We decided to visit Tonga because it appeared before I discovered French Polynesia, it was the place to see and swim with humpback whales. I thought Tonga would be nice too but I was very disappointed. There is not much to do. People stay to see the whales and leave.
We stayed 17 days on Tonga including a week on Vava’u in September 2019 … we regret a lot. Swimming with the whales is amazing, but the way the tontines do is quite embarrassing I think … it does not bother everyone!
Vava’u is actually a group of islands in the north of the Tongan archipelago. It is far enough from Tongatapu but can be reached easily by plane (daily flights) or by ferry (24 hours).
People are quite reserved and do not say hello, except children, always happy to greet you!
It’s small and not especially interesting. People go there mostly to swim with whales. Moreover we were the only ones to our knowledge to have spent more than 4 days on the island and making only one exit. Do not spend more than 4 days on Vava’u, let alone if you do not go on whale watching!
General & Important Information
* In Tonga there are some rules of life to respect. People must wear decent dress. That means :
– no one should have the bare chest, even at the beach (except in water for men)
– no one should wear clothes above their knees.
Plan appropriate clothes before leaving!
On Sunday there is nothing open and no excursion, plane, ferry, except to go on islands for the day.
* We have not seen any campsites. Not sure that asking people to sleep in their garden works and be in the dying but you can try by still planning a rescue plan. Basically, if you do not have too many ways to avoid going on an adventure on Tonga.
* For the internet and phones There are two companies: TCC and Digicel. If you choose one of them, know that you will not be able to call the other if you do not have a big credit … it’s really bad luck! We have TCC price. They have offers with internet for several days or a month (the longer you take longer you will have GB), and a number of calls / SMS from CBT to CBT for several days too. Calls and internet are payable separately. The SIM card costs 5TOP. Internet seems to be very expensive here. So do not be surprised not to have unlimited internet in your home or that you are billed.
* You can eat cheap on the islands. There are restaurants that make dishes for less than 10 euros and it’s quite rich. The mini markets sell cheap products.
* Sunday try to eat a “umu”: the meal is cooked in the ground in the muffled.
* Do not be surprised if you are told that people eat dogs. It’s common here so do not judge them.
There is a ferry going to Hapaii & Vava’u from Tongatapu. He leaves on Mondays and Wednesdays. The trip takes 24 hours to go on Vava’u. It stops on many islands but check the ferry returns to not be blocked there. The journey costs 99TOP and you settle anywhere (seats, ground, outside). Otherwise there are bunks with roaches (I specify because there are plenty); it’s 159TOP per person. For about 190TOP you have a bunk and meal. There is a “canteen” in the ferry that sells only cookies and others do not put healthy. Nothing hot so plan your meals.
You can rent a car for around 60TOP the day. There are three places (but ask your hosts too):
* Cafe Tropicana: Tel: 71322 / email: firstname.lastname@example.org / Fatafehi street
* Avis: Tel: 70664 / email: email@example.com
* Coconut car rental: Tel: 7556667 / email: firstname.lastname@example.org
* The Chinese in front of the police station: in the supermarket, ask the boss.
There are others in town, you have to look at the signs and ask around or at the tourist office.
There are several taxis that circulate on the island. You can go to Fatafehi. The Tropicana coffee has contacts.
The stop works pretty well and sometimes even without you asking anything to anyone!
We stayed at Maria’s or Mele’s (Lady Maria’s place), we did not know too much. We found her on airbnb but she lives in front of the church in Pangaimotu. It offers three rooms. Two with shared bathroom and toilet and one that has a bathroom with private toilet. The room is around 30-35 euros a night. It’s in a house. There is a lot of space. The kitchen is very well equipped and functional. It offers a wifi for 10TOP for 24h and it works very well. She is really nice. We hear people at the church at the time of the Masses but that’s not a problem. On foot there is 1 hour walk but people take you stop easily. By taxi it will cost you 15-20 TOP.
There is a market near the ferry pier. They do not have many things and it’s expensive but it can help.
There are mini-markets; if held by Chinese they are open holidays also.
On Fatafehi street there are restaurants that serve good food (fish!).
* Cafe Tropicana: The manager does not know how to smile but the food is good and homemade. Prices are correct.
Tel: 71322 / email: email@example.com
Where: On Fatafehi road.
* Mago café: Nice restaurant on the seafront. It’s the landmark of rich sailors. There are a lot of old people. Prices are a bit more expensive (but not much) than other places on Fatafehi Street.
Tel: 71322 / email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Where: On Fatafehi road going towards Pangaimotu.
* Bellavista café: Small nice restaurant with sea view. The staff is friendly. They make good burgers even if a little expensive.
Tel: 71035 / email: email@example.com
Where: On Fatafehi road.
* Fikoula Seafood Takeway: This restaurant does not look, it is stuck next to a barber. The managers are not very smiling but the food is very good and not expensive. You can take a take-away.
Where: In front of Tropicana cafe, on Fatafehi road.
* Tonga Beach Resort: Hotel that has a good restaurant. Rates are like on the main street in tourist restaurants. They have a private beach (you can go there without consuming for 10TOP).
Where: in Pangaimotu.
- Whales & Diving
- Kayaking & Fishing
- Road Trip
- Botanical Garden « Ene io Beach »
- Mont Talau
- Utula’aina Point
What: Seeing and swimming with whales is possible. There are several companies that offer day trips. The way to do Tongan is pretty horrible: they run on animals and get in their way, it breaks the silence by blowing up the divers and screaming to hurry … to you to see if you want to live the experience here or in French Polynesia where agencies are more respectful.
Who: We chose Beluga Diving.
Contact: Tel: 70327 / Address: Fangafoa Bay, Niefau
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / website: www. belugadivingvavau.com
Price: 500TOP the day.
Inquire at the tourist office or in your accommodation but there are this type of outings too.
What: There are beaches but there are corals on the sand on most, and you have to swim at high tide otherwise there is no water on several meters and you will have to walk on coral. The beaches did not sell us dreams. And snorkeling, contrary to what we try to make you believe, is poor in diversity.
Where: There are some beaches on Pangaimotu and towards the botanical garden for example.
What: You can rent a car and drive a few hours to explore. It’s fast enough because there is not much to do. You will pass in some villages and to some points of view (I noted them after). But in itself it is not essential. Be careful where you ride depending on the car you have because some unpaved roads are not obvious or impossible with small cars.
What: Botanical garden with a pretty beach and a small restaurant. Not sure that visiting the garden is really worth it but go at least to see the beach.
Where: After the village of Tu’anekival, on the coast.
What: The highest point of the island. You will have a beautiful view of Vava’u and its various islands in the distance. Go there when the weather is nice to see the different shades of the sea.
Where: In Nieafu after the port.
How: You can get there on foot from Nieafu in 30 minutes or get dropped off the stairs (10 minutes walk). If you go on foot, go to the port and continue straight. It will be indicated.
What: One of the most beautiful places on the island. You will see beautiful coves and the coast.
Where: In the north of the island, after the airport.
How: By car. The path will be indicated after the village of Holonga.