5-Day Budget Itinerary for Tonga
If you’re lucky enough to be going to Tonga but unlucky enough to only have five days in the islands, then don’t worry! You can still see some of the main attractions of Tonga, as well as do some island-hopping, on a 5-day budget itinerary. We’ll show you the way with this Tonga budget itinerary for 5 days, where the two recommended islands to visit are Tongatapu and ‘Eua. Tongatapu is the main island of Tonga, home to some amazing natural attractions, the royal family and, of course, whale swimming. ‘Eua also has whale swimming but is Tonga’s oldest island and a natural paradise with the ‘Eua National Park. As you browse through this 5-day budget itinerary for Tonga, you’ll see exactly why these islands are ideal for budget travellers!
For more 5-day trip ideas, see How to Spend 5 Days in Tonga on a Budget TI050.
How to Get Around Tonga in 5 Days
Yes, even in five days you can do a bit of island-hopping in Tonga. This means that you’ll be doing both travel over and land and over the water. While we go through a few transport tips in the itinerary, here’s a quick overview of how to get around Tonga on a budget.
Road Transport in Tonga
Tongatapu is an island well-connected by roads with public transport, including public buses, taxis, accommodation transfers, guided tours and car rentals. Although ‘Eua has one main road and a network of dirt roads, there’s no public transport. You can hire a bicycle or a horse (yes, really), but most visitors rely on their accommodation for transport.
Overwater Transport in Tonga
Flights are the fastest but most expensive way to get between the islands of Tonga, with the flight between Tongatapu and ‘Eua said to be the world’s shortest scheduled flight! However, ferry travel between Tongatapu and ‘Eua is much cheaper at between TOP$20-$25 per person with several ferry options available from the Queen Salote Wharf in Nuku’alofa. Crossings take 1-hour to 2h30mins, depending on which sailing you take.
Learn more about all of your transport options in Tongatapu and ‘Eua in the following guides:
Day 1 – Nuku’alofa
Travel time: 30 minutes
Welcome to Tonga! You’ll land in Tonga’s “main island”, Tongatapu, home to the royal family, rich in culture and history, and boasting an amazing array of natural wonders!
Arrange with your guest house or backpackers in Nuku’alofa to transfer you from Fua’amotu Airport to the capital of Tonga. Alternatively, taxis are available at the airport.
You’ll probably have time to do a bit of city exploration today, seeing the Royal Palace and browsing the Talamahu Market, for instance. Otherwise, scout out the cheap eats in Nuku’alofa for dinner and start trying the Tongan cuisine!
Free/Cheap Things to Do in Nuku’alofa
- Get a photo of the Royal Palace
- See the Royal Tombs
- Browse the arts, crafts and tropical produce of the Talamahu Market
- Browse the crafts at the Langafonua Handicrafts Centre
- Take a day trip to Tongatapu’s outer islands
- Learn about Tongan culture at Ancient Tonga
- Have a picnic at Popua Park
- Attend a church service
- Take a coffee tour at the Tupu’Anga Cafe
- Try out the cheap eats
For more details on each point, see the 10 Free Cheap Things to Do in Nuku’alofa.
Budget Accommodation in Nuku’alofa
- Alibaba’s Guest House
- Backpackers Townhouse
- The Village Backpackers
- Dayspring Lodge
- Lose Lodge
- NOA Guesthouse
- Nerima Lodge
- ‘Olini Lodge
- Petani Lodge
- Sela’s Guest House
- Toni’s Guesthouse
- Winnie’s Guest House
- The Friendly Islander (Papiloa’s Place)
- Robyn’s Nest B&B
- Malau Lodge
- Acu-Reflex Guest House
For details on our top recommendations, see the 10 Best Budget Accommodation in Nuku’alofa.
Day 2 – Explore Tongatapu
Travel time: 6 hours is a comfortable amount of time to see all of the major highlights around Tongatapu.
You only need a day to see the sights of Tongatapu, almost all of which are free to visit! Getting around the sights is going to be your biggest expense. You could hire a car but after the day rate and the cost of the Visitor Driver’s License, you’ll probably find it’s less hassle to jump on a guided island tour of Tongatapu, which will cost around the same price.
Free/Cheap Things to Do in Tongatapu
- See the water displays of the Mapu ‘a Vaea Blowholes
- Check out the giant coral boulder at Tsunami Rock
- See the iconic and historic Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon
- Delve into the beautiful ‘Anahulu Cave and its cave pool
- Get amazing views from the Hufangalpue Landbridge
- Watch the flying foxes (fruitbats) in Kolovai
- Explore the beaches around Tongatapu
- Watch the “fishing pigs” on the coast of Mu’a
- Take a photo of the three-headed coconut!
- Find all of the historic landing sites
See the 10 Free & Cheap Things To Do on Tongatapu for more details on each activity.
Day 3 – Nuku’alofa to ‘Eua
Travel time: 1 hour to 2h30mins ferry
It’s time to head to the natural haven of ‘Eua, Tonga’s oldest island and a backpacker’s paradise! All of the accommodation here is budget and all of the paid-for experiences are reasonably priced. You’ll even find some of Tonga’s cheapest whale swimming tours on this island!
Ferries arrive at Nafanua Wharf on ‘Eua where your arranged accommodation will transfer you to your stay, as there is no public transport on the island.
Day 4 – ‘Eua
You have the whole day to experience the rugged Pacific paradise of ‘Eua. Embrace nature through hiking, cycling, bird watching, watching whales from shore, horse riding and more! There are even 4WD land tours that are well under TOP$100 should you want to see most of the natural landmarks, such as natural land bridges, rock gardens, giant banyan trees, impressive sinkholes, limestone caves, pristine beaches, wild horses, the red shining parrot and more. Alternatively, you could put the day aside for whale swimming in ‘Eua, which isn’t budget but certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Free/Cheap Things to Do in ‘Eua
- See all of ‘Eua’s amazing natural attractions in a 4WD tour
- Do a self-guided hike in the Forest Plantation or Rock Gardens
- Join a guided hike in the ‘Eua National Park or Fangatave Caves
- Do a bareback island-style horse trek
- Learn Tongan arts, crafts and dancing in a cultural lesson
- Indulge in a traditional umu feast
- Look out for the red shining parrot, the “Koki”, only found in ‘Eua
- Do some whale watching from the shore (June-October/November)
- Listen to the harmonious singing in a Sunday church service
- Go to the island’s weekend disco!
Find out more about each activity in the 10 Free & Cheap Things To Do in & Eua.
Day 5 – ‘Eua to Fua’amotu Airport
Travel time: 1 hour to 2h30mins ferry, 30 minutes drive to the airport
After one final morning in ‘Eua, it’s time to catch the ferry back to the capital on your journey toward the airport. Arrange for your accommodation provider to drop you off at the wharf.
From Nuku’alofa, taxis are available to take you to Fua’amotu International Airport. If you have the chance, have a bite to eat in the city using the recommendations in our Guide to the Best Eats & Restaurants in Nuku’alofa, before heading to the airport.
Nofo a (goodbye) from Tonga!