A Tonga Guide for Vegans and Vegetarians
Here we go again; another trip another dietary minefield! Admittedly, Tonga is a country of meat lovers where most restaurant menus rarely provide variety for vegetarians, let alone vegans. The trend of more sustainable/ethical diets may be quite a few years from even being introduced to traditionally-minded Tongans, but it doesn’t mean that vegan and vegetarian travellers should shy away from this hidden gem on the world globe. As with travelling in any destination where tourism is underdeveloped, you’ll just need to make a plan of where and how to eat, rather than the restaurant hand-holding experienced in more developed countries. We’ll guide you through it in this vegan and vegetarian guide to Tonga.
10 Best Restaurants for Vegetarians in Tonga
Before we jump into our complete Tonga guide for vegans and vegetarians, here are some of our favourite restaurants in Tonga for mainly vegetarian food (but some for vegans too):
- The Harbourview (Toula, Vava’u)
- 42 Evergreen (Nuku’alofa Tongatapu)
- Tiger Inn (Pangai, Ha’apai)
- Matafonua Lodge (Foa Island, Ha’apai)
- Cafe Tropicana (Neiafu, Vava’u)
- Katea Retreat (Nakolo, Tongatapu)
- Cafe Escape (Nuku’alofa, Tongatapu)
- Little India (Nuku’alofa, Tongatapu)
- Ha’apai Beach Resort (Lifuka, Ha’apai)
- ‘Alakoka’s Restaurant (Angaha, ‘Eua)
Find out more about these restaurants in the guide below, as well as in The 20 Best Restaurants in Tonga.
Vegan and Vegetarian Guide to Tongatapu
Home to Tonga’s concise cosmopolitan, Nuku’alofa, Tongatapu unsurprisingly offers the most options for both vegans and vegetarians. However, don’t expect vegan/vegetarian-exclusive restaurants. Most cafes and restaurants here still consider vegetarian food as an afterthought, often giving just one vegetarian (not necessarily vegan) item on the menu – but even that is not a given. On the other hand, vegans and vegetarians can enjoy some of the more traditional dishes of Tonga where dairy staples are naturally replaced with coconut milk and fruit!
Top 5 Restaurants and Resorts on Tongatapu for Vegans and Vegetarians
Here are our top picks of the best restaurants (and resorts) in Tonga for both vegans and vegetarians.
1. Katea Retreat
One of the very few resorts on Tongatapu, Katea Retreat makes vegan and vegetarianism as easy as an island breeze not only through their restaurant but with all bungalows featuring self-catering facilities. Let them know in advance, even for their popular culture show and buffet, that you would prefer vegan/vegetarian food and they are happy to cater with some creative dishes.
2. Tukulolo Grounds & Treehouses
Unique in its accommodation and unique (at least in Tonga) in its approach to food, Tukulolo Grounds & Treehouses welcomes the opportunity to provide vegan or vegetarian meals for guests. Like anywhere you stay in Tonga, just be sure to let the resort know your dietary requirements upon booking.
3. Cafe Escape
This cafe nestled in Nuku’alofa city centre is one of the few with menus for vegans and vegetarians, even if their options are still quite limited. Cafe Escape often has a couple of fully vegan options with the likes of “pesto pasta with cherry tomatoes” and “eggplant stack”.
4. 42 Evergreen
When it comes to a bit of variety in your vegetable dishes, the few Asian restaurants in Nuku’alofa are a good go-to for vegans and vegetarians, such as 42 Evergreen at Faua Wharf. Last time we checked, they had around eight different vegetarian dishes, including braised tofu with mushroom, fried roasted eggplant, and scaled okra with garlic soy sauce.
5. Little India
One of the limited Indian restaurants in Tonga, Little India boasts at least one vegetarian option on each of their starter, soup, thali, bread and side menus! Ask about making dishes vegan (thank god for coconut cream!)
Self-Catering as a Vegan or Vegetarian on Tongatapu
Finding vegan ingredients in Tongatapu is easy thanks to the well-stocked grocery stores and roadside market stalls found around every corner. You’ll find plenty of fresh local fruit and vegetables available from roadside stalls, as well as at the Talamahu Market, as described in the 5 Best Markets in Tonga.
As for other staples, such as rice, bread, etc. there are also plenty of convenience stores and fale koloa across Tongatapu. They offer the basics but you will rarely find vegan substitute foods, like almond/soy milk or vegan snacks. For these items, it’s best to bring your own from home – see Taking Food to Tonga: What You Need to Know. We go into more detail about what to expect from grocery stores and supermarkets in A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Tonga.
All you need with your vegan or vegetarian ingredients is a place to cook them! Check out the 10 Best Self-Catering Accommodations in Nuku’alofa & Tongatapu for our top picks.
Vegan and Vegetarian Guide to Vava’u
As a tourist hotspot, Vava’u’s food scene almost rivals that of Tongatapu with, in our opinion, two of the best restaurants for vegetarians (not necessarily vegan) in Tonga. For the rest of Vava’u’s restaurants, however, vegetarian dishes are few and far between with “vegetarian pizza” being the go-to. For vegans, it’s probably best to rely on self-catering in Vava’u.
Nevertheless, we’ve listed a limited few of our favourite restaurants with vegan and vegetarian options, as well as where you can get supplies for self-catering in Vava’u.
Top 2 Restaurants in Vava’u for Vegans and Vegetarians
Here are our top picks of the best restaurants in Vava’u for both vegans and vegetarians.
1. The Harbourview
Past the list of burgers and seafood, The Harbourview delights vegetarians with Italian-inspired dishes, such as risotto balls with a cheesy heart, and even vegans with their tomatoey peperonata and bruschetta!
2. Cafe Tropicana
Certainly not recommended for vegans with their cheese and egg-heavy dishes, but offering more choices for vegetarians than the average eatery in Tonga, Cafe Tropicana does a vegetarian version of just about everything on their menu, including nachos, fried rice, curry, pad thai and pizza.
Learn about these eateries and more in the 15 Best Cafes & Restaurants in Vava’u.
Self-Catering as a Vegan or Vegetarian in Vava’u
Vegans will certainly want to do some self-catering in Vava’u, where there are plenty of options as listed in the 10 Best Self-Catering Accommodations in Vava’u. The ‘Utukalongalu Market provides a fantastic option for seasonal fruit and vegetables, while convenience stores particularly around Neiafu are what you will have to rely on for the basic food staples in between. Get an idea for grocery stores in our guide, Information, Shops & Services in Vava’u.
Another option is to bring your own vegan and vegetarian snacks from home, as long as they are not fresh and/or unpackaged foods that may not pass through airport biosecurity – find out more in Taking Food to Tonga: What You Need to Know.
Again, learn more about Vava’u’s supermarkets in A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Tonga.
Vegan and Vegetarian Guide to Ha’apai
The central island group of Ha’apai is a little more remote than other island groups mentioned, making this a challenging destination for resorts to get special diet ingredients. Needless to say, if you’re staying at one of the resorts on the uninhabited island of Uoleva, you’ll either need to bring supplies or arrange vegan/vegetarian meals with your chosen resort prior to arrival. Some may encourage you to bring ingredients, while others might charge you extra for the use of premium items such as soy milk, vegan cheese, etc.
Resorts on the causeway-connected islands of Lifuka and Foa, on the other hand, have improved their vegetarian offering in recent years, although vegans may still find themselves sobbing over yet another bowl of chips. Vegans, we highly recommend that you self-cater in Ha’apai.
Top 3 Restaurants in Ha’apai for Vegetarians
Here are our top picks of the best restaurants in Ha’apai for vegetarians.
1. Tiger Inn
Ha’apai’s one-and-only Chinese restaurant offers respite for vegetarians (and vegans with some polite requests). Tiger Inn on the Pangai waterfront offers around five different vegetarian dishes, from stir-fried veggies to Chinese cabbage with mushroom and oyster sauce.
2. Matafonua Lodge
Offering a little more variety for vegetarians than the usual Tonga resort, Matafonua Lodge delights with their “Garden Burger” with a feta and quinoa pattie and usually a variety of vegetarian pies, curries and fritters. The resort is also popular for its pizzas, of which there is a vegetarian option.
3. Ha’apai Beach Resort
This resort on Lifuka has a limited menu with a token meal for vegetarians (but not for vegans). Admittedly, you might crave something different after you’ve had yet another vegetable lasagne, vegetarian pizza or cheese toastie, so at least the Ha’apai Beach Resort is not too far from alternative eateries in Pangai.
Learn more about Ha’apai’s dining options in the 5 Best Restaurants in Ha’apai.
Self-Catering as a Vegan or Vegetarian in Ha’apai
Ha’apai offers fewer grocery options compared to Tongatapu and Vava’u, where you’ll want to time your shopping right to get the best ingredients. Although the Pangai Market on the waterfront of Ha’apai’s main town is open throughout the week, the options for fruit and vegetables are quite limited until Saturday morning, when it’s best to shop between 6 am and 12 pm for the widest selection of produce. Additionally, Pangai has a few grocery stores with the usual dried food and tinned goods. It’s not a bad idea to bring food from home or even from Tongatapu.
If you’re staying at one of the resorts on Uoleva Island with a kitchen, note that there are no grocery stores on the island, so you’ll need to bring your own.
Learn more about Ha’apai’s supermarkets, again, in A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Tonga, as well as in Information, Shops & Services on Ha’apai. As for where to stay for making your own meals, check out the 5 Best Self-Catering Accommodations in Ha’apai to see your options.
Vegan and Vegetarian Guide to ‘Eua
Although a magnificent destination to visit, ‘Eua has the least choice when it comes to restaurants. Serious vegans and vegetarians are best to cook their own meals. Otherwise, there are a couple of accommodations that aim to appeal to the diverse diets of their international guests.
Top 2 Restaurants on ‘Eua for Vegans and Vegetarians
The few restaurants that are available on ‘Eua cater to the local markets and are, therefore, heavy on meat. The two places to eat that have vegetarian options available are for international tourists.
1. Blue Water Retreat
Exclusively for guests, the Blue Water Retreat restaurant serves a buffet dinner of creative dishes each evening. They are particularly good at meeting dietary requirements, including vegan diets, provided they have some advance notice.
2. ‘Alakoka’s Restaurant
This restaurant is open for guests and international visitors, typically having at least one vegetarian meal on the menu like the mysterious “vegetarian with chip/rice” that we saw last time we visited. This is the restaurant of ‘Alakoka Tahi Moana Guest House. Note that there is no dinner service on Sunday and orders must be made before 1 pm.
Self-Catering as a Vegan and Vegetarian on ‘Eua
Scattered across ‘Eua’s central cluster of villages, well-stocked grocery stores are easy to come by. What’s more, most of them have a good selection of seasonal produce for sale outside of the store, so there is no central market to travel to, unlike other island groups.
Again, choose accommodation with cooking facilities from the 5 Best Self-Catering Accommodations on ‘Eua and get an idea of what to expect from convenience stores in our guide to the Information, Shops & Services on ‘Eua and The Guide to Food Shopping in Tonga.
More About Dining in Tonga
That’s it for our complete vegan and vegetarian guide to Tonga. Now plan more foodie endeavours with these extra guides: