How to Plan a Family Holiday to Vava’u
For families that love being out on the water, Vava’u should definitely be on the shortlist for your family holiday. The adventurous destination in Tonga is home to whale watching, snorkelling in giant sea caves, amazing kayaking, brilliant beaches and so much more! Either stay in a resort where a natural playground will be at your doorstep or opt for one of the family-friendly accommodations in the main hub, Neiafu, where many exciting boat and land tours depart. We’ll guide you through the activities, the accommodations and more in this travel guide to Vava’u for families!
Top 10 Family Activities in Vava’u
What does a family getaway to Vava’u look like? Here’s a quick overview of just 10 things to do in and around the islands with kids:
- Go on a whale watching tour
- Do an island boat cruise and see Swallows’ Cave
- Explore the ‘Ene’io Botanical Garden
- Have a peek into the Veimumuni Cave
- Get some kayak time in!
- Do some snorkelling from your resort
- Build sandcastles on the beach
- Enjoy a captivating cultural show and Tongan feast
- Do a land tour of Vava’u’s largest islands
- Visit a local school and donate some supplies!
Learn more about each activity in the 10 Things to Do in Vava’u with Kids. Otherwise, keep on reading for more inspiration…
How to Get to Vava’u
Most families reach Vava’u from Tonga’s main island, Tongatapu, by taking a flight or a ferry service between the islands. Otherwise, direct flights are available from Fiji, Samoa and American Samoa – find out more in How to Get to Tonga. As for getting around the island, accommodations can organise transfers, while car rentals and taxis are available.
Flights to Vava’u
With most travellers arriving in Tonga through Tongatapu, often the most convenient way to get to Vava’u is by taking a one-hour flight from Tongatapu to Vava’u. Flights run daily except for Sundays. Find out more in The Guide to Domestic Flights in Tonga.
Ferries to Vava’u
A cheaper but more time-consuming way to get from Tongatapu to Vava’u is by taking one of the ferries from Nuku’alofa, which arrives at Halaevalu Wharf in Neiafu. The ferry journey takes approximately 16 to 23 hours, operating daily (weather permitting) from Monday to Saturday. Learn more about taking the ferry in The Guide to Interisland Ferry Travel in Tonga.
How to Get Around Vava’u
Vava’u’s main island, ‘Utu Vava’u and some surrounding islands, such as Pangaimotu, ‘Utungake, Koloa and Okoa, are well-connected by roads and causeways. Taxis and car rentals are available to get around these islands, while accommodations also provide airport transfers.
For those staying on the outer islands, boat transfers are mainly provided by your chosen resort or arranged with a local boat operator. We dive much more into detail about transport in Vava’u in the 10 Ways to Get to (& Around) Vava’u.
Family-Friendly Activities in Vava’u
Vava’u is certainly a getaway for the active family, especially with resorts offering complimentary use of kayaks, paddleboards and more. As you may have guessed, most of the activity is out on the water in the sheltered waters of the Port of Refuge. See amazing caves and snorkelling spots on boat tours or watch majestic humpback whales between July and October.
Boat and Snorkelling Tours
Vava’u’s octopus-shaped island formation is amazing to explore on the water, especially with an array of stunning islands and coral reefs to explore. Jump on one of the snorkelling or island-hopping day trips to check out spots like the magnificent Swallows’ Cave, as well as amazing snorkelling hotspots. Some tours feature fresh fruit and snacks after every swim, as well as lunch, while others are completely BYO including lunch and snorkelling gear, so be sure to inquire about inclusions when booking. Check out some of your best cruising options in The 10 Best Boat & Sailing Tours of Vava’u.
A safe way for the whole family to get on the water in Vava’u’s sheltered waters is by kayak! The complimentary use of kayaks is a standard for any of the waterfront accommodations in Vava’u where parents can double up with younger ones to explore the shore and look at the marine life below! Check out the 10 Best Family Accommodations in Vava’u and The Guide to Kayaking in Tonga to see which family accommodation offers the use of kayaks.
For families checking out some of the sights around Vava’u, don’t miss the Veimumuni Cave and the freshwater pool. It’s a 30-second walk down to the cave entrance that despite facing the sea with a platform to help soak in the views, it is not actually full of seawater. If your kids are brave enough to jump in the cave pool (or take the steps for easy access), they’ll swim in a cool freshwater pool only 2 m (7 ft) deep at a maximum. Check out more attractions like this in Sightseeing in Vava’u: Top 10 Sights & Natural Attractions.
‘Ene’io Botanical Garden
Well, there are some reasons why you might want to keep your feet on dry land in Vava’u and one of those reasons is the ‘Ene’io Botanical Garden! Kids love exploring the lush tropical gardens on the botanical garden walking tour, while the adults can take in the fascinating commentary from the former Director for Agriculture and Forestry and curator of the garden, Haniteli Fa’anunu. The Botanical Garden also hosts an “‘Ene’io Grand Tour” complete with a Tongan-style feast and cultural demonstrations. Find out more about the grand tour in the 5 Best Guided Island Land Tours of Vava’u.
More Things to Do in Vava’u
For more inspiration, such as whale watching and building sandcastles on the beach, head over to the 10 Best Things to Do in Vava’u with Kids. Alternatively, for experiences that could well be perfect for your family depending on the age range, take a look at the 50 Best Things to Do in Vava’u.
Family-Friendly Restaurants in Vava’u
Although self-catering is a viable option thanks to the array of accommodations with kitchen facilities, as well as the abundance of convenience stores, remember that this is your holiday too. Treat yourself to some of the family-friendly restaurants in Vava’u and don’t miss one of its famed Tongan feasts!
Tongan Cultural Shows
Nothing captivates the kids (and arguably Mum and Dad too) more than watching Tongan men perform a warrior’s dance or women gracefully using their hands to tell a story! Just a small part of a Tongan floor show and umu night, these evening shows include an array of cultural dances, as well as the opportunity to sample authentic Tongan cuisine prepared in an underground oven known as an “umu”. And in true Tongan spirit, you will be encouraged to eat more than is reasonable although there are usually a few Western favourites should you have fussy eaters in your tribe.
Catch a weekly floor show at Beautiful Ofu Island Backpackers (Ofu Island) or indulge in the “‘Ene’io Grand Tour” at the ‘Ene’io Botanical Garden (Tu’anikivale) with all of this included and more! Find out more about these events in The Best Cultural Shows in Tonga.
Family-Friendly Cafes and Restaurants
Basking in the maritime theme like nothing else featuring a sailing ship right across the bar that kids will love, The Kraken (Neiafu waterfront) is certainly an experience for its quirky design! The blackboard menu, like everywhere, has seafood at the fore with the likes of coconut-crumbed/pan-fried/sesame seed tuna, while a few chicken dishes, curry, pizzas and burgers are also available.
Open to casual diners, the Tongan Beach Resort‘s (‘Utungake) open-air restaurant has items on the menu to offer a taste of Tonga. Try ota ika with breadfruit chips and the grilled fish burger with pickled papaya. That’s not to say that all your usual steaks, burgers and pasta aren’t available. They even have an extensive kids’ menu and plenty of beach for kids to explore.
An eclectic array of meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as great views, can be found at the Bellavista Cafe & Restaurant (Guttenbeil Plaza, Neiafu). It’s your Italian flair in the South Pacific, serving up Italian-style pizzas, pasta, espresso coffees and a wealth of seafood dishes with fresh Vava’uan fish – no wonder their fish of the day is the most popular!
There’s much more to choose from in the 15 Best Cafes & Restaurants in Vava’u to take a look!
More About Vava’u for Families
That’s it for the complete travel guide to Vava’u for families. For more tips to help plan the perfect island getaway, take a look at the following:
- 20 Essential Tips for Travelling to Tonga with Children
- Fun Facts About Tonga for Kids
- The Complete Travel Guide to Vava’u