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Tonga for first timers 
By Anna Sarjeant. 

Welcome to The Friendly Islands, so called because Tongans are notoriously hospitable. Notably to Captain Cook; when he first rocked up in 1773 they practically bowled him over with their open arms.



Officially named The Kingdom of Tonga, this exotic South Pacific archipelago comprises of 176 tropical islands sitting directly south of Samoa. Each island is divided into one of five island groups:

  • Tongatapu the most populous, and where the main Nukuʻalofa Airport is. 
  • Eua
  • Ha'apai
  • Vava'u
  • The Niuas

Currency - Tongan paʻanga. Both Westpac and ANZ banks are available and a number of ATM machines are spread across Tonga.

When to go - May to October is the best time to visit because the average temperature sits between 25 and 29 degrees Celsius. The wet season falls between November and April. This is also cyclone season, with most cyclones occurring between January and March. 

Culture - Tongans are predominately Christian and go to church every Sunday, so you might find that almost everything is closed on Sundays. 

Flight time - A direct flight from Auckland Airport will get you to Nukuʻalofa Airport (located on the island of Tongatapu) in approx. 2hr 50m. 

Getting around - The easiest way to get between each island group is by plane. Just don't expect a huge Boeing - the flight from Tongatapu to Eua is just seven minutes long!


1. Enjoy an underground swim 
Haveluliku, Tongatapu
If the thought of small enclosed spaces doesn’t give you the heebie-jeebies, take a trip to Tonga’s Anahulu Caves and one the planet’s most unusual swimming spots. Located in Haveluliku, on the Eastern side of Tongatapu, these large limestone caverns are as beautiful as they are gnarly, with glittering swathes of rock, deformed crevices and contorted stalactites and stalagmites, but once you’ve navigated the inner pathways you’ll discover a secret plunge pool. 

HOT tip: Take a guided tour and you’ll be rewarded with an underground fresh water pool at the bottom.

2. Go bird watching
Eua Island

Some of the most fascinating wildlife exists in Tonga, particularly birdlife. Take a seven minute flight and absorb the spectacular natural surroundings. Hidden amidst a shroud of virgin rainforest and dramatic limestone, there exists Lorikeets, Musk Parrots and Pacific Pigeons, as well as one of our all-time favourites (for pure trivial knowledge alone) the Tongan Megapode. This native bird doesn’t incubate its eggs by sitting on them, instead, it’ll cover them with the warm volcanic sand. Clever, no? 


3. Find tranquillity at the beach
Ha'atafu Beach, Tongatapu Island

Beaches are everywhere in Tonga, but if you’re determined to find a little segment that’s frequented by more shells than it is tourists, seek out Ha'atafu Beach on Tongatapu Island. Favoured by local surfers, the water is also good for swimming and kayaking while the snorkelling will bring you face to face with numerous tropical fish. The sand is white and for the most part, undisturbed by other beach-seekers. If you have an astute eye, sit on the beach and look out to sea; whales are often visible as they travel back and forth between the inner and outer reef.

Hot tip: Crack open a cold, local beer from the nearby shops, sit on the beach and wait for a spectacular sunset.   


4. Seek mysterious monuments
Ha'amonga'a Maui Trilithon, Tongatapu

Known as the ‘Stonehenge of Tonga’, Ha'amonga'a Maui Trilithon is a e (somehow) elaborately positioned as far back as 1200 AD. Their full purpose is still unknown, although like Stonehenge, the arch is aligned with the sun to distinguish the island’s seasons. The weight and sheer size of these structures has to be seen to be appreciated, especially as it’s believed they were sourced from Wallis Island (nine hours by modern plane!) Once admired, you can buy a selection of Tongan art and handicrafts from local vendors and then saunter to the beach which is just a short stroll away. 

HOT tip: Ha'amonga'a Maui Trilithon is located in the eastern village of Niutoua, 30km from Nuku'alofa. 


5. Climb a coconut tree
All over Tonga

Coconuts (niu) are found everywhere in Tonga but if you’re too impatient to wait for one to drop, why not climb a palm tree and fetch one for yourself? Not an activity that comes without peril, you might want to seek guidance from an experienced local, better still watch them do it instead! A palm tree is entirely un-notched so foot holes aren’t readily found; you’ll need a lot of strength and hands with incredible grip, but once sought, you’ll be rewarded with the cool, crisp refreshment of coconut water.

HOT tip: For fresh coconut water, pick yourself a ripe green niu, but for delicious coconut flesh, you’ll want to grab a brown and hairy one.  


Pop in-store, call us on 0800 713 715 or Click Here and say Malo e lelei (hello) to an incredible island escape.

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