Tonga Flag

Tonga Travel Guide

Tonga

The ancient Kingdom of Tonga, oldest and last remaining Polynesian monarchy, is the only Pacific nation never brought under foreign rule. Though sprinkled over 700,000 square km of ocean from Niuafo'ou between Fiji and Samoa, to the Minerva Reef 290 km southwest of Ata, the total land area of the kingdom is only 691 square km.

Tonga is divided into four main parts: the Tongatapu Group in the south, with the capital, Nuku'alofa; the Ha'apai Group, a far-flung archipelago of low coral islands and soaring volcanoes in the center; the Vava'u Group, with its immense landlocked harbor; and in the north, the isolated, volcanic Niuas.

TONGA AT A GLANCE
ISLAND POPULATION
(2006)
AREA
(square km)
'Eua5,20687
Tongatapu72,045259
Ha'apai Group7,570109
Vava'u Group15,505119
Niuas*1,66572
Tonga101,991646**

* Niuafo'ou, Niuatoputapu, Tafahi
** inhabited islands only

 

The four groups are pleasingly diverse, each with interesting aspects to enjoy: no other Pacific country is made up of components as scenically varied as these.

More than 100 km of open sea separate Tongatapu and Ha'apai, then it's another 100 km between Ha'apai and Vava'u, then another 300 km north to remote Niuafo'ou and Niuatoputapu. In all, Tonga comprises 170 islands, 42 of them inhabited. Even though they're some of the most densely populated in the Pacific, the Tongan islands are set quite apart from the 21st century.

Due to the position just west of the international date line, the Tonga Visitors Bureau uses the marketing slogan "where time begins," but they could just as well use "where time stands still."

to Vavau Map to Vavau Map to Neiafu Map to Haapai Map to Map of Nukualofato Tongatapu Map to Map of Nukualofa

Fast Facts

Where

Tonga lies between Samoa and New Zealand when viewed north to south or between Cook Islands and Fiji looking east to west.

When

Just west of the international date line, Tonga shares its day with Fiji, Samoa, and New Zealand, but is one day ahead of American Samoa, Niue, and Hawaii. The hour is the same as in Samoa (GMT plus 13 hours).

Why

Tongatapu is a repository of Polynesian culture and tradition, Ha'apai is for beach lovers, and Vava'u is for the active visitor looking to dive, paddle, peddle, fish, or sail.

How

Tongatapu is accessible from Auckland, New Zealand, on Air New Zealand and Pacific Blue, and from Fiji on Air Pacific.

Who

The vast majority of the 100,000 people are pure Polynesian. In recent years Tonga has received several thousand immigrants from China.

Highlights

Lapaha Archaeological Area, Tongatapu:
unexcavated pyramids over royal tombs

Li'angahuo 'a Maui, 'Eua:
natural stone bridge, sea cliffs

Royal Palace, Nuku'alofa:
Victoria structure symbolic of Tonga

Uoleva Island, Ha'apai:
long deserted beach, semi-uninhabited island

whalewatching, Vava'u:
humpbacks here from May-October