The Complete Guide to the Ports of Call in Tonga© Tonga Ministry of Tourism
The Complete Guide to the Ports of Call in Tonga

The Complete Guide to the Ports of Call in Tonga

© Tonga Ministry of Tourism

What are the Cruise Ports in Tonga?

Tonga is part of a diverse region of islands scattering the South Pacific Ocean. One of the best ways to experience the island nation, as well as other South Pacific countries, is by cruise. Cruises to Tonga depart from Australia and New Zealand, as well as from Tahiti in French Polynesia. You’ll also find Tonga on the itinerary of round-the-world voyages. So if you’re dreaming of cruising to Tonga, find out which parts of Tonga are you going to see and how you can experience the islands on port days in this guide to the ports of call in Tonga.

Which Cruises Visit Tonga?

When planning your cruise getaway, you’re going to want to know which cruise itineraries feature Tonga! Cruises to Tonga depart from Sydney, Brisbane, Auckland, Tahiti, Los Angeles and Chile. Check out the list of cruise companies in the 10 Cruises That Visit Tonga.

The Guide to Taking a Cruise to Tonga(c) Tonga Ministry of Tourism

Nuku’alofa, Tongatapu

The port of call on most itineraries visiting Tonga is in Nuku’alofa, the capital of Tonga. Nuku’alofa is on the island of Tongatapu, which is a 260 km² (100 mi²) island that is packed with historic attractions, such as the Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon, known as the “Stonehenge of the South Pacific”. The island also has an array of natural wonders, such as the amazing water displays of the Mapua ‘a Vaea Blowholes, the beautiful ‘Anahulu Cave, the Hufangalupe Landbridge and the flying fox sanctuary in Kolovai. Finally, you’ll want to experience Tongatapu for the culture, where vibrant markets and incredible handicrafts can be discovered in Nuku’alofa and travellers can immerse in Tongan crafts and cultural centres.

Must-Dos in Nuku’alofa

Aside from organised shore excursions, cruise ship passengers can enjoy one of the many amazing activities available from Nuku’alofa, from whale swimming to cultural tours:

For more information on activities in Nuku’alofa, see the 30 Best Things to Do in Nuku’alofa and 50 Best Things to Do on Tongatapu.

The Best Nuku’alofa Tours for Cruise Ship Passengers

While shore excursions can be booked through your cruise, you’ll find booking tours independently will save you a ton! Here are a few shore excursions from Nuku’alofa worth considering:

See more details about each tour, as well as more shore excursions, in the 10 Best Tonga Shore Excursions.

How to Tour Tongatapu Independently

If you’d rather make your own way around Tongatapu, you can either hire a car or hire a taxi driver. Car hire is available in abundance in Nuku’alofa with some rental companies even delivering vehicles to port. Find out more in the 10 Best Car Rentals in Nuku’alofa & Tongatapu.

Alternatively, you can still enjoy the full flexibility of having your own vehicle without the hassle of driving by hiring a driver for the day. Either hire a car with a chauffeur or a taxi for the day where drivers can take you to the desired stops on your itinerary, or they can take you to their suggested stops, much like a private tour. Find out more about hiring a driver in How to Hire a Driver in Tonga.

Finally, if you need inspiration for an itinerary of exploring Tongatapu in a day, then we have just the guides for you! Check them out in A Self-Guided Day Trip of Tongatapu: One Day Itinerary or stick to the capital with A Self-Guided Day Tour of Nuku’alofa: One Day Itinerary.

The Guide to Taking a Cruise to Tonga(c) Tonga Ministry of Tourism

Neiafu, Vava’u

Vava’u is the second northernmost island group in Tonga, home to some 50 islands compacted together across its archipelago. Cruise ships will anchor in the Port of Refuge and do tender runs between the cruise ships and the town of Neiafu throughout the day.

Neiafu is one of the largest towns in Tonga, home to a vibrant market, quaint craft shops and restaurants, and where many water activities across the island group depart. Water activities here include whale swimming, scuba diving, game fishing and boat tours to natural attractions like Swallows’ Cave and mesmerising snorkelling spots such as the Coral Gardens.

On land, guided tours with local taxi companies can take you to historical and natural points of interest across the main island of Vava’u, as well as its causeway-connected islands full of villages and tropical plantations. A highlight is also the ‘Ene ‘io Botanical Garden which offers an interesting garden tour, as well as cultural feasts, a beach and cultural demonstrations.

Must-Dos in Vava’u

For more details on each experience, as well as more must-dos, see the 50 Best Things to Do in Vava’u and 10 Best Things to Do in Neiafu.

The Best Vava’u Tours for Cruise Ship Passengers

Get a head start on your port-of-call visit by arranging your own tour of Vava’u, rather than opting for your cruise ship’s pricey tours. Here are a few shore excursions from Neiafu worth considering:

  • Vava’u Island-Hopping Tour – Jones Travel & Tours
  • Vava’u Sightseeing Tour – Steven’s Island Tour/Hansen Tours
  • ‘Ene’io Grand Tour – ‘Ene’io Botanical Garden
  • Vava’u Land Tour – Grace City Taxis/Vava’u Taxi Council
  • Private Vava’u Island Tour – Joyce’s Tour

See more details about each tour, as well as more shore excursions, in the 10 Best Tonga Shore Excursions and 5 Best Guided Island Land Tours of Vava’u.

How to Tour Vava’u Independently

For those who’d rather stick to dry land for the day, Vava’u makes for an excellent island to explore by car, mountain bike or scooter. Car rental companies are based in Neiafu, just a short walk from port. Check them out in the 10 Best Car Rentals in Vava’u.

As for where to visit once you’ve got your wheels, there’s a wealth of island lookouts, historical sites and beaches to explore. Plan your whole day with A Self-Guided Day Trip Around Vava’u.

The Complete Guide to the Ports of Call in Tonga©

Uoleva Island, Ha’apai

An unusual port of call, Uoleva Island is otherwise uninhabited apart from four seasonal boutique resorts on the island. And that’s the beauty of it! Enjoy the sea, sand (and hopefully) sun on this postcard-perfect island in Ha’apai.

Needless to say, there’s not much to do on Uoleva other than relax and enjoy the beauty and nature of this island. Bring your snorkelling gear if you have some. This port of call in Tonga is visited by Silversea, which you can learn more about in the 10 Best Cruises That Visit Tonga.

The Complete Guide to the Ports of Call in Tonga© Eunice Pongipongi

Niuatoputapu, The Niuas

Completely off the beaten track, only yachties and cruise ship passengers on Silversea cruises visit Niuatoputapu. Located in the southernmost island group of Tonga, The Niuas, Niuatoputapu is an ancient extinct volcano which now inhabits a small selection of villages and around 700 people.

Time on this piece of paradise can be spent hiking to the island’s highest point at 157 m (515 ft), beachcombing and engaging in the traditional culture of this remote island. Learn more about the experience on Niuatoputapu island in the 10 Best Things to Do on Niuatoputapu.

More About Cruises and the Ports of Call in Tonga

That’s it for our complete guide to the ports of call in Tonga. Learn more about taking a cruise to The Kingdom in the following guides:

Finally, for more ways to get to Tonga, take a look at Getting Here: How to Get to Tonga.


Laura (Lola) S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of Tonga Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in the South Pacific over 10 years ago with nothing but a backpack and a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to explore a paradise such as Tonga. She knows the islands inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience Tonga’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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