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Loumaile Lodge
Loumaile Lodge - dream vacation

Taufa’ahau Road, Nuku\'alofa

Mystic Sands
Mystic Sands - dream vacation

Utungake Village, Neiafu

Holty's Hideaway Ha'atafu
Holty's Hideaway Ha'atafu - dream vacation

21 Ha'atafu Road Kanokopulu, Kanokupolu

Kahana Resort & Restaurant
Kahana Resort & Restaurant - dream vacation

28 Alaivahamama'O Bypass Rd, Nuku\'alofa

Toni's Guest House
Toni's Guest House - dream vacation

Tofoakoloua Tongatapu, Nuku\'alofa

Tonga, the "Friendly Islands", is an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean.


The country is divided into four island groups, or regions.


  • Nuku?alofa ? Tonga's capital.
  • Neiafu ? Barely a city even by Pacific island standards, Neiafu is the administrative centre of the Vava?u group.


The archipelago was united into a Polynesian kingdom in 1845. It became a constitutional monarchy in 1875 and a British protectorate in 1900. Tonga acquired its independence in 1970 and became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. It is one of the few indigenous monarchies in the Pacific. Tonga is one of the last absolute monarchies in the world and is based upon an essentially feudal system where the king disburses land and positions without recourse to any elected body. Although Tongan royalty is largely loved and revered by Tongans, younger people have an appetite for stronger accountability and a more modern constitution. An election was held in November 2010. This was planned to lead to a major reduction in the powers of the King and the land-owning nobility in favour of a more democratic form of governance. However, of the 26 seats in Parliament only 17 are elected, with the rest being allocated to the nobles. After some horse trading, it was a noble who emerged as the Prime Minister.

Tonga has an economy with none of the corporate chain stores and with local small businesses providing all necessary goods and services.

There were pro-democracy riots in Nuku'alofa in November 2006 which left 8 people dead and large portions of the town centre burnt out. Rebuilding after the riots in Nuku'alofa has been more or less completed and there are abundant tourism facilities.

Tourists were not a target during the riots and you will find Tonga a friendly and appealing place to visit although don't expect the same level of infrastructure as in more developed countries.

Get in


The only visa exemption is in place for citizens of any Schengen country (including Faroe Islands and Greenland), who do not need a visa for a stay of 90 days or less within a 180 day period.

Citizens of the following countries can get a free, one-month visitor's visa on arrival if they can prove they have a return ticket to leave Tonga at the end of their stay and sufficient funds to cover their stay: Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Cook Islands, Dominica, Fiji, Ireland, Japan, Kiribati, South Korea, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Monaco, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Samoa, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna.

Visitor's visas can be extended at the immigration department in the capital.

By plane

Fua'amotu Airport (TBU) is on Tongatapu around half an hour from Nuku'alofa.

  • Air New Zealand flies from Auckland five or six times weekly, excluding Sundays
  • Virgin Australia flies from Sydney and Auckland twice a week.
  • You can also arrive from Fiji (Nadi and Suva) on Fiji Airways, with connections from the USA, Hong Kong, Australia and Samoa.

A crowd of local taxi drivers meets each incoming flight at the airport and they usually charge 50 pa'anga to Nuku'alofa. The Teta Tours mini-bus also meets flights and will deliver you to your hotel or guest house for 10 pa'anga.

If you arrive on Saturday, beware that there will be no shops open on Sunday, bar one or two bakers, and that your hotel may not serve meals until the evening (some provide a packed breakfast on Saturday evening!). So discuss food arrangements for Sunday with your hotel or you may go hungry!

By private boat

Lots of people arrive by private yacht since Tonga, particularly Vava'u, is a common stop on the around-the-world circuit.

Get around

To get between island groups, you basically have to fly (or sail).

Motorbikes, scooters and cycles can be rented on Tongatapu, Vava'u and Ha'apai. On Tongatapu you can hire a car. There are also taxis. To get around the main island, Tongatapu, Teta Tours and Toni's guest house offer day tours of all the main tourist sights. The speed limit is usually 40km/h and this is stuck to by the local drivers. You're meant to also buy a local Tongan driving licence on top of your existing licence before you drive (25 pa'anga). The roads are good in and around Nuku'alofa but deteriorate the further from the town and the further south you travel. Most cars in Tonga are in a terrible state, maintained on a budget and held together by a combination of 'Western Union' stickers and prayer. The low speed limit helps to keep accidents down. There are buses to various points on Tongatapu from Nuku'alofa although there are no timetables.


The official languages of Tonga are Tongan and English.

Tongan is the most widely spoken language in Tonga. English is also widely understood because many of the high schools teach exclusively in English. Many Tongans when asked a question they are unsure of or don`t understand will reply with a "Yes". In this case, ask a follow up question and if the reply is still "Yes", ask someone else.


  • Tongatapu. Tongatapu is Tonga's largest island with over two-thirds of the country's small population. It is a coral island surrounded by coral reefs. The capital, Nuku'alofa, on the north coast, has a relaxed air, despite the troubles of a few years ago. There are some interesting places to visit, such as ancient tombs and coastal blowholes, and some nice beaches with good snorkelling. Tongatapu also provides a good opportunity to view a unique culture. There are several small islands to the north of Tongatapu that have been developed into resorts. Nuku'alofa has good quality accommodation and guest houses within range of the backpacker.
  • 'Eua. 'Eua Island is located only 17.5km east southeast from Tongatapu. It is the highest island in Tonga and is not related geologically to the other islands, being much older. It has beaches on the western side but dramatic cliffs on the east coast, with Tonga’s largest tropical rain forest, which is a great place to go trekking. There are a few small guest houses.
  • Vava'u. Vava’u is a group of more than 50 islands, about 150 miles north of Tongatapu. They are either raised coral limestone or coral atolls. The beautiful harbour opposite the main town of Neiafu is a common destination for yachties sailing the South Pacific, attracting about 500 yachts every season. The waters of the islands are known for their clarity. The area attracts many humpback whales between June and November and there are organised tours to see them. Other things to do include diving, renting a yacht, kayaking; game fishing and kite surfing. There are some good walks on the main island. There are many places to stay both in the capital Neiafu and on the outlying islands.
  • Ha'apai. Ha'apai is a group of about 60 islands, south of the Vava'u group and north of Tongatapu. Only 20 islands are constantly inhabited. This is where the Mutiny on the Bounty occurred in 1789. The total population is approximately 5,500. There are plenty of sandy beaches plus good diving and snorkelling and the opportunity to see some whales. Ha'apai offers the whole range of accommodation, from budget to upmarket resort.
  • The Niuas. The Niuas are reachable by weekly flights from Vava’u. Niuatoputapu is 240km north of Vava’u and has a population of around 1400. It has beautiful white beaches, particularly on the north-west side of the island. Niuafo’ou is the northernmost island of Tonga. It is known as Tin Can island from the fact that in earlier times mail was delivered and picked up by strong swimmers who would retrieve packages sealed up in a biscuit tin and thrown overboard from passing ships. Niuafo’ou is the tip of an underwater volcano. The last eruption was in 1946, after which the whole island was evacuated for ten years. Accommodation on both islands is limited.


Apart from a few historical sites on Tongatapu most things to do in Tonga reflect its island nature. Diving, snorkelling, fishing, boat trips, kayaking and kite surfing are all possible. There are some lovely beaches if you just want to laze around. Tonga has some good restaurants and this is the place to come if you like lobster.

Take time to learn a little about Tonga's fairly feudal culture and its many traditions. Go to church. Even if you are not religious the singing can be very moving. Watch tapa cloth being made from mulberry bark and try a drink of kava, the traditional drink, which is a mild narcotic.

Along with other pacific island nations Rugby Football is also popular on Tonga.



The national currency is the pa'anga, or Tongan dollar, denoted by the symbol "'T$" or somtimes "PT" (ISO currency code: TOP). Denominations are 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 seniti coins and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 pa'anga banknotes.

Costs and shopping

Although Tonga is a developing country, prices for many things are comparable to or slightly greater than New Zealand or Australia. Most of what you eat, apart from fish, lobsters, roots and tubers, fruits and vegetables will have been imported. A good meal out will cost 30-50 pa'anga, a beer in a restaurant or bar costs about 5-6 pa'anga, hiring a car is about 50-60 pa'anga a day and cigarettes are 7-8 pa'anga for a pack of 25.

  • Tapa. Tapa cloth is made from the bulk of the paper mulberry tree. Although tapa is found throughout Polynesia, Tonga is the only country where it is still a part of daily life. The bark is stripped from the tree trunk and the outer bark is then scraped off from the inner bark and discarded. The inner bark is first dried in the sun before being soaked. It is then beaten into strips of 25cm using wooden mallets. The continuous beats of the tapa mallet are still a common sound in Tongan villages. The narrow strips are then beaten together into a wider sheet and decorated.


Tongan feasts are a must-do. Tour companies and hotels organize feasts, together with traditional dancing, on several nights of the week on Tongatapu and in Vava'u.


Tonga is lively well into the evening, generally becoming suddenly very quiet at around 11PM. Expect to see people walking around until late. Beer and liquor are available from many outlets, including Fijian, Australian and New Zealand imports to complement the local brews. If you are keen to check out native drink, try Kava (something like liquid novacaine) at least once.

The local beer is called Ikale and is sold in 330 ml bottles in most restaurants and bars (4.50-5 pa'anga). Or you can buy the same bottles from one of the many 'Chinese' roadside shops or a supermarket for 2 pa'anga or less. Imported beers are mainly from Australia although there are also some from Europe. Most are sold in 330 ml cans or bottles.


There is a wide range of accommodation in Tonga, ranging from luxurious to budget. Most have relatively few rooms, though. The Tonga Visitors Bureau [1] has a full listing. See detailed listings on the pages for Tongatapu, Vava'u and Ha'apai.


If you don't work you don't eat. Tongans don't want to hear that it's hard on the coral beaches lined with palm trees and emerald lagoons. There are many opportunities for skilled trades from the streets to the shops, in the schools to the churches and yes from the markets to the office. This is a hot spot for skilled navigators spanning throughout 169 villages and 150 islands. Some major exports include vanilla, handcrafts and specialty pumpkins grown for export to Japan. Other agriculture sectors include root crops like taro, tapioca, sweet potatoes, yams, coconuts, bananas, mangoes, papayas, pineapples, watermelons and even peanuts.

If you are on a visitor's visa, you cannot be involved with business or take up employment while in Tonga. You also cannot take courses from an educational institution. It is mostly illegal to try to change a visitor's visa into a visa that allows for employment, so if you intend to have a job while in Tonga, make sure you have an employment visa in advance. Apply for your visa at least one month in advance. If you are already in Tonga and would like to extend it, contact the immigration department one month in advance about the extension.

While employment visas are technically available, the immigration department will probably be reluctant to grant you one as Tonga has a high unemployment rate, and would prefer that jobs be taken up by Tongan citizens as opposed to outsiders. If you're coming to Tonga for humanitarian or volunteer work, you need an employment visa for that.

Stay safe

One thing to remember when going for a swim is that there are many sharp corals near the beach, especially near Tongatapu and PangaiMotu. It is a good idea to wear a cheap pair of sandals while in the water. There are jelly fish and they do sting! They are also hard to see. It is a good idea to have a bottle of vinegar handy in your bag to help treat any stings.

Stay healthy

An outbreak of chikungunya, a mosquito-borne disease, started in 2014, so take precautions against mosquito bites. An outbreak of Dengue fever was also reported in early 2015. There is no malaria in Tonga though.

Exercise the usual caution when snorkelling, as the coral can be dangerous.


For maximum respect, keep your knees covered (both men and women). Men, keep your shirt on everywhere except at the beach. Topless men off cruise liners have been arrested and held until after the ship has left! This is a very conservative Christian country. Keep in mind that Sunday is strongly revered, the vast majority of the population will attend religious services, very few shops will be open and there is very little to do. Hotels will be open, as will some restaurant and beach resorts, although mainly to serve expats and tourists. Small shops, including, in Nuku'alofa, a popular bakery, may open later on Sunday afternoon.

TV stations close or play Christian shows on Sundays. Radio stations will also play religious programmes on Sundays. To compensate, the cinema in Nuku'alofa usually has a screening just after midnight on Monday morning.

Tonga features many major Christian denominations; the Methodist church especially has a widespread presence. Many of the services are very enjoyable. Strike up a friendship with some locals and you will have no problems finding an enjoyable Sunday experience despite the lack of commercial activity.


Telecommunications in Tonga are handled by two operators; Digicel Tonga and Tonga Communications Corporation. The latter operates a 900 MHz GSM-network.

WiFi hotspots are how people connect to the Internet in Tonga and you should expect slow connection speed, data limits and high prices. Given the country’s location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean it’s not surprising.

Tonga Post handles international and domestic mail in the country.

Swimming with Whales off Tonga

1. “The 10”

Los Angeles freeway

Photo: Arman Thanvir

Los Angeles has a long-standing love affair with cars, one that goes back to the 1920s and later exploded in the 1950s with kitschy roadside signs, drive-in movie theaters and restaurants, and even drive-through dairies. As such, we treat our highways (yes, even the ones with ten lanes) with utmost reverence, adding a royal “The” before the route number: “The quickest way is to take the 110 to the 10.”

If you want to pay homage to our four-wheeled friends without actually sitting in traffic, head over to the Petersen Automotive Museum, a veritable place of worship for car geeks.

2. “Surface streets”

Los Angeles street car portrait

Photo: Joey Ortega

If you’re not riding high on the 5, the 10, the 101, the 110, or the 405, you’re probably cruising below on “surface streets,” which are basically…regular streets. Every Angeleno has their favorite “secret” surface street route, but perhaps the most poorly kept of these secrets is Fountain Avenue, an east-west corridor so commonly used as a bypass that when Johnny Carson asked Bette Davis for intel on “the best way an aspiring starlet could get into Hollywood,” she allegedly responded, “Take Fountain.” Zing!

The street is actually interrupted for a block on the eastern edge of Hollywood by a middle school, but it’s worth steering around all of those adolescents in the Silver Lake neighborhood, because this is where you’ll find one of my favorite Thai joints, Wat Dong Moon Lek Noodle, near Fountain’s eastern terminus. Even if you’re not hungry, it’s worth a quick stop for one of their inventive “slushies” — you can’t go wrong with the pineapple basil.

3. “Corn or flour?”

Corn tortillas

Photo: David Boté Estrada

We’re talking about tortillas here, perhaps the most important carb in Southern California next to donuts and hamburger buns. When ordering tacos, the answer to this crucial question is always corn — flour tortillas are for burritos, and for people who don’t know any better.

Every Angeleno has a favorite Mexican restaurant (personally, the mole and thick tortillas at La Cabañita in Montrose send me over the moon), but we also pledge allegiance to taco trucks, those wheeled purveyors of no-frills “street tacos.” My standby is Tacos Arizas (Logan Street, just north of Sunset Boulevard), a quick stroll from The Echo, a popular Eastside music venue. If you want to experience taco bliss at home, however, all you need to do is stop by Acapulco Mexicatessen in East L.A., a tortilleria that sells corn masa, chips, and fresh tortillas.

4. “Amoeba”

Amoeba Music Los Angeles

Photo: Christina Murillo

While the Hollywood Walk of Fame a few blocks down steals all the attention, the real Hollywood superstar is Amoeba Music, billed as “the world’s largest independent record store.” One step inside the cavernous building and you’ll likely agree.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed the first time you visit, but it’s a bit more manageable if you come prepared with a shopping list (make sure you add DVDs, books, and posters — they sell those, too), commit to focusing on one or two genres, or ask one of the approximately three million employees for a bit of musical guidance. No matter which route you take, give yourself some time to roam the multi-level space. Bonus: Despite appearances, Amoeba isn’t just a record store — they’re an integral part of the L.A. music scene, hosting free live shows and events several times a month.

5. “The Industry”

Oscar statuettes

Photo: Prayitno Photography

While this sounds like some sort of top-secret code name or a really exclusive nightclub, “The Industry” is really just a catchall term for the entertainment industry, which includes everything from indie record labels to massive film studios.

Most of the inner workings of The Industry are off limits to outsiders, but nearly every major studio runs tours that give visitors an opportunity to peek behind the curtain…er, screen. You’ll experience movie magic no matter which studio you visit, but Potterheads should head straight for Warner Bros., which offers plenty of wizardly delights. Music fans should schedule a stop at the Grammy Museum in downtown L.A., with historic memorabilia, audiovisual exhibits, and interactive experiences.

6. “The Lake Show”

Lakers Los Angeles

Photo: Miguel Discart

We’re pretty big on nicknames here in L.A. — from LAX (that’s Los Angeles International Airport) to WeHo (West Hollywood), we like to keep things nice and casual. That tradition extends to the Los Angeles Lakers — or the Lake Show, if you’re a basketball-loving local.

It’s not the only moniker the team has earned over the years, though. Among the more popular was the “Showtime” Lakers, used in the ‘80s when the squad was led by someone also known by a nickname, Earvin “Magic” Johnson. The Lake Show play home games at the Staples Center, a giant arena that also serves as home base for the rival Los Angeles Clippers, the puck-slapping Los Angeles Kings, and our killer WNBA team, the Los Angeles Sparks.

7. “PCH”

Pacific Coast Highway California

Photo: Guy Teague

It’s more an abbreviation than a nickname, but continuing with our laid-back reputation, you’ll never catch an Angeleno mentioning “State Route 1,” “The 1,” or “Pacific Coast Highway.” Instead, we keep it simple with the short-but-sweet “PCH.”

Just because we’ve reduced this nearly 700-mile span to three letters doesn’t mean we don’t recognize — or appreciate — how epic it is. In our neck of the woods, the PCH is the gateway to relaxation and recreation, running right alongside the Pacific Ocean.

While many people enjoy the beachy attractions in Venice and Santa Monica, it’s worth taking a road trip north to Malibu, where you can drive right between wild ocean waves and the dramatic Santa Monica Mountains. My favorite way to spend a Sunday is to head along the coast, dip into the mountains for a hike, then replenish all of those calories (and then some) with lunch at Malibu’s Reel Inn, a casual seafood joint that offers fish every which way, capped off with a surprisingly stout dessert menu. Of course, enjoying a beer in the sunshine isn’t a bad way to go, either.

8. “Animal Style”

In N Out Burger animal style Los Angeles

Photo: Photoskate

Los Angeles has a thing for burgers, and one of its most-ordered versions comes courtesy of In-N-Out Burger, a wildly popular chain that was founded about 20 miles east of the city in Baldwin Park (located just off the 10, if you were wondering).

Sure, you can get your patty with cheese, lettuce, onion, and tomato, but insiders know to order it “Animal Style,” which kicks it up a notch with grilled onions and special sauce. This is part of the chain’s (not so) “Secret Menu,” which also allows you to “Animal Style” your fries, go “Protein Style” (with a lettuce wrap instead of a bun), order a grilled cheese sandwich, or sip on a tasty root beer float.

9. “I’m spiritual.”

Yoga beach Los Angeles

Photo: Livnir

Maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s some sort of energy vortex, but it seems most people in this city describe themselves as being “spiritual.” That’s not a bad thing, mind you: There’s a yoga studio (or five) in nearly every neighborhood, group meditation practices abound, and zen-stoking spots like the lushly landscaped Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine provide a quiet oasis in the city.

The spirit of mindfulness also pervades our food — “kale” and “quinoa” aren’t dirty words in Los Angeles. Some of the most inspirational dining can be found at Café Gratitude, whose inventive plant-based fare comes with a twist: The name of each dish is an adjective, and you’re supposed to go with the flow and order by saying “I am…” and the name of your dish. Hungry for a bowl of spicy curry? You are…Humble. Ready to find out just how spectacular vegan enchiladas can be? You are…Elated.

10. “The Valley”

El Portal Theatre North Hollywood

Photo: Ruth Hara

For anyone who lives south of Griffith Park, The Valley is a mystical, faraway place…located just on the other side of the park. It’s shorthand for the San Fernando Valley, which is basically a suburban extension of Los Angeles. While it gets knocked for being hot in the summer and for being less culturally exciting than Hollywood and its surrounds, The Valley is actually full of awesomeness.

If you’re a Valley newbie, I highly recommend starting with North Hollywood, which has one of my favorite Mexican restaurants (Salsa & Beer), one of my favorite bookstores (The Iliad Bookshop), and one of my favorite tiki bars (Tonga Hut — order a tall glass of Kraken the Dole Whip if it’s on the menu when you visit). As an added bonus, you can ride the Metro Red Line subway right into the middle of the NoHo Arts District, a pedestrian-friendly area flush with food, beverage, and entertainment options.

11. “K-Town”

Koreatown food Los Angeles

Photo: T.Tseng

Speaking of abbreviated place names, K-Town is local lingo for Koreatown, a unique L.A. neighborhood that was featured on an episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. I’ll let Tony cover the food, but I’ll say there’s a whole lot more to K-Town than kimchi and bulgogi.

On the beverage front, Hwa Sun Ji Tea & Coffee (3952 Wilshire Blvd) is a cozy, quiet place to enjoy a cup of plum tea and a plate of cookies. For a rowdier atmosphere, head over to the divey HMS Bounty to throw back a few adult drinks. You should also consider spending a chunk of the day soaking at a Korean spa (Wi Spa is my favorite), or rally some friends to knock down pins at the delightfully nostalgic Shatto 39 Lanes.

12. “Juicing”

Fresh juice

Photo: Caitlin Regan

The word “juice” might conjure up visions of breakfast-time delights, but “juicing” is a specific term people use when they’ve temporarily forsaken solid foods for the purportedly cleansing, detoxifying powers of fancy cold-pressed juice blends. While the idea of subsisting on liquid fruit alone is enough to make my stomach cry out for help, the upside is that L.A.’s drinkable diet obsession means there’s an endless parade of juice bars to visit when you just don’t feel like chewing your lunch.

Pressed Juicery is one of the more popular options, with locations all over the city. Yes, it’s pricey to swig a bottle of this stuff, but when you realize these juices are meant to serve as meal replacements, it’s a bit easier to swallow.

13. “That’s gnarly.”

Skate Venice Beach Los Angeles

Photo: Ryan Vaarsi

If someone in Los Angeles comments that something you’ve done is “gnarly,” consider it a badge of honor. Some of our most expressive and endearing terms come straight out of SoCal’s skateboarding and surf culture, where “dude” is used to describe men and women, “sick” means good, and “rad” is awesome. See also: sweet, dope, and epic.

To experience the native language of L.A. in real life, get thee to the Venice Beach Skatepark, where you can watch skaters flip and grind against an ocean backdrop. If you want to catch even more action, head towards the water to check out all the surfers getting stoked on the waves. Gnarly!


Discover Los Angeles logo This post is proudly produced in partnership with Discover Los Angeles. 

Lonely Planet Rarotonga, Samoa & Tonga (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet Rarotonga, Samoa & Tonga is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Surf the swells around the southern coastlines, hike the challenging Cross-Island Track, or check out Tonga's 'Stonehenge of the Pacific'; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Rarotonga, Samoa and Tonga and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet Rarotonga, Samoa & Tonga Travel Guide:

Colour maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience -history, etiquette, lifestyle, sport, arts, architecture, literature, music, dance, craft, tattooing, environment, geography, ecology, religion, myths & legends, cuisine, politics Over 30 colour maps Covers Raratonga, Aitutaki, 'Atiu, Mangaia, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Nuku'alofa, Ha'apai Group, Vava'u Group, Ma'uke and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Rarotonga, Samoa & Tonga, our most comprehensive guide to Rarotonga, Samoa and Tonga, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less travelled.

Looking for more coverage? Check out Lonely Planet South Pacific guide for a comprehensive look at what the whole region has to offer.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

TONGA Country Studies: A brief, comprehensive study of Tonga


A brief yet detailed report on the country of Tonga with updated information on the map, flag, history, people, economics, political conditions in government, foreign affairs, and U.S. relations.

Tonga (Other Places Travel Guide) (Other Places Travel Guides)

Kate Asleson

Tonga has eluded outsiders for much of its history. From the imperial powers of Europe to modern-day travelers, Tonga has often been overlooked amongst the South Pacific island nations. But for those who do venture to this archipelago nation, a timeless Polynesian experience awaits; one that is all its own.

The writers of this guidebook each lived, worked and played throughout Tonga as Peace Corps Volunteers. They lived with local families, learned village life, and experienced this fascinating country like few outsiders have before. Each writes of the island group where they lived - all reviews are from first-hand experience and local insider information. This comprehensive guidebook covers cultural norms (such as the eyebrow flick and greeting sniff), explains the curious clothing fashions, and divulges secret spots known only to locals. To see the real Tonga and to travel like a local, this book is a must.

- Swim with Whales Tonga is one of only two places in the world where visitors can snorkel alongside these magnificent creatures. The best island groups for whale encounters are Vava u and Ha apai. - Explore Deserted Beaches and Islands With one hundred sixty-six islands in Tonga, white sandy beaches and uninhabited islands are abundant there. - Snorkel and Dive Tonga is still unknown to many travelers, leaving unbelievable pristine reefs and dive spots uncrowded, patiently awaiting exploration. - Experience Local Culture Cultural events, like kava circles and dance performances, provide a unique opportunity to become immersed in the local culture which pervades Tonga.

Tonga Language: The Tonga Phrasebook and Dictionary

Afa Tesi

This guide to Tonga language collects the most common Tonga phrases and expressions as well as an English-Tonga/Tonga-English dictionary. This phrasebook includes greetings, food items, directions, sightseeing and many other categories of expressions that will help anyone wanting to learn Tonga. This phrasebook is a must for anyone wanting to learn Tonga.

The Friendly Islanders: A story of Queen Salote and her people (Tonga: A Polynesian Trilogy)

Kenneth Bain

Reviews:Whitcomb’s New Zealand Book Of The Month, July 1967. New Zealand Women’s Weekly Book Of The Week, July 1967. "A delightful blend of fact, folklore and fantasy, with a stimulating vein of humour throughout. I could read it all over again." Jack Hackett, Public Relations Director, Fiji "Urbane, witty and judicious, it will form an indispensable part of our permanent South Pacific literature." Lindsay Verrier, MLC, Fiji "Much of the charm and gentle humour of Sir Arthur Grimble’s ’Pattern of Islands.’ An authoritative work with an underlying effervescence that appeals." Irish Times "Richly comic with a pleasantly detached irony and felicity of style." New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation Book Review "A book to buy for keeps, it is an example of modern ‘book beauty.’" The Bookman, London "It gave me real pleasure. The best book on Tonga that I have ever read." R.W. Robson, Publisher, Pacific Publications, Sydney "Told with a wealth of appreciation and humour." Church Times, London "A book to be proud of." News of the World, London "Hilarious anecdotes, breezily related. A beautifully written, informative work and all so—well—friendly." The Star, Johannesburg About the Author:KENNETH BAIN was born in New Zealand in 1923, and educated at Auckland Grammar School, Auckland University College and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He was appointed to the Colonial Administrative Service in 1946 and assigned to Palestine as an Assistant District Commissioner in Gaza. After transfer to Fiji in 1949, he began his long association with the island peoples of the South Pacific, the Caribbean, and South Atlantic; and has travelled widely throughout all three regions.He was Secretary to the Government of Tonga 1953-56; Commissioner, British South Pacific Office in Fiji, including responsibility for Pitcairn, 1965-70; Deputy High Commissioner for Fiji in London 1970-75; a Director at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London 1975-80; then for five years, Financial Secretary and , for a period, Deputy Governor in the British Virgin Islands. He has also been Director of Studies in Financial Management at the Royal Institute of Public Administration in London. In close to 60 years, Kenneth Bain has written eleven well-received books. They include seven with worldwide island themes, including three on the South Pacific Kingdom of Tonga and its people. There is one each on Fiji, St Helena, British Virgin Islands, and Pitcairn, together with books on schizophrenia, Doggerel Ditties in the style of Ogden Nash, Obituaries he wrote for the London newspaper The Independent, and Gaza, his Palestine mandate diary 1946-48. He now lives on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, where he and his wife were made Honorary Belongers in 1985. His wife Margaret Angaʻaefonu is part-Tongan; their three children were born in Tonga and Fiji.He was awarded the OBE in 1976, and appointed by King George Tupou V of Tonga to be Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Queen Salote Tupou III in 2010.

An Account of the Natives of the Tonga Islands, in the South Pacific Ocean

William Mariner

William Mariner (1791–1853) was an Englishman who lived in the Tonga Islands from 29 November 1806 to 8 November 1810. He wrote an account of his experiences, Tonga Islands, that is now one of the major sources of information on pre-Christian Tonga. William Mariner was a teenage ship's clerk aboard the British privateer Port au Prince. The ship anchored off the Tongan island of Lifuka, in the Ha'apai island group, and was seized by the Ha'apai chief Fīnau ʻUlukālala on 1 December 1806. Most of the crew were killed in the takeover of the ship, but Fīnau spared Mariner and several colleagues. Fīnau assumed responsibility for Mariner, taking him under his protection. Mariner lived in Tonga for four years, predominantly in the northern island group of Vavaʻu. On his return to England he dictated a detailed account of his time in the Tonga Islands, a description of Tongan society and culture at the time, and a grammar and dictionary of the Tongan language. The resulting publication remains one of the most valuable historical documents of pre-Christian life in the Pacific Islands.This book published in 1820 has been reformatted for the Kindle and may contain an occasional defect from the original publication or from the reformatting.

Making Sense of Tonga

Mary McCoy

This guide to the Kingdom of Tonga's rich Polynesian culture is a user-friendly description of what makes Tongan society so unique. Wonder why a Tongan won't have eye-to-eye contact? Wonder why the Tongan keeps flicking his eyebrows? Wonder what that woven mat is around the Tongan's waist? These and many more fascinating elements of what makes up day-to-day Tongan life are described with a touch of humor for easy digestibility.

The New Friendly Islanders: The Tonga of King Taufa'Ahau Tupou Iv/Published to Mark the Occasion of the Seventy-Fifth Birthday of the King on 4 July

Kenneth Bain

This tiny archipelago of islands in the South Pacific has so far avoided republican overthrow and military coup, unlike its neighbour Fiji. What are its chances of surviving intact into the millenium? Kenneth Bain allows the Tongan people - from the ordinary citizen up to the King himself - to put forward their own opinions concerning everything from reform of Tonga's Legislative Assembly to the monarchy and the royal succession. A portrait emerges of a South Seas islands culture of great charm and character, yet divided within. As it contemplates possessing its own telecommunication satellite, Tonga faces conflict over its feudal heritage.

Exercise normal security precautions

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.


Petty crime occurs. An increase in theft, including house break-ins, has been reported. Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times. The incidence of crime increases after dark.

Women’s safety

Some cases of sexual assault targeting foreigners have occurred. Women should avoid isolated areas, especially at night. Consult our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide for travel safety information specifically aimed at Canadian women.


Demonstrations may occur and have the potential to turn violent suddenly. They can lead to significant disruptions to traffic and public transportation. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.


Traffic drives on the left. Driving can be hazardous due to poor road conditions and lack of adequate lighting for night-time driving. Roads in Nuku’alofa are paved, but most other roads are not.

Inter-island ferries do not always meet international safety standards. You should verify the credentials of the operator and the state of the vessel’s safety equipment.

Internal air service can be unpredictable. Flights are often cancelled on short notice. Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

General safety information

You are encouraged to register with the High Commission of Australia in Nuku'alofa in order to receive the latest information on situations and events that could affect your safety.

Exercise caution when swimming as dangerous currents exist.

Basic tourist facilities and services are available in Nuku'alofa but limited elsewhere.


Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.


Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.


Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
  • Vaccination is not recommended.

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in the Oceanic Pacific Islands, food and water can also carry diseases like hepatitis A. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in the Oceanic Pacific Islands. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.


Insects and Illness

In some areas in the Oceanic Pacific Islands, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, lymphatic filariasis and malaria.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.



There is no risk of malaria in this country.


Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Certain infections found in the Oceanic Pacific Islands, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical facilities are limited. Nuku'alofa and Neiafu have hospitals with emergency facilities. In the event of a major accident or illness, medical evacuation to New Zealand or Australia may be necessary. Medical transport is very expensive and payment up front is often required.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.


Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences, community work or heavy fines.

Tonga has very strict rules regarding impaired driving. Local authorities conduct random breath testing for alcohol.

Homosexual activity is illegal.

Offences such as theft and sexual or physical assault may result in corporal punishment.


Dress conservatively, behave discreetly, and respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities. It is an offence to appear in public without a shirt except on the beach.


The currency is the Tongan dollar or pa'anga (TOP). While automated banking machines (ABMs) are available on Tongatapu, especially in Nuku’alofa, service may be limited on other islands. Traveller's cheques and foreign currency can be exchanged at major banks. Credit cards are accepted at most major hotels, as well as at some restaurants and stores.


Tonga is located in an active seismic zone and is prone to earthquakes and tsunamis.

The rainy (or monsoon) and typhoon seasons in the South Pacific extend from November to April. Severe storms can cause flooding and landslides, resulting in significant loss of life and extensive damage to infrastructure, and hampering the provision of essential services. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts, avoid disaster areas and follow the advice of local authorities.

During a typhoon or monsoon, hotel guests may be required to leave accommodations near the shore and move to safety centres inland. Travel to and from outer islands may be disrupted for some days. Contact the Meteorological Office (tel.: 23401) or consult the Fiji Meteorological Service for weather reports if you are contemplating sea journeys.

Consult our Typhoons and monsoons page for more information.