Vacation in Tonga
Seen the Queen at Buckingham or trekked mountains to the Kingdom of Bhutan? Then perhaps a vacation in Tonga should be next on your travel agenda for the Kingdom of Tonga is the last constitutional monarchy left in the South Pacific.
The country consists of 176 islands spread over an area of ocean roughly the size of Colorado. But dry land only occupies an area the size of New York City. And by a recent royal decree, Tonga has placed itself as the first nation to greet the dawn of each new day.
Tonga lies about a third of the way south between Hawaii and New Zealand and less than an hour’s flight east of Nadi, Fiji. With only 40 inhabited islands, Tonga remains largely untouched and undiscovered. Experience “Tonga Time” - the slow pace of island life from Tongatapu, ‘Eua, and Ha’api through to Vava’u and the remote Niua Islands.
Today, the Tongatapu group is the most populated and farthest south. The central Ha’apai group lies approximately 80 miles north and is an archipelago of low coral islands surrounding soaring volcanoes. Continuing another 80 miles north is the Vava’u group, which is Tonga’s sailing center. And in the extreme northern reaches are the Niuas, an isolated trio of volcanic islands, 320 miles from Tongatapu, where traditional Tongan customs and culture still thrive.
The islands were first settled by Polynesians about 2,500 years ago during their migration around the Pacific. According to legend, the union of a Polynesian deity and a Tongan maiden produced the first Tui Tonga or King of Tonga. The established dynastic line is still in existence today.
Your Tonga vacation starts in Nuku’alofa, the country’s capital on the principal island of Tongatapu (“sacred garden”). That point is most evident by the sumptuous growth of plants, fruits and vegetables on practically every available parcel of land. Nuku’alofa is also home to the Royal Family, the seat of government, many businesses and the majority of the Tongan population. There are also colorful markets, a busy harbor and visiting yachties plus more than a few good restaurants, cafes and bars.
You can stay at the Otuhaka Beach Resort, The Waterfront Lodge, the famous International Dateline Hotel, the Nuku’alofa Hotel, The Royal Sunset Island Hotel or the newer Royal Tonga International Hotel (by the airport).
Some highlights of your Tonga vacation will include the Tongan Cultural Centre, Vuna Wharf, Royal Palace, Pangai (celebratory field), the colonial Nuku’alofa Club, the Royal Tombs and the lively Maketi Talamahu.
Take your time to explore Tonga’s key archaeological sites including the mysterious Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon (stone hedge of the Pacific), the Langi (terraced tombs) and moats on the eastern side of the island. You can take a leisurely drive and find a secret beach or head to the southern west coast to see the spectacular Blowholes. If you do drive yourself around, you will have to get a Tongan driver’s license and fuel is quite expensive. And note that Sunday blue laws are strictly enforced in Tonga, all businesses as well as the airport are shuttered.
Fafa Island, just off-shore from Nuku’alofa is the site of the popular Fafa Island Resort. You can also take a day trip to the island.
Just an 8-minute flight from Nuku’alofa, rugged ‘Eua lies just off the southeastern tip of Tongatapu, but when you are there it feels much more remote. If you’re in search of adventure and want to get in touch with nature, then ‘Eau will be an ideal place for your Tonga vacation.
When you reach the Ha’apai Island group, you will find that time appears to have stood still. Independent travelers consider the Ha’apai group to be Tonga’s best kept secret and one they hope will never be exploited by mass tourism. With its prolific wildlife and pristine natural beaches, Ha’apai is a wonderful eco-tourism destination and a paradise for divers and snorkellers. Situated right on the broad expanses of Myrtle Beach, is the upmarket Sandy Beach Resort.
With its sheltered anchorages, the Vava’u group is a haven for yachties and is renown as the sailing paradise of the Pacific. It is also regarded as a water based, nature lover’s paradise and the most scenic region in the Kingdom of Tonga.
If you vacation in Tonga from July to November, you can see the humpback whales that come to the warm waters to mate and calve. There’s an extensive charter boat operation to get close to these magnificent creatures. For something really special, you might choose to swim with the whales. Snorkelling, diving, sport fishing and sea kayaking are all on the menu here as well. If you like game fishing, the experts say that you have a better chance of catching or tagging the mighty blue marlin in these waters than anywhere in else in the world.
For a day on land, take a stroll through Neiafu and stop and have a meal or drink at one of the cafes or restaurants overlooking the Port of Refuge. As a base in Vava’u, we recommend a fale at the Mounu Island Resort.
Let PacificIslans.com design your Tonga vacation and show you the true Tonga. No doubt you’ll have the chance to relax, enjoy a delicious feast, hear a soulful Sunday church choir and experience the friendly Tongan way of life.