The Guide to Budget Travel in Tonga
Tropical islands, real island cultures, amazing marine wildlife… Tonga is a memorable destination especially for the budget traveller who will find that you don’t have to spend much to see the ancient Polynesian sights, unusual natural wonders and stay in a piece of island paradise. Sure, the activities that Tonga is most famous for such as whale swimming and scuba diving do have a hefty price tag, but there’s much more to The Kingdom of Tonga that you don’t have to spend a dime to enjoy. We’ll guide you through how to experience this South Pacific nation on the cheap with this guide to Tonga on a budget.
Free and Cheap Things to Do in Tonga
- Snorkel in crystal clear waters with coral and tropical fish
- Enjoy island hikes in the ‘Eua National Park
- Visit natural attractions like the Mapu ‘a Vaea Blowholes
- Swim at the stunning ‘Anahulu limestone cave
- Check out historical sites like the Ha’amonga ‘a Maui
- Learn Tongan handicrafts with local villagers
- Browse the Tongan handicraft and produce markets
- Try some Tongan cheap eats in Nuku’alofa.
Get more inspiration for ways to enjoy Tonga on the cheap in the 20 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Tonga.
Budget Travel in Tongatapu
Tongatapu might be the main arrival island of Tonga, which has the added bonus of being the cheapest island to get to, but there’s much more to it than that. Tongatapu is home to a wide array of free and cheap attractions, whether it’s the natural wonders of ‘Anahulu Cave, Mapu ‘a Vaea Blowholes or the Flying Foxes of Kolovai or historic sites like the Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon, Royal Tombs or the Abel Tasman Landing Site.
A good base for budget travellers is Nuku’alofa, the capital of Tonga, which has a wide variety of budget accommodations, eateries and supermarkets should you be self-catering. From here, you can hire a car, take the bus or jump on a tour to explore the island.
Alternatively, for a more “island-style” holiday, there are some budget accommodations along Ha’atafu Beach on the west side of the island with beach activities, including kayaking and snorkelling, to enjoy.
Budget Travel in ‘Eua
As if it were made for backpackers, ‘Eua is an island exclusively of budget accommodations and an excellent choice of free and cheap experiences. The island sits around 40km (24 miles) southeast of Tongatapu, taking half a day to ferry there. It’s Tonga’s oldest island, which has weathered some interesting natural features over the millions of years, from natural arches to sinkholes to giant banyan trees.
For budget travellers, hiking is a good way to explore the island, especially in the ‘Eua National Park where you can look out for the red shining parrot, pass impressive sinkholes and venture to stunning island lookouts.
Cultural activities, like learning Tongan crafts, is another way to spend your time here on the cheap, which can be organised with villagers through the resorts. Horseriding is another activity that can be pretty affordable, while the whale swimming tours here are among some of the cheapest in Tonga (but still around TOP$350-$400).
Learn more about ‘Eua in The Guide to ‘Eua on a Budget.
Budget Travel in Ha’apai
Although getting to this central island group in Tonga is a little more expensive than Tongatapu and ‘Eua, Ha’apai is a must-visit for budget travellers seeking sun, sea and sand. There are 62 islands in the island group, most of which are uninhabited including Uoleva Island which has a couple of budget resorts for travellers to get the “Robinson Crusoe” experience. Alternatively, guest houses in the main town, Pangai, make for a good base to explore the island of Lifuka, its stunning sweeping sandy beaches and historical sites.
Stay at any of the waterfront accommodations in Ha’apai and you’ll spend your days snorkelling and kayaking for free. Otherwise, it’s affordable and achievable to hire a bike and explore the flat island of Lifuka and Foa. Crafting lessons are also offered by one of the guesthouses so you can learn to make your own Tongan souvenirs.
Those big-ticket activities like whale swimming, scuba diving, fishing and island cultural tours are also available from Ha’apai, so you have some leftover budget to treat yourself with.
Dive further into planning a budget trip to Ha’apai with The Guide to Ha’apai on a Budget.
Budget Travel in Vava’u
This northern island group in Tonga might be a little more expensive to get to, but it offers some of the top snorkelling spots, dive sites, sailing grounds, and fishing grounds in Tonga. Not that budget travellers will want to fork out too much on all of these activities, but they are certainly there to tempt you!
Alternatively, budget travellers can enjoy snorkelling tours to Swallows Cave, hike to Mt Talau from Neiafu or learn about some interesting tropical flora at the ‘Ene’io Botanical Gardens.
The main town, Neiafu, has plenty of budget accommodation, as well as interesting sights like the local market on the waterfront or the Vava’u Pearl Centre. There are a couple of budget resorts in the island group too, such as the Beautiful Ofu Island Backpackers, where you can get that resort experience with kayaking and island-hopping tours for a more affordable price.
Learn more about visiting Vava’u in The Guide to Vava’u on a Budget.