Five Things First Time Travellers To Tonga Should Know
- The official language of the Tonga Kingdom is Tongan. However, due to tourism, you'll find that most locals speak English as well.
- You need a Tongan visitors driver's license to rent a car. These are easily obtainable from the Ministry of Transport in Nuku'alofa, and it is a requirement for all drivers on the island. It's recommended to take the time to get the license as renting a car is one of the best ways to get around.
- The currency on the island is the Tongan dollar. While most major credit cards are accepted, Tonga is still very much a cash society. You'll need cash to pay for excess baggage at the airport and to pay for your accommodation. ATMs are in all the town centres, and you should keep small denominations on you as taxi drivers rarely have change.
- Tipping is not expected in Tonga. However, if you feel like the service was exceptional, you're more than welcome to leave a tip for your server.
- Bring mosquito repellent. Tonga is known to have breakouts of dengue fever. Protect yourself by making sure you keep your skin covered in the evenings and have enough repellent to keep the mosquitos away.
Best Time To Visit Tonga
The best time to visit Tonga is during the dry season. From May to October, the temperatures will be milder, and it will make sightseeing more bearable. For divers, these months boast the best visibility as there is little to no rain.
It's also one of the most popular times to visit the islands as it coincides with the Australian school holidays. If you are planning your trip between July and August, it's best to book your hotel and flights a few months in advance.
While the temperatures don't fluctuate that much, November to April are considered to be the islands summer. During these months, Tonga receives the majority of its annual rainfall, and humidity levels are at their highest. But if you don't mind the downpours, you'll be rewarded with the island's biggest natural event.
From the beginning of November to early January, the island's red crabs make their mass pilgrimage to the coast to lay their eggs. During this period, hotel rates will be higher, but after the migration has ended, you'll be able to pick up some great deals.
Nuku'alofa is the capital city of the Tonga kingdom. It's home to royal family and is where the majority of the island's population lives.
Wander around the lively streets to the waterfront. Along the way, you'll find some delicious eateries, impressive views across the bay to the coral islands and charming retail shops.
Nuku'alofa highlights include the Royal Palace and the Free Church of Tonga.
Neiafu is the second largest town on Tonga. It's located on the main island of Vava'u and is flanked by Mt. Talu in the distance.
Its Port of Refuge is a picturesque harbour, and the town's waterfront is home to lively bars and restaurants.
Make sure you visit St Joseph’s Cathedral and spend a day exploring the natural heritage of Mt Talau National Park.
Top Attractions in Tonga
Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon
Ha'amonga 'a Maui is Tonga's equivalent of Stonehenge. Built near Niutoua, it's one of the South Pacific's most intriguing monuments. It's made up of three large coralline stones that weigh around 40 tonnes each. It also uses the same mortised joints as Stonehenge to ensure the top stone won't fall off.
It's believed that it was constructed by Tu'itahi, the 11th Tu'i Tonga in the 13th-century. The site is only a 30-minute drive from the capital city and makes for an interesting day trip. Visitors can explore the site by taking the walking trail. It goes past several ancient tombs as well as Tu'itahi backrest.
Fafa is a resort island in Tonga. It's one of the most popular destinations and is a firm favourite with honeymooners.
Besides relaxing on the picture-perfect beaches, the island offers a range of activities. Hop on board a paddle board, free of charge; explore the ocean depths at the nearby dive sites or watch humpback whales migrate from Antarctica.
Even if you aren't celebrating a union with your significant other, the island makes for a great day trip from Nuku'alofa. Boats depart from the harbour every day at 11:00 a.m. and return to the mainland around 4:30 p.m.
But if you choose to stay, you'll be spoiled with high-end luxury at the resort.
Located on the main island of Tongatapu, Ha'atafu Beach is home to some of the best waves in Tonga. Surfers from all over the world come here to tackle its world-class surfing conditions.
The beach also features a lagoon area which is full of tropical fish and colourful corals. Grab your snorkelling gear and spend a few hours exploring Tonga's unique underwater heritage.
Once you've had enough of the ocean, find a spot and settle in for sunset. Located on the west side of the island, it's one of the most scenic places to watch the sun go down.
Mapu’a ‘a Vaea Blowholes
The Mapu’a ‘a Vaea Blowholes are one of Tonga's unique natural wonders. On a windy day with a strong swell, you'll find hundreds of blowholes shooting up to 30 metres in the air.
The blowholes are located on Tongatapu, near Houma. You will need to hire a car to get here as there is no public transport to the area. Once at the site, you can park your car and walk along the 5km blowhole riddled landscape.
It's one of the highlights of the island and deserves a spot on any Tonga itinerary.
If you want to experience the real Nuku'alofa, head to the Talamahu Market. Spend a few hours browsing through the buzzing rows of fresh produce and beautiful woven baskets.
For foodies, it's one of the best places to try the local cuisine and an affordable place to shop for souvenirs. The market is full of traditional arts and crafts at prices that won't put a dent in your budget.
If you can, plan your visit on a Saturday morning, when the market comes alive, and the vendors' stalls are full of stock.
Major International Airports in Tonga
- Fuaʻamotu International Airport
- Vavaʻu International Airport