I was lucky enough to get a one-month work contract in the South Pacific Island nation of Tonga! Pretty sweet considering I have just been travelling for 8 months, it also helps me escape the depths of winter back home in New Zealand. The best part is that Alisdair got to join me for a few days so we both got to enjoy some time here.
Due to work commitments, our stay was focused on the main island of Tongatapu so we did not get to explore all of what Tonga has to offer, but there is always next time!
Working in the community at the local accountancy firm and staying with my friends family made for a great experience as the people of Tonga are generally very friendly and kind. There are basic resorts on the mainland as well as 2 cheap hostels.
Arriving in Tonga
Tonga is only a 2.5hr flight from Auckland and Air New Zealand have daily flights. The main island has a small international airport which also connects tourists to the other northern islands.
The airport is pretty simple, immigration is just a few desks and many countries including the whole of the EU get a visa on arrival. For more visa information check here. The baggage area is frustratingly small but once you are out you are greeted with warm weather and sunshine. It is time to enjoy the slower pace of island life.
Tip: The northern islands of Tonga offer a lot more in terms of a resort holiday
Tip: If you stay on Tongatapu make sure you hire a car so you can explore the mainland. It is an easy place to drive around even if the roads have a few potholes.
Things to do on Tongatapu
- Swim with Humpback whales (seasonal) – Post on this amazing experience coming soon!
- The historical site Ha’amonga ‘a Maui, Tonga’s Stonehenge
- The fruit markets in downtown Nuku’alofa
- Mapu ‘a Vaea – Ocean blow holes (also saw whales here)
- Hūfangalupe – A natural bridge with beautiful views
- Visit Friends Cafe in Nuku’alofa and enjoy the great food and coffee, it was my regular for 3 weeks
- Watch the pigs go swimming on the eastern beaches
- Visit Ha’atafu beach
- Enjoy a sunset
- Drink the local beer at Billfish Bar and meet some locals
- Enjoy some Italian food with a twist at Luna Rossa Restaurant
- Witness a local parade – Tongans love to celebrate and are proud of their nation
Other useful tips for Tongatapu
Tip: The beaches on the main island of Tongatapu aren’t the best but there are islands close by you can take a day/overnight trip too. My local friend recommends Fafa Island and there is also Pangaimotu Island. Sadly due to family reasons back in New Zealand, I had to head home before I could visit.
Tip: I travelled as a woman alone for most of my time in Tonga and there were times I felt a little uneasy and got harassed during the day time. I would recommend women avoid walking alone at night in Nuku’alofa.
Tip: Tongans take Sunday the day of rest very seriously. Very little places will be open and you should avoid making loud noises, exercise in public or work. You may also want to avoid swimming near any churches and dress modestly.
Tip: The best time to visit is during June-October as this is when the Whales are in town and the weather is drier.
For other Pacific Islands check out;
The beaches on the main island are not the best but it was warm and sunny