TONGA – Sample 1-week Tonga itinerary: culture & beaches & island-hopping

Fafa Island beach - TONGA - Sample 1-week Tonga itinerary: culture & beaches & island-hopping

The Kingdom of Tonga (in short just Tonga) is a perfect destination in the Pacific to sniff culture but also to do island hopping. It’s one of the last remaining absolute monarchies in the world but honestly, I didn’t notice much of that while travelling in Tonga. This Tonga itinerary is just for one week which I did but if you want to venture out from Tongatapu to the northern island groups you need 2 weeks. I enjoyed Tonga as it’s so different as the other Polynesian pacific island I have seen before. I’m eager to share my experience with you so let’s have a look at all the things to do in Tonga.

Planning a Tonga trip

Planning a Tonga itinerary is quite straightforward. Your trip will mostly be restricted by the amount of time you have as getting from island to island takes time. But don’t worry as just visiting Tongatapu with Fafa Island or Eua as side trip is a great way to explore this Pacific kingdom. You will have a great Tonga vacation. Let’s have a look on how to get to Tonga, where to stay and how it’s best to get around the islands which are from north to south over 800 kilometers apart.

Sunset Tonga - TONGA - Sample 1-week Tonga itinerary: culture & beaches & island-hopping

How to get to Tonga

Getting to Tonga is easy but routes aren’t plentiful. Flights arrive at the Fuaʻamotu International Airport on Tongatapu. There are several flights a week from Fiji, Sydney (Australia) and Auckland (New Zealand). Currently there is also a new weekly flight to Samoa. If you’re coming from the US you best fly to Fiji, maybe via Hawaii, and then onwards to Tonga. From Asia and Europe, the best route is through Sydney or Auckland. I flew from Auckland and back because I combined my Tonga trip with a 5-day Niue trip.

Getting around Tonga islands can be done by domestic flights with the national airline Real Tonga. They also make the flight to Samoa. From Tongatapu to Fafa Island is just a 15-minute boat ride and Eua can be reached by boat as well though the 6-minute flight with Real Tonga is best. See below on how to extend your Tonga itinerary to the other Tonga islands for more tips.

3 topped palm tree - TONGA - Sample 1-week Tonga itinerary: culture & beaches & island-hopping

Where to stay on Tonga

There are plenty of Tonga accommodations to choose from. On Tongatapu I stayed at the Dateline Hotel. It has a pool but for the rest is a bit more a business hotel. I like these kind of hotels as I can get some work done without having to resist leisure all the time. It’s located downtown Nuku’alofa which is great as restaurants and nightlife is within walking distance.

I also stayed at Fafa Islands Resort to get away from everything for a few days. Fafa Island has just this resort with a dozen or so fales (bungalows). It’s the perfect island to getaway without having to make a domestic flight. For the other islands see below my tips on how to extend your trip to 2-weeks.

Royal Palace - TONGA - Sample 1-week Tonga itinerary: culture & beaches & island-hopping

More tips for a Tonga trip

The best time to visit Tonga is year-round but October and November see the most rain. From May to these months is also hurricane season but that’s just guessing. I visited in April which was a perfect time though a bit cloudy.

Check with your local travel doctor to see what vaccinations you require for Tonga. Do take enough sunblock and mosquito repellant.

Tonga is also famous for whale watching and swimming with whales. This can be done from July to October. If you need more information then have a look at the Tonga Tourism Office Website.

Tonga itinerary day 1 – 2: Tongatapu main island

As my flight arrived late afternoon I decided to just go out in Nuku’alofa for dinner and some nightlife. I can recommend having dinner at Friends Café and hang out the rest of the night at the Reload Bar. They also serve the locally brewed craft beer by Pacific Brewing Company.

The second day of my Tonga itinerary was reserved to explore Tongatapu. As I had just a day planned for this, I decided to hire a local guide/driver which could get me around the island efficiently. I used TetaTours Tonga which delivered outstanding service. I did both the west coast and east coast tour on a single day. By car this is easily possible.

Underground Cave - TONGA - Sample 1-week Tonga itinerary: culture & beaches & island-hopping

The day started with a short tour through the capital Nuku’alofa with stops at the Royal Palace, Royal Tombs, and the Langafonua Handicrafts Center. A great place to pickup some Tonga souvenirs.

The Tonga tour then continued along the west coast. I stopped at the 2 headed coconut tree, blowholes at Houma, flying foxes in Kolovai. The road ends at the landing site of Abel Tasman. I decided to not have lunch and just continue the island day tour.

Now it was time to drive the east coast. Captain Cook Landing place, Ha’amonga Trilithon (they reminded me a bit of the old structures on Rota Island I saw earlier), old royal tombs, and a drive along the coast towards Anahulu Cave. In this cave there are clear ponds where the water is so clear you can even drink it.

In the afternoon I was back at my hotel. I’ll cover each site in more depth with historical background in a day trip report later.

Ha Amonga a Maui Arch - TONGA - Sample 1-week Tonga itinerary: culture & beaches & island-hopping

Make sure day 3 is a Sunday for Tonga church

My 3rd day in Tonga was a Sunday and I highly recommend a Sunday on Tongatapu. A Tonga vacation isn’t complete without it. A Sunday in Tonga is just to do nothing. Even the airport is closed Sundays so don’t expect any flights going!

The Kingdom of Tonga is very religious. Christian specifically and Sunday is a day off for everyone and everyone goes to church. I normally don’t go to church, but I did on Tonga. You’ll see locals dressed up in traditional Tonga clothes which is interesting to see. The rest of the day I recommend walking around town to see the local life of the Tongans.

Church - TONGA - Sample 1-week Tonga itinerary: culture & beaches & island-hopping

Tonga itinerary day 4-6: Fafa Island

Tonga is famous for its beaches, but you won’t find them on Tongatapu. You’ll have to go to other islands in the north but for 7 days in Tonga there isn’t time. There is a solution: Fafa Islands but it means you must stay at Fafa Island Resort. I booked one of their fales (bungalows) for 2 nights. The island is a true paradise compared to West Island (Hainan, China) which has to much tourism! I had the beach in front of my fale most of the time for myself. There is good reef around the island for snorkeling. A Fafa Island holiday is magnificent, and I highly recommend everyone to visit when in Tonga.

If you’re more into hiking and nature you can opt to visit Eua instead. This island is a 6-minute flight away from Tongatapu and is famous for its nature and hiking options. I preferred beaches this time as I would be hiking the next days on Niue as it doesn’t have beaches.

Fafa Island beach - TONGA - Sample 1-week Tonga itinerary: culture & beaches & island-hopping

Extend your trip to 2-weeks in Tonga

Vava’u, Ha’Pai and the very remote Niuas can be reached by plane. Flights can be cancelled and delayed without reason. If the next day is a Sunday don’t expect to fly that day as airports are closed. So, if you venture out to the northern islands then just don’t plan your international flight to tight. I would recommend after arriving in Tonga to go north first and have the last 2-3 days on Tongatapu. If there is delays, you can still catch your flight home.

Tonga Ha’apai islands

Pangai is the biggest island of the Ha’apai group which consists of 60 islands. They are famous for their white beaches, snorkeling, diving, and whale watching. For the rest there isn’t much so it’s a place to get away from everything.

Tonga Vava’u islands

Neiafu is the largest town of the Vava’u group which consists of 50 islands. The place is famous for yachting and clear waters for snorkeling and diving. Also, here it’s a good spot to watch humpback whales.

Tonga Niuas islands

The Niuas are two very remote islands north of all the other islands. They are called Niuatoputapu (with beautiful beaches) and Niuafo’ou (the top of a volcano). If you want to go there, you require time as flights are sparse and can be delayed and/or cancelled often.

View from Cooks Landing - TONGA - Sample 1-week Tonga itinerary: culture & beaches & island-hopping

Tonga itinerary day 7: Departure

I flew back to Auckland from where I would go on my long-awaited trip to Niue. A very remote country. I highly recommend adding some other countries to a Tonga visit especially if you’re coming from far away. You can connect from Tonga direct to Fiji or via Auckland and/or Sydney you can easily add a Solomon Islands trip or a Vanuatu trip as well. There are so many island nations in the Pacific that there is plenty of Pacific island hopping possible. I will return soon to explore (American) Samoa, Fiji and Tuvalu!

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COVID-19 (Corona virus) update for Kingdom of Tonga: Make sure to check IATA list of affected entry and transit restrictions for this country. Also check with your airline for options to re-book or re-route. The Corona virus will go away eventually for sure. Make sure before travelling if Kingdom of Tonga is a COVID-19 (Coronavirus) area and if restrictions apply before travelling.

Did you visit Kingdom of Tonga too or do you have questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!

Gallery Tonga itinerary

Click an image for a full screen gallery of more photos taken during this trip. If you like to use any photo for commercial, private or editorial use please contact first for permission and/or pricing.

Tsunami Rock - TONGA - Sample 1-week Tonga itinerary: culture & beaches & island-hopping
Royal Tombs - TONGA - Sample 1-week Tonga itinerary: culture & beaches & island-hopping
Make Fa Akinanga - TONGA - Sample 1-week Tonga itinerary: culture & beaches & island-hopping
Cathedral destroyed by hurricane - TONGA - Sample 1-week Tonga itinerary: culture & beaches & island-hopping
Blowholes - TONGA - Sample 1-week Tonga itinerary: culture & beaches & island-hopping
Bats - TONGA - Sample 1-week Tonga itinerary: culture & beaches & island-hopping
Able Tasman landing site - TONGA - Sample 1-week Tonga itinerary: culture & beaches & island-hopping

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