This content was written before the volcanic eruption and tsunami of early 2022 which has dramatically impacted the islands. You can read more and help out through Unicef.
Tonga is a country of many parts, many of them relaxed, beautiful and enjoyable. Get caught up in a resort complete with swim-up bar, or island-hop by plane, ferry or yacht. Along with the top line, there’s plenty for budget travellers, with seaside backpackers along with cheaper inland finds. Above all though, you’ll enjoy having a beer with locals down the pub, or sharing a meal with families in village communities.
Tonga can be found north east of New Zealand, between Fiji to the west and Niue to the east, with the Cook Islands beyond that. Wallis and Fortuna; American Samoa; Tuvalu and Tokelau are to the north.
Tonga is an island nation, with over 170 friendly islands stretching over miles of wild ocean. Tonga has been slow to encourage tourism so peace and simple beauty wait on the beaches, although amenities can be a little rough and ready at times.
Just minutes by plane or hours by ferry from the main island of Tongatapu, lies ‘Eua: a relatively large but sparsely populated island with little in the way of tourism-industry luxury. It’s exactly the lack of big-budget vacation packages that makes ‘Eua so charming and worthwhile for the independent traveller. The natural beauty of beaches, cliffs and forest make for the best hiking in the Pacific Islands, while community life in the villages is friendly and welcoming, without being commercial.
A part of ‘Eua’s appeal lies in the fact it’s geologically distinct from the rest of Tonga. In fact, it’s 30,000 years older than the other islands. This gives it a distinct look and feel — with low-lying beaches on one side, and high cliffs (with good climbing opportunities) on the other.
Getting to and from Tonga
Most people will arrive by plane from Auckland, New Zealand or the east coast of Australia. Airlines currently flying to Tonga are Air New Zealand, Pacific Blue, Polynesian Airlines and Air Pacific, which all arrive and depart from the international airport at Tongatapu. Flights arriving from other Pacific Islands include Samoa, American Samoa, Fiji and Hawaii.
Make sure you save some money for the departure fee, payable on departure. When we last visited in 2009 it was T$25.
Cruise ships tour the waters from the Pacific Islands and New Zealand, and out towards Easter Island, although there are fewer large cruise ships than you might expect.
Tonga travel resources
Check out our Travel in Tonga podcast or browse the articles below.