How to Visit Vava’u on a Budget
Tonga’s rugged northern islands are enticing with their sheltered waters for whale swimming, scuba diving, sailing… But we all know that they aren’t the cheapest activities for a budget getaway. Yes, Vava’u has a bit of a reputation for being one of the more expensive island groups to visit in Tonga, but for the determined backpacker, there are certainly ways to make the most of the islands without blowing your budget. We’ll show you the way with this travel guide to Vava’u on a budget!
Tips for Visiting Vava’u on a Budget
- Take the ferry from Tongatapu for the cheapest way to get to Vava’u!
- Stay in one of the budget accommodations – even some of the hotels have backpacker rooms!
- Compare accommodation inclusions, as some accommodations offer free use of kayaks, free breakfast, whale swim & stay packages, etc.
- Spend some of your days doing the free and cheap things to do in Vava’u
- Consider self-catering to save money on food!
See more advice in the 10 Tips for Visiting Vava’u on a Budget.
How to Get to Vava’u
Vava’u is the second-most northern island group in Tonga. Most travellers get the best deals on flights to Tongatapu in the south and travel to Vava’u from there. Here are some of your best options for getting to Vava’u, as well as around Vava’u, when you’re on a budget.
Vava’u by Ferry
The most affordable way to get to Vava’u is to take the ferry from Tongatapu. Ferry journeys between Tongatapu and Vava’u cost TOP$80-$100 and take between 16 and 23 hours. Find out more about taking the ferry here.
Car Hire in Vava’u
Renting a car can be a cost-efficient way to get around the island, with prices around TOP$50-$70 a day. They can be a good option if you’re staying out of town or want to hit some of the islands’ land highlights. For visiting some of the lookouts, we recommend a 4WD as the roads are rough!
Bicycle Hire in Vava’u
[Update: Bicycle hire is no longer available with Tropo Rentals. We will update this page if another bicycle rental company becomes available in Vava’u].
Getting around Neiafu is doable by bike, which can be hired from Cafe Tropicana (Tropo Rentals) for around TOP$30 a day.
Buses in Neiafu
The most frugal way to get around Vava’u’s main island and connected islands is by taking the bus, costing you no more than TOP$2! Buses depart from the corner of Tu’i Road and Fatafehi Road in Neiafu, leaving when full. Buses don’t have a set schedule, so it’s not a reliable transport method.
Get more tips for transport to, from and around Vava’u in the 9 Ways to Get to Vava’u (& Around Vava’u).
Free and Cheap Activities in Vava’u
You don’t have to jump on a whale swimming tour every day or spend all of your savings scuba diving when there are so many free and affordable things to do in Vava’u. Around Neiafu and the main Vava’u islands, you’ll find plenty of attractions to admire for free. Alternatively, if you’re staying in a resort, guests usually have access to free kayaks, snorkelling spots and more. Here are a few ideas…
Climb Up Mt Talau
A great place to start your exploration of Vava’u is walking up Mt Talau in the Mt Talau National Park. Just a 20-minute walk from Neiafu town, or a TOP$10 taxi ride, the Mt Talau walk is a 10-20-minute climb through rugged forest and up some steep (and often slippery) steps. At the top, you’ll be graced with awesome views of Neiafu and the Port of Refuge from a viewing deck (which last time we checked, had no steps, so that will be another thing you will need to climb).
Check Out a Sunday Church Service
Sundays transform the streets of Neiafu and the surrounding villages, where harmonious singing can be heard floating through the towns! Experience the passion and breathtaking music of the locals by attending a Sunday church service. While most of the churches in Neiafu are welcoming, one of the most popular to attend for visitors is St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Neiafu’s most prominent building. Sunday services start at 10am.
Visit The Neiafu Market
Visiting a Tongan produce or handicraft market is an experience in itself, seeing beautiful tapa paintings, woven items, carved pendants, as well as tropical fruit and vegetables. The Neiafu Market, also known as the ‘Utukalongalu Market, is well worth visiting, found on the waterfront close to Halavalue Wharf.
See much more suggestions in our 10 Free & Cheap Things To Do in Vava’u.
Dining on a Budget in Vava’u
The main hub of Vava’u, Neiafu, is where you’ll find the most dining options in the islands. Food in Neiafu is affordable, at around TOP$12-$28 for lunch and TOP$18-$50 for dinner, but it’s not as cheap as what you’ll find in Nuku’alofa in Tongatapu, for instance. Check out some of our top recommended restaurants and cafes in the Guide to the Best Eats & Restaurants in Vava’u.
Note that many of the budget accommodations listed beside this article, even the resorts, have self-catering facilities. Groceries can be picked up from the Neiafu Market, as well as various shops and supermarkets in town.