Things to Do in Tonga

Discover things to do, restaurants to eat at, and places to stay while in the small island nation of Tonga.

There’s not much in Talihau aside from a guesthouse, a fishing operation, a church and a beach. But it’s known in the region as one of the very first villages in Vava’u to take part in a huge soil-and-sand-conservation project—with great results—and is also noted for producing the pandanus fiber used in the local weaving of baskets, hats and ceremonial mats.
Unnamed Road, Neiafu, Tonga
Named after the flat-topped mountain that rises 131 meters behind the Port of Refuge, Mount Talau National Park was established in 1995 to preserve the local rain forest. In the park, just a couple of kilometers from Neiafu, a short trail passes endangered tree and plant species and, often, many area birds and reptiles. There are several more marked trails leading up to lookouts (which often have safety ropes for slippery weather). The spectacular views from the mountain sweep across the Port of Refuge, the Vaipua Inlet and Neiafu.
Tamakautonga Rd, Nuku'alofa, Tonga
This family-run enterprise offers insights into authentic Tongan lifestyles and traditions. A two-hour tour introduces a mix of rituals and experiences including dances, a kava ceremony, weaving demonstrations and even the chance to try on a traditional costume. Tours focus on local cuisine and methods of preparing and serving traditional food such as breadfruit and coconut cream. Depending on the guide, you may also learn about the local flora and how it is used in medicine and food.

Royal Palace, Nuku'alofa, Tonga
The interior of this red-roofed 1867 palace is closed to the public, except for special occasions, but it’s worth visiting to admire the exterior. The Victorian facade might not look its best, but it retains some of its original dignity. A few impressive churches (including the Free Church of Tonga) are nearby, as are the Royal Tombs, which open only during royal funerals.

Located close to the village of Niutoua on the northeast corner of the island, this dramatic structure (officially called a trilithon) was built from coral and limestone around 1200. Its name translates as “Maui’s Burden,” a reference to the Polynesian god Maui who, according to legend, created the Kingdom of Tonga. Various theories abound about the structure’s purpose, but the most likely is that it served as the gateway to a long-forgotten palace.

The Langafonua Gallery and Handicrafts Centre is the city’s main arts and crafts market. Established by Queen Salote Tupou III in 1953 to promote Tongan handicrafts, it has long ensured a better quality of life for the women of Tonga and their families. Here you can browse and buy a diverse range of traditional Tongan handicrafts and fine arts, ranging from traditional tapa cloth and locally made jewelry to woven bags, wooden carvings and more.

Fatafehi Rd, Nuku'alofa, Tonga
The Free Church of Tonga (also called the Centennial Church) is not just a local house of worship; it’s also the name of a religious denomination. The religion was established in 1885 by King George Tupou I and the missionary Reverend Shirley Waldemar Baker to break from Australia’s Methodist church. The structure has an eye-catching exterior and a modest but peaceful interior. Services are still held regularly, so you may get to hear the beautiful choir.

More from AFAR
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
National Parks