It’s a paradise in the middle of the South Pacific and there’s no shortage of adventures to be found in Tonga. From swimming with whales, to taking in a cultural performance or simply relaxing on soft sand on the beach, this is the island getaway you’ve been waiting for. We’ve rounded up the best things to do in Tonga.
Have an eco-friendly encounter with whales
Getting close to a gentle humpback whale is one of the most unforgettable experiences you can have in Tonga. Among the best outfits offering whale watching and swimming is Deep Blue Tonga. Based on Tongatapu, they’re Tongan owned and operated with a maximum capacity of up to 25 passengers (only half are permitted to swim with the whales while the others remain on board and soak up the views) per excursion, ensuring a more intimate experience and ample time with the whales. The tours depart at 9am every day (except Sunday) and you'll be accompanied by a professional photographer who will capture the adventure so you can devote your full attention to these majestic mammals.
See flying foxes
Flying foxes are the world’s largest bats and they live off a diet of fruit, flowers, nectar, leaves and sometimes insects. Rather than fangs, they have faces like small dogs (or foxes).
The village of Kolovai, at the western edge of the main island of Tongatapu, is especially famous for flying foxes. You can see hundreds of them hanging upside down from trees, houses – anything they can hang from, really. Remember to be quiet and give them space; daytime is when they’re trying to sleep, and too many people and too much noise can stress them out.
Witness the Mapu’a ’a Vaea Blowholes
The Mapu’a ’a Vaea Blowholes are a series of blowholes along the western side of Tongatapu. They erupt like geysers (sending water 30 metres or more into the air) when waves crash into the reef, the water pressure building through channels and holes in the volcanic rock.
There’s a lookout where you can watch the plumes (and where you’re more likely to stay dry), or you can walk along the edge of the track to get a closer look and catch some spray.
Take a dip in the ‘Anahulu Cave
Ever wanted to take a dip in a natural underground swimming pool? ʻAnahulu Cave is in Haveluliku, on the eastern side of Tongatapu and about a 30-minute drive from Nuku’alofa. A path and some stairs lead down to the eight-metre-deep pools through a network of large limestone caverns – they’re Tongatapu’s only natural freshwater pools and the water is surprisingly warm.
If you’d like to swim some more, Anahulu Beach is 50 metres from the entrance of the cave. It’s known for snorkelling and swimming.
Visit a local market
Tongan markets are popular places for locals to shop – and great cultural experiences for visitors.
Talamahu Market in central Nuku’alofa has a huge selection of fruits and vegetables, such as bananas, pineapples and peanuts. There are also locally made goods including carved ornaments, jewellery, paintings, traditional Tongan clothing and more.
At Faua Wharf, on the east side of Nuku’alofa, is Tu’imatamoana Fish Market, where seafood is the star. Crabs, oysters, squid and even seaweed are all plentiful.
No matter which market you shop at, you’re supporting local communities as the goods are almost all handmade and the food is sourced by local growers or fisherpeople.