Learn How to Make Your Own Handicrafts in Tonga!
How can you not be impressed by the handicrafts of Tonga? Each piece is handmade and unique, as traditional crafting has been part of the Tongan culture for centuries. When visiting Tonga, how can you experience Tongan handicrafts beyond just browsing them at a local market? Well, you could learn how to make Tongan handicrafts yourself…
There are a select few places across The Kingdom where it’s possible to take handicraft classes with locals and learn how to make your own souvenirs, whether it’s a piece of painted tapa cloth or a woven practical item that you can use for years to come. Check out some of the best places to learn how to make Tongan handicrafts in the guide below.
5 Places to Buy Amazing Handicrafts in Tonga
Before we jump into how you can make your own Tongan handicrafts, here are a few places where you can check out the masterpieces…
- Talamahu Market, Nuku’alofa, Tongatapu
- Langafonua Gallery & Handicrafts Centre, Nuku’alofa, Tongatapu
- ‘Utukalongalu Market, Neiafu, Vava’u
- Leonati Arts, Neiafu, Vava’u
- Pangai Market, Pangai, Ha’apai
We have many more shops listed in the 10 Best Shops to Buy Souvenirs in Tonga and The Guide to Shopping in Tonga + The Best Places to Shop.
For anyone wanting to immerse in the Tongan culture, handmake a meaningful souvenir, and make some friends along the way, Tina’s Workshop should be a first go-to. The workshop at the Fehoko Oceanic Arts Studio in the Nuku’alofa suburb of Popua offers weekly workshops for anyone to learn how to craft from tapa cloth, fronds or wood.
Tuesday Tapa Workshop
Join Tina’s Workshop on Tuesday for a three-hour tapa craft workshop where you’ll learn how to make tapa notebooks, sei (flowers for the ear), dolls and/or angels. The aim is to leave the workshop with a completed souvenir(s).
At the beginning of the workshop, the team will give the group a demonstration on how to prepare an umu, which is traditional food cooked in a hot-rock oven – spoiler alert, you’ll be eating it later for lunch!
These workshops are also incredibly affordable at approximately TOP$20 per person (price is subject to change). Note that some workshops can take a little longer than the usual three hours, but you will not be charged extra.
Thursday Carving Workshop
Thursdays are typically dedicated to carving workshops, which are much longer affairs, taking approximately five to seven sessions in total to complete a piece. As with the Tuesday workshop, an umu lunch is included.
Private Groups and Other Workshops
Tina’s Workshop is available on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday for private groups and alternative workshops, such as weaving. Weaving workshops are similar to Tapa Tuesdays, where you’ll leave the session with a completed piece, such as a woven bowl.
This cultural centre in Nuku’alofa is a wonderful option not only for learning Tongan handicrafts but for a whole range of interactive activities surrounding the Tongan culture.
Ancient Tonga, located in Fangaloto in Nuku’alofa (transfers available), offers two main tours for visitors; a “Half Culture Tour” lasting one hour and a “Full Culture Tour” lasting 2 hrs 30 mins. The Full Culture Tour is an interactive experience where you’ll get to do a bit of the following:
- Prepare and eat traditional Tongan food for an umu
- Learn about the vegetation of Tonga and its practical uses
- Beat the bark for a traditional tapa cloth
- Learn about making traditional Tongan mats
- Dress up and learn about the different Tongan mats, dresses and koloa
- Taste and learn about kava
- Learn about traditional medicinal and beauty products.
For those who want to dive deeper into the handicrafts aspect of the Tongan culture, Ancient Tonga also offers dedicated ngatu (tapa cloth) and weaving classes.
Get inspired for more activities in Nuku’alofa in the 30 Best Things to Do in Nuku’alofa.
Handicrafts on ‘Eua
The down-to-earth nature of ‘Eua Island often means that visitors simply find themselves falling into authentic cultural experiences, such as participating in Tongan handicrafts.
Many accommodations here are locally run, so hosts can often arrange crafting sessions with guests who express interest. See accommodations to choose from in Where to Stay on ‘Eua: The Best ‘Eua Accommodations.
Weaving and/or tapa-making classes with the locals of Tufavai village can be booked through the ‘Eua Visitor Information Centre (‘Ohonua) or the ‘Eua Island website. The activities cost a small fee which goes back into the village.
Check out more experiences on the island in the 50 Best Things to Do on ‘Eua.
Weaving Demonstrations in Vava’u
Although not always a guarantee, weaving groups can often be found in the villages of Vava’u. Being with a local guide is usually the easy way to approach weaving groups and see informal demonstrations of the local ladies working together to create huge yet finely woven mats. Guides on the 5 Best Guided Island Land Tours of Vava’u will usually stop at a weaving group if spotted. Otherwise, let your guide know your interest in seeing some weaving and they’ll usually be very accommodating.
Learn more about the experiences of this island group in the 50 Best Things to Do in Vava’u.
More About Tongan Handicrafts and Culture
That’s it for our guide on where to learn Tongan handicrafts when visiting Tonga. For more cultural experiences, take a look at the following:
- How to Have an Authentic Tongan Experience
- The Guide to the Tongan Culture for Travellers
- 10 Best Culture Tours in Tonga