.
The capital is home to a few interesting sights, where you can teach your kids more about The Kingdom of Tonga, without taking too long to see each sight. Check out the Royal Palace, a grand Victorian building with the best views from the waterfront on the west side of the palace. The Royal Tombs is a large park-like area with an interpretation sign at the gates to tell you more about the royal family. Finally, the Centenary Chapel is a vibrant place to be on a Sunday, where the locals and the royal family, attend church performing beautiful singing and playing of brass instruments. While you can visit the sights independently, learn more from a local guide with Teta Tours and Travel (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor).