Don't Miss Places In Tonga
The kingdom of Tonga is made up of five island groups lying southeast of Fiji. Some of the 172 islands are steep and volcanic while others are low platforms of coral. Most people live on the fertile Tongatapu islands where coconut palms, banana trees, and watermelons are grown. The islands export fruit and vegetables, copra (dried coconut), and coconut oil, as well as vanilla pods for flavoring desserts and ice cream.
The Tongans descended from Polynesian seafarers who had probably settled in this area by about 1000 B.C. European explorers arrived in the islands in the 1600s and 1700s. Captain James Cook called them the Friendly Islands because he was warmly welcomed by the inhabitants during his 1773 visit. During the 1800s, civil war raged as various groups of islanders fought for control. These ended when the islands were united as a monarchy in 1845.
If you’re visiting the enticing islands of Tonga, the following places are ones you can’t miss.
Ene'io Botanical Garden (Neiafu)
One of the popular things to do here is watching or participating in a cooking demonstration by Lucy and her staff at the Ene’io Botanical Garden. In this workshop, watch various Tongan dishes be prepared in an umu (underground oven). You can be picked up at your hotel and brought to the market, where the staff will describe the products used in a typical Tonganese kitchen. Upon arrival on the Ene'io beach, you’ll be offered tea and cake. The cooking demonstration will show how to process the products, prepare the dishes, and how the umu works. They will hand you the recipe for you to prepare in your oven at home. After all the dishes are done, you can have it on the covered table and eat in by the beach, which is surrounded by beautiful views.
The nearby Ene'io beach is a nice shoreline with impressive coral formations. Here you can try your hand at swimming and snorkeling. You could even try catching fish with a spear or sailing a kayak. The botanical garden can also be found here, which shows how vanilla is extracted. Seeing this interesting process is a must, watch them go from vanilla pods to the aromatic food enhancer that we all know today. Lucy, her husband, and her staff are very nice and welcoming. Plus, the food is delicious and plentiful.
Dolphin Pacific Diving and Whale Watching
Dolphin Pacific Diving and Whale Watching in the waters of Tonga is an amazing experience. The staff is very professional and friendly. The facilities are in great condition and everyone haves a great time. It is not uncommon for customers and staff to come together for a beer in the evening or for the famous quiz nights on Thursday. The whale-watching is fantastic--if you’re lucky, you might catch the whales and their babies coming close to swim, jump, and play. It is considered a great privilege to observe the protective mother whale and her baby playing along in the sea. Dolphin sightings are also great -- they will try their best to swim in front of your rented boat and give you quite a show by jumping and showing off their skills on the water.
Aside from whale watching, you can also enjoy the beach, pick beautiful shells, swim along with the colorful fish hiding in the coral, and even visit a cave. It is best to book several days (at least 3) to see everything and have the opportunity of swimming with whales. The guides are equally amiable and you can contact them by email even before you arrive at Tonga. They always answer every guests’ questions. The company is serious about the comfortableness of the whales because, before swimming, the team observes their behavior to see if they’re nervous, evasive, or curious to meet every visitor. The experience is truly breathtaking. Don’t forget your camera!
Whale Swim Adventures
First, the good thing about the Whale Swim Adventures is that you can swim with the whales on this eco-tourism adventure in a boat called the booth. The whales are literally chased and surrounded by boats and the Captain has no idea of it. This is because the boat is loud, and attracts the whales. The engine is never turned off, and neither are the whales.
Divided into three groups, the company will ensure that everyone has the opportunity to see the whales somehow. This means that first group may only have enough time to get into the water and snorkel, look around very quickly, and swim back to the boat. There is far too little storage space for luggage in the cabin and there are ancient hand pumps for the toilets. The booth has no shower, and everything is lukewarm (rain) water, You must purchase soft drinks, beer, or wine.
Mapu'a 'a Vaea Blowholes (Tongatapu Island)
The Mapu'a 'a Vaea Blowholes is an amazing place famous for its waves. With the right conditions, the waves crash violently, forming walls along the rocky cliffs. You should go both during the day but also at sunset. It is located in the south and is about fifteen kilometers away from the Nuku'alofa, also called the coast of Houma. It is a coral reef that is extraordinary for its kind. Over time, the waves have carved on the rocks and the effect of the water as it crashes into them is incredible. The sound is just as spectacular and the water splashes into the air for fifteen meters. There is a ticket, but it's still a coast that is untouched by big business or major commercialism.
You can get there by renting a bike - the trails are really worth it. This picture stretches along the coast and over the rocks like hanging a misty veil of water flying upwards. The photos are good and you can bring the kids - but do not go near the blowholes with them.
The Blowholes are close to the beach and you can (from the Houma Village) take a bus ride from the capital (about 30 minutes). It has really high waves and you can see the exploding water showers along the rocks, which is an attraction for tourists. Just beware the sharp rocks and the strong wind. At the end of the beach, you can find the cliffs which are a good place to take pictures. Go near the ponds and you will find a natural pool where you can go and take a bath.
The Ha'atafu Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches located on Tongatapu Ha’atafu in the northwestern tip of the island. You can travel by bus from the capital and pass by the village where bats sit on the branches of tall trees, eating fruit. Near the top, there are other beaches like the Monotapu and Kolovai, but the Haatafu Beach is the most beautiful and free of tourists.
Some shops and a restaurant are nearby, but the selection is minimal. Walking on the beach is difficult because after 100 meters, the it becomes narrow and full of sharp stones and rocks. Swimming can be dangerous as well due to the unpredictable waves and currents. If you don’t like to swim, the coastal waters are surrounded by a living reef where you can watch the beautiful colored fish from ashore. The transparency of the water is almost shocking.
Anahulu Cave - The Underground Swimming Pool
The Anahulu Caves are limestone caves that are and really exceptional, and the Underground Swimming Pool is definitely worth going to have a look at. The natural pool inside is quite small and once it fills up with people it is difficult to enjoy the site. There is an awesome cave that awaits you after the challenging underground walk.
But first you must explore the cave - even the dark portions. You will not expect to see something beautiful after wandering in the darkness for about ten minutes, which you will need to do in order to get to this pool. Some of the corners of the cave are lighted by bamboo torches, which only add depth and character to the awesome cave adventure in Tonga.
Ha'amonga'a Maui Trilithon
The Ha’among’a Maui Trilithon is dubbed as the “Stonehenge" of the South Pacific. It is quite nice to look at, especially if you have someone there to give you information about it. There are other ways for you to learn something about the history of this place with a few faded signs, however. It is not accessible by any means of public transportation, but you can rent a car and drive yourself there to visit it. Just like any ancient monument, the place is interesting and full of history. You can sit back and relax or watch kids happily running around the huge lawn.
Deep Blue Diving
The profound Deep Blue Diving is one of the less promoted tour packages nearby, yet unquestionably it is the most talked about. The tour is done or run in 2 watercrafts – a small boat that can accommodate 8 people, and an alternate bigger one that can accommodate 16- 20 people on board. Both adventures and the experience are extraordinary. The whales are 100 % guaranteed to appear on this expedition, which is done close to the harbor in Tongatapu.
The whales appear to love the pontoon and may circle the boat for two hours at a time, flaunting their babies and permitting the chance to swim with them in the ocean. Sometimes they can turn around and circle other vessels again along with their calves, which is more like giving a show or a spectacle that can only be seen and appreciated here in the islands of Tonga. This whale sighting adventure is best done between the months of June and October.
The Royal Tombs form the rightful place where the Tongans have laid the whole lineage of kings and queens of Tonga to rest, housed in a green setting. Ideally, you should go at the time of the festivities when you can have the chance to see its interiors. Unlike the Taj Mahal, this is a simple monument place just before the center of Nuku alofa. This site is different from any other cultural monument and can only be admired from its exterior. The gates are often closed and in any case there would be nothing exciting to see unless a national festival is being held in its honor.
With all due respect to the importance of the place, it gives a nice look, but honestly, nothing special can be seen on ordinary days because the area is fenced and inaccessible. It is located in the eastern part of the Tongatapu Island and looks more similar to the structure for the royal tomb in Rangi. It is also a good idea to just see it and take some photos of it.
Free Church of Tonga
Nestled comfortably amidst Nuku'alofa, you can't miss the towers of the Free Church of Tonga. Initially settled in 1885 by King George Tupou I, this building was assembled and finished the same year. There's a huge stained glass window over the passage though it is fairly dull inside. It is Tonga's official state church and on some Sundays you may be fortunate enough to see the King, who goes to oversee all the administrations here. The Tongans consider religion important and you ought to attempt and dress nicely on the off-chance that you decide to make a visit.
You will see the local men and women wearing customary mats tied around their waists. A highlight of the Holy Mass is the choir performance, for there is something unique about the singing voice of the Pacific Islanders when they are blended together. Their harmony is absolutely impeccable, pleasing avid listeners and surprising clueless guests.
Captain Cook’s Landing Site
Commander Cook didn't land nor explore Tonga until his second expedition to the waters of the South Pacific. It occurred on two special occasions; the first was in 1773 and on the return leg of the endeavor in 1774, when he first went to the island of Tongatapu. He found the locals to be so hospitable that he nicknamed the Tongan archipelago 'The Friendly Isles'.
Cook went to Tonga again in 1777 on his third voyage in the South Pacific, when he halted at Nomuka in the Haʻapa area. A commemorative plaque called the Captain Cook’s Landing Site can now be found on the eastern shore of Tongatapu's tidal pond to honor his discovery of the island in 1777.
Luna Rossa Restaurant
The Luna Rossa Restaurant is a famous dining place with exquisite cuisine and a relaxing ambiance. If you want the warmth of home with a touch of Tongan, go to Luna Rossa and find some fantastic (as well as really delicious) food. Luna Rossa is a bit hidden and hard to find if you do not necessarily live in the Lagoon Lodge.
But, it is definitely worth a visit. The fish Carpaccio is awesome and definitely the best in the kingdom. Should you want a steak, this is the place to go. They offer a nice fried steak and well-cooked sea snails. Prices are reasonable for the so-called Pa'alangis (White person), but not necessarily affordable for the ordinary Tongan.
The Nuku’alofa Market is something most guests will walk around during their time on tour in Tongatapu. To be completely frank, it is not the most fascinating site you will ever visit, but it is a decent place to observe how Tongans of all ages go about their daily lives. Try and go on Sundays when the place gets really busy and when most Tongans do their shopping. Most stalls offer daily goods - for example, devices and garments - while the indoor business offers soil grown foods, vegetables and nourishment items. A few specialty stalls offer carvings and tapa material to vacationers. The carvings are decent, but there are better ones elsewhere places.
The magnificent memories of this place are really top in the world, and the people are friendly, relaxed and beautiful, healthy and strong, even if the island is so remote. Everywhere on the island, rugby is played, but there are actually more viewers than players. There are not many travelers who visit - the locals from this place can attest to this fact - but if you want to get away from this crazy world, Tonga is paradise. Enjoy its features and plan your perfect holiday with the list of attractions mentioned above.