5 reasons to love Tonga

If you fancy being a castaway, this is the perfect place!
5 reasons to love Tonga

Our closest Pacific island is a treasure trove of beauty and things to do. Why did it take me so long to get there?

1. The deets

The Kingdom of Tonga is made up of four island groups with a total of 176 islands in all, mostly uninhabited. Vava’u in the north is popular with yachties and, in my humble opinion, one of the most beautiful places on earth. The country’s biggest island, Tongatapu, is where most of the population lives and where the international flights arrive.

Nuku’alofa is the capital, with a thriving downtown, a colourful food and handicraft market, plus a relatively new coffee culture. The local coffee is delicious – locally grown with a lovely mild flavour. I had a yum omelette at Coffee Post Café and the best piece of shortbread at The Beach Hut, near the markets.

2. The whales

I had no idea that Tonga was one of the world’s whale-watching hot spots, but they swim in their hundreds from Antarctica to have their babies in the warm water here. At Mounu Island Resort in the Vava’u group, you can sit on the deck and watch them play with dolphins while you have lunch. How amazing is that? The season is roughly from July to October and there are dozens of operators all over the islands, but check out the licensed ones at There’s still much to see if you miss the season too. I did

a quick trip with Deep Blue Diving from Nuku’alofa and while none of these fish could have swallowed Jonah, the snorkelling was fab.

The view from the bar at Pangaimout Island Resort

3. The big island

Tongatapu has its fair share of land-based attractions as well and I was lucky enough to see some of them on a day trip with Rick from Rick Tours. The Mapu a Vaea blowholes were sensational. Along 4km of stunning coastline, the swell hits the rocks at the edge of the island and the water explodes into the air like fireworks. It’s mesmerising! I also loved the “land bridge”, where you can peer down through a hole in the rock to see the waves crashing below. At the Anahulu limestone cave, you can take a dip in the underground swimming pool. That doesn’t happen every day!

4. Fafa Island

Just a lovely half-hour boat trip from the Nuku’alofa wharf, you’ll find Fafa Island Resort.

You can walk around this sandy island in a trice, but all 13 fales are far enough away from the others to make you feel like Tom Hanks in Castaway. My deluxe fale (which actually had two bedrooms, so great for families, two couples or snorers) was on the sunset side of the island and I could barely be dragged from my sun lounger, except for meals in the restaurant where, at high tide, the sea laps right beneath your feet. Oh, unless it was for a massage. “Why would you ever go anywhere else?” one sunstruck holidaymaker sighed as the boat took us back to town.

5. The surprise

Hanateli was eight years old when he decided to build a Garden of Eden in Tonga and, 60-something years later, the Ene’io Botanical Gardens on Vava’u is the result. A tour will open your eyes not only to one man’s horticultural dream, but also to a slice of Tongan culture, plus the reef-side setting is divine. The whole Kingdom of Tonga is full of lovely surprises, from the friendly people and the stunning beauty, to the water so clear that you can see your pedicure twinkling even when you’re in it up to your neck.

Handmade craft at Nuku’alofa market

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