The Luxury Travel Guide to Ha'apai©
The Luxury Travel Guide to Ha'apai

The Luxury Guide to Ha’apai


How to Plan a Luxury Trip to Ha’apai

Ha’apai doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. It’s not necessarily brimming with five-star resorts but it is, in the opinion of many, a five-star destination. Uncrowded, relaxed and absolutely stunning, the island group is certainly a hidden gem of the South Pacific. What’s more, it offers a wide range of premium experiences. Not only are the shallow waters off the shores of the main islands, Lifuka, Foa and Uoleva, a top kitesurfing destination but they are also teeming with humpback whales – and you are in one of the only countries in the world where you can swim with them. Accommodations might be only three to four stars but the “beach fale” experience is something you’re sure to never forget. Learn more about special experiences in the Ha’apai Islands with this luxury guide to Ha’apai.

Top 10 Luxury Activities in Ha’apai

If all you need is an overview of what a luxury getaway to Ha’apai looks like, here are some of the tours and activities you could be experiencing:

  1. Swim with gorgeous humpback whales
  2. Explore the islands on horseback
  3. Indulge in an island massage
  4. Rejuvenate the body, mind and soul in a yoga session
  5. Tackle game fish on a fishing charter
  6. Get the castaway experience on a private island day trip
  7. Be treated to dinner on the beach
  8. Hit Tonga’s famous kitesurfing spot
  9. Learn how to sail
  10. Scuba dive among untouched coral.

For more details on each experience, see the 10 Best Luxury Experiences in Ha’apai.

The Luxury Travel Guide to Ha'apai©

How to Get to Ha’apai

Ha’apai is the central island group of Tonga covering an area of 110 km² (43 mi²). The more premium way to get there is by flight from Tongatapu. Otherwise, ferries are available from Tongatapu and Vava’u. See how to get to both Tongatapu and Vava’u from overseas in How to Get to Tonga.

Ha’apai by Plane

The best start to getaway to Ha’apai is by taking a 50-minute flight from Fua’amotu Airport on Tongatapu to Salote Pilolevu Airport on Lifuka Island, an airport with the main road running right through the airstrip (don’t worry, they close the road when flights at scheduled to land). Flights typically run two times a day except on Sundays. Find out everything you need to know about flying to Ha’apai in The Guide to Domestic Flights in Tonga.

Ha’apai-Tongatapu Sailing Trip

A more exclusive way to get to Ha’apai is via a live-aboard sailing trip with Whale Discoveries. Their eight-day excursion departs from Tongatapu and takes guests to the waters of Ha’apai. Your transport from Tongatapu to Ha’apai (or from Ha’apai to Tongatapu) is included in the rate, but you will need to make your own return journey.

For making your own way to Ha’apai by sailing yacht, check out The Sailing Guide to Tonga.

How to Get Around Ha’apai

With the islands of Ha’apai being so remote with limited infrastructure, most travellers rely on their chosen accommodation for transport. Resorts will pick you up and drop you off at the airport, which needs to be arranged before arrival.

Car rentals are also available in Ha’apai to explore the islands of Lifuka and Foa, which are connected by a causeway. Some resorts on these islands also offer bicycle rentals for guests.

Should you want to visit one of the outer islands, boat charters can be arranged. Learn more about getting around Ha’apai in the Ha’apai Transport Guide: 5 Ways to Get to & Around Ha’apai.

The Luxury Guide to Ha’apai(c) Tonga Ministry of Tourism

Luxury Water Activities

The crystal clear waters teeming with tropical life are an enticing place to be in Ha’apai. There are many amazing ways to experience them, between kitesurfing, surfing, sailing, scuba diving, snorkelling, and of course, whale swimming…

Swimming with Whales

A Tonga must-do, whale swimming is available in Ha’apai between July and October. While swimming with beautiful humpback whales can be enjoyed from almost anywhere in Tonga, Ha’apai offers a more uncrowded experience with only a select few licensed operators sharing a vast area. Spend the day watching and snorkelling with these majestic creatures, often with mothers and their playful calves. The experience also usually includes stopping at a top snorkelling spot or an uninhabited island for a picnic lunch. Learn more about this life-changing experience, and who to experience it with, in the 5 Best Whale Swim Tours in Ha’apai.

Scuba Diving

Ha’apai offers incredible and rarely explored dive sites across the archipelago. Sandy Beach Resort’s PADI dive operation offers scuba diving lessons, as well as rentals and dive tours to amazing dive sites by boat or even off the beach! Features of the Ha’apai dive sites include unspoiled hard coral bommies and soft coral gardens, exciting tunnel systems and amazing pinnacles. Learn more about the dive sites in The Best Scuba Diving in Ha’apai: 5 Best Dive Sites.


Kitesurfing enthusiasts, don’t miss the opportunity to surf across the South Pacific’s ultimate kitesurfing playground at the tip of Uoleva Island. The island has a 500 m (1,640 ft) sandbar stretching to the neighbouring Lifuka Island making for a huge flat water lagoon stretching 6 km (4 mi) long. You can kitesurf in any wind direction here, with April to November typically experiencing southeast tradewinds of 15-25 knots and northeast tradewinds in the summer months of 12-20 knots. Get kitesurfing instruction at Kitesurf Tonga to up your game or join them for a day trip to their “secret spot” with more incredible terrain to cover. Alternatively, Matafonua Lodge offers some fantastic kitesurfing grounds just outside their resort at the tip of Foa Island. Learn more about kitesurfing in The Guide to Kitesurfing in Tonga.

The Luxury Guide to Ha'apai©

Luxury Land Activities

Admittedly, it can be hard to pull yourself away from the water in Ha’apai but there’s still plenty to keep your feet on dry land for. Here are just a couple of ideas pulled from our 10 Luxury Experiences in Ha’apai.

Island Massage

Enhance the relaxing experience of simply being in the tranquil Ha’apai islands by indulging in a heavenly massage. Pampering sessions are a part of the Sea Change Eco Retreat experience on Uoleva Island, which offers full-body, head, neck and shoulder massages. Alternatively, Serenity Beaches Resort, also on Uoleva, offers relaxing island treatments moments away from their private unspoiled beach. Learn more about their offerings in Where to Get a Massage in Tonga.

Horse Riding

While whales are the majestic creatures in Ha’apai’s water, horses are the majestic creatures on land and are used by locals as a transportation method. Join in on the action with a horse riding trip available from Sandy Beach Resort and Matafonua Lodge. Connect with your steed as you ride bareback “island-style” (or there are saddles available if you wish). The journey takes you through lush tropical forest then onto the beach where you’ll get the opportunity to canter across the sand. Cool off by taking your horse for a swim, if you desire. Learn more about the experience in The Guide to Horse Riding in Tonga.

More Things to Do in Ha’apai

From fishing charters to private island day trips, there are plenty of more ways to experience Ha’apai together. Get more inspiration from the 10 Best Luxury Experiences in Ha’apai. And for experiences that don’t necessarily fall into the “luxury” category but are just as enticing, check out the 20 Best Things to Do in Ha’apai.

The Luxury Travel Guide to Ha'apai©

Dining in Ha’apai

Nothing completes a day in paradise more than a tantalising meal. You won’t find fine dining in Ha’apai. However, there are a few eateries on Lifuka and Foa islands, while those staying on Uoleva will be provided with meals at their chosen resort.

The Most Upscale Restaurants on Lifuka and Foa Islands

Nestled among coconut palms of the beachfront approximately 400 m (400 yards) south of Hihifo, Leleno ki Moana meaning “Run to the Ocean”, is a quirky beach hut restaurant serving quality meals for an affordable price. Delight in fresh fish and chips, burgers, authentic curries, Tongan dishes and more, all lovingly presented on timber boards and banana leaves. You’ll hardly get a more island vibe! Find them open Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 9 pm and Wednesday from 9 am to 4 pm.

Alternatively, call ahead for Matafonua Lodge‘s (Foa Island) burgers, seafood tacos and, most famously, their pizzas. They are open to non-guests for lunch and dinner outside of the whale season or will accept non-guests who call and order ahead during the whale season.

Meals at Uoleva Island Resorts

Those staying on the uninhabited Uoleva Island only have their chosen resort’s meal offerings for dining. Meals are typically a set menu each day, which you’ll either pay as you go or have included in your resort rate as a compulsory meal plan. It is fundamental that you advise your resort of any dietary requirements prior to arrival.

Private Beach Dinner or an Island Picnic Lunch

Sea Change Eco Retreat offers guests the opportunity to amp up their dining experience on Uoleva Island, free of charge! Dine under the stars as they organise a private candlelit dinner for you on the beach. Alternatively, both Sea Change and neighbouring Kitesurf Tonga can prepare a picnic (bearing in mind this is just a lunch box meal – don’t expect fine dining) for you to enjoy while exploring the island on foot among the myriad of trails and discovering secluded beaches. More details about the walk around Uoleva can be found in the 10 Best Walks & Hikes in Tonga.

For more about dining, meal plans and self-catering, head to The Food Guide to Ha’apai: Places to Eat & Food Tours.

More About Luxury in Ha’apai

That’s it for our complete luxury guide to Ha’apai but by no means is the end of the advice we can offer to help you plan the perfect trip. Check out other guides from the Tonga’s largest travel guide:

Finally, don’t leave without bookmarking The Complete Luxury Guide to Tonga with the last of our advice for luxury travellers.


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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